Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) does not just have an unusually weak understanding of human biology, he also has a similar inability to understand the Constitution. Akin doubts the constitutionality of Medicare and other federal health care programs, in addition to believing that national school lunch programs violate the Constitution.
Akin is not alone. At least one other major Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate believes that Medicare and other essential federal programs are unconstitutional. At a Tea Party rally last May, Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock questioned the constitutionality of America’s social safety net for seniors:
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — I challenge you in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. where those so-called enumerated powers are listed, I challenge you to find words that talk about “Medicare” or “Medicaid” or, yes, even “Social Security.”
For the record, the very first sentence of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which provides that “[t]he Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” is what allows the United States to create social welfare programs such as Medicare.
If Akin and Mourdock win their bids to become United States Senators, they will not be the only ones who share this belief that the Founding Fathers intended for seniors to be left to the wolves. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have also indicated that they think Medicare is unconstitutional.
In contrast to Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) offensive comments that “legitimate rape” doesn’t lead to pregnancy, a new study from the Guttmacher Institute finds that pregnant women who seek abortions are actually more likely to have experienced a traumatic event like sexual abuse. In fact, the findings suggest the number of women seeking to terminate a pregnancy have experienced intimate partner violence — defined as sexual or physical abuse at the hands of a significant other — is seven times higher than the national average for domestic violence.
The study, released Monday, sought to investigate why low-income women are more likely to terminate a pregnancy than women at higher income levels. It found that poorer women experienced a greater number of “disruptive life events” — such as losing a job, ending a relationship, or suffering abuse — that contributed to their decision to seek an abortion. Fifty eight percent of respondents cited a disruptive life event within the year that preceded their abortion, including intimate partner violence that led to an unplanned pregnancy:
Seven percent of the women surveyed by Guttmacher after seeking an abortion reported that they had been physically or sexually abused by the man with whom they became pregnant. National surveys have found that slightly more than one percent of US women report abuse at the hands of their partners.
Poor women, meanwhile, were twice as likely to say they had been physically or sexually abused by the man who impregnated them than abortion-seekers with higher incomes (9.3 percent versus 4.4 percent).
Despite the fact that far-right lawmakers like Akin tout junk science to underscore the anti-choice viewpoint that women are never justified in seeking an abortion, suggesting that sexual assault somehow can’t result in unwanted pregnancies, the actual science says otherwise. Even though women who seek abortions are vastly more likely to have suffered domestic abuse from the man who impregnated them, the official Republican party platform endorses a stringent anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution that does not include an exception in the cases of rape or incest.
Though this year’s Democratic Platform is the most pro-LGBT in history, complete with full support for marriage equality, the Republican Platform is set to be as anti-LGBT as ever, according to drafts approved by subcommittees Monday. Despite hopes from Log Cabin Republicans’s hope that the language would include at least an allusion to “dignity and respect” for gay people, R. Clarke Cooper conceded that the end result is “bad with a capital ‘B.’” Tony Perkins, of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council, took personal credit for drafting the anti-equality language, boasting that platform drafting leaders Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) were “friends of FRC.” Here is some of the hostile anti-equality language Perkins incorporated into the draft:
Marriage and the Judiciary
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
Defense of Marriage
That is why congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. An activist judiciary usurps the powers reserved to other branches of government and endangers the foundation of our country. We oppose the Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle ? in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts ? makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath. We commend the United States House of Representatives and those State Attorneys General who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other states to do so.
The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, are less likely to engage in crime, and are less likely to get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic wellbeing of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also more government control over the lives of its citizens in all facets. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.
The platform, as drafted, is not only an open attack on the lives of LGBT people, but a blatant distortion of reality. The social science about the value of marriage for children also applies to same-sex couples. Despite recognizing the courage of single parents, the GOP is content to disregard the very existence of the country’s one million LGBT families raising two million children. Instead, as per the kind of rhetoric that warrants FRC’s designation as a hate group, Perkins suggests that offering any dignity to gay and lesbian couples would be the undoing of society, an “assault on the foundations of society.” As a majority of Americans embrace marriage equality, the Republican Party continues to wholeheartedly embrace the most extreme anti-gay positions in the country.
– President Obama yesterday threatened the use of military force in Syria if there were indications that President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to use the country’s arsenal of chemical weapons.
– Syrian opposition forces say that the U.S. has failed to live to promises of delivering communications and other equipment needed to fight government forces.
– After 10 years of war, a new survey found morale of Army officers and enlisted soldiers at an all-time low.
– Reuters reports: Insurgents fired two rockets at the main NATO airbase in Afghanistan, damaging an aircraft used by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, a NATO spokesman said on Tuesday. The general was not on board at the time.
– Dempsey said yesterday that the U.S. and its NATO allies are discussing new measures to combat attacks on international troops by their Afghan colleagues, amid a rise in so-called green-on-blue killings.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that the New York Police Department has been monitoring the communications and activities of Muslim groups in New York and the surrounding area. While the program has received significant criticism since, including from FBI agents and New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), the AP reports today that the program “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” After the AP’s initial report, the NYPD said the program was critical to counter-terror operations. However, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati conceded in court testimony that it produced no leads. “I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” he said. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that’s always a possibility. I am not aware of any.”
– Despite a rapidly growing list of prominent conservatives calling on him to back out of the hotly contested Missouri senate race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Rep. Todd Akin has made it clear he has no intention of quitting.
– A 2005 free trade agreement between the United States and Bahrain championed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is facing new scrutiny after a series of recent anti-Democratic actions in the Middle Eastern country.
– After radio appearances with Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity, Akin was scheduled to appear on CNN last night, but he pulled out at the last minute, a decision that did not sit well with host Piers Morgan:
– The influence of money in national politics is a big problem, but Washington lawmakers sure make a lot of it:
– And Finally: The US has taken many steps over the last decade to strengthen national security measures, but the Kentucky Supreme Court knows who is really to thank for our safety: Almighty God.
It won’t be on television for a year, but NBC just won a competitive auction for a sitcom that would bring Michael J. Fox back to television. Dan Fienberg has the details over at HitFix:
NBC was able to seal the deal by making a full 22-episode series commitment to the Fox project, based only on the script by Will Gluck (“Easy A”) and Sam Laybourne (“Cougar Town”). Gluck will also direct the single-camera series, which will begin filming later this year and will premiere in Fall 2013. The project is loosely based on Fox’s real life and will feature the “Back to the Future” and “Frighteners” star as the father of three living in New York City and dealing with life’s various challenges. Fox’s Parkinson’s will be a part of the show.
That last line, I think, is crucial to whether the show is a warmhearted but bland family comedy or something more unique. If this is a Hollywood version of chronic illness where it’s played for laughs, and no one every exceeds the amount of treatment covered by their insurance, and everyone’s employer is beautifully accommodating all the time, that may be a vision of a world I’d like to live in, but it’ll be a quick way to flatten a lot of the chances for humor and drama out of the show. Legit, FX’s upcoming show about a comedian and his friend, who uses a motorized wheelchair, is funny and emotionally affecting precisely because it doesn’t try to make everything seem nice or easy. It’d be revelatory to have some of that attitude on network television.
by David Gessner, via OnEarth
It was a small moment during this hottest of summers. I had already driven through the crisped cornfields of the Midwest, witnessed a smoke cloud that seemed to cover the whole state of New Mexico, and toured miles of charred ridgeline above Fort Collins, Colorado. Meanwhile, back home in North Carolina, my wife described the weeklong string of 100-degree days with 99 percent humidity as being ?like living in someone?s mouth.? So I had already grown used to heat, and to scenes of heat?s destruction.
But this was the moment that got me thinking: I was flying in a small plane over the dry cracked wilderness of northeastern Utah, courtesy of Bruce Gordon, a pilot and owner of EcoFlight (see ?The Plane Truth?). With us were a documentary filmmaker and two representatives of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which works to preserve Utah?s remaining wild desert lands. We had just flown over a sight of stunning beauty: a brown river named the Green snaking through canyons of purpled gray. We banked down over Nine Mile Canyon toward great towers of rock. They looked like giant red sand doodle castles, and atop these castles the Ute Indians had built dwellings that stood high above the desert floor. If ever I had a sense of the land as remote, sacred, vast, and removed from the unrelenting assault of our own hectic time, this was it.
But then, a second or two later, I saw them: The first square of shaved land, devoid of all vegetation, that signaled another oil drilling site. Then another, and another. Earlier we had seen hundreds of them, both gas and oil, each trailing a squiggling tail, like a group of giant square tadpoles. The tails were roads, and those roads always connected to larger roads, like the new four-lane highway leading down to the Book Cliff divide, site of the U.S. Oil Sands Project, Utah?s very own tar sands. There were not as many roads or sites here, but it was stunning to see them in such a remote, beautiful place. The message was clear: we will not leave anything alone. If these lands were once sacred, we will desecrate. We simply don?t care.
I pointed out that the land was scarred, as if someone had taken a knife to a beautiful person?s face.
?They used to say that the vegetation would eventually re-claim the sites,? said Steve Bloch, the energy program director for the wilderness alliance, through the headphones. ?But scientists no longer think so. Not enough water.?
These scars were permanent then, or as permanent as anything can be in nature.
We are a short-term people, hungry for now. The West is a long-term place. A place where the stones in an Anasazi Cliff dwelling sit just as they did a thousand years ago, and where nothing rots and decays. Here you can see the scars across the dryness. And here you will see the same scars in a hundred, or a thousand, years.
?Not enough water,? Steve said. There it was in three words. It is the whole country?s motto this summer, but it has been the West?s motto forever. The native people built a civilization adapting to that fact. The conquering Europeans, for the most part, tried their best to deny it. And are still denying it. Wallace Stegner wrote: ?The history of the West until recently has been a history of the importation of humid-land habits (and carelessness) into a dry land that will not tolerate them ? Inherited wet-land habits have given us a damaged domain.?
In other words, there has been a history of pretending.
But in a land of so little water, even less water, from either the sky or melting snow, tips the balance and reveals the place for the desert that most of it is. This year has been the hottest on record in the West (and the rest of the country). Which, combined with a virtually nonexistent snowpack, turns rivers into mudflats and sparks blazing fires. But this has been a freak year, some say. Remember that the year before gave us one of the largest snowpacks ever recorded. Perhaps the skeptics are right. But the secret worry, even of the skeptics, is that this is not a freak year.
Scarily, there is mounting evidence that this is the case. Researchers recently concluded that the extended dry period in the West from 2000 to 2004 was the worst in 800 years — that is, since the years between 1146 and 1151. Worse, there are fears that this will become the ?new normal,? that the aridity we saw during those years, and are seeing this summer, are what we can expect over the next century. Even drought-resistant plants will die, reservoir levels will continue to fall, crop production will continue to drop. Worse, as vegetation withers, it will no longer be able to absorb carbon dioxide, exacerbating climate change.
It is not a pretty picture, but it is an honest one. Scientists Peter Gleick and Matthew Heberger, writing in Scientific American, compared the situation in the West to the devastating ?Millennium Drought? that Australia has faced over the past decade:
The Millennium Drought did have one benefit: it got people?s attention. Australians responded to these extremes with a wide range of technical, economic, regulatory and educational policies. Urban water managers in Australia have been forced to put in place aggressive strategies to curb water use and to expand sources of new and unconventional supplies. They have subsidized efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, launched public educational campaigns to save water, and more. Between 2002 and 2008 per capita urban water use — already low compared with the western U.S. — declined by 37 percent.
There is no silver lining here. But at least the drought forces us to see things as they are. In flusher times there are parts of the West that can whistle along and ignore reality, pretending to be something they are not. But in a year like this, that is impossible. We are forced to look things in the eye and strip away our illusions, to prepare ourselves, as much as we can, for what is to come. There can be no more pretending.
David Gessner is the author of eight books, including My Green Manifesto and The Tarball Chronicles, both of which grew out of previous reporting for OnEarth. This piece was originally published at OnEarth and was reprinted with permission.
Before the stock market opened Monday, Apple was already the world’s most profitable tech company and it was already bigger than the entire American retail market on its own. By the time the market closed yesterday, the company had another feather to add to its cap: it is now the most valuable publicly-traded company ever, as its closing $665.15 share price gave it a market value of $623.52 billion, pushing it past Microsoft’s 1999 record number (though, adjusted for inflation, Microsoft’s value at the time was higher).
While Apple’s value — and its profits — have soared, the amount the company pays in taxes hasn’t. By utilizing low-tax states in the U.S. and offshore tax havens abroad, Apple has dodged billions of dollars in taxes over the last decade, including an estimated $2.4 billion in 2011 alone. The company paid a 9.8 percent tax rate in the U.S. in 2011 but just a 3.2 percent global rate, and the percentage it pays worldwide hasn’t exited single digits for more than a decade. As this chart from the New York Times shows, the amount Apple pays in taxes has remained relatively constant even as its profits have soared:
Those low tax rates aren’t enough for Apple, which has lobbied for tax breaks both at the state and federal level. California has passed four tax breaks aimed at tech companies since the 1990s; Apple lobbied for the last of those breaks, which could cost the state as much as $1.5 billion a year. It was also part of a coalition that lobbied Congress for a massive one-time corporate tax holiday that would allow it to bring its overseas profits home at a discounted tax rate, and it has admitted sending profits overseas to avoid American taxes.
Apple-style tax dodging comes at a cost to taxpayers and other American businesses. The California Public Interest Research Group estimates that corporate tax dodging cost the average taxpayer $434 in 2010. Citizens for Tax Justice, meanwhile, found that making up revenue lost to such tax dodging would cost each American small business $2,116 a year.