Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Call For Go Home Dinosaur Steve, You're Drunk

Gov. Steve Beshear has done a lot for Kentucky, frankly.  But the one issue where he has absolutely embarrassed himself and the state on repeatedly has been same-sex marriage, and he did it again this week.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the state's ban on gay marriage should be upheld in part because it is not discriminatory in that both gay and straight people are barred from marrying people of the same gender
In an argument labeled absurd by gay marriage advocates, Beshear's lawyer says in a brief filed last week at the U.S. Supreme Court that "men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex" under Kentucky law, making the law non-discriminatory. 
The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states, including Kentucky, by saying they weren't discriminatory because whites were barred from marrying blacks just as blacks were barred from marrying whites. 
The Supreme Court in 1967 rejected that argument in the historic case of Loving v. Virginia, in which Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, were charged with a crime for marrying.

If this sounds like that this is the most mind-numbingly stupid defense of same-sex marriage bans that you've ever heard, well that's because it is.  The man took this idiocy to the Supreme Court on behalf of his constituents.  You know, like me.

Steve, you're a moron.  Jack Conway cannot replace you quickly enough.

Sit down.

Giving Them The Iran Around

Americans want a nuclear deal with Iran, they just don't trust Iran to hold up their end of the bargain.

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. 
But the survey — released hours before Tuesday’s negotiating deadline — also finds few Americans are hopeful that such an agreement will be effective. Nearly six in 10 say they are not confident that a deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, unchanged from 15 months ago, when the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia reached an interim agreement with Iran aimed at sealing a long-term deal.

Naturally, party affiliation plays a big role here.

Popular sentiment among Republicans is more in line with GOP lawmakers on the issue of whether Congress should be required to authorize any deal with Iran. A Pew Research Center survey released Monday found 62 percent of the public believes Congress, not President Obama, should have final authority over approving a nuclear agreement with Iran
Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and other lawmakers are building bipartisan supportfor a bill that would require Obama to submit an Iran agreement for congressional approval blocking the removal of sanctions on the Islamic republic for 60 days. The bill would require a veto-proof majority to force Obama’s hand. 
Americans’ views on Iran have been shaped by deep worry over the prospect that it could develop nuclear weapons but also a hesitance to employ military force in an attempt to prevent that outcome. A February Gallup poll found more than three-quarters of the public thinks the development of nuclear weapons by Iran would pose a “critical threat” to the United States over the next 10 years. Yet fewer than three in 10 said Iran’s nuclear program — which it insists is for peaceful purposes — requires military action now in a CBS News poll last week; more than four in 10 said the threat can be contained for now and just under two in 10 said Iran is not currently a threat.

So Iran's a major threat and will have nukes in ten years but nobody wants to send their kids to fight and die to stop them, even though a diplomatic deal is something that most Americans believe is impossible.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Indiana Pence And The Backlash Of Doom, Con't

Republicans and pundits alike are arguing that Indiana's "religious freedom" law is no different from the federal law that a Democratic Congress and President Clinton passed in 1993, and no different from the Illinois state law that Democrats, including State Senator Barack Obama, voted for and passed in 1998.

But as Judd Legum at Think Progress points out, that is false.  Indiana's bill goes much further than the 1993 federal law or any other state law:

There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” 
Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens. This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is “more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors” and opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…” 
This is not a trivial distinction. Arizona enacted an RFRA that applied to actions involving the government in 2012. When the state legislature tried to expand it to purely private disputes in 2014, nationwide protests erupted and Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor, vetoed the measure
Thirty law professors who are experts in religious freedom wrote in February that the Indiana law does not “mirror the language of the federal RFRA” and “will… create confusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs.”

Again, the bottom line is that every other state version of this law, and the federal law Clinton signed in 1993, protects private citizens' religious beliefs from the government.  The Indiana law is the only one that applies to disputes between private citizens.  It's that second part, the aforementioned Section 9 of the law, that specifically opens up the Pandora's Box of discrimination and says that a private citizen's religious beliefs can trump another private citizen's actions and allows them to use the law as legal cover to do so.

That's the difference.  The law is a blanket permission to discriminate, plain and simple.  It's effectively a Stand Your Ground defense law for bigotry.  If you choose to discriminate against someone, you can claim the law as a defense if you feel your "exercise of religion is substantially burdened."

Oh, and Section 9 also defines person in this case as "not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity" as Legum mentions up there.  You can imagine what this can mean.  If Indiana's Hobby Lobby locations wanted to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers on religious grounds, then they could theoretically claim this law as a defense and say that allowing them to shop there would "substantially burden" their "exercise of religion".

Indiana's law is particularly awful, hence the backlash.  The legal difference is the clause that allows the law to be claimed as a defense in disputes between private citizens.

I'm expecting that part to be challenged in court.  For now, it's being challenged in the court of public opinion. The front page of the Indianapolis Star:


We are at a critical moment in Indiana's history. 
And much is at stake. 
Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers. 
All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future. 
The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created. 
Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage. 
Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage. 
Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Good luck with that, Indiana.  You elected Republicans.  This is what Republicans do.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Last Call For The Daily Grinder

WaPo Wonkblogger Chico Harlan introduces us to Right-to-Work minimum wage America.

Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy, looking forward to a 25 cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson.When I wrote about her in the Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike would bring her a bit of financial relief, but it wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line. 
She called me the other day to say she didn’t get to enjoy the 25-cent hike for long. After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job for talking to the Post
I spend a lot of time writing about people at the low end of the economy, and I see up close how narrowly they get by day-to-day. In this case, writing about Tippen’s plight may have made her situation worse. 
Tippen says she was fired by her boss, hotel manager Herry Patel. Earlier that day, Patel had called the Post to express frustration that he had been quoted giving his opinion about the minimum wage hike. (He objected to it.) 
It was soon after, Tippen says, that Patel found her in the lobby and fired her. 
He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [the Post],” Tippen said. “He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’ He said, ‘it was wrong for me to talk to you.'”

So unless there’s an Arkansas law that forbids people from getting fired for talking to a Washington Post reporter, Ms. Tippen is basically screwed. It used to be that collective bargaining and unions would give a worker a fighting chance against situations like this.

Those days were effectively over before I left elementary school and St. Ronnie rid the Shining City on the Hill of air traffic controllers.

Oh well, her fault for being poor, right? If she was a worthy human being, she would have worked her way up to hotel franchise owner.

The Gunited States Of Gunmerica

There's something that bothers me about this story about gun shops teaching kids to shoot from the Chicago Tribune.

GAT Guns in East Dundee started offering these classes about a year ago because parents wanted to bring their kids in to shoot, manager Randy Potter said.

Another store — On Target Range and Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake — offers a class to children ages 7 to 11 on firing .22-caliber rifles. At GAT, the children are trained on pistols.

“We couldn’t allow them to come in cold, not knowing what the parent and the child’s shooting ability was like,” Potter said. “Well, now what we do in the class is put them through and give them a card that fits in a wallet. They can show it at the counter, and the people at the counter will know that kid has been trained in safety and gun handling so it’s OK to let them shoot.”

The sound of gunfire is constant from the two shooting ranges inside the store, pistols upstairs, larger weapons downstairs. LED lights illuminate paper targets that glide back and forth at the command of the shooter and a touch-screen computer.

On the second floor, rifles line the walls and handguns fill display cases. To the side is a door leading to the classroom, which can hold a few dozen students. The first floor is taken up mostly by display racks of ammunition.

Before the children arrived, Wayne Inzerello sat in front of the room with a roster and a collection of bullets, ranging in size from bigger-than-your-thumb to smaller-than-a-fingernail.

In walked Sergio Meilman with his 12-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, carrying a gun case, a box of ammunition and two sets of ear protection like airport workers wear.

Inzerello checked the kids in and made sure their names were spelled right, then asked them to take a seat up front. He repeated the routine as the room filled, trying to put the nervous ones at ease.

More than half of the four girls and 13 boys had fired guns before.

I grew up in western North Carolina, where rifles especially were tools that signified you were a responsible person.  The implicit understanding growing up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains was that you learned to care for the rifle, clean it, load and unload it, and all the "boring" safety stuff before you ever were allowed to actually fire one, and that's what the NRA stood for.

Young learners   

Here's my question.  Imagine all the kids and the instructors in the above picture were black and/or Latino.  Would you still feel the same way about kids in suburban Chicago having firearms class?

I'm thinking the answer is no.

That's what's bothering me about the fetishization of firearms.

More Serious Problems In Syria

Via Juan Cole at Informed Comment, while the world has been paying attention to developments in Yemen with the Saudis settling in for a long airstrike campaign, developments in northwest Syria have taken a definite turn for the worse.

The provincial capital Idlib, a city of 165,000 in the old days and administrative center of the northwestern Idlib province, appears to have fallen completely to a Muslim fundamentalist coalition spearheaded by Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) and the al-Qaeda affiliate, the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra). Most of the Idlib countryside has long been in rebel hands, and some of it was held by pro-Western, relatively secular-minded forces until last fall, when they were preyed upon and defeated by the Support Front, which is loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s core al-Qaeda (responsible for the 9/11 attacks).

One fundamentalist Islamist coalition is bad enough, but if they are teaming up with AQ's Support Front, things are even worse than we imagined.  These guys know what they are doing, showing tactical and strategic discipline necessary to take and hold ground.

Aron Lund seems to argue that the fall of Idlib city is not terribly consequential. It was already nestled in the midst of rebel-held territory. The chief strategic danger to al-Assad’s forces is that the Sunni fundamentalists could use it as a launching pad to move against the Alawite Shiite populations around Latakia and to attack Latakia port to the west. The latter is important to resupply for the regime, which still controls the roads from the capital of Damascus up to Homs and over to Latakia. So far, however, the regime has managed to hold about two-thirds of the country population-wise, and these advances of rebels have sometimes been reversed, albeit with the help of Lebanon’s Shiite militia, Hizbullah. Al-Hayat also mentions the danger that the fall of Idlib could further isolate regime-held areas in the major northern city of Aleppo.

So this Terrible Twosome now have a base of operations to hit both Aleppo to the northeast, and the al-Assad regime's major resupply port to the southwest at Latakia. Again, this seems like a pretty solid strategic move on the part of the rebels, and that's bad news.

But here's Cole's real point:

Some Syrian and Western supporters of the rebel forces are annoyed to have it pointed out that Free Men of Syria and the Support Front are extremist fundamentalists or that the latter, which is al-Qaeda, played a leading role in the past week’s Idlib campaign. But for those of us in the US who lived through 2001, it is unforgivable that the Support Front pledged fealty to the mass murderer of Americans Ayman al-Zawahiri. That is not to say that al-Assad’s forces are preferable. In my own view, it is a shame both cannot lose to some sane group. But the revolution and war have erased sanity from all sides, and the secular or even just non-Salafi rebel forces have been targeted and wiped out by al-Qaeda, Daesh and so forth. Those who support the rebel side should reach out to the Support Front and let them know that until they repudiate al-Qaeda and declare for democracy, they have no cheering sections in the West and they are de facto helping al-Assad by their stance.

There are no "good guys" in Syria with military power right now.  This is a battle between the horrific guys and the truly horrific guys and the latter has made a big victory this week, and this gives the former the excuse to try to flatten a city of 150,000 in order to retake it.

Fun times, huh.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Last Call For Cop Cameras Can Work Both Ways

A gentle reminder that while cop cameras are definitely a tool to record obvious police brutality in action...

Fighting back tears, a Detroit man and longtime auto worker with no criminal history, described how Inkster police officers dragged him from his car one night in January, choked him, beat him and Tasered him during a traffic stop that was caught on patrol car video.

"He was beating me upside the head," Floyd Dent, 57, told a horde of reporters and TV crews during a press conference at his attorney's office Wednesday afternoon, as tears trickled his cheeks. "I was trying to protect my face with my right arm. I heard one of them say, 'tase the M...F. '"

The Jan. 28 incident was caught on police video cameras and is making national news. It shows Inkster police pulling over Dent in his 2011 tan Cadillac near South River Park Drive and Inkster Drive shortly before 10 p.m. The two officers approach with their guns drawn. As Dent opens the door, they pull him out and shove him to the ground. Dent does not appear in the video to be resisting arrest.

...it can also record incidents where police are not engaged in harming civil rights and are in fact doing their jobs correctly.

Taraji P. Henson was roundly applauded on social media this week over actions she took after having claimed that police in Glendale, Calif., racially profiled her son, Marcell, during a traffic stop.

In a recent interview with Uptown magazine, she said she was sending her son to Howard University after he was profiled on the campus of the University of Southern California.

Turns out the Empire star says she overreacted, according to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a 40-minute video of an officer’s encounter with her 20-year-old son. She apologized to police Friday in an Instagram message with the hashtag #TurningANegativeIntoAPositive #LoveTarajiPHenson.

“I would like to publicly apologize to the officer and the Glendale Police Department,” she wrote. “A mother’s job is not easy and neither is a police officer’s. Sometimes as humans WE overreact without gathering all the facts. As a mother in this case, I overreacted and for that I apologize. Thank you to that officer for being kind to my son.”

In the lengthy video recording of the traffic stop, Marcell, whose last name is Johnson, is shown running a yellow light at a crosswalk where a pedestrian is attempting to cross. The officer then pulls him over.

After a series of questions from the officer, including if he’s ever been arrested, Johnson tells the officer he has marijuana in his backpack.

“I appreciate you being honest with me about the weed,” the officer says. “I do appreciate that because I do smell weed.”

Johnson complies with the officer’s request to step out of the car and wait on the sidewalk. After running checks and searching his car, the officer, who was joined by several others, issued Johnson a citation for possession of marijuana, but let him go for running the yellow light.

“I’m gonna give you a citation for the marijuana,” the officer says in the video. “Listen, I’m not gonna give you a citation for running that yellow, because that’ll actually put a moving violation on your driver’s license, and you’re gonna have to do traffic school and all that stuff. So I’m helping you out by not giving you a violation on that. All I’m gonna do is take the weed.”

Evidence is evidence, it's neither good nor bad, but a record of what actually happened.  It's by no means a panacea for controlling police brutality, any more than having police is a panacea for stopping all crime.  But police departments should be embracing cop camera and dash cams as much as the public should be demanding them for precisely that reason.

Sunday Afternoon Long Read

Today's long read comes from San Francisco Magazine, a story about how even in arguably the most liberal large city in America, there's problems with wage theft for service workers.  The good news is that these workers banded together and fought back to the tune of $4 million.

Even after Zhen Li leads a rousing chant—“Workers organize, everybody wins!”—no one else wants to step up to the microphone. Tiny and bespectacled, her hair in a jet-black bob, Li has the look of a Chinatown matron, one of those tenacious hagglers who elbows her way through the crowds on Stockton Street to purchase jade-green gai lan and silvery carp. Wearing jeans, sturdy black shoes, and a puffy striped jacket, she exhorts her fellow proletariats to join her up front and holds out the mic to a nearby woman. The woman tries to beg off, pleading, “I’m sick—my throat hurts,” but cheers draw her to her feet, and she sheepishly echoes Li’s rallying cry.

On this rainy evening in early December at the Chinese Cultural Center, Li and dozens of workers—mostly women, mostly middle-aged and older— are celebrating with greasy takeout, cake, a slideshow, and speeches. While some are clearly shy about speaking in public, they are no longer scared. They’ve already achieved the impossible: Their solidarity has won them an astonishing sum—$4 million—from a powerful employer that had systematically undercut their wages, pocketed their tips, and forced them to work under brutal conditions. And it wasn’t just any business that Li and her comrades had taken on: It was Yank Sing, San Francisco’s most lucrative and popular purveyor of dim sum, those small plates of har gow, siu mai, and other doll-size delicacies that the restaurant serves to more than 1,200 customers a day (and that’s a slow day).

The journey to restitution for Li and her coworkers began two years ago, when Li discovered that she wasn’t alone in feeling abused and underpaid. Her official work hours were 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but often, she says, her bosses forced her to stay, unpaid, an hour or two longer to prepare food and take care of her station. Unbeknownst to Li, a few coworkers had been meeting with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)—a scrappy and strategic advocacy group that’s been organizing low-income laborers for decades—in an effort to bring change to Yank Sing. One of her coworkers approached her, saying, “We need your help.” When Li discussed the idea with her husband, he tried to stop her from joining the nascent campaign. “What if you don’t win? What if you lose your job?” he asked. “Your employer is so wealthy, so powerful.”

Despite his resistance, Li persisted. “I was pretty scared. It was just a few of us going to meetings,” she tells me, speaking in Cantonese through a translator. “But with all the support and encouragement, I started to have more courage.” Before long, she would prove her mettle, becoming one of the insurgent group’s most stalwart leaders.

While you read Zhen Li's story, think about how the vast majority of America views organized labor in 2015: as an economic disease that must be eradicated, and that poor working conditions, low wages, and wage theft are 100% the fault of the people who choose to work these service jobs.  If you wanted a better job, a better life, you would be a good enough person to earn a better job.  The fact you're working for minimum wage in a kitchen, the argument goes, is proof you are unskilled, lazy, stupid, uneducated, and most of all, undeserving of dignity.

Organized labor upsets this natural balance of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market.  It gives these "undeserving" people hope that they matter, that they are worth something more than the wage they get per hour where in America your sole measure of worth is your paycheck.  These people, the story goes, get more than they deserve by stealing from the rest of us when they form those evil unions.  Most of all they force our most precious resource, Business Owners, to spend money on greedy union workers when they could be hiring more of us for cheaper wages instead.  Unions cost jobs, you see.

Never mind that the mythical American middle class doesn't get paid enough these days to be able to afford to buy products we make or sell, and business owners are sitting on billions in profits in cash used to prop up share prices through stock repurchase plans and trillions in offshore profits that never get taxed in the US.

Funny how businesses are making the greatest profits in American history, but somehow can't afford to pay taxes or raise wages.

Surely that's the fault of kitchen workers in San Francisco.

Sunday Right-Wing Conspiracy

Scott wrote here about Harry Reid’s announcement that he will not run for re-election, a decision which, Reid was quick to say, was not the result of his “elastic exercise band” accident. In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.

Oh it gets more hysterical.

When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.
Wait for it....

A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

Says a lot about Assrocket's "friends" doesn't it.  Then again, they don't believe in evolution or climate change or basic macroeconomics, so of course "Harry Reid was really beaten into retirement by mobsters."

Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.

What happened to Reid is not just a matter of curiosity. Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal. Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid’s face in front of them.

The deliberate blindness of Democratic Party reporters hasn’t stopped people from speculating about what really happened to Harry Reid, but so far, at least, it has prevented the story from exploding into a major scandal.

"Everyone knows" Harry Reid is "involved with mobsters" and yet nobody has reported on it especially nobody on the right.

Weird how that works. It's almost like Assrocket has no actual evidence and is full of shit as usual.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last Call For Indiana Pence And The Backlash Of Doom

Things aren't going too well for the Hoosier State since GOP Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act State Permission To Discriminate Act last week, and the backlash has been fierce.  Companies ranging from gaming convention Gen Con to clomputing firm Salesforce to Apple CEO Tim Cook have blasted the law and have even threatened to pull out millions of dollars of investments in the state.

What the law doesn't have is a whole lot of defenders, as Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Evans notes.

Oddly and conspicuously missing has been a strong counter-show of public support by the law's backers, including evangelical Christians.

Polling shows Americans are divided nearly evenly on the issue of gay marriage — even down to whether wedding-related businesses should be forced to serve same-sex couples in the face of a strongly held religious objection — but you wouldn't know the split was so close based on the noise swirling around Indiana in the last few days.

The ceremony where Gov. Mike Pence's signed the bill into law Thursday was deliberately low-key and private. The event was closed to the media and, even though the governor's office issued a photograph of Pence surrounded by a clutch of backers — many in religious garb — the governor's staff refused to provide their names.

So what's the deal?

An excellent question.  The law was sold as a necessary bulwark to protect Indiana Christians from secular assault, but there aren't tons of people celebrating the law in the streets.  So why not?

Is it that backers don't want to appear to be gloating in the wake of a major victory in the cultural war?

Or is it something deeper, reflecting a changing attitude about the broader issue of discussing religion in public — a shift that has left many who hold deep religious beliefs leery, maybe even afraid, to speak out for fear of being marginalized, labeled as fanatics or targeted for retribution?

The answer, according to the few backers who responded to questions from The Star, appears to be a mix of the two. But it also is true that some religious groups have not backed the new law.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a letter to Pence this week threatening to cancel its 2017 convention in Indy if he signed the measure into law.

"Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry," Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Now that's interesting.  A Christian church that doesn't find the law to be very Christ-like.  Maybe that's the difference here in 2015.

Of course, there are those who are happily using the law for its intended purpose.

An Indiana business owner went on a local radio station and said that he had discriminated against gay or lesbian couples even before Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law on Thursday protecting business owners who decide to discriminate for “religious liberty” reasons. He then defended the practice and suggested he would do it again.

The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.

Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it, “he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”

And the law expressly prohibits any legal penalties to be levied against this fine, upstanding pillar of the community for his ignorance, because that's exactly what the law was meant to do.

And everyone knows it.

The Big Bug Out In Aden

With Yemeni President Hadi gone and even despite Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, it looks like there's very little to stop Houthi rebels in Yemen from capturing the port city of Aden and removing the last vestiges of the US-backed government. Foreign diplomats and UN staffers are taking advantage of the Saudis offering an exit by naval route.

Saudi Arabia's navy evacuated dozens of diplomats from Yemen and the United Nations pulled out international staff on Saturday after a third night of Saudi-led air strikes trying to stem advances by Iranian-allied Houthi fighters.

Residents reported heavy clashes between the Houthis and mainly Sunni tribal fighters in the south of the country, while the Saudi-led air campaign sought to stall a fresh offensive by the Shi'ite Muslim group on Aden from the east.

Riyadh's intervention, a surprise move from a conservative monarchy better known for flexing its muscle in oil markets than through military might, is planned to last a month but could extend for five or six, a Gulf diplomatic source said.

He said satellite imagery had shown that the Houthis had repositioned long-range Scud missiles in the north, close to the Saudi border and aimed at Saudi territory. A Yemeni official said Iran was providing parts for the missiles.
Dozens of diplomats were shipped out of Aden to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi television said, escaping the city where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had taken refuge until Thursday, when he left for Egypt to shore up Arab support for his crumbling authority.

Again, the Saudis are involved because the notion of a failed state now fallen to the point of being a base for Shi'a terrorists (not to mention the remnants of Sunni AQ Yemen) is something of a security problem on their southern doorstep.

Hadi running for Egypt shows you just how bad the situation is here, and oh yes, Iraq to Saudi Arabia's north is still very much a problem, with Islamic State running around from Basrah all the way over to Homs in Syria.

The Middle East is in pretty bad shape right now, and nothing I've seen makes me think anything's going to improve after a six month air strike campaign in Yemen.

Bank On Their Hatred Of Warren

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.

The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material

Moreover, banks' hostility toward Warren, who is not a presidential candidate, will not have a direct impact on the presumed Democratic front runner in the White House race, Hillary Clinton. That's because their fund-raising groups focus on congressional races rather than the presidential election

Still, political strategists say Clinton could struggle to raise money among Wall Street financiers who worry that Democrats are becoming less business friendly.

The tensions are a sign that the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis - the bank bailouts and the fights over financial reforms to rein in Wall Street - are still a factor in the 2016 elections.

Frankly, that's the best news I've heard about Senate Dems in quite some time.  I'm sure banks will still give to the Dems, but if they are publicly declaring Warren, Brown, and maybe even Hillary as their enemies, then it will only help the Dems in 2016.

Good work, banks!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Last Call For A Bluff, Broken And Busted

We've talked about Indiana's "religious freedom" bill allowing people to not face penalties for discrimination against LGBTQ folks based solely on belief, so when similar legislation came up in front of the Georgia House of Representatives this week, one Republican bravely stood up and killed it with truth.

As in Indiana, proponents of Georgia’s bill have tried to argue that it has nothing to do with discrimination. Rep. Mike Jacobs, an LGBT-friendly Republican, decided to test this theory by introducing an amendment that would not allow claims of religious liberty to be used to circumvent state and local nondiscrimination protections. Supporters of the bill, like Rep. Barry Fleming (R), countered that the amendment “will gut the bill.” Nevertheless, the House Judiciary Committee approved the amendment with a 9-8 vote, three Republicans joining the Democrats in supporting it. 
Fleming moved to table the amended bill, a motion that passed with 16 votes, making it unlikely the bill will proceed before the legislative session ends. With an exception for nondiscrimination protections, the “religious liberty” bill is dead. 
Before the vote, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon (R), joined the hearing to similarly argue against making an exception for nondiscrimination protections. He claimed that the bill’s religious liberty protections would no longer be “uniform” across the state, adding, “That amendment would completely undercut the purpose of the bill.” Rep. Roger Bruce (D) pressed McKoon: “That tells me that the purpose of the bill is to discriminate.” Without further explanation, he countered, “It couldn’t be further from the truth, no sir.”

Well played, Mr. Jacobs. Well played indeed.

Black Guy Time Machine

Time travel may be fun in movies, novels, and games, but in reality it just doesn't happen.  One African-American physicist however is at least giving it the ol' college try.

When he received his doctorate in 1973, [Ron] Mallett was one of only 79 black Ph.D. physicists among about 20,000 in the U.S., he says. While he detects more tolerance in the profession now, the discrimination — the idea that a black man can’t be this smart — has not disappeared. 
Mallett says he kept his work on time travel secret for years partly because colleagues would conclude he was a crackpot unfit for tenure. If he worked openly and with others, he also worried white physicists would get all the credit. 
“I’m afraid that’s how it would work,” Mallett says. 
He built his first time machine in the basement of the Altoona, Pennsylvania, home where his mother moved him and three younger siblings from the Bronx after their father’s death plunged the family into poverty. He was 11 and had just read “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells. The odds and ends he slapped together didn’t work. He knew he would need the science. 
He was miserable much of the time growing up, depressed and isolated. He was an average student. Electronics, English and math were the exceptions.

Mallet says he owes everything to his father, and he wants to give his theoretical equations a chance to be put into practice, maybe to see him again.  There's a lot more to this story than just temporal physics, and hell, I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, he's got this figured out.

The Honey Badger Hangs Up His Gloves

Senate minority leader Harry Reid will not run for re-election in 2016 as yet another big Senate retirement will set off a scramble for both his seat and for leadership among the Dems.

Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance. 
Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections. 
“I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”
He has already confounded the new Republican majority this year by holding Democrats united against a proposal to gut the Obama administration’s immigration policies as well as a human-trafficking measure Democrats objected to over an anti-abortion provision. 
“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” said Mr. Reid, who used a sports metaphor about athletes who try to hang on too long. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”

Reid certainly has done a hell of a job trolling Republicans all these years.  The Dems could do a lot worse.  The article ends with this:

Mr. Reid said he had seen one important change for the better in the Senate: an influx of female senators. 
This place is so much better because of women,” he said. “Men and women are different, and they have changed the dynamic of the Senate.”

Amen to that, Honey Badger.  Maybe with both President Obama and now Harry Reid unburdened by re-election, some interesting last minute things can get done.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Crash Course In The French Alps

Well, this week's Germanwings Airbus A320 crash in the French Alps just took a very depressing turn.

The chief Marseille prosecutor handling the investigation of the crash of a Germanwings jetliner said on Thursday that evidence from the cockpit voice recorder indicated that the co-pilot had deliberately locked the captain out of the cockpit and steered the plane into its fatal descent
“At this moment, in light of investigation, the interpretation we can give at this time is that the co-pilot through voluntary abstention refused to open the door of the cockpit to the commander, and activated the button that commands the loss of altitude,” the prosecutor, Brice Robin, said. 
He said it appeared that the intention of the co-pilot, identified as Andreas Lubitz, had been “to destroy the aircraft.” He said that the voice recorder showed that the co-pilot had been breathing until before the moment of impact, suggesting that he was conscious and deliberate in bringing the plane down and killing 144 passengers and five other crew members in the French Alps on Tuesday.

Why Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot, crashed the plane on purpose we may never know, and why he chose to take 149 lives with him is still a mystery.

The inquiry shows that the crash was intentional, Mr. Robin said, and he was considering changing his investigation from involuntary manslaughter to voluntary manslaughter. 
He said there was no indication that it was a terrorist attack, and added that Mr. Lubitz was not known to law enforcement officials. After the news conference, the German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, told reporters in Berlin that security officials had checked their records after Tuesday’s crash and found no indication that anyone on board had links to terrorism. 
An investigation into the background of Mr. Lubitz, who was 28 years old and came from the German town of Montabaur, is underway. 
Asked if Mr. Lubitz had tried to commit suicide, the French prosecutor said, “I haven’t used the word suicide,” adding that it was “a legitimate question to ask.”

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle that are still missing, and we may never find all of them, but hopefully officials in France can reconstruct what happened, and we can start asking why a co-pilot would be in the seat alone and able to lock the pilot out of the cockpit.

But Remember, Pro-Life

So it turns out trying to firebomb a Planned Parenthood clinic is actually something that's against the law in Texas. Wonder how long that little oversight will take to get rectified.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that an anti-abortion group was holding a prayer vigil outside the Planned Parenthood clinic Monday night when someone drove by and threw a flaming bottle out of their car window. 
Ruth Allwein with the Texas Alliance for Life told officers that she stomped out the bottle and pulled out the wick. The liquid in the bottle turned out to be Gumout gas treatment, which is flammable. It reportedly burned an area of grass about the size of small pizza before it was put out. 
Although the vehicle’s license plate had been obscured with cardboard, activists provided police with enough information to arrest 52-year-old Melanie Marie Toney.
At first, Toney denied that she had thrown the bottle. But she later admitted that she threw it and that it “might” have been smoldering. 
Toney was charged with felony aggravated assault, and was being held in lieu of $25,000 bond. 
An arrest affidavit said that Toney’s motive was not completely clear. But anti-abortion protesters told police that they felt like they had been targeted. 
“We are just very sad this happened and we are thankful no one was hurt,” Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas President Ken Lambrecht told KVUE. “The health and safety of anyone coming in or near Planned Parenthood Health Center is of the utmost importance to us.” 
The South Austin Planned Parenthood has surveillance cameras, security guards and high fences in place to protect patients and staff.

And of course the anti-choicers protesting against the clinic felt like they of course had to be the victims, and not the clinic itself.

Sure.  Because it's not like America has a history of the "pro-life" movement bombing abortion clinics or anything.

Jesus wept.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Last Call For Coats For Senate

The latest Senate retirement headed into 2016 is Indiana Republican Dan Coats, setting off a Hoosier state shuffle for his seat.

"Today I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the United States Senate," Coats said in a statement. "This was not an easy decision. While I believe I am well-positioned to run a successful campaign for another six-year term, I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders.

Coats's decision to retire may set off a Republican scramble for the open seat. While the GOP would seem to have the early edge, it is now another state they must defend in a presidential year where they're almost entirely playing defense to protect their new Senate majority.

Potential Republican candidates include Reps. Todd Young and Susan Brooks, both of whom have long been viewed as having statewide ambitions, as well as Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Reps. Todd Rokita, Jackie Walorski and Marlin Stutzman.
An aide to Rep. Luke Messer told The Hill he wouldn't seek the Senate seat.

Coats's chief of staff, Eric Holcomb, is also taking a look at the race and is seen as a top candidate by by Indiana observers. He is close to kingmaker and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), has been traveling the state extensively building connections with the GOP grassroots. 
“Eric has taken a leave of absence from Senator Coats’ office as he considers a run for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2016. He’s grateful for the immediate outpouring of support from every corner of Indiana and will make a decision soon,” Pete Seat, a spokesperson for Eric Holcomb, said in a statement.

Well that's the GOP side, plenty of people salivating over that prize.  But Indiana's other senator is Democrat Joe Donnelly who won because Republican Richard Mourdock was a tea party nutcase that Indiana didn't want to touch..  Could the Dems take both seats in a similar way?

That would mean finding another Blue Dog in Indiana with the cash to run for Senate.  And you know who that means.

Their best recruit would likely be former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who chose to retire rather than facing a tough race in 2010 and still has close to $10 million in the bank for a potential return to politics. Bayh has ruled out a run for governor but hasn't closed the door on a Senate run
National Democrats immediately expressed optimism over the newly open seat, pointing back to their 2012 victory.

“Indiana's Senate race is now one of the most competitive Senate races in the country, and Democrats are ready to put together a strong campaign just like we did in 2012. We're confident that we will find a great candidate who will put Indiana first and win this seat in 2016," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester (Mont.) said in a statement.

If Bayh doesn't run, former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott (D) are potential candidates on the Democratic side.

Oh hooray Evan F'ckin Bayh might be back!  I'm sooooooo haaaaaaaappy.

Cut Until You Can't Bleed Anymore

The House GOP budget proposal is not only lunacy, but dangerous.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have crunched the numbers and found that Republicans want a budget that cuts more than $3 trillion from programs for working and middle class over ten years, and the biggest victim would be health care:

  • More than $2.9 trillion in health care reductions for low- and moderate-income people. The plan would convert Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program into a single block grant with drastically reduced funding levels. It also would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including health reform’s subsidies to make coverage affordable for people with low or modest incomes and its Medicaid expansion. To date, the ACA coverage expansions have extended coverage to 16.4 million previously uninsured people and strengthened coverage for millions of others.
  • $125 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps). The House plan block-grants SNAP starting in 2021 and cuts SNAP funds by $125 billion, or more than a third, over 2021 to 2025. States would be left to decide whose benefits to reduce or terminate, but cuts of this magnitude would end food assistance for millions of low-income families, cut benefits for millions of such households, or do some combination of the two, according to a new CBPP analysis.[3]
  • $159 billion[4] in cuts to tax credits for low- and modest-income working families. The House Budget Committee plan would allow critical provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to expire at the end of 2017, which would increase the number of people in poverty by an estimated 1.8 million, including 1.0 million children — and deepen poverty for another 14.6 million people, including 6.7 million children, in 2018. The House plan would also allow the American Opportunity Tax Credit to expire at the end of 2017, which would cause millions of low- and moderate-income families to lose some or all of the tax credits they receive to help offset college costs.[5]
  • Roughly $300 billion in cuts in other mandatory (i.e. entitlement) programs serving low-income Americans, much of which is unspecified. Aside from the cuts in SNAP and refundable tax credits discussed above, the House plan cuts more than $550 billion from mandatory programs just in the education and income security categories of the budget. The Budget Committee provided few specifics here, but we conservatively estimate that about $300 billion would come from low-income programs in these areas. The Budget Committee made clear that the plan eliminates the mandatory portion of funding for Pell Grants, which help students from families with modest incomes afford college. The reduced Pell Grant funding would necessitate cuts in the program. Despite the fact that Pell Grants already cover a much lower share of college costs than they used to, the Budget Committee said its plan would freeze the maximum grant level for ten years, even as tuition and room and board costs continued to rise. Other mandatory programs in these areas that would also be candidates for significant cuts under this vague part of the plan include child nutrition programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the elderly and disabled poor, and possibly the underlying refundable portion of the EITC and the underlying low-income (or refundable) component of the Child Tax Credit (CTC). In calculating the size of the cuts in programs targeted on people of modest means, we assumed that low-income program (other than SNAP) would bear their proportionate share of the remaining $550 billion in cuts in mandatory programs that the budget plan makes in the education and income security categories.
  • About $160 billion, and maybe more, in cuts to low-income non-defense discretionary programs. On top of the significant cuts already enacted as a result of the BCA’s discretionary caps and sequestration, the House Budget Committee cuts non-defense discretionary programs about $970 billion[6] below their post-sequestration levels. About two-thirds of these cuts are located in portions of the budget that have little or no low-income programs, such as scientific research, natural resources, and transportation infrastructure. But the rest are essentially unspecified or occur in areas where low-income programs reside. Here, too, we make the conservative assumption that low-income programs would bear a proportionate share of the cuts, which is how we derive our estimate of $160 billion in reductions.

The Senate GOP version cuts slightly less from health care (only $2.5 trillion in cuts!) but would keep intact pretty much everything else as far as cuts.  These are brutal cuts too, and where would the $3 trillion in savings go?


Here's a hint: if you have to guess, you most likely won't see a dime of it.

Every Breath You Take (I'll Be Blocking You)

The GOP House is responding to President Obama's EPA regulations on coal plant emissions with Kentucky Rep Ed Whitfield (R-Bituminous) introducing legislation to stop the regulations from ever taking effect.

Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky unveiled a draft bill that would allow governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant rate increases for electricity or harm reliability in the state. 
The bill also would delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule until all court challenges are completed. 
Whitfield, chairman of the energy and power subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce panel, said the EPA’s proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is riddled with problems and faces an uphill battle in the courts. 
Whitfield and other Republicans cited testimony from an unlikely ally, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, an Obama mentor who has said the proposed EPA rule is unconstitutional. 
“Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy,” Tribe told Whitfield’s subcommittee last week. 
Tribe said the EPA was attempting what he called “an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts — all at once.” 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cited Tribe’s comments in a letter urging the nation’s 50 governors to defy Obama’s rules for power plants by refusing to submit compliance plans to Washington. 
“Some have suggested recently that failing to comply with the EPA’s requirements would be to disregard the law,” McConnell wrote in a letter to all 50 governors. “But the fact is, it is the EPA that is failing to comply with the law.”

Larry Tribe selling out to the GOP aside, Whitfield's bill most likely won't even make it past the Senate.  But Mitch the Turtle openly calling for states to break federal regulations and refuse to submit emissions reduction plans is cute.  That of course means the EPA will do it for them, and I'm betting they'll be a lat more harsh about it.

That is of course if the regulations aren't tied up in the courts until the Obama administration ends, which is a distinct possibility.  After that, who knows?

We should probably do something as voters to make sure we have a continuation of these EPA policies if we want clean air and to do something about climate change, or at least try to do something.

Or at least the rest of you should.  Kentucky will never comply until forced to by the Feds.
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/03/24/3764976_ky-congressman-targets-climate.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Last Call For A Kasich Of Reading Too Much Into Things

Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich is field testing his ridiculous federal balanced budget amendment 2016 presidential hopeful platform with New Hampshire voters and people love it!

According to John Kasich, that is. The Cincy Enquirer's Chrissie Thompson and Meg Vogel are following the governor on the campaign trail in the Granite State.

Already, it's clear: These voters like John Kasich. 
The New Hampshire Republicans I met this morning said they wanted a presidential candidate who prioritized fiscal conservatism and foreign policy, with social issues as a side note. Contrast that with early-primary South Carolina, whose politicos welcomed Kasich politely last month, but worried he was too moderate on issues such as Common Core and immigration. 
The GOP governor focused his New Hampshire speech accordingly. He talked of balancing the federal budget and boasted of his involvement in strengthening coordination in the U.S. military via the Goldwater-Nichols Act. (The latter brought the "most dramatic change in the way the military operated, frankly, in modern history," Kasich said, although his claim to have been a senior congressman at the time might be a stretch -- he was in the second of his nine terms in Congress.) 
Kasich lacked much of the careful deference from his visit to South Carolina. Visibly more comfortable in this state, Kasich spoke of his efforts to force county welfare services to coordinate, boasting about his threat to take away counties money if they don't comply. It's all in the name of "welfare reform," he said. 
"You wanted to clap at that? Go ahead; you can clap," Kasich said.

Yeah go ahead and clap for massive, massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and every federal department, all to make room for tax cuts for the one percent.  More than any other candidate out there, Kasich is the GOP point man on supply-side idiocy.

Yes, Clinton balanced the budget.  And he did it by raising taxes on the rich.

Does anyone think Kasich will do the same?

P.S, That "heartbeat" bill that would ban abortion in Ohio that Kasich is trying to avoid having to sign?  It's baaaaaaaaaaaack!

Bobby Who? Whatsit Jindal? Never Heard Of Him.

NY Times columnist Charles Blow laments the black hole that is Bobby Jindal's presidential hopes (and the Louisiana state budget gap).

In the latest CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and independents who lean Republican, only 1 percent said that he was the candidate they would most likely support for the Republican nomination. Even “none/no one” got 6 percent. 
And in a desperate attempt at relevancy — and press — he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria. 
In January, he caused a controversy by claiming that parts of Europe were “no-go zones” because of Muslim extremists. Jindal said that there were cities “where non-Muslims simply don’t go in,” like Birmingham in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron said in response: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot.” 
That hasn’t stopped Jindal. Last week on Fox News, he set about defending his statement that America “shouldn’t tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant, or some version, of Shariah law.” But he went so far as to say of prospective immigrants:
“In America we want people who want to be Americans. We want people who want to come here. We don’t say, ‘You have to adopt our creed, or any particular creed,’ but we do say, ‘If you come here, you need to believe in American exceptionalism.’ ” 
What? Where is that written? I can’t find this “need to believe in American exceptionalism” anywhere in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Isn’t American exceptionalism itself a creed? 
The smart-on-paper Jindal increasingly comes across as nuttier than a piece of praline.

On the contrary, Jindal has all but glowingly accomplished his job: driving Democrats out of what was a reliably blue state.  Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu and friends are ancient history, and the state's vaunted Democratic machinery is in utter ruin.  The state's race to the bottom has been breathtaking.

Now it faces a more than $1.6 billion budget hole, and it's going to be filled with the bones of the state's universities, libraries, and public schools. And when Bobby Jindal leaves office, the state will be a shell of itself, hollowed out in order to give the wealthiest even more money to hoard.

By that criteria, Bobby Jindal has always been the man that he promised to be.

Israeli Getting Messy Out There, Folks

Colonel Mustard's Law And Stuff Emporium:

Now it’s all making sense. The Israelis saw Obama acting deceptively, hiding negotiations that would affect Israel’s existence, and giving away the store to the Iranians.

Netanyahu saw no choice but to go to Congress both through the Israeli ambassador and the speech to Congress, knowing that it would harm Israel with the administration.

This was not something done for election purposes.

Jackass, Son Of Jackass:

How dare Israel undermine American talks with a country that wants to annihilate both Israel and the United States. Our petulant, thin-skinned, mom jeans wearing President is angry because he got exposed. Boo freaking hoo.

 Carl Of Team Israel All Day Every Day:

One final comment. Obama is lucky this story didn't come out last Sunday or Monday. If it had, the Likud might have won 80 seats in last Tuesday's elections. This story doesn't make Obama into a victim (although I am sure that was the administration's intent in leaking it). This story makes Obama look petty, vindictive, and more than willing to abandon an ally that just happens to be the only democracy in a part of the world that is of critical interest to the United States.

Obama has won the title. He will go down in history as the worst President the United States has ever had.

The excuse from the right is that the deal with Iran is soooooooo awful that it has driven Israel to spy on us with, again, the express intent of undermining our foreign policy and involving other US elected officials in the effort. Israel had no other choice, you see to stop Iran from being months away from a nookular weapon, they way they've been for well over a decade now.

 It does explain why the Obama administration has been less than cordial to Bibi over the last couple years. They knew the Israelis were spying on us and going to Congress over it and apparently President Obama has gotten sick of it. Puts that whole "Bibi endorsing Romney in 2012" thing in perspective, doesn't it. Apparently that particular bad bet has continued for the last couple years.

U.S. officials said Israel has long topped the list of countries that aggressively spy on the U.S., along with China, Russia and France. The U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally, U.S. officials said. 
A senior official in the prime minister’s office said Monday: “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”

And Israel doesn't have any nuclear weapons, either, while we're apparently making up stories that nobody actually believes. So yes, this very much explains Israel's actions over the last several months.  An "ally" spying on us, and then using its connections with Congress to get what it wanted, directly.  To see this dirty laundry in the news is a brushback pitch at about 120 MPH.

Israel's response is rather petty:

The White House was directly involved in an attempt to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in last week’s general election, during a nadir in ties between the Israeli leader and US President Barack Obama, a senior Jerusalem official said Tuesday. 
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that “it’s no secret” that the Obama administration had attempted to influence the outcome of the election, having been partially motivated by a desire for revenge over Netanyahu’s polarizing speech before Congress earlier this month, which sought to undermine the president’s key foreign policy initiative – a nuclear deal with Iran. 
The White House is driven by three main motives,” the official said. “The first is revenge [over the Congress speech]. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third [motive] is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”

Well alrighty then.

Enjoy your ride, Bibi.  You signed up for it.  And Obama is fresh out of damns to give about you.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Last Call For Indiana Acting Like Kentucky

I know most of the time when it comes to politics here in the Tri-State I talk about Kentucky and Ohio, but every now and then Indiana catches some attention for doing something blockheaded, and today's Indiana House vote on a bill to enshrine discrimination into state law qualifies for sure.

The Indiana House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial religious freedom bill Monday.

It’s a bill that opponents believe will lead to discrimination, but it’s also a bill that is supported by the governor and one that is now certain to become law.

That didn’t stop opponents from battling to the end.

Freedom Indiana, the organization that led the fight for gay marriage in this state, delivered thousands of letters to the office of House Speaker Brian Bosma in a final protest to the bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We don’t want this bill,” said Katie Blair of Freedom Indiana. “It’s not necessary. It’s discriminatory and it makes our state look bad.”

And when the bill was called down for debate most of the discussion came from opponents who see it as a consolation prize for conservative organizations who lost the gay marriage fight.

Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) said she heard from clergymen who are opposed.

“They see it as state sanctioned discrimination,” she said, “particularly against gays and lesbians.”

“This is a made up issue,” said Minority Leader Scott Pelath. “It’s an issue made up for the purpose of being able to go in front of a few Indiana citizens and thump your chests that you stood up for certain social causes.”

Supporters insist that the bill would merely guide judges when the rights of two or more people come into conflict.

“Nobody in this General Assembly is advocating a bill that would allow people to discriminate,” said Majority Leader Jud McMillin. “Everybody wants the opportunity for people to practice the rights that they’re supposed to have in this country. This bill does that

So if a person says "I refuse to serve you because you are gay and that's against my firmly held beliefs" (or black, or Jewish, or a Bengals fan) and tosses you out of their establishment, that's 100% OK according to Indiana Republicans.

But in a post-Hobby Lobby decision America, that passes for serious legal thinking.

Voter Suppression Now Official In Wisconsin

It's now tougher to register to vote and to vote in the Badger State after the Supreme Court passed on dealing with Wisconsin's Voter ID law, meaning permanently lower turnout, which is exactly what Republicans want.

The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a major challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID law, delivering a victory to Republicans who favor tougher election laws. 
The decision is a setback for civil rights groups that contend the law could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of residents who lack proper ID — particularly racial minorities, seniors, students and people with disabilities. 
And it turns both sides' sights on Texas, where a similar statute is pending before a federal appeals court. Eventually, the justices are considered likely to resolve the festering issue. 
New election laws in both states, along with Ohio and North Carolina, forced the high court to settle last-minute disputes before the 2014 elections. The justices generally tried not to change procedures just as voters were set to go to the polls, but they did not rule on the broader issue: what types of state restrictions are constitutional. 
Wisconsin's law was passed in 2011 and used in low-turnout primaries before being blocked from further use by a state court. Last year, a federal district judge declared it unconstitutional because it disproportionately affected black and Hispanic residents. 
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in September, in part because of last-minute changes made by state officials to ease the burden on those lacking proper ID. The full appeals court deadlocked 5-5 on the issue, leaving the panel's decision in place. But the Supreme Court blocked the law from taking effect in November. 
All four cases are part of a broader national challenge by groups aligned with Democrats and minorities against laws tightening voting procedures passed by Republican legislatures to combat alleged voter fraud.

If the Supremes punt on all four states, 2016 is going to be a lot harder for Democrats to prevail in. Republicans know it, because that's the goal: the fewer people vote, the better the GOP does. 2014 proved that beyond a doubt.

We're losing more and more rights to vote, and if the Supreme Court won't act on such blatant and obvious voter suppression against Democrats, then we're in a lot of trouble.

WaPo's Paul Waldman says the Supreme Court punt means it's time to change tactics:

It may be time for liberals to admit that, barring a significant change in the makeup of the Supreme Court, this just isn’t a battle they’re ever going to win
That doesn’t mean every challenge to a voter ID law should be dropped. Many of these cases are still important to pursue because the details vary from one state to another. Some laws are more restrictive than others, and it’s important for liberals to press the Court to clearly define what’s permissible and what isn’t. For instance, the Texas law (which is still working its way up to the Court) said that hunting licenses could be used as valid identification, but IDs issued by state universities couldn’t. Everyone understood why the Texas legislature wrote the law that way: hunters are more likely to be Republicans, while students are more likely to be Democrats. 
Even one or two of the conservative justices might find that requirement ridiculous and strike it down. There’s also the question of what states need to do to accommodate people who don’t drive and want to get whatever substitute ID is being provided. How much can the state charge? What about people who would need to travel long distances to get to a state office? What about older people who don’t have (or never had) a birth certificate? These are questions the Court will have to decide, and liberals should be there to make their case, in order to mitigate the harm done by these laws. 
But no one should fool themselves into thinking that this Court is ever going to rule that the basic requirement to present photo ID at the polls is unconstitutional.

That ship has officially sailed.  But the fight to make sure that all Americans have equal access to voter IDs is just getting started.

Race Together Comes Apart

Well this brand disaster of a plan lasted all of a week.

According to a recently released internal memo, Starbucks baristas will no longer write “Race Together” on customers’ cups starting Sunday.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson says the campaign to create discussion on diversity and racial inequality will continue without the handwritten messages, which are phasing out as originally planned.

The memo from CEO Howard Schultz says the cups were always “just the catalyst” for a broader conversation and the company will still hold forum discussions, co-produce special sections in USA TODAY and put more stores in minority communities as part of the Race Together initiative.

The initiative has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as protests over police killings of black males.

Olson says the change is not a reaction to that pushback.

Sure it's not.  And I'm really Boudica, Queen of the Celts.

Look, this was a horrible idea to begin with, because the only thing worse than people refusing to have a real conversation on race is people having a forced, non-serious conversation about it generated by a coffee company.  It's great that Starbucks wants to be a good corporate citizen, but it was putting all the pressure on its baristas to do the work with little or no guidance, particularly when you sell a product in places where your customer base is mostly white.

There are some real things Starbucks could do, and it looks like according to the statement they plan to at least start on doing them, but #RaceTogether was a road paved with good intentions with only one possible destination.
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