Monthly Archives: April 2013

Backlash Against Gun Vote

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who championed a bipartisan compromise on gun reforms, has seen his approval rating reach new heights.

On the other, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has seen her support back home drop sharply, so much so that she is "underwater" (disapproval is higher than approval).

Yesterday, PPP came out with a poll showing that gun vote hurt others too:

After just 3 months in office Jeff Flake has already become one of the most unpopular Senators in the country. Just 32% of voters approve of him to 51% who disapprove and that -19 net approval rating makes him the most unpopular sitting Senator we've polled on, taking that label from Mitch McConnell.


When we polled Alaska in February Lisa Murkowski was one of the most popular Senators in the country with a 54% approval rating and only 33% of voters disapproving of her. She's seen a precipitous decline in the wake of her background checks vote though. Her approval is down a net 16 points from that +21 standing to +5 with 46% of voters approving and 41% now disapproving of her. Murkowski has lost most of her appeal to Democrats in the wake of her vote, with her numbers with them going from 59/25 to 44/44. And the vote hasn't increased her credibility with Republican either- she was at 51/38 with them in February and she's at 50/39 now.

Mark Begich is down following his no vote as well. He was at 49/39 in February and now he's at 41/37. His popularity has declined with Democrats (from 76/17 to 59/24) and with independents (from 54/32 to 43/35), and there has been no corresponding improvement with Republicans. He had a 24% approval rating with them two months ago and he has a 24% approval rating with them now.


We saw serious improvement in Rob Portman's poll numbers in the second half of 2012 following his consideration as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, but he's taken a nose dive in 2013. Portman's approval has dropped a net 18 points over the last 6 months from +10 (35/25) in October to now -8 (26/34) in April. Portman's popularity decline has come across the board with Democrats (from 15/39 to 8/50), Republicans (62/11 to 46/19), and independents (28/23 to 24/32) alike.


And in Nevada Dean Heller has seen a more modest decline in his approval numbers, from 47/42 right before the election to 44/41 now. However with the independent voters who were critical to his narrow victory in November, his approval has dropped from 52/37 then to now 42/42.

Taken together these results make it pretty clear that this issue could be a serious liability for the Senators who opposed overwhelmingly popular background checks in the Senate vote earlier this month.

Let's hope the voter resentment stays until election day.

AFA Reacts To Collins

So yesterday, NBA player Jason Collins comes out as gay.  A Jackie Robinson-esque moment, given that no active professional athelete in the United States has ever done the same.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association tweets:


For those of you thinking Fischer has a point, there's this thing called epigenetics – it's the science of how genes express themselves.  In a nutshell, people with the same DNA don't grow up to be 100% carbon copies of each other, because genes express themselves differently in everybody.  Even identical twins.

What The Hell Is He Talking About?

From Politico:

Former Rep. Ron Paul said the police response to the Boston Marathon bombings was scarier than the bombing itself, which killed three and wounded more than 250.

“The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city,” Paul, a Texas Republican, wrote today on the website of the libertarian writer Lew Rockwell. “This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself.”

It doesn’t.

Paul said the scenes of the house-to-house search for the younger bombing suspect in suburban Watertown, Mass., were reminiscent of a “military coup in a far off banana republic.”

No, it wasn’t.

“Forced lockdown of a city,” he wrote. “Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down.”

Where does he get his news?

A Little Late, Sandy

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the conservative retired justice who provided the fifth vote to install George W. Bush as president, is now having second thoughts about that decision:

Looking back, O’Connor said, she isn’t sure the high court should have taken [Bush v. Gore].

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’”

The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation.”

“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.

Obama Kills


Here are ten favorites:

1. On President Obama’s college drug use: President Obama got in a double jab at the changing media landscape and himself when he mused that “I remember when BuzzFeed was just something I did in college around 2AM.” 

2. On CNN: CNN’s offered up some serious softballs this week, and both President Obama and O’Brien teed up on them. “I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate,” Obama said of the network. And O’Brien, who noted that he’s from Boston towards the end of his speech, recalled watching MSNBC and seeing “Chuck Todd stopped a pundit from speculating on unverified information. There’s no joke here. I’m just letting CNN know you can do that.”

3. Steven Spielberg’s Obama: It helps to pull this kind of spoof off when you can call in almost anyone you want from Hollywood to work with you, but the joke was still executed strongly. “Who is Obama? I mean, we never got his transcripts nd they say he’s kind of aloof,” Spielberg joked for the video. Obama played Daniel Day Lewis playing him, explaining “The cosmetics are challenging. You wouldn’t believe how long it took to put these ears on.” And maybe best of all was an appearance by Tracy Morgan that provided the best joke about the Vice President of the evening, and the best reference-to-30 Rock joke, when Morgan credited Day-Lewis with his success when Morgan said “Without him I never could have played Joe Biden. Literally.” 

4. On Wayne LaPierre: One of O’Brien’s strongest jokes, particularly for the way it riffed on conservative fantasies of gun use. “Everything you ate tonight was personally shot by Wayne LaPierre,” he told the crowd. “Don’t worry, it was during a home invasion, though. The fish came in through the window. That wasn’t peppercorn. That was buckshot.”

5. Conservative anxieties about hip-hop: Walking in to “All I Do Is Win,” President Obama joked “Rush Limbaugh warned you about this. Second term, baby. We’re changing things around here a little bit.” And later, talking about Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba and rumors that the Obama administration facilitated it in some way, he mock-complained: “I’ve got 99 problems, and now Jay-Z’s one. That’s another rap reference, Bill.” 

6. On Sheldon Adelson and independent expenditures: In another twofer, Obama got at both the futility of independent expenditures in the 2012 election—and at his wife’s skepticism of life in the White House. “You could buy an island and calling it Nobama for that kind of money,” he said. “Sheldon would have been better off offering me $100 million to drop out of the race. I probably wouldn’t have taken it. But I would have thought about it. Michelle would have taken it. You think I’m joking.” Of course he’s not, though. And who can blame her?

7. On Bob Woodward: This was extreme inside baseball even for a dinner that’s the very definition of Washington insiderism. But it was still funny to hear O’Brien crack on Bob Woodward, who threw a temper tantrum earlier this year in claiming that the Obama administration threatened him, when really his correspondent was offering him some gently-worded advice. “Earlier, a waiter asked Woodward if he wanted regular or decaf and he said ‘Stop threatening me!’” O’Brien joked. 

8. On Kamala Harris: While President Obama spent a lot of his routine playing with paranoid assumptions about him, one area where he actually made an error that he needed to acknowledge was in his compliments of California Attorney General Kamala Harris based on her looks. Obama tried to make light of it, saying “As you might imagine, I got trouble when I got back home. Who knew Eric Holder was so sensitive?” But O’Brien did him one better in showing how ridiculous Obama’s remarks would be if they were applied to man, sighing over “That stone fox, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. I like the cut of his jib.”

9. Skeet shooting: President Obama’s team has an eye for things that will go viral, and they must have had a lot of fun compiling this image of their boss shooting skeet from on top of the GoDaddy racecar, accompanied by an eagle and backgrounded by a rainbow.

10. On Taylor Swift: Sure, it’s cheap at this point. But Obama was right about the politics of the sequester, at least, when he said “Republicans fell in love with this thing and now they can’t stop talking about how much they hate it. It’s like we’re trapped in a Taylor Swift album.” 

Congress Fixes Flight Delays

The budget sequester was designed to suck.

And suck it did.

But when it sucks for Congressmen and their wealthy donors, well, something has to be done:

In a quick and unanticipated session on Thursday night, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration budget flexibility to stop furloughing air traffic controllers.

The measure, approved by unanimous consent, came just days after forced unpaid leaves for controllers began, delaying thousands of flights — 876 flights were delayed on Wednesday alone, the FAA said. Titled the “Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013,” the resolution provides the Secretary of Transportation the power to transfer up to $253 million in pre-existing funds to “prevent reduced operations and staffing” at the FAA.

Nothing for other programs in education, or for intelligence gathering, or cancer research, or for anything like that.  It's so the wealthy can fly.  (And yes, I know that people of moderate and low incomes fly, but flight delayes is a problem that predominiately affects the well-to-do).

Thanks to the sequester, $604 million were cut from the National Nuclear Security Administration.  $512 million were cut from the Customs and Border Protection.  $633 million were cut from the Department of Education Special Education programs.  At a time where major natural disasters are increasingly common, $928 million was cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money. $168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The WTC Health Program Fund, which provides medical benefits to those affected by the September 11 was cut by $10 million.

But my God, we have to make sure our flights aren't delayed 20 minutes.

FCC Gives David Ortiz A Pass

During the nationally broadcast pre-game ceremonies last week — the one where the Boston Red Sox had their first home game following the Boston Marathon bombing — Red Sox player David Ortiz took to the microphone and spoke from the heart, uttering these words:

“This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom.”

Now remember, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has twice found the FCC’s rules on so-called “fleeting expletives” to be a violation of the First Amendment.

So thankfully, the FCC seemed to get the message.  Normally, this sort of casual swearing would net the offending network a $1 million fine (which would then be thrown out by the court). Not this time. Instead, FCC head Julius Genachowski took to the new face of journalism — Twitter — and declared his (and his office’s) solidarity with the people of Boston.


Nicely done.

Muslims Aren’t Inherently Evil

They're not.  Some of them get that way when they are bombed, their nations are invaded, and they live under dictators which the United States supports.

That's the gist of this thoughtful article by Glenn Greenwald, excerpted here:

First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. As these myth-makers would have it, we don't bother anyone; we just mind our own business (except when we're helping and liberating everyone), so why would anyone possibly want to attack us?

With that deceitful premise in place, so many Americans, westerners, Christians and Jews love to run around insisting that the only real cause for Muslim attacks on the US is that the attackers have this primitive, brutal, savage, uncivilized religion (Islam) that makes them do it. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan favorably cited Sam Harris as saying that "Islamic doctrines … still present huge problems for the emergence of a global civil society" and then himself added: "All religions contain elements of this kind of fanaticism. But Islam's fanatical side – from the Taliban to the Tsarnaevs – is more murderous than most."

These same people often love to accuse Muslims of being tribal without realizing the irony that what they are saying - Our Side is Superior and They are Inferior - is the ultimate expression of rank tribalism. They also don't seem ever to acknowledge the irony of Americans and westerners of all people accusing others of being uniquely prone to violence, militarism and aggression (Juan Cole yesterday, using indisputable statistics, utterly destroyed the claim that Muslims are uniquely violent, including by noting the massive body count piled up by predominantly Christian nations and the fact that "murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States").

As the attackers themselves make as clear as they can, it's not religious fanaticism but rather political grievance that motivates these attacks. Religious conviction may make them more willing to fight (as it does formany in the west), but the motive is anger over what is being done by the US and its allies to Muslims. Those who claim otherwise are essentially saying: gosh, these Muslims sure do have this strange, primitive, inscrutable religion whereby they seem to get angry when they're invaded, occupied, bombed, killed, and have dictators externally imposed on them. It's vital to understand this causal relationship simply in order to prevent patent, tribalistic, self-glorifying falsehoods from taking hold.

Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. 


Also, good reading: Juan Cole.

Listen To Alexander Graham Bell

Nobody today knows what Bell, the inventor of the telephone, sounded like — until recently.

Alexander Graham Bell worked with sound, tinkering with gadgets to help his wife, who was deaf, communicate. He is known as the inventor of the telephone. He gave the Smithsonian more than 400 discs and cylinders of his audio experiments, but until recently there was no way to play them back.

As a result, says curator Carlene Stephens of the National Museum of American History, the discs, ranging from 4 to 14 inches in diameter, remained “mute artifacts.” She began to wonder, she adds, “if we would ever know what was on them.”

Then, Stephens learned that physicist Carl Haber at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, had succeeded in extracting sound from early recordings made in Paris in 1860. He and his team created high-resolution optical scans converted by computer into an audio file.

Stephens contacted Haber. Early in 2011, Haber, his colleague physicist Earl Cornell and Peter Alyea, a digital conversion specialist at the Library of Congress, began analyzing the Volta Lab discs, unlocking sound inaccessible for more than a century. Muffled voices could be detected reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy, sequences of numbers and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

In autumn 2011, Patrick Feaster, an Indiana University sound-media historian, aided by Stephens, compiled an exhaustive inventory of notations on the discs and cylinders—many scratched on wax and all but illegible. Their scholarly detective work led to a tantalizing discovery. Documents indicated that one wax-and-cardboard disc, from April 15, 1885—a date now deciphered from a wax inscription—contained a recording of Bell speaking.

You can hear that recording and read more about it at Smithsonian. Link


More Dirty Republican Deeds

Colorado is currently considering a major piece of legislation to improve the state’s voting laws by implementing Election Day Registration, automatically sending mail ballots to every voter, and creating a real-time voter database to detect and prevent fraud. It passed the House last week and will now be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It's a good law and makes sense.  It's even supported by a number of Republican County Clerks and the Colorado County Clerks Association.

But see, conservative Republicans don't want to make it easy to vote.  They have problems getting the vote from minorities, so it's just easier to deny the vote to those minorities, by using Voter ID laws and other impediments to voting.  Among those opposing the new legislation is Scott Gessler, Colorado's Secretary of State.

Now comes a dark money group named the “Citizens for Free and Fair Elections”, which lists its address as that of Gessler’s former firm, the Hackstaff Law Group.  That group is sending out mailers in an attempt to pressure the election clerks into switching their position.  Here it is:


See that photo at the bottom?  That's a stock photo from Getty Images.

Well, not quite.  Here's the actual photo:


It's the same, with two exceptions:

The original photo included a darker-skinned woman in a white hoodie sweatshirt, but the altered version in the mailer took out her face and replaced it with the exact same face of the white woman standing alongside. In addition, a dark-skinned man standing behind her in the photo was removed from the mailer entirely.

No, they're not racist.

Retaliation Against Judges

Republican politicians have no scruples.

In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held that the Iowa Constitution does not permit marriage discrimination against gay couples. Four of the seven justices who reached that decision remain on the court today, and a pair of Iowa lawmakers have a plan to punish them four years after they extended the blessings of liberty to gay Iowans:

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the three co-equal branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Tuesday.

The justices “trashed the separation of powers” with their unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision and implementation of same-sex marriage without a change in state law banning any marriages expect between one man and one woman, added Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull.

Their amendment to Senate File 442, the judicial branch budget bill, would lower the salaries of the four justices on the seven-member court who were part of the unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision to $25,000 – the same as a state legislator.

It’s difficult to view this bill as anything other than an effort to drive these justices off the bench. As of 2010, an associate justice of the Iowa Supreme Court earned $163,200, so this bill would cut their pay by nearly 85 percent. Iowa state legislators are not full-time, which explains why they receive such low salaries.

RIP Richie Havens

Met him once.  He had a unique voice that was unmistakable.  Best known for improvising "Freedom" at Woodstock in 1969.  He was 72.



Wrong Guy?

You know, what with the Boston Marathon bombing last week, we almost forgot about the other "terrorist" — the guy who sent ricin in the mail to his Senator and President Obama.

Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested last Wednesday.

Except… hmmmm… there's breaking news that they released him today, the day of his first hearing before the court:

A federal official says the man charged with sending poison letters to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge has been released from jail.

Jeff Woodfin, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Oxford, Miss., says Paul Kevin Curtis has been released from custody.

Woodfin says he doesn’t know if there were any conditions on the release.

The development comes hours after officials canceled a detention and preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

Curtis was arrested Wednesday at his house in Corinth, Miss., and charged with sending ricin-laced letters to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker and a Lee County, Miss., judge.

Through an attorney, the 45-year-old Curtis has said he is innocent.

Law enforcement screwup?

UPDATE: Twitter is alive with rumors that there was another Ricin attack at an Air Force Base today.  So maybe Curtis' claims of innocence were right after all.

Pundit Quote Of The Week

WaPo columnist, Jennifer Rubin:

It took less than 4 1/2 years of the Obama presidency for President George W. Bush to mount his comeback. While doing absolutely nothing on his own behalf (he’s been the most silent ex-president in my lifetime), his approval is up to 47 percent according to The Post/ABC poll. That’s up 14 points from his final poll in office.

Well, sure.  Even my approval of George Bush goes up when he is silent and does nothing.

Report: Richest 7% Got Richer During Recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report says the richest Americans got richer during the first two years of the economic recovery while average net worth declined for the other 93 percent of the nation'shouseholds.

The Pew Research Center report says wealth held by the richest 7 percent of households rose 28 percent from 2009 to 2011, while the net worth of the other 93 percent of households dropped by 4 percent.

It says the main reason for the widening gap is that affluent households have stocks and other financial holdings that increased in value, while the less wealthy have more of their assets in their homes, which haven't fully regained their value since the housing downturn.

Remember this?


Why You Didn’t See The Westboro Baptist Church Protesters At The Funeral Of A Boston Marathon Bombing Victim

Members of Teamsters Local 25 sent out a call for any available members to shield today’s services for Krystle Campbell in Medford, Massachusetts. Basic human decency won out: the Boston Globe reports that hundreds of counter-protesters gathered across the street from the church where the memorial for Campbell was held, but that the Westboro protesters never showed up at all. 

This infuriated the WBC morons who insisted they were present, and tweeted a photoshopped photo to prove it.  Yes, a photoshopped photo. 

Why not a real photo?  Because Teamsters Local 25 did their job well.  You couldn't see the WBC protesters.

The Insane Sorority Girl Letter… Read By Michael Shannon

If you've been under a rock the past few days, the latest Internet meme is an actual letter written by a Delta Gamma sorority girl to her sisters.  It demands to be printed in full:

If you just opened this like I told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this email is going to be a rough fucking ride.

For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, which apparently is the majority of this chapter, we have been FUCKING UP in terms of night time events and general social interactions with Sigma Nu. I’ve been getting texts on texts about people LITERALLY being so fucking AWKWARD and so fucking BORING. If you’re reading this right now and saying to yourself “But oh em gee Julia, I’ve been having so much fun with my sisters this week!”, then punch yourself in the face right now so that I don’t have to fucking find you on campus to do it myself.

I do not give a flying fuck, and Sigma Nu does not give a flying fuck, about how much you fucking love to talk to your sisters. You have 361 days out of the fucking year to talk to sisters, and this week is NOT, I fucking repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. This week is about fostering relationships in the greek community, and that’s not fucking possible if you’re going to stand around and talk to each other and not our matchup. Newsflash you stupid cocks: FRATS DON’T LIKE BORING SORORITIES. Oh wait, DOUBLE FUCKING NEWSFLASH: SIGMA NU IS NOT GOING TO WANT TO HANG OUT WITH US IF WE FUCKING SUCK, which by the way in case you’re an idiot and need it spelled out for you, WE FUCKING SUCK SO FAR. This also applies to you little shits that have talked openly about post gaming at a different frat IN FRONT OF SIGMA NU BROTHERS. Are you people fucking retarded? That’s not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you’re mentally slow so I can make sure you don’t go to anymore night time events. If Sigma Nu openly said “Yeah we’re gonna invite Zeta over”, would you be happy? WOULD YOU? No you wouldn’t, so WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO IT TO THEM?? IN FRONT OF THEM?!! First of all, you SHOULDN’T be post gaming at other frats, I don’t give a FUCK if your boyfriend is in it, if your brother is in it, or if your entire family is in that frat. YOU DON’T GO. YOU. DON’T. GO. And you ESPECIALLY do fucking NOT convince other girls to leave with you.

“But Julia!”, you say in a whiny little bitch voice to your computer screen as you read this email, “I’ve been cheering on our teams at all the sports, doesn’t that count for something?” NO YOU STUPID FUCKING ASS HATS, IT FUCKING DOESN’T. DO YOU WANNA KNOW FUCKING WHY?!! IT DOESN’T COUNT BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN FUCKING UP AT SOBER FUCKING EVENTS TOO. I’ve not only gotten texts about people being fucking WEIRD at sports (for example, being stupid shits and saying stuff like “durr what’s kickball?” is not fucking funny), but I’ve gotten texts about people actually cheering for the opposing team. The opposing. Fucking. Team. ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID?!! I don’t give a SHIT about sportsmanship, YOU CHEER FOR OUR GODDAMN TEAM AND NOT THE OTHER ONE, HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME? ARE YOU FUCKING BLIND? Or are you just so fucking dense about what it means to make people like you that you think being a good little supporter of the greek community is going to make our matchup happy? Well it’s time someone told you, NO ONE FUCKING LIKES THAT, ESPECIALLY OUR FUCKING MATCHUP. I will fucking cunt punt the next person I hear about doing something like that, and I don’t give a fuck if you SOR me, I WILL FUCKING ASSAULT YOU.

“Ohhh Julia, I’m now crying because your email has made me oh so so sad”. Well good. If this email applies to you in any way, meaning if you are a little asswipe that stands in the corners at night or if you’re a weird shit that does weird shit during the day, this following message is for you:


I’m not fucking kidding. Don’t go. Seriously, if you have done ANYTHING I’ve mentioned in this email and have some rare disease where you’re unable to NOT do these things, then you are HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE PR FOR THIS CHAPTER. I would rather have 40 girls that are fun, talk to boys, and not fucking awkward than 80 that are fucking faggots. If you are one of the people that have told me “Oh nooo boo hoo I can’t talk to boys I’m too sober”, then I pity you because I don’t know how you got this far in life, and with that in mind don’t fucking show up unless you’re going to stop being a goddamn cock block for our chapter. Seriously. I swear to fucking God if I see anyone being a goddamn boner at tonight’s event, I will tell you to leave even if you’re sober. I’m not even kidding. Try me.

And for those of you who are offended at this email, I would apologize but I really don’t give a fuck. Go fuck yourself.

I never understood the Greek system, but I never much cared for the women who were a part of it just to meet guys.  (Tip: you don't need a Greek system to do that).  Anyway, most people are shocked by the tone and awesomeness of the letter, and Michael Shannon took a shot at it:

 Truly awesome.

Explanation Please

The Boston Marathon bombing suspect is being charged in civilian court with, among other things, conspiring to use a "weapon of mass destruction" against people.

I'd like to know how a pressure cooker bomb which kills three people is a "weapon of mass destruction" but a semi-automatic rifle which kills 20 kids isn't. [UPDATE:  Or killing four people with a gun, which doesn't make the news like a marathon bombing]

Spencer Ackerman touched on this a while ago, and he's right.

All Over But For The Finger-pointing

I'm not sure how much I want to blog about the Boston bombers.  I hate this part of the cycle.

It's full-on recrimination time in the right blogosphere.  You can almost here them cry: Who shall we hate?  Chechnians?  Muslims?  Please please PLEASE give us a group that we can hate.  Or let's just hate ALL immigrants.

I think the motive of the bombers is important to know, and what connections, if any, they had.  We want to learn, in order to prevent this from happening again.

But blame?  I blame them.  That's where it ends for me.

And if you must extrapolate to blame a wider group, then blame America.  Not all of it, or out ideals.  But if we're supposedly the greatest country in the world, with the greatest freedoms, etc., then why did these two boys feel like such outsiders that they were (apparently) drawn to anti-American voices and sentiments?  

Let me put it this way: What happened first — Did they reject America, or did America reject them?

Even now, you hear voices saying, "Do not treat them like Americans.  Treat them like 'enemy combatents'".  They're not.  This is home-grown terrorism, and just because they're not white boys from the South doesn't make it otherwise.

Here's another thing that bothers me: there's already talk of congressional hearings and committees looking into the issue of how this could possibly happen and trying to make sure it never happens again.  That's great.  I applaud that.  

But where was that urgency after Newtown?

UPDATE:  Reuters reports that the Boston suspect will not be treated as an "enemy combatent".  Good.  Our civil courts have done a fine job in dealing with matters such as these.  Cue rightwing outrage.

Boy Scouts New Policy: Gay Scouts OK, But Gay Scout Leaders Are Pedophiles

That's my take from this:

Under pressure over its long-standing ban on gays, the Boys Scouts of America is proposing to lift the ban for youth members but continue to exclude gays as adult leaders.

The Scouts announced Friday that the proposal would be submitted to the roughly 1,400 voting members of its National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of May 20.

Gay-rights groups have demanded a complete lifting of the ban, while some churches and conservative groups want it maintained in its entirety, raising the likelihood that the new proposal will draw continued criticism from both sides.

Indeed, the BSA, in making its announcement, estimated that easing the ban on gay adults could cause widespread defections that cost the organization 100,000 to 350,000 members.

In January, the BSA said it was considering a plan to give local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them.

On Friday, the BSA said it changed course in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to about 1 million members of the Scouting community.

The review, said a BSA statement, "created an outpouring of feedback" from 200,000 respondents, some supporting the exclusion policy and others favoring a change.

"While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting," the statement said.

As a result, the BSA's Executive Committee drafted a resolution proposing to remove the ban on gay youth while keeping it for all adult leaders.

"The proposed resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the statement said.


Some Tweets Of The Boston Bomber (Suspect #2, Currently At Large)

Jahar was his handle.

From this past weekend:

And on Monday, the day of the bombing:

And on subsequent days:

And his last tweet (on Wednesday):

Insanity In Boston

As I write this, the drama is still unfolding… but it has been a crazy night in Boston.

In a nutshell: Yesterday at 5;15 pm, the FBI released photos of 2 men, believed to be responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.  Last night, these two men — who we now know to be brothers — robbed a 7-11 near MIT in Cambridge, and shot and killed an MIT police officer.  They then hijacked a car, and drove it to Watertown (also a Boston suburb), where they let the driver go.  The police caught up with them, there was an intense shootout involving grrenades, and one of the two men was killed (it was unclear whether he was shot, or whether he detonated a bomb that was strapped to him, or whether he was run over — all of which could be true). 

There is now an intense manhunt for the remaining brother.


His name is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19.  Both he and his (now dead) brother were born in Russia, and are permanent residents of the United States, having moved here in 2001 or 2002 (when Dzhokhar would have been 9 or 10).  Friends from high school say he was nice, friendly and funny — not at all the type to engage in these bomnbings.

The motive for the bombing is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Boston is locked down in a historical way.  ALL the colleges are closed.  ALL the schools are closed.  Businsesses are closed.  No public transit.  No cab rides.  In the Watertown/Cambridge area, there is a police and military presence that can only be seen to be described.  SWAT teams are going house-to-house.

Both the national and local news are following every little piece of information, but it is hard to get solid information.  But the focus seems to be on Watertown.

UPDATE – 11:00 a.m.: The older (now dead) brother's Russian Facebook page showed an interest in Islam.  The younger still-at-large brother, some speculate, may not have been so enamored of Islam so much as he may have been enamored of his older brother.

Why The Background Check Bill Failed

Ezra Klein nails it:

The gun vote didn’t fail because a couple of red-state Democrats bolted, or even because too many senators are afraid of the National Rifle Association, or even because Sen. Pat Toomey couldn’t bring along more Republicans. Those factors help explain why the gun vote didn’t clear the extraordinary bar set for it to succeed. But they’re not the main reason it failed.

The gun vote failed because of the way the Senate is designed. It failed because the Senate wildly overrepresents small, rural states and, on top of that, requires a 60-vote supermajority to pass most pieces of legislation.

The Manchin-Toomey bill received 54 aye votes and 46 nay votes. That is to say, a solid majority of senators voted for it. In most legislative bodies around the world, that would have been enough. But it wasn’t a sufficient supermajority for the U.S. Senate. Of the senators from the 25 largest states, the Manchin-Toomey legislation received 33 aye votes and 17 nay votes — a more than 2:1 margin, putting it well beyond the 3/5ths threshold required to break a filibuster. But of the senators from the 25 smallest states, it received only 21 aye votes and 29 nay votes.

It’s typical to say that this is how the Senate’s always been. It’s also wrong. The filibuster didn’t emerge until decades after the first congress, and its constant use is a thoroughly modern development.

The Senate is horrible undemocratic.

Bachmann’s Ethic Troubles Get Worse

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) participated in a press conference about Medicaid reimbursement, but reporters had some questions about the right-wing congresswoman's ethics troubles. Instead of responding, Bachmann literally ran away, while some aides "physically blocked reporters" to keep them at bay, and other aides were seen "pushing reporters out of the way as Bachmann left the room."

It would seem that Bachmann and her team are concerned about something. Or in this case, perhaps more than one thing.

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that congressional ethics investigators continue to examine whether Bachmann improperly used campaign funds. What's more, two former staffers for the Republican lawmaker suggested that the ethics review "has widened beyond initial allegations that Bachmann improperly mixed funds between her campaign and her independent political organization."

Today, another Minneapolis Star Tribune report highlights a separate ethics issue for Bachmann.

GOP operative Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, is expected to tell an Iowa Senate ethics panel that her 2012 presidential campaign made improper payments to its state chairman.

Having maintained a public silence so far, Parrish referred questions Wednesday to his attorney, John Gilmore, who said his client will corroborate allegations from another former Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron.

Waldron, a Florida pastor, claims that the campaign hid payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules that bar members from receiving pay from presidential campaigns.

Parrish, who had not previously been identified, will reportedly provide an affidavit bolstering Waldron's accusations.

The story can get a little convoluted — Bachmann allegedly paid a Republican state lawmaker $7,500 a month, funneling the money through a business owned by a Bachmann fundraiser — but it's serious enough to do lasting damage to the congresswoman's career.

CNN Really Screwed It Up

Jon Stewart made fun of it.  Now Buzzfeed takes its turn.

I happened to be tuned in to MSNBC, who obviously went on the air with "Breaking News" because CNN had done so.  However, MSNBC didn't have any sources, so its coverage was more cautious to begin with.  From the get-go, they were saying there are only "rumors" and confusion.  Less egg on their face.

Anyway, in case you missed it…


UPDATE:  Actually, what the New York Post ran this morning is much worse — a front page photo of two suspects.  Except, they got it wrong.

What The Texas Explosion Reveals

I was reading an analysis of last night's fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, and came upon this paragraph:

This explosion is nothing at all like what happened in Oklahoma City back in 1995. That was a mixture of ammonium nitrate, a dry solid, and diesel fuel. Ammonium nitrate is made from ammonia, but the United States banned it after that attack. It was a common method of application, but now we use liquid UAN (urea/ammonium nitrate) or solid urea. Neither can be used to make explosives.

The author was referring to the bombing by Timothy McVeigh.

And it occurred to me that we had a national tragedy, and Congress did something in response to it: they banned ammonium nitrate. [UPDATE: Hmmmm… I can't confirm that outside this one blog.  Still, the point is that Congress responded.  Read on (and hat tip to Brett)]

Congress did more than that though.  They passed a law which require that dynamite and other commercial explosive materials contain tagging agents that would aid investigators in tracing bombs.

And that's what our government is supposed to do.  It's bad enough that the government doesn't act proactively, but at least it does something after a tragedy has occurred.

Except with Newtown.  It failed.  It failed because of the NRA.  Because of fear of the NRA.

Ironically, the law that included tagging of explosive materials only passed when an exemption was granted for gunpowder.  Gunpowder is not tagged.  And who opposed that?  You guessed it.  The NRA.

This is an evil organization, and its impact must be stopped.  Next electin cycle, it is important that a high NRA approval rating be deemed a negative.  Only then can this country become safer.

But the Texas explosion reveals something else: this is what happens with "freedom from government".  The plant had not been inspected in five years.

Boston Marathon Explosions


It's hard to know what to say about what happened yesterday.  Obviously a terrorist attack.  Is it domestic or foreign?  You automatically assume foreign, but given the event (Patriot's Day, Tax Day), you just can't be sure.

3 dead, including an 8 year old boy, pictured below. 144 injured (although that latter number still varies).  Many amputees.


Typically, major praise on the people there who responded immediately, and it was very fortunate that many medical personnel were there anyway to help with exhausted marathon runners.  

Also typically, our politicians seem to be bumfuzzled.  Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who recently took over as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a national television audience yesterday that a "person of interest" in the Boston Marathon bombings "is in custody." That was incorrect, and law enforcement officials went out of their way last night to explain there is no one in custody.

Shortly before his appearance, McCaul held a brief press conference on Capitol Hill, telling reporters, "We've been quite fortunate that this type of attack has not happened before in the U.S." This, too, is incorrect.  We've seen many bombings on U.S. soil over the last 20 years, including the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Unabomber in 1994, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the pipe bombs at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, the bomb at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998, the arson attack at a Syracuse temple in 2000, the 18 pipe bombs planted in mailboxes in five states in 2002, the 2008 bomb planted in front of a military recruiting center in Times Square, the bomb at a San Diego courthouse also in 2008, the fire bombs targeting researchers in 2008 at UC Santa Cruz, and in 2011, there was an attempted bombing of an MLK parade in Spokane.

And that's just the last 20 years. If we go back further, let's not forget the series of anarchist bombings in 1919 and 1920, including the wagon bomb that killed 38 people on Wall Street, which were terribly deadly.

The tragic truth is this type of attack has happened before in the U.S., and it's not helpful for the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee to argue otherwise.

I think Patton Oswald summed the tone for me:


A quick update on yesterday's bombings at the Boston Marathon:


Lockdown at NC A&T

10:25 a.m. Breaking news…

GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro was put on lockdown Friday morning after a man was seen carrying a rifle on campus.

The school posted an alert on its website shortly before 10 a.m., warning people to stay inside and lock classrooms, doors and windows.

Officials described the man as black, standing 5 feet 11 inches tall. He was wearing a blue jacket, blue jeans, blue cap and white T-shirt.

He was seen in the area of the General Classroom Building, which is near the corner of North Benbow Road and Sullivan Street in the northern half of the campus. 

Greensboro police are on scene, and the school said no shots have been fired.

WFMY News 2 reported that Crosby Hall, Merrick Hall and the General Classroom Building were evacuated shortly after 10 a.m.

Guilford County Schools said the Middle College and STEM Early College, both located on A&T's campus, along with nearby Washington Elementary School and Aycock Elementary School, were also on lockdown, according to WFMY. 

Guilford County Schools said all students and staff were safe 

11:30 a.m. - Nothing new to report.  School still in lockdown.  Police are searching for the man.

12:30 p.m. - Lockdown lifted.  Must have been a false alarm.

The GOP Split Is Starting To Get Real

Over the past few months, the GOP has talked a lot about re-branding, and softening its views on gay marriage and immigration, in order to appeal to normal people.

The base is not happy:

Tony Perkins says religious conservatives should stop donating to the Republican Party until it clarifies its position on social issues. 

The president of the Family Research Council, a top religious political group, said Thursday night that conservative activists should withhold their political donations to Republicans until the party decides where it will stand on social issues.

Tony Perkins, in an email sent to his supporters, criticized the Republican National Committee over a report released last month that suggested the party should reconsider its messaging on same-sex marriage to appeal to younger voters.


"Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money," Perkins said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by CNN. 

"If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action."

Perkins says that the RNC proposal will only drive away young voters who do not support same-sex marriage.

"Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters," Perkins wrote. "There’s an entire group of 'Countercultural Warriors' full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage."

In a CBS News poll released late last month, 49 percent — a plurality — of Republicans under 30 years old say they support same-sex marriage, while 46 percent who do not believe gay couples should be allowed to wed. Overall, 73 percent of Americans under 30 back gay marriage.

Still, Perkins says Republicans must "pass a resolution reiterating the GOP’s support for the party platform that was overwhelmingly adopted in Tampa last year."

That platform included provisions saying the party would oppose same-sex marriage. Members of the Republican National Committee were meeting Friday in California, and are expected to take up a resolution reaffirming that position.

Steve Benen is right.  Social conservatives are over-reacting:

Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.

What's more, folks like Pribus are condemning Planned Parenthood and "infanticide," while Paul Ryan is speaking to right-wing groups about a future in which abortion rights are "outlawed."

And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven't pushed the culture warenough? Why, because the RNC hasn't officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?

Religious right activists, I hate to break it to you, but Republican policymakers are already doing your bidding. You're not the ones who should be whining.

Over-reacting? Whining?  That's what the Tea Party types do.

Weak Background Check Bill Passes Senate Filibuster

And so it begins.

The Senate voted to move forward on gun control Thursday, clearing the first of what is expected to be many 60-vote hurdles for the legislation.

In a 68-31 vote, the Senate approved a procedural motion that will allow debate on the Democratic measure to being.

Sixteen Republicans voted in favor of the motion, while two Democrats — both from states President Obama lost in the 2012 election, voted against it. The two Democrats were Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), both of whom face reelection next year.

Shorter Rand Paul

Shorter Rand Paul: I was NEVER against the Civil Rights Act. I just think the whole desegregating lunch counters went a bit far.

His attempt to snow the people at Howard University was a disaster.  TPM covers it:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a proponent of civil liberties, told a professor on Wednesday that he never opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"I've never been against the Civil Rights Act. Ever," he said during a question and answer session at the historically black Howard University in Washington.

"This was on tape," countered the questioner.

"I have been concerned about the ramifications of the Civil Rights Act beyond race…but I've never come out in opposition," Paul clarified.

Paul caused a stir during his 2010 campaign when he said on the Rachel Maddow Showthat he was opposed to sections of civil rights law requiring private businesses to accommodate all comers. After an awkward walkback claiming he actually supported the provision, he said he ultimately would have voted ‘yes’ on the bill had he been in Congress back in the 1960s.

The junior senator from Kentucky's speech at the college was billed as part of GOP outreach to young and minority voters, who largely rejected the party during the 2012 presidential campaign.


NRA Lashes Out Against Background Check Compromise

It looks like Congress might actually vote on some safety measures for guns, although assault weapons and large magazines are still dead-in-the-water.  It looks like background checks are the only possiblity, and while its passage is a no-brainer, and yields 90% support in the country, you just KNOW the NRA isn't going to like it.

And here's the NRA statement:

Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools. While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg's "universal" background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson. We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone. President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.

Dear NRA, no one single thing is going to prevent all shootings, unless it is a total ban on all guns.  You don't want to go there, so stop using "won't prevent the next shooting" as a litmus test.

Four People Shot By Toddlers This Past Weekend

  • A Tennessee woman was shot in the stomach by her 2-year-old child on Sunday. Rekia Kid was sleeping with the toddler and her three-week-old baby when the toddler discovered a Glock 9 mm stored underneath her pillow and discharged the weapon. Kid managed to get out of the house and crawl to a neighbor’s porch where she was found by the neighbor, who told local news “[s]he just kept screaming that she didn’t think she was going to make it, she didn’t think she was going to make it and to please please take care of my children.”
  • Josephine G. Fanning was shot and killed Saturday at a Tennessee barbecue when a 4-year-old boy discharged a handgun owned by Fanning’s husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Fanning. Fanning had left the loaded gun “for just a moment” on the bed while he went to retrieve another weapon from a locked gun cabinet.
  • A 6-year-old boy was accidentally shot by his 4-year-old playmate in a quiet residential New Jersey area yesterday. The victim later died of his wounds, with the victim’s uncle telling reporters covering the story “This never should have happened. It’s horrible.”
  • 3-year-old died of an accidental self-inflicted gun wound in South Carolina on Tuesday according after finding a gun in an apartment and discharging the weapon. No further details have been released at this time.

If those adults were armed, then there would be four dead kids.  Because the only way to stop a toddler with a gun, is an adult with a gun.  Right, Wayne?

Your Second Amendment At Work


It happened in just seconds, by all accounts.

A gunshot killed a lawman's wife this weekend in Lebanon, Tennessee. And the tragedy is one more instance of gun violence reverberating across a nation obsessed and at odds over the politics of firearms.

A pistol in the hands of a 4-year-old boy went off Saturday and killed Josephine Fanning, the 48-year-old wife of Wilson County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Fanning.

The incident occurred at a cookout on what had been a lazy, happy day.

The deputy and a relative went into a bedroom to look at some of the lawman's guns, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

Josephine Fanning and the boy walked into the room later.

At some point, the boy picked up a loaded pistol from a bed, she said. The gun involved was Fanning's personal weapon, not his service pistol, she said.

The single shot killed the woman. Now, the community — just east of Nashville — is beside itself with grief.


Everything You Wanted To Know About “Blog About Howard Co State’s Atty Day”

(1) A blogger named Aaron Walker (aka Aaron Worthing) got into Internet flame wars with a bunch of other people, so he decided to sue them for harassment and other related charges, in the state where they live… in Maryland.  Walker lives in Virginia.

(2)  Walker's lawsuits were laughed out of Maryland court on several occasions.

(3)  The people he sued had the audacity to show up in court to defend the cases and support each other.  Aaron deemed this to be stalkerish, and complained to the Howard County (MD) State Attorney Jim Brewer.

(4)  According to Walker, state attorney Jim Brewer told him, "if you are so concerned for your safety, don’t come to Maryland."

(5)  Clearly, in saying this, Jim Brewer was pointing out a flaw in Walker's perpetual cries of victimization.  That is, Brewer was simply saying, "If these people are a problem for you, why are you coming into Maryland to antagonize them?  Why not just stay in Virginia and go about your life?"

(6)  But due to his remarkable un-selfawareness, Walker thought that Brewer was stating an admission-against-interest, i.e., that Brewer was admitting that Maryland is an unsafe place.

(7)  So now Walker, who apparently can't keep a job because he's too busy fighting meaningless Internet wars, is starting a lame crusade for everyone to "Blog about Howard Bounty State's Attorney" today.

(8) Which I just did.  As did a whole dozen others.

That's three minutes of your life you'll never get back.

RIP Margaret Thatcher

Well, put me down as "not a fan", but you can't deny her impact.  I lived in England for a year under her reign, and boy did that woman polarize her people.  The mother of modern conservatism, she deregulated the hell out of the country and fostered in a decade of selfishness, which took root here in the United States under Reagan.

I will give her props for being anti-apartheid, and more in tune to the AIDS crisis than Reagan was (although she did denounce Nelson Mendela).  She also was a huge supporter of socialized medicine, raised taxes throughout her tenure, and was an early believer in climate change science.  Unfortunately, this would make her "liberal" by today's standards.

I suspect many Brits will remember her for her horrible union-busting, the thing you see in Billy Elliott.  She propped up Saddam Hussein, and look how that turned out.

But her place in history, for better or worse, is secure.  Cue the inevitable mountain of hagiography from the right.


P.S.  She was in my 2013 Dead Pool.

Obama’s Chained CPI Idea Is Bad

Obama, in attempting to show that he can "give" a little when it comes to cutting the deficits, is about to propose a thing called "chained CPI" when it comes to Social Security benefits.  Basically, it sets Social Security benefits to the inflation rate.

Bad. Bad. Bad.

For one thing, Social Security isn't in trouble.  It's well-funded for the next to decades.  It's not the problem when it comes to the debt.

Secondly, inflation for seniors is not the same as inflation for the country as a whole, and it is likely to be higher.  Why?  Because health care cost inflation is much larger than other areas of spending.  In other words, seniors have a different consumption basket than normal consumers.

But most importantly, it's not going to make the Republicans come to the table on tax increases.  These guys do no compromise, even when you make a compromising gesture to them.  In fact, I'll bet some Republicans are out there right now, preparing ads about how Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits to seniors.

Bad idea.

A Dignified Death

After making North Carolina a punchline for a couple of days, the Speaker of the NC legislature does the right thing:

The Republican speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives killed legislation on Thursday that aimed toestablish an official state religion.

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Charlotte) announced Thursday afternoon that the bill would not be receiving a vote in the full House, effectively dropping the measure. Loretta Boniti, a reporter for News 14 Carolina, broke the news on Twitter, and it was confirmed in a breaking news alert posted on the home page of, a Raleigh-based television station. Tillis' decision followed several days of national media attention on the bill, which also said that the state government did not have to listen to federal court rulings and was exempt from the requirements of the First Amendment.

The bill, which was drafted by state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), was intended to address an issue in Rowan County, where the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the county commission in an attempt to block commissioners from having a Christian prayer at the beginning of meetings.

The North Carolina measure responds to the ACLU suit by declaring that each state is "sovereign" and no federal court can prevent a state from "from making laws respecting an establishment of religion." Though Warren, one of the bill's authors, told HuffPost Live that the measure was not seeking to create a state religion, the drafted legislation would clearly allow for such an action.

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The North Carolina bill seeks to play the First Amendment both ways. It says that the state is exempted from the establishment clause under the First Amendment, which establishes the "separation of church and state." The clause reads that "Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion." But the North Carolina bill asserts that prohibition does not apply "to states, municipalities, or schools," and that North Carolina could establish a state religion. The bill then goes further, portraying this reasoning as a protection of the freedom of religion, including the state lawmakers' right to exercise their own religious beliefs.


The Seven States Working Hard To Close Abortion Clinics

The Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, tend to capture fewer headlines than other types of abortion restrictions, largely because they’re complicated pieces of legislation that may not seem outrageous on the surface. But women’s health advocates warn they actually represent one of the most serious threats to reproductive rights in the nation. This is an effective anti-choice tactic because it’s an indirect method of restricting abortion access — rather than banning the procedure itself, TRAP laws impose so much red tape on abortion providers that clinics are unable to continue providing reproductive care to the women who need it. Here are seven states that are threatening to undermine women’s right to legal abortion services by shutting down abortion clinics:

1. ALABAMA: On Tuesday, the Alabama House approved a TRAP bill that has already been passed by the state’s Senate. After the two chambers reconcile their versions of the legislation, it will head straight to Gov. Robert Bentley (R) — who is expected to sign it into law. Even though the bill’s sponsor claims that the measure is “truly is a women’s rights bill” because it “protects the right of women having an abortion to have it in a healthy, safe environment,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. HB 57 would actually simply force that state’s five remaining abortion clinics to close their doors. According to Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s president, Cecile Richards, it would “essentially ban abortion statewide.”

2. INDIANA: The Indiana House passed a TRAP bill on Tuesday, and it will be sent to Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) desk after the Senate — which approved the measure back in February — agrees to the House’s wording. SB 371 initially sparked outrage because, in its original version, it would have required women taking the abortion pill to undergo two invasive transvaginal ultrasounds. But the Indiana GOP removed that provision in order to ensure its passage. Even though the version of SB 371 that passed this week seems tame in comparison to the first version of the legislation, it’s still a dangerous attack on health clinics that threatens to force a Planned Parenthood clinic to stop providing medication abortions.

3. NORTH DAKOTA: This state made national headlines by imposing the strictest abortion law in the nation, a six-week ban that reproductive rights advocates are already preparing to battle in court. But the package of abortion restrictions that Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) recently approved also included a TRAP law that may force the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, to close its doors. The clinic’s director, Tammi Kromenaker, acknowledges the TRAP bill is “concerning” — but she is fully committed to fighting to stay open.

4. TEXAS: Over 90 percent of Texas women already live in a county without an abortion clinic. But Republican lawmakers in the state want that number to rise even further. The legislature isadvancing a TRAP measure that could force most of the state’s 38 abortion clinics to shut down. SB 537 would require all clinics that perform abortions to adhere to the same standards as surgical clinics — even though many of them simply administer the abortion pill to women, which is not actually a surgical procedure.

5. VIRGINIA: Virginia sparked a firestorm last year when the state’s supposedly nonpartisanBoard of Health approved unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)quietly approved the TRAP measure on the week before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but that move didn’t go unnoticed by women’s health advocates — thousands of whom havesubmitted comments to the Board to protest the new rules. “Put women’s health above politics. Don’t let red tape trap women,” the protesters proclaimed.

6. MISSISSIPPI: Just like North Dakota, Mississippi only has one abortion clinic left in the entire state. And Republican lawmakers there have already successfully forced through a TRAP measure, which became law at the beginning of this year. The new restrictions require the clinic’s doctors to secure hospital admitting privileges, but all seven hospitals in the surrounding area havedenied them — and Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is awaiting a hearing that will determine whether it is allowed to continue operating. Still, women health’s advocates want Republican politicians to know that they’re not going anywhere, painting the clinic’s building a bright pink as an act of defiance.

7. NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina is getting in on the TRAP action with SB 308, a bill filed about two weeks ago. Even though women in the state already have to overcome several hurdles before terminating a pregnancy — including undergoing a 24-hour waiting period, participating in a mandatory counseling session, and listening to a doctor describe the images resulting from a forced ultrasound — Republicans also want to over-regulate abortion clinics with a bill similar to Mississippi’s. Protests are already erupting in the state’s capital, as women hope to send a clear message to their lawmakers: “You don’t walk in a woman’s shoes. So don’t try to legislate her health decisions.”

Quote Of The Day

 “We tell gun owners, there’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.”

– Former NRA lobbyist and founder of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Dudley Brown 

Great.  Inform gun owners to start threatening Democrats.

Think I'm exaggerating the danger?  This just came over the CNN newswire as I was typing this post:

Congresswoman receives death threats over gun bill

Death threats have been called into the office of a Democratic congresswoman after she proposed legislation requiring gun owners obtain liability insurance.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said in a statement the calls were received in her New York office Tuesday "by young interns, who were understandably shaken by this experience."

"Given all the acts of gun violence we have seen in the past two years, the shootings in Aurora and Newtown, the attack on my friend and colleague Gabby Gifford, I take the threat of more gun violence very seriously. But it is not something that I will allow to stop me from doing my work," Maloney continued, adding that members of law enforcement were investigating the calls.

The New York Democrat introduced a bill in March requiring Americans to obtain liability insurance before purchasing firearms. A fine of $10,000 would be charged if gun owners do not purchase the required coverage. Maloney's bill exempts military service members and law enforcement officers.

"I am proud of my work to help curb gun violence," Maloney wrote Wednesday. "I strongly support the comprehensive package of gun reforms proposed by the Obama Administration and I have authored two common sense pieces of legislation aimed at keeping our communities safer."



UNC Facing Backlash For Its Treatment of Sexual Assault Victims

To mark the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student paper has a message for their university over its disciplinary system, which handles sexual assault with the seriousness of a minor infraction. Since the school received national attention for threatening to expel a college sophomore who spoke publicly about her rape, later suspending the proceeding, the paper ran a front-page editorial demanding change.  It's pretty blatent:


While it is far from the only university with problems with its sexual assault policies, UNC has a history of underreporting sexual assault in the student body and mistreating rape victims. That culture appears to apply to staff as well. Last week, an administrative judge found that officials failed to protect a housekeeper, Maria Isabel Prudencio-Arias, from sexual harassment. When Prudencio-Arias reported her supervisor, who was later fired, she experienced retaliation from the department’s director. The university’s slow response left her to situations like scrubbing the men’s urine-covered bathroom floor on her hands and knees and wearing a heavy vacuum despite her back problems.

On Tuesday, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faces its second federal investigation of the school’s sexual assault policies in one month. The complaint alleges that UNC, in an attempt to lower their rape reportings, created a hostile environment for students attempting to report crimes.

The frightening part, as Jessica Valenti notes, is that this injustice toward assault victims on college campuses is all too familiar. The vast majority — 95 percent — are discouraged from ever coming forward, and those who do are often ostracized and harassed.

No Brainer: Stronger Gun Laws Lead To Reduction In Gun Violence

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies in Congress frequently claim that gun violence is highest in places with the toughest crime laws. But a new study from the Center for American Progress (CAP) suggests something closer to the opposite is true — the states with laxer gun laws tend to be the ones contributing the highest shares of national gun deaths and injuries.

The authors of the report, called “America Under The Gun,” developed a list of ten indices of gun violence, ranging from gun homicide levels to firearm assaults to crime gun export rate (the number of guns sold in that state used in crimes around the country), and ranked each state from 1-50 along each index. They then took the average of each state’s ranking to determine its overall level of gun violence relative to other states. Lousiana was the highest, with an average of fifth-worst across all ten indices, while Hawaii’s 45.4 ranking was the best.

A statistical regression comparing these rankings with strength of gun law found a correlation between weak gun laws and violence levels as measured by the 10-index average. Comparing a state’s relative ranking in strength of gun law (as judged by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence) to a state’s relative gun violence ranking yielded clear evidence that states with looser gun laws contributed more to the national gun violence epidemic:

While many factors contribute to the rates of gun violence in any state, our research clearly demonstrates a significant correlation between the strength of a state’s gun laws and the prevalence of gun violence in the state. Across the key indicators of gun violence that we analyzed, the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have a level of gun violence that is more than twice as high—104 percent higher—than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.

Here is the map:

This really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who actually thinks and reasons, rather than those who try to push an agenda.

North Carolina Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Constitution

This is embarrassing:

RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.

The bill grew out of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.

Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.

In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.

"To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord," the court said. "Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance."

House Bill 494, filed by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina – or indeed on any Constitutional topic:

"The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people," the bill states. "Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion."  

The Tenth Amendment argument, also known as "nullification," has been tried unsuccessfully by states for more than a century to defy everything from the Emancipation Proclamation of the Civil War to President Obama's health care reforms to gun control.

The bill goes on to say:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Eleven House Republicans have signed on to sponsor the resolution, including Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, and Budget Chairman Justin Burr, R-Stanly.

There is absolutely no way that this bill will hold up in federal court, but of course, the point of the bill is to say that North Carolina doesn't give a damn what federal courts say.  

But the First Amendment applies to the states through the 14th Amendment. This is well-settled law.  From EVerson v Board of Education (1947):

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" 330 U.S. 1, 15-16..

States' rights? Sure states have rights, but not to the point where they can do what the federal government can't.  The last time the South tried to test this theory, they lost.  It was called the Civil War.


And not for nothing, but the proposed bill violates the North Carolina constitution as well, where it reads:

Sec. 13.  Religious liberty.

All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

When the states establishes or endorses a religion, it interferes with the rights of conscience of individuals, by putting the stamp of "official" endorsement of one religion over another.

Not Even Trying

Mike Lux wrote this piece yesterday, telling people about a new report on Wall Street. It's not pretty:

There is a new report out this morning once again reminding us of the greatest disappointment progressives have in the Obama administration: the lack of toughness in regards to Wall Street.The report, issued by the Campaign for a Fair Settlement (full disclosure: this is a coalition I have helped in various ways since their founding), is probably the most harshly critical analysis yet by a coalition aligned with traditional progressive Democratic groups. The report opens with this damning list of hard-to-dispute facts, and then just goes on from there:

• The Administration has yet to prosecute a single major bank or top level executive for the widespread fraud leading to the system’s collapse.
• Civil penalties have similarly failed to be imposed on top executives, and fines levied against the banks have been so small as to amount to a minor cost of doing business.
• Settlements have left the banks themselves in control of providing relief and restitution to homeowners, giving them credit for cleaning up their balance sheets more than preventing foreclosures.
• Far from showing any signs of having been chastened, the biggest banks are now even bigger, and have successfully slowed down or weakened key elements of the financial reform bills passed in the wake of the collapse.

And signs even early on in the second Obama administration are not encouraging:

• With no mention of Wall Street and the banks anywhere in either his second inaugural speech or his 2013 State of the Union address, the President appears to be wishing the crisis behind him more than addressing its still festering wounds.
• Statements by new appointees like Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew have suggested that they view the “too big to fail” problem as having been largely solved, even as new studies confirm how much the systematically risky banks still benefit from market assumptions that they retain that status.
• Despite having faced withering rebukes for their handling of key cases and settlements, agencies like the Office of the Comptroller of the currency have reignited that criticism in their attempts to amend the disastrous Independent Foreclosure Review settlement, yet again constructing terms far more favorable to the banks than to homeowners and borrowers.

The report barely mentions the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the one agency where progressives have generally given the administration better marks, it is mostly dismissive of the good things that passed in Dodd-Frank given how slow regulatory agencies have been in writing rules, and it seems to have little faith in the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities Task Force co-chaired by NY AG Eric Schneiderman- which is notable given that the coalition has historically been relatively close to Schneiderman politically.

So there are two questions that Obama loyalists might ask about this report. The first is whether all this negativity is truly deserved. The second is, why are Wall Street accountability activists so obsessed with this issue?

On the first question, I am sad to say the answer is mostly yes. If I had been writing the report, I would have been more positive about the accomplishments of CFPB, would have given the administration more credit on a few things in terms of Dodd-Frank and a few of the appointments they have made, would have pointed out that Republicans are doing everything they can to starve regulatory agencies of resources, and being the loyal Democrat I am, I would have written the report more diplomatically. 

But when you add up all the results of the Obama administration’s dealings with Wall Street, it is hard to avoid the fact that life hasn’t changed much at all for the big banks, and that they continue to make money hand over fist while the rest of the economy is stuck in the mood. It is hard to think of any one of the report’s bullets listed above that aren’t accurate. Most damning of all are these absolutely true words in the report’s conclusion:

“The irony in all this is that the areas in which the Obama Administration has been found most wanting by critics for its handling of Wall Street accountability are not the result of intractable differences with a Congress hamstrung in inaction. Instead, they are areas almost wholly under the sole control of the Administration through its executive powers, and carried out largely through cabinet agencies.”

On the second question, the reason Wall Street activists are so obsessed with the lack of toughness toward Wall Street is that Wall Street is ground zero for the rest of the problems in our economy. These monstrously huge mega-banks completely dominate our economy, siphoning off money that might otherwise go into productive uses in the mainstreet economy so that the big bankers can keep speculating away. And when they screw up in ways that hurt the rest of us, even when they blatantly violate the law, the fact that they are never seriously punished means they have no incentive to stop. 

Until the Obama administration fixes this problem, the rest of the economy is going to keep suffering, and the risk of future financial meltdowns will keep growing.

I'm going to guess that's not in the cards. This round of looting will go unpunished and we're being set up for yet another fall.

Quote Of The Day

“People overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools” – Pat Robertson, when asked why miracles “happen with great frequency in Africa, and not here in the USA".


According to Robertson, it’s the “skepticism and secularism” that is being taught at “the most advanced schools” around the country that is keeping God’s miracles at bay.

Meanwhile, Africans are “simple” and “humble.” “You tell ‘em God loves ‘em and they say, ‘Okay, he loves me’,” said Robertson. “You say God will do miracles and they say, ‘Okay, we believe him’.”

First of all, I'm one of those who has been taught in the most advanced schools in the country, and I was never taught secularism.  I was never taught to be skeptical either, although I suppose that is a by-product of an education.

But if Pat's larger point is that only stupid people are gullible enough to believe in religion… and that really seems to be what he is saying — well, he said it, not me.


Don’t Kid Yourself — There’s No GOP “Rebranding”

In fact, the culture wars are getting worse.  Despite public attitudes and last year's election results, we're still seeing Republican policymakers ban abortion rightsreject marriage equalitygo after contraception access, and target Planned Parenthood – and we're only three months into the year.

I suppose, then, it shouldn't be too surprising that abstinence-only and sex-ed remain conservative priorities.

In addition to passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation so far this year, Republican lawmakers in North Dakota, Arkansas and Texas are now pushing bills that would defund comprehensive sex education programs for at-risk teenagers.

The North Dakota legislature is currently considering an amendment to an anti-abortion bill that would effectively block a $1.2 million federal grant for a sex education program for teens who are homeless or in foster programs. […]

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, told reporters on Monday that North Dakota is the first state ever to go after a sex education program that is fully funded by the federal government. "This is incredibly unusual," she said. "No state has tried to block a comprehensive sex education program like this, ever."

And it's not just a state-level issue, either — U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) is pushing a half-billion-dollar federal project to "educate" teenagers on why they shouldn't have sex.