Revelations that the Justice Department authorized the seizure of Associated Press phone records have produced condemnation from Congressional Democrats and other Obama allies. But while Capitol Hill Democrats decried the tactics as "inexcusable" (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), "troubling" (Senator Pat Leahy) and having "impaired the First Amendment" (Rep. Zoe Lofgren), Congressional Republicans have been largely silent. Silent, that is, with good reason. After all, their relative quiet isn't just due to the fact that they demanded the investigation into the 2012 Yemen leak and throughout the Bush presidency supported the prosecution of leakers, whistleblowers and reporters alike. As it turns out, when it came to justifying the unprecedented domestic surveillance of American citizens by the Bush administration, Republicans leaders claimed "you really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."
Unlike their foaming at the mouth reactions to the Benghazi and IRS imbroglios, the GOP's best and brightest have in comparison exhibited an almost Zen-like patience over the AP affair. Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged giving the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt. While John McCain explained, "For me, to rush to a judgment without knowing all the facts is just not appropriate," Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) defended the Justice Department by proclaiming, "they are doing what we asked them to do, investigate the leak." Meanwhile, the number two Republican in the Senate John Cornyn (R-TX) urged all to withhold judgment:
"Well, I think we need to see how this plays out. I have questions about it, but I'm willing to wait and see how this plays out, whether it was narrowly targeted or whether it was a net that was too broadly cast."
Of course, when Americans learned on December 16, 2005 that President Bush had ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake warrantless electronic surveillance of their communications, Senator Cornyn insisted that no net could possibly be too broadly cast. Echoing the talking point vomited forth by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts ("You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead") and Alabama's Jeff Sessions ("Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us"), John Cornyn declared:
Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.
The bill, filed Monday by two GOP lawmakers from Rowan County and backed by nine other Republicans, says each state “is sovereign” and courts cannot block a state “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.”
“I’m Proud To Be An American North Carolinian South Baptist” will now be sung at all Duke University Blue Devils Red Angels basketball games.
Smokey Mountain National Park will become North Carolina Hills of Galilee and Hallelujah Jesus Theme Park. The historic coastal city of Wilmington will be named The Baptismal Font of Glory and Washing Away of Sins, where genders do not mix because of all those wet tee-shirts after the dunkings.
They will still have bars and dance halls in North Carolina but they will be renamed Holy Water and Rejoicing Centers.
And all them Jesus hatin’ sumbitches who are too chicken to kill someone for stealing a teevee or lookin’ funny at your wife have to move to Virginia.
Them’s the rules, you Yankee First Amendment sumbitches.
Because there's not enough money in politics and elections already, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the current biennial limits on individual campaign contributions. This time around, it's likely they'll bolster the Citizens United with a parallel decision lifting limits on what individuals may contribute to individual candidates, because money is speech, right?
The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, argues that the limit on what individuals are allowed to give candidates ($46,200 per two-year cycle) and parties and PACs ($70,800 per two-year cycle) is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor's free speech rights.
The U.S. Court of Appeals already ruled in favor of keeping the biennial limits, which have been in place since 1971 and were upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case. By accepting the case, the court is stepping into the thick of another controversial campaign finance case just three years after ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions can spend freely on elections.
If the court rules against the two-year limits, it would mark the first time a court has overturned a part of the landmark Buckley ruling that deals with campaign contribution limits. This is not terribly surprising as the court has been hostile to campaign finance laws ever since Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a supporter of campaign finance regulation, was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court's conservative bloc who is opposed to campaign regulation.
Campaign finance reformers are already calling on the court to maintain the Buckley precedent and rule against the challenge in McCutcheon, for fear that any overturning of Buckley will eventually lead to future erosion of contribution limits and other campaign finance precedents meant to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption.
I think we can predict the outcome on this, can't we? After the Montana case where they ruled that there was no corruption because of excessive money in campaigns even though the Montana law was passed to prevent rampant corruption, I'm certain those limits will go away.
If Congress has any will for anything, they should quit trying to limit campaign contributions and instead focus on real-time disclosure. If the Supreme Court is going to allow unlimited money, we should expect to know in real time who is spending that money. I don't want any nonsense about anonymous speech, either. Voters have a right to assign weight to a candidate's motives based upon who is paying for them to ascend to office. In real time. Not eighteen or twenty months past the election.
We're not going to win the limits argument with this court. But we might win the disclosure argument handily in lieu of the actual solution -- an amendment to the constitution.
Keep it classy, Mittens. I guess we can expect this if you are (God forbid!) elected to the White House. Press conferences held only with friendly media? Just put Fox News, Rush, and Hannity in there and screw the rest of us, eh?
Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson made an appearance at Monona Terrace in Madison on Wednesday to talk about Mitt Romney's plan to strengthen the middle-class. WTDY News reporter Dylan Brogan was supposed to cover the event, which was open to the press, but a Romney spokesperson asked Madison Police to escort him out of the building instead.
A Romney campaign staffer asked Brogan to wait to talk with Romney's Wisconsin Communication Director Ben Sparks before entering the room where the event was being held.
"I'm sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to wait outside until Ben gets here," the staffer told him. "That's what he asked me, sorry about that."
Once Sparks arrived, Brogan was told that was not allowed to cover the event with Sen. Johnson because WTDY morning talk show host Sly in the Morning protested a previous campaign event for Mitt Romney in Janesville.
"He reflects poorly on you, you work for that organization, and you suffer the consequences," Sparks said. "That's how it's going to work. Now we're not going to discuss this anymore. You cannot cover the event."
Guilt by association? Really?
This is, however, what they do. They hold events in private venues so they can pick and choose who covers it and who attends it. It really doesn't matter that they serve the whole public, because they will just simply cherry-pick their media coverage. So let's see what kind of coverage the event received.
That was all I could find. Basically, we don't know what Senator Johnson said when he stopped in Madison. It might have been the same thing he said in Eau Claire. It might have been something else. But we don't know, because no one covered it.
For all their ballyhoo over the US Constitution, why don't Mitt Romney, Ron Johnson and their gang of Republican thugs actually understand the Bill of Rights?
Imagine the White House press reports.
"President Mitt Romney made an appearance in Israel."
The predictions about emboldened right-wing state legislatures after Wisconsin are coming true, with Michigan's legislature as one of the first testing grounds. Michigan, home to the auto industry and the likes of Betsy DeVos, has a legislature full of wingnuts.
The 60-page bill was introduced just last week by Republican Representative Bruce Rendon and contains all matter of horrors. For starters, all abortions after 20 weeks would be criminalized—no exceptions for victims of rape or if the fetus has a severe anomaly, like it is missing a brain or a spine. Wait? Oh, nevermind it's pointless to even try to understand how that is a good idea because it's not. There is a very narrow exception made if the mother's life is at risk, but simply her health and/or future fertility is not reason enough to allow an abortion. Well, how very pro-life indeed. Oh, it'd also make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Geeze, make that definition vague enough and you might be able to start prosecuting doctors for being overly enthusiastic in telling patients that it's totally safe to get an abortion…
This lovely bill would also require that health centers that perform more than six abortions in a month be equipped with surgery rooms, even if they don't do surgical abortions. Just in case someone needs an emergency appendectomy while they're waiting, I guess? Makes TOTAL sense to spend a sh*t-ton of money you don't have to create a room filled with expensive equipment that you'll never use and have to jump through a bunch of hoops and pay to have the facility licensed.
There are also a number of provisions that can sadly now be described as typical: Women need to be screened to be sure there's no "coercion" going on. A doctor needs to be present for medication abortions, and no telemedicine is allowed, so doctors won't be able to use technology to prescribe medication abortions from afar or even prescribe the morning-after pill. And, just for good measure, the bill also puts in place elaborate new regulations for the disposal of fetal remains.
During the very heated debate on the bill, female representatives tried to introduce an amendment that would have the same rules apply to vasectomies, and Rep. Lisa Brown had this to say: "I'm flattered that you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no."
OH NOES!!!! Michigan men are just horrified that a woman said the word "vagina"!!!!! And "vasectomy"? Perish the thought. No, we don't say "vasectomy" in the hallowed halls of the Michigan house. Nay, nay, such heresies may not be uttered in the presence of delicate men.
Ari Adler, spokesman for Bolger, said the women "will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives."
Adler said the move was meant to ensure civility and maturity in the debate over the bills.
Excuse me while I recover from my paroxysm of involuntary hysterical laughter. HAHAHAHAHAHA -- Civility? Civility?
Hey, Michigan men. Here's uncivil. Uncivil is telling me you believe in small government while you authorize the government to attach themselves to the cold metal speculum crawling up my and my daughter's vagina to inspect. Uncivil is telling me I'm too stupid to actually, you know, make my own decisions. Uncivil is bullying your bullsh*t bill through the House of Representatives while treating women like they're half-citizens. That's uncivil. The words vagina and vasectomy? Not so much.
Say it with me. Va-gi-na. Vas-ect-omy. See? They sort of have an alliterative quality. There's nothing uncivil about those words, they're just actual terms for female anatomy and a medical procedure. There's nothing uncivil about them at all.
You guys crawling into my body? That's not only uncivil, it's disgusting.
Did every College Republican from the class of 2003 get elected in 2010 or what? I cannot recall a more childish or idiotic bunch of bone sacks holding office than in the past two years.
Update: In Mitt Romney lying liar fashion, House Speaker Jase Bolger's spokesman tells ABC News that gagging the opposition is "rather common practice." So I Googled to see if that was actually true, and behold! I'm having trouble finding even one article that actually confirms that claim.
Memo to ABC News: You too, can use the Google.
Here's the full statement made to MLive about why they gagged these two women:
It is the responsibility of the Majority Floor Leader, the presiding officer and every Representative to maintain the decorum of the House. Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas has informed Minority Floor Leader Segal that Reps. Brown and Byrum will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives. Under Rep. Stamas’ floor leadership, the House Republicans have allowed more debate on the House floor than ever seen in the past few sessions when House Democrats were in charge. House Republicans often go beyond simply allowing debate by welcoming open and passionate discussion of the issues before this chamber. The only way we can continue doing so, however, is to ensure that the proper level of maturity and civility are maintained on the House floor.
House Republicans didn’t take it well. “What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville). “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”
Oh! His delicate wittle ears. He can't bear to say the word out loud. Personally, I think appropriate comeuppance in this case would be for him to name his firstborn Vagina. He'd come to love it. Really.
My days as a political analyst at MSNBC have come to an end.
After 10 enjoyable years, I am departing, after an incessant clamor from the left that to permit me continued access to the microphones of MSNBC would be an outrage against decency, and dangerous.
The calls for my firing began almost immediately with the Oct. 18 publication of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?? A group called Color of Change, whose mission statement says that it “exists to strengthen Black America’s political voice,” claimed that my book espouses a “white supremacist ideology.” Color of Change took particular umbrage at the title of Chapter 4, “The End of White America.”
The modus operandi of these thought police at Color of Change and ADL is to brand as racists and anti-Semites any writer who dares to venture outside the narrow corral in which they seek to confine debate. All the while prattling about their love of dissent and devotion to the First Amendment, they seek systematically to silence and censor dissent.
Without a hearing, they smear and stigmatize as racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic any who contradict what George Orwell once called their “smelly little orthodoxies.” They then demand that the heretic recant, grovel, apologize, and pledge to go forth and sin no more.
Defy them, and they will go after the network where you work, the newspapers that carry your column, the conventions that invite you to speak. If all else fails, they go after the advertisers.
Oh, cry me a river, little man. Why is it that conservatives tout the "free marketplace" until it works against their privileged position? Buchanan's First Amendment rights haven't been abridged. The government isn't censoring him. He's still free to say every ugly little thing that comes out of his hateful little brain. But his First Amendment rights do not guarantee him a position on a national news network. The free market has spoken and decided that his voice doesn't need more airtime.
After a two-week firestorm of controversy on the question of religious institutions that are not churches providing contraceptives with no copayment, the Obama administration changed the final rule in several respects. Here they are, in a nutshell:
Institutions which are affiliated with a church such as Catholic hospitals, universities, and the like will not have to include birth control in the health insurance they provide to employees.
Employees of those institutions will have access to contraceptives without a copayment because the insurer will cover it with no copayments separately. This means the insurer will reach out to women to offer free contraceptives outside of any relationship with their employer.
For religious employers who use insurance companies, this will be the final rule and women will have access to contraceptives without copayments beginning August 1, 2012.
And with that, heads exploded from here to Rome. The video above is an interview Catholic League's Bill Donohue did on Friday's Megyn Kelly show, after the announcement of the change in the rule. You really must listen to him rant on and on, threatening that President Obama "will pay for this," and alleging that it really is a secret plot to force the Catholic Church to pay for abortions. And of course, all of his false claims went unchallenged.
But back to the issue at hand. The goal was to make contraceptives available to women without a copayment. This satisfies that goal, because insurers will simply take care of the cost without including contraception coverage in the plan these institutions adopt. It is far less expensive for them to provide full coverage for birth control than it is for them to provide maternity coverage and well baby care for all of those babies that would come into the world as a result of not having any contraceptives available. To that end, the decision was a complete end-run around the bishops' plan to erode support for the ACA by making a big deal out of this rule.
Today, we've reached a decision on how to move forward. Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services — no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.
The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. Let me repeat: These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.
Four years ago, my novel, Redemption, marketed as a near future political thriller, was published by St. Martin’s Press in the United States. There’s a scene at the very end of the book, where protesters, in numbers "intensified past what even a castrated media could ignore" converged on Washington:
Placards demanding voting reform, civil rights, impeachment, and repealing the Patriot Act vied for space with signs protesting global warming, Internet restrictions, and record unemployment. Demonstrations resembled a war zone more every day with barbed wire and concrete blockades and thousands of scowling armed police. Several protesters had been killed in riots, which had only fueled the anger of the growing crowds, violent clashes escalating. The roar of a hundred thousand voices as they chanted, "Of the people, by the people, for the people, who the hell are you!" with a forest of accusing fingers thrust at both a barricaded White House and Capital Hill was breathtaking.
Writers like myself try to imagine the future by extrapolating from the present. Sometimes we get it woefully wrong. And sometimes we get it frighteningly right. What I imagined half a decade ago was a rebellion of the American people against a corrupt system, with protesters united, rather than behind any single cause, by a sense of general injustice and a multitude of grievances. Today, it’s a reality.
As Americans gathered to celebrate their independence this past Fourth of July weekend, for some the festivities were tinged with sadness by the mounting evidence that many simply don't know their own nation's history. While a new study showed that only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, a Marist poll found that 26% of us couldn't identify the country from which the United States announced its separation.
In the telling of Republican White House hopeful Rick Santorum, it's all liberals' fault. "This is, in my opinion, a conscious effort on the part of the left," Santorum explained, "to desensitize America to what American values are so they are more pliable to the new values that they would like to impose on America."
Which is why everything I know about the Founding Fathers I learned from the GOP.
That education begins in the period before the Founders gathered in Philadelphia to produce the document which changed the world.
The textbooks have the start of the Revolutionary War all wrong, too. The Patriot's Day civic holiday celebrated every April in Massachusetts is especially embarrassing since, as Michele Bachmann pointed out, Lexington and Concord are in New Hampshire. And those annual reenactments of Paul Revere's midnight ride have it backwards, too. As Sarah Palin repeatedly made clear, Revere was warning the British.
As it turns out, all Founders are created equal. As Palin explained to Glenn Beck, her favorite Founding Father was "all of them." That might be because, as she pointed out in 2006, they had the wisdom over 170 years in advance to support adding "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. "If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers," she declared, "it's good enough for me."
Then again, how special could Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and their ilk have been anyway? As Ronald Reagan told Americans in the 1980's, the Nicaraguan Contras were the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."
Well, according to the Republican National Committee, Madison, Hamilton and the other Framers of the Constitution of the United States were perfect. According to the RNC, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan committed sacrilege when she quoted Justice Thurgood Marshall's assessment that "the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today." Unable to prevent three-fifths of the Senate from voting on Kagan's nomination, Republicans instead suggested in an RNC memo that the Founders' three-fifths of a person standard for counting slaves was no defect:
"Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?"
Then again, for Glenn Beck, the three-fifths compromise in the Constitution was a feature, not a bug:
"That's why, in the Constitution, African-Americans were deemed three-fifths people, because the Founders wanted to end slavery and they knew if the South could count slaves as full individuals you would never get the control to be able to abolish it."
"That's right, the Founders actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here. Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants -- including that they abide by our laws."
In any event, as Michele Bachmann has told us time and again, the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to rid the United States of the "scourge" of slavery. That includes the Founding Child John Quincy Adams, who died seventeen years before Civil War - and the passage of the 13th Amendment -ended slavery in 1865:
"We know we were not perfect. We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
As for the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln praised Thomas Jefferson's Declaration for introducing "to into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression." But while Lincoln at Gettysburg turned to Jefferson to redeem the promise of America, his Republican successors inform us that it's best to ignore the Declaration's author and third President altogether.
The Texas Board of Education, which sets the de facto standards for U.S. textbook publishers, removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, "replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin." (There is, of course, the Tea Party exception, which allows gun-toting Tea Baggers and Republican Congressman like Texas Rep. Michael McCaul to proclaim, "Thomas Jefferson said the Tree of Liberty will be fed by the blood of tyrants and patriots. You are the modern day patriots.") That's what you get when you have the temerity to explain the plain meaning of the First Amendment, as Jefferson did in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
I'm a little late to this. You know I'm no fan of Rand Paul, but his thoughts on free speech and racial profiling with Hannity are just loony tunes.
Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made headlines last week for single-handedly obstructing the renewal of the Patriot Act, calling the law an unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties. His demand to insert a series of amendments to weaken the law nearly allowed it to lapse and put the country at “risk,” but Paul said it was worth it to prevent the government from continuing to “blatantly ignor[e] the Constitution.” But when Paul went on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show Friday to discuss his opposition to the national security law, he suggested implementing a far more serious infringement on civil liberties. While discussing profiling at airports, Paul called for the criminalization of speech:
PAUL: I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.
Paul’s suggestion that people be imprisoned or deported for merely attending a political speech would be a fairly egregious violation on the First Amendment, not to mention due process. What if someone attended a radical speech as a curious bystander? Should they too be thrown in prison? And who defines what is considered so “radical” that it is worth imprisonment?
He’s not unusual. There are genuine libertarians out there. But political figures who talk a lot about liberty and freedom invariably turn out to mean the freedom to not pay taxes and discriminate based on race; freedom to hold different ideas and express them, not so much
How shall I put this delicately? The man isn't playing with a full deck. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's a few tacos short of a fiesta platter. His jogging trail doesn't go all the way round the lake...He's an idiot. The fact that we have to count on him to be the guardian of the constitution in the US Senate says everything you need to know about the state of civil liberties in this country.
Indeed, the First Amendment not only protects the mere "attending" of a speech "promoting the violent overthrow of our government," but also the giving of such a speech. The government is absolutely barred by the Free Speech clause from punishing people even for advocating violence. That has been true since the Supreme Court's unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had threatened violence against political officials in a speech.
Liberals and Libertarians agree on civil liberty issues all the time, but it's the rest of their belief system that turns out the Rand Pauls and poses a danger to the health of our Democracy. Rachel Maddow exposed him pretty easily. Sean Hannity does have a way of extracting cuckoo for cocoa puffs rants from those that actually try to hide them to look more reasonable.