The Oklahoma Supreme Court has just struck down a proposed personhood ballot question — which would have granted embryos the rights of people and outlawed all abortions — calling the measure, “clearly unconstitutional”:
4. The United States Supreme Court has spoken on this issue. The measure is clearly unconstitutional pursuant to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). The states are duty bound to follow its interpretation of the law. Twenty years ago, this Court was presented with an initiative which facially conflicted with the Casey decision. This Court held: “The issue of the constitutionality of the initiative petition is governed by the United States Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Casey.”
5. The only course available to this Court is to follow what the United States Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the United States Constitution has decreed. In re Initiative Petition 349, 1992 OK 122, ¶ 8, 838 P.2d 1, 5.
6. The mandate of Casey is as binding on this Court today as it was twenty years ago. Initiative Petition No. 395 conflicts with Casey and is void on its face and it is hereby ordered stricken.
Mitt Romney and his allies have been attacking President Obama for his campaign’s recent video ad highlighting his decision to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and Romney’s statement in 2007 that he would not have taken similar action given the chance. Romney now says he would have done the same as Obama. ?Of course [I would have]. Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,? Romney said today.
A reporter asked Obama about the criticism and Romney’s newest statement today during a White House press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. While Obama said it’s “entirely appropriate” to “remember what we as a country accomplished” in getting bin Laden, the President advised that people look at what Romney said in 2007 and ask him why he now says something different:
OBAMA: As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assumed that people meant what they said when they said it, that’s been at least my practice. I said that we’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggested they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates — a Republican and a holdover from the Bush administration — said last year Obama’s decision to get bin Laden was a “gutsy call,” adding, “This is one of the most courageous calls ? decisions ? that I think I?ve ever seen a president make.”
Walsh’s remarks came at a town hall meeting in Wheeling, Illinois after being asked about the impending student loan showdown in Congress. Democrats are pushing to keep student loan interest rates from doubling their current rate in July; Republicans have blocked their efforts thus far. The Illinois congressman was beside himself with disbelief, telling the audience incredulously that President Obama was pushing for “basically free college education.”
CONSTITUENT: The latest debt twist of course is student loans, where the federal government has created such demand over the past 20 years that the cost of education has skyrocketed. I believe Congress wants to accommodate this reduction in the interest rate by paying for it, via reallocation of funds from some medical account. I believe the president wants simply to go further into debt. How will that play out and will the Republican House stay strong and if we want to subsidize that more can we at least pay for it?
WALSH: Look what this president?s doing. He was running around a month and a half ago basically saying, “free contraceptives for everybody.” Free contraceptives. What?s he been doing now the past couple weeks? Basically free college education. Student debt? Don?t worry about it. Don?t worry about it, you?ll pick it up.
Student loan interest rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in two months if Walsh and House Republicans continue to block Democratic efforts to keep them low. Republicans passed an extension of the rate last week but paid for it with funds from health care reform, knowing Democrats would never accept it.
If an agreement isn’t reached, they will double at a time when student loan debt is larger than credit card debt and car loan debt across the country. As the cost of tuition has soared, so has the amount of money students have had to borrow to pay for their education. This is not about “free college education”; it’s about preventing student loan debt from becoming an even larger problem than it already is.
A Board Member of the Ohio River Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America has resigned to protest the Council’s firing of Jen Tyrrell, a den leader who was asked to leave the organization because she is gay. “I understand that this action was taken as a result of a standing policy of the Boy Scouts of America and that said action is legal,” David J. Sims, writes in his letter. “However, Ms. Tyrrell?s removal goes against my fundamental beliefs of how we should treat our fellow human beings and is, in my opinion, wholly discriminatory.” Meanwhile, more than 259,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the organization to reinstate Tyrrell.
Maybe it’s just where I am in my own life, but it seems like all the actors who are slightly older than I am, who several years ago were making movies about dating are now making movies about getting married. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are in The Five-Year Engagement, which I hope to catch this weekend. Alison Brie is getting married in Save the Date, and Lizzy Caplan is thinking about it. Kirsten Dunst and Caplan are panicked about their singleness in Bachelorette, which is supposed to be a more caustic riff on Bridesmaids. And Judd Apatow, who several years ago was making movies about people coming together as families, whether the main character becomes a stepfather like in The 40-Year-Old Virgin or an accidental father in Knocked Up, is now making movies about middle aged parenting with This Is 40, his look at the married couple who were supporting characters in the latter movie:
I can’t quite decide what I feel about this yet other than vaguely apprehensive. Is this going to be a self-improvement comedy? A tragedy about holding a family together? Where do these people get all this time to self-improve? Don’t they work? And is this what it really feels like to be 40? I sort of thought 40 was going to be awesome.
Without giving away too much, I'll just say that there are no more Michele Bachmann candidacies in this tournament. So with both of her entries having lost, we won't be seeing her in the second round ... much like her real-world performance.
A moment of silence, please.
The bracket thus far is here. Today's contestants:
1. NEWT GINGRICH'S MOON BASE!
Newt Gingrich had put a damper on Mitt Romney's inevitability strategy by winning the South Carolina primary in mid-January. If he could win the next contest a bit to the south in Florida, he might have a real shot at the nomination. So what does Gingrich do to try and win that Florida vote? He talks about moon bases.
[A]t one point early in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance for Space, and I said when we get ? I think the number was 13,000 ? when we have 13,000 Americans living on the Moon they can petition to become a state [...]However cool a moon base might be, fact is that Gingrich is a Republican. You know, the party that is anti-science, anti-government spending and anti-education. Coming from a Democrat, such a goal might appear laudable if overly optimistic (or unrealistic) given our current fiscal situation. But from a Republican, that Florida pander got all the scorn it deserved.
I will as President encourage the introduction for the Northwest Ordinance for Space to put a marker down that we want Americans to think boldly about the future and we want Americans to go out and study hard and work hard, and together we are going to unleash the American people to rebuild the country we love.
By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the Moon, and it will be American.
But wait! There's a punchline. From the same speech:
I want you to help me both in Florida and across the country so that you can someday say you were here the day it was announced that of course we?d have commercial space in near-space, that of course we?d have a manned colony on the Moon that flew an American flag, and of course we?d be moving towards Mars by the end of the next decade.Indeed, where were you on Sept. 25, 2011, when Gingrich's pomposity expanded to astronomical size? I was on YouTube, furiously digging up this clip:
2. RICK SANTORUM TELLS PUERTO RICANS TO SPEAK AMERICAN
As Santorum headed down to Puerto Rico, I joked:
One day later, I went from comedian to psychic.
"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."Of course, there's no Constitutional requirement that English be a principal language.
While Santorum said it was not the role of the president to advocate for Puerto Rico?s statehood, he said, ?To me, it doesn?t make any sense to be in America and not want to be a state and have full rights as a United States citizen.?Puerto Ricans are United States citizens.
Turns out insulting the voters isn't a sound political strategy. Santorum lost 83-8, lost his momentum, and lost critical time in Illinois, where Mitt Romney spent his time wisely.
I'm so reassured when the USDA and the beef industry tell me I don't have to worry about getting a horrible brain-wasting disease because their random inspection actually caught one of the potential carriers:
There appears to be no risk to humans from the dairy cow discovered in California this week to have ?mad cow? disease. That?s according to the US Department of Agriculture and the beef industry.
Mad cow, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is believed to be carried by animal feed made from cattle brains or spinal cord. Such feed is now banned in the US and other countries, but cases of BSE have continued to appear around the world.
The World Health Organization has called for the exclusion of the riskiest tissues (eyes and intestines as well as brains and spinal cord) from all animal feed to protect against the spread of mad cow disease.
Stanley Prusiner, who received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the protein associated with BSE has said the US should ban poultry waste in cattle feed as well.
?Unfortunately, the United States still allows the feeding of some of these potentially risky tissues to people, pigs, pets, poultry, and fish,? warns Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States.
?Cattle remains are still fed to chickens, for example, and the poultry litter (floor wastes that include the feces and spilled feed) is fed back to cows,? he writes on his Huffington Post blog. ?In this way, prions ? the infectious proteins that cause mad cow disease ? may continue to be cycled back into cattle feed and complete the cow ?cannibalism? circuit blamed for the spread of the disease.?
Part of the problem, according to critics, is that only a tiny fraction of slaughtered cows (40,000 out of 35 million a year) are tested for BSE.
In this week?s instance, the cow (which was to be rendered into products other than meat for human consumption) had been unable to stand ? a ?downer? cow. This raised suspicions, so the cow was tested for BSE. This showed that the current inspection system works, say beef industry supporters.
According to the USDA, the infected animal discovered this week had ?atypical BSE,? which means it most likely did not get the disease from eating infected cattle feed. Still, the USDA is tracking feed sources as a possible cause.
And of course, the fact that we're getting ready to outsource poultry inspections won't affect things in the least!
Under the planned expansion, the agency would hand over these duties to poultry plant employees, while the inspectors would spend more time evaluating the plant?s bacteria-testing and other safety programs. The department has run the pilot program in 20 poultry plants since 1998.
But many of the agency?s inspectors said the proposal puts consumers at risk for diseases like those caused by salmonella. About 1.2 million cases of food poisoning are caused by salmonella each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistle-blowers, several inspectors who work at plants where the pilot program is in place said the main problem is that they are removed from positions on the assembly line and put at the end of the line, which makes it impossible for them to spot diseased birds.
The inspectors, whose names were redacted, said they had observed numerous instances of poultry plant employees allowing birds contaminated with fecal matter or other substances to pass. And even when the employees try to remove diseased birds, they face reprimands, the inspectors said.
But I'm sure it'll all work out somehow! After all, the USDA press release announcing the plan said, "In a shift that will save money for businesses and taxpayers while improving food safety" says cutting corners will make things better AND safer, so I'm going to take their word for it.
One of the primary obstacles to fighting the House's very dangerous cybersecurity bill, CISPA, is that technology and internet companies have largely supported it. They were a key ally in fighting the last bad internet bill, SOPA, but have been missing from this fight.
That could be changing, if Microsoft can lead the way. The company is now backing off previous support because of privacy issues opponents have been hammering on for weeks.
In response to queries from CNET, Microsoft, which has long been viewed as a supporter of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, said this evening that any law must allow "us to honor the privacy and security promises we make to our customers."Microsoft does support, or at least testified in support of, the Cybersecurity Act introduced in the Senate by Joe Lieberman (I-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), saying it provides "an appropriate framework to improve the security of government and critical infrastructure systems," which will be "flexible enough to permit future improvements to security."
Microsoft added that it wants to "ensure the final legislation helps to tackle the real threat of cybercrime while protecting consumer privacy."
Ironically, passage of the extreme CISPA bill in the House could possibly work to make the Senate version of the bill better, strengthening privacy protections. Microsoft's stance could help, there. The Senate, though, also has some actual teeth in making the private sector step up their own security, something that Republicans insist is job-killing regulation. That could kill any prospect of this bill going anywhere before the end of the session.
Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad inspects
centrifuges for concentrating uranium. (IRNA)
It was nearly nine years ago that I wrote my first it's-possible-Iran-may-soon-be-attacked-to-smash-its-nuclear-capability post at Daily Kos. Then, as now, unraveling what's real, what's possible, what's reasonable, what's propaganda, what's diplomatic maneuvering, what's chest-thumping and what's cover for psychological warfare is no straightforward matter.
Three months ago, what made it into public discourse hinted that an attack on Iran was just around the corner. Now it seems that an attack is far less likely. But was it all that likely in January? And is it less likely now? Or is it the same now as it was then? And what was it then?
Many purport to know. And those who make the claim usually are in the camp that says an attack by Israel or the United States to cripple Iran's nuclear facilities is imminent. But it would take a parallel computer array to calculate the number of times someone, amateur or professional, has said in the past decade with absolute certainty that Iran was on the verge of getting blasted. In just one of a jillion scenarios proferred by various theorists, George W. Bush was going to order an attack in October 2004 to seal his reelection bid. That, obviously, didn't happen and was, presumably, never even proposed even though his administration was brimful of ideologues who wanted to attack.
Of the current situation, James Risen writes:
[American officials and outside experts] cite a series of factors that, for now, argue against a conflict. The threat of tighter economic sanctions has prompted the Iranians to try more flexible tactics in their dealings with the United States and other powers, while the revival of direct negotiations has tempered the most inflammatory talk on all sides.If you're not one of the majority of Americans who, according to one poll, would favor a military strike on Iran if it appears the regime is building a nuclear weapon, cooling temperatures make for encouraging news. But, as Risen points out, "optimism could fade."
A growing divide in Israel between political leaders and military and intelligence officials over the wisdom of attacking Iran has begun to surface. And the White House appears determined to prevent any confrontation that could disrupt world oil markets in an election year.
?I do think the temperature has cooled,? an Obama administration official said this week.
There are all kinds of reasons why it would be better that Iran not have nuclear weapons, something that can be said of every nation that already has them. Whether or not Tehran's authoritarian leaders actually seek to build one is an argument for which anybody pro or con can come up with a supporting document, report or statement by a relevant official. To offer just one example, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa in 2005 against building nukes, calling them a "great sin." On the other hand, he is said to have spoken in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war three decades ago in favor of nuclear weapons to protect the regime. Both the alleged subterfuge behind the fatwa and interpretations of the 1984 statement have come under critical fire.
Untangling what is and is not reality in this matter, as noted, isn't a simple matter. What's clear, however, and has been for a long time, is that attacking Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities is a very, very bad idea?politically, diplomatically, economically and militarily?with repercussions that would reverberate for decades. If, as we read today, the chances of such an attack are truly reduced, hurrah.
Want to know where to go to stuff envelopes for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign? Want a Scott Walker lawn sign? Well, tough. The location is a secret. Not just not publicly listed in an easy-to-find location, but officially a secret that campaign staff will not give up when directly asked:
All we know about the main Walker campaign office is that it lists a P.O. Box in Middleton for campaign donations and other mail.
The governor does give a street address on University Ave. in Middleton for his defense fund, the account out of which he is paying his two criminal defense lawyers as part of the never-ending John Doe investigation of his staff.
Is that where his super secret campaign office is also?
"No," responded Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.
His state office does not post his schedule ahead of time, releasing a monthly calendar only to those who ask. And the campaign doesn't announce fundraisers and won't provide a list of previous out-of-state events.Some campaign to represent Wisconsin?Walker doesn't even want Wisconsin voters to know where he is or what he's doing. If Walker wants obscurity, let's give it to him. Contribute $6 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to help defeat Walker.