Friday, March 29, 2013

In Alabama, Rep Wallace Believes Misogyny and Bigotry are the Law

I know - Alabama is considered by most to be backwards, the stereotypical rednecks, etc. But the fact is, there are a few of us here with brains (and jobs!) Heck, we have one of the most technology-forward cities in the United States here with Huntsville, AL.

What we don't have is legislators with common sense.

The following emails are relating to HB 57 - a TRAP bill - proposed in Alabama. Today was a public hearing on the bill and despite more opposition than support, it passed out of committee.


Surprised right?

I know you're not. But at least you can be outraged with the rest of us at this response constituents are getting from Representative Kurt Wallace.

Below is the transcript of emails sent to him, and his response.

On Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 9:24 PM, Anna Smith* wrote:

I'm not really certain why this bill is being rushed through the house but it can't possibly be for the benefit of women no matter what you may be hearing. This bill is meant for the sole purpose of forcing the women's clinics in Alabama to close and I don't think some of you have thought through what it would mean to women in the state. Closing clinics isn't going to stop abortion in Alabama, it just means that women will return to the days of back alleys, coat hangers and other means to self abort. You're hurting the babies who will be born to mothers who can't support them, don't want them or will make the child miserable for the rest of its life because it was born. If you don't believe me, please read some reputable information on the subject....not the material given to you by some self-serving entity with an agenda.

If you're against this bill, thank you. If you're considering voting for this bill, please at least give yourself time to fully understand the implications and what passing this bill will mean to the women of this state. We will remember, and we DO vote.

Anna Smith

In a message dated 2/6/2013 10:36:26 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

Stop trying to play God. If you don't want children don't get pregnant. Only God gives life and you have no right to decide when to end it. You're concerned about us "hurting babies who will be born to mothers that can't support them". So rather than have a child born, and possibly adopted by a loving family that can't have children, you would rather KILL the child. There is a big difference between "hurt" and "kill".

Rep. Wallace

From: Anna Smith
Reply to: Rep. Wallace

I'm a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother and I've lost three babies due to miscarriage. During one pregnancy the fetus died in utero and began to decompose spreading toxins throughout my body. It was in the '60s before abortion was legal and I had to carry the poison until my body expelled the fetus. There are more things that go on in a clinic besides terminating a viable fetus and by trying to close them, you're forcing women to put their lives on the line like I did over forty years ago.
Anna Smith

As if this evidence of Mr. Wallace's intent to legislate his religious beliefs, a conversation with a different constituent follows, with similar outcome:
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 8:54 PM, Polly Winters* wrote:
Subject: Please vote no on TRAP bill (HB 57). This bill would devastate clinics in Alabama.

Dear Rep. Wallace
Anti-choice politicians continue working to take away a woman's right to choose what is best for her and her family.
Please let me know what I can do to help.
With your help, we will work to ensure reproductive rights don't become a thing of the past in our state.
Polly Winters

On Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 10:49 PM, Kurt Wallace wrote:
Thank you for your concern. However, by definition a "family" is a husband, wife, and children. If we kill all our children before they are born we won't have any families and therefore, nothing to choose. Not getting pregnant is not rocket science, but carelessly getting pregnant and then killing your child is just plain wrong!

Reply to: Rep. Wallace
Well, why don't you come on down to the women's clinic in Huntsville that I volunteer at & explain that to the 13 year old that was raped by her father, or the young couple that very much wanted a baby and the fetus had died that YOU would prefer that they not have an abortion. Or perhaps I could put you in touch with my friend that was pregnant with her wanted third child, only to find that the fetus suffered from anencephaly, a severe congenital birth defect in which the fetus will have no brain. Of course, I'm sure you would feel that she should have carried out the pregnancy, even though there was a good chance that it would kill her & leave Jennie's other two children without a mother.

I suppose if your wife and mother of your children was told that continuing her pregnancy would kill her, you could just find another wife and mother to your children.

Actually, Rep. Wallace, I have a much better idea. Why don't you leave medical decisions about a woman's body to her and her physician.

Polly Winters

* Names changed to protect privacy

This is sadly not uncommon in our state - but for it to be put in writing is. Most are more underhanded.

My goal here is to get this shared far and wide, and - most importantly - get this misogynist legislator out of office asap. His contact info is below. If you feel motivated to respond to him based on the content of what he has sent to these constituents, feel free. Thanks for reading my first diary - guess I finally had something I felt needed to be shared. Too bad it's a craptastic example of the woman-hate in Alabama.

Kurt Wallace
Alabama House of Representatives
District 42
P O Box 581
Maplesville AL 36750
334-366-4211 office
334-259-4076 Cell

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Struggle to Explain Why Polls have Turned Against Them

The struggle to protect family values from homosexuality is starting to feel a bit lonely. In the last five years, eight states have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. After years of winning ballot measure fights, gay-marriage opponents went 0-for-4 in November. Scores of Republican luminaries have signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to declare a constitutional right to marriage regardless of sexual orientation. And two weeks ago, for the first time, a sitting Republican senator, Rob Portman of Ohio, endorsed same-sex marriage. Behind these developments lurks an ominous trend: Gay marriage, once a fringe idea, is now backed by a majority or plurality in nearly every poll.

What the opponents fear next is that these setbacks might influence the Supreme Court. Those mushy-middle justices might decide that the country is ready to accept gay marriage as a constitutional right. This conclusion has to be squelched. Forget the poll numbers. Forget the election results. Americans are dead set as ever against same-sex marriage. Here’s how the right intends to set the record straight.

1. “The polls are skewed.” That’s what Gary Bauer, the president of American Values, said yesterday on Fox News Sunday. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, points to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, which asked whether “it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married.” That question, Sprigg explains, is biased because Americans “shy away from making things ‘illegal.’” (FRC also claims that a Reuters/Ipsos survey, which deflated support for gay marriage to 41 percent by including civil unions as a third option, was biased by Reuters’ efforts “to push that number higher.”) The unbiased approach, according to opponents, is to ask whether "marriage is between one man and one woman"—i.e., to avoid mentioning gay people at all.

2. We won 30 states. Marriage “tests very differently at the ballot box than it does in a poll,” says Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The difference, Sprigg argues, is that in ballot measure fights, “both sides are fully aired.” And what’s the record in ballot measure fights? Thirty to three in favor of traditional marriage, its defenders report. They leave out November’s loss in Minnesota, which actually makes the record 30-4. But the four defeats are the most recent votes. So the difference between winning and losing isn’t whether it’s a poll or a ballot measure. The difference is time. Opponents are using the cumulative record, going back decades, to hide the fact that the tide has turned against them.

3. Yeah, we got swept in November. But barely.My side had 45, 46 percent of the vote in all four of those liberal states,” Bauer notes proudly. In a post-election analysis, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, blamed the defeats on “political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.” Brown neglected to mention Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all of which voted for President Obama, despite having been targeted by NOM as “presidential swing states.”

4. Blame the elites. NOM and other opponents have long claimed to represent ordinary Americans against liberal judges. Have the recent ballot measures and polls chastened them? Not a bit. They insist that “media elites,” “cultural elites,” and “major donor elites” are corrupting the polls. Bauer says “a lot of people are changing their minds because there's been a full-court blitz by the popular culture, by elites … to intimidate and to cower people into no longer defending marriage.” Sprigg adds, “It’s not surprising that younger voters are somewhat more likely to support marriage redefinition than their elders. After all, they have been subjected to a drumbeat of support for it from the news media, entertainment media, and higher education for literally as long as they can remember.” Brown thinks polls undercount his Republican sympathizers: “How many more young conservatives probably support true marriage but are intimidated by their liberal college environment and peer pressure into hiding their pro-marriage views?” These cowed supporters of traditional marriage—apparently poor, uneducated, and easy to command—are hiding in the closet.

5. We still own the GOP. So what if opposition to gay marriage is no longer a majority position among voters generally? It’s still a majority position among Republicans. Reed, Perkins, Rush Limbaugh, and other opponents have fallen back on this argument, warning party leaders that any retreat will trigger a fatal walkout by social conservatives. NOM, unable to assure Republican politicians that opposing same-sex marriage is a safe position in a general election, threatens them instead with defeats in their primaries.

6. Polls are shifting back in our favor. FRC says the Post survey is old news:

"Just two days ago, news outlets were plastering its poll results of 'record' backing for same-sex 'marriage' on their websites—only to see the support vanish as quickly as it appeared. Today, the Reuters Corporation released the results of an even bigger poll than the Post's and found that only 41% of America supports [gay marriage]. … In 48 hours, we've seen a 17-point swing in public opinion on marriage."

How did 17 percent of Americans turn against gay marriage in 48 hours? They didn’t. The Post poll was taken from March 7 to 10. The Reuters poll was taken from Jan. 1 to March 14. So the shift, if there was one, went the other way. In truth, you can’t compare the two questions, since one offered a middle option and the other didn’t. But you can examine trends within each survey over time. Every single polling organization shows same-sex marriage gaining ground.

7. Young people will drift our way as they age. Perkins argues that “history—and most statistical data—shows that young people tend to become more conservative and more religious as they grow up, get married, and start families of their own.” Beyond age 23, “people become increasingly religious—meaning that a hasty retreat on marriage may score cheap points now, but it would actually alienate the same people later on.” But the data behind this analysis pertain to religion, not homosexuality. And there’s no precedent, in any generation, for the level of support today’s young people express for same-sex marriage.

Nobody knows whether public support for gay marriage will continue to rise at the same rate. This issue might go the way of interracial marriage, or it might get bogged down like abortion, assisted suicide, or single parenthood. But it’s clear that over the last several decades, homosexuality has become widely accepted, and opponents of same-sex marriage have now lost their grip on public opinion. The question going forward isn’t how many more states will ban same-sex marriage, but how many of the bans already passed will survive, and for how long.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to Prove Obama LOWERED the Deficit in Four Easy and Indisputable Steps

The GOP, Fox News and AM Hate Radio regularly complain that Obama has raised the deficit. This is a lie. A very VERY big lie. It’s such a big lie and so easy to prove as a big lie that the fact 90% of the country thinks it’s true is one the greatest failures of the “liberal” media since they couldn’t be bothered to vet the Iraq War. The problem is that conservatives don’t want to know, independents can’t be bothered to look and liberals should be deeply ashamed for not knowing.

But worry not! It’s very VERY easy to clear up this misperception (and piss off conservatives to boot!) in just 4 simple steps.

Step One: Establish the facts of what the deficit is and how it works – Ask the conservative, uninformed “independent” or naughty liberal if they understand that the deficit is not the same as the debt. This is super important because the right has gone VERY far out of its way to confuse the two. And for good reason; the debt has never been higher. This is inevitable since we still have a deficit. The debt is a byproduct of the deficit. The only way to pay down the debt is to turn the deficit into a surplus.  

The deficit is how much more we spend than we collect in revenue (taxes, etc.). The debt is how much we owe. The deficit is the credit card, the debt is the bill. A bill that the right wants to pin completely on Obama as if we didn’t have a penny of debt until he took office instead of having been built by almost a century of deficit spending by both Republican and Democratic presidents (but mostly Republican).

Do not proceed until these basic definitions are agreed upon or the conservative will attempt to weasel out of the hole you are digging for them by whining about how Obama increased the debt. If they try, mention that every president except Clinton has done that since World War II, why should Obama be singled out? When they invariably say “Because he’s gone higher than any president ever has!” The same was true of Bush at the time and no one on the right seemed upset about it. Ask them to explain why that is or to drop it and move on. Chances are they’ll drop it.

Step Two: Establish when the budget is passed – This is another deliberate lie the right LOVES to pass around. They would very much like you to believe that the 2009 budget with its record shattering $1.4 Trillion deficit was Obama’s. The reality is that budgets are passed and signed into law at the end of the year before. So the 2000 budget was signed into law by President Clinton and President Bush was stuck with it. In 2017, whoever takes the White House will have a budget signed into law in 2016 by the outgoing President Obama. Therefor, the 2009 budget was not “Obama’s,” it was Bush’s. If you need to prove this definitively, share this link to the CATO Institute. The CATO Institute is a respected but undeniably right-wing thing tank. The opening paragraph in their “About Us” section says: “The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” No one in their right mind can argue the CATO Institute is “liberal.” Yet they clearly state that the 2009 budget does not belong to Obama.

Step 3: Establish what the 2009 deficit was – This will be a little tricky because at this point the conservative you’re talking to will be getting VERY uncomfortable with the conversation. They will try to turn the discussion to ANYTHING else at this point. Why? Because it is a tenet of faith among the right that the 2009 budget was $1.4 Trillion and it was all Obama’s fault. Here’s a link to Fox News that should freeze them in their tracks. The relevant part:

“The federal budget deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year that ended last week, congressional analysts said Wednesday. – Published October 7 2009

The House and the Senate voted to pass the 2009 budget on June 4-5, 2008. President Bush signed off on all of it. Conservatives will try to blame the Democratic held Senate and House for the deficit but they can’t have it both ways. Either the president is responsible for the budget or he’s not. You can’t blame Obama while holding Bush blameless.

If you want to be a helpful wise ass, remind the person you’re talking to that Obama was elected in November and didn’t take office until January 21. That’s almost a full four months after the 2009 fiscal year, with its 2009 budget, started.

Step 4: What is the deficit now? – That’s easy. Go to the CBO’s page and look. the Congressional Budget Office is nonpartisan. They have to be, anyone can check their math and partisan games would be outed immediately. So here it is. Ready?

If the current laws that govern federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit will shrink this year to $845 billion, or 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), its smallest size since 2008.

Is $845 Billion more or less than $1.4 Trillion? At this point, a conservative will be spitting nails or will have stopped talking to you several minutes ago. An independent voter should be trying to figure out how they could have been so completely wrong. A liberal should be deeply embarrassed they didn’t know.

Just so we’re all on the same page here. Obama knocked $555 BILLION off of the deficit. That’s an entire third of the total deficit. That’s more than every president in the history of the country put  together. Republicans have been screeching for deficit cuts like demented harpies for years (except when a Republican is in office). If a Republican president did this, the Tea Party would be holding parades for him. Obama did it and 90% of the country doesn’t even know it. The GOP has them convinced the deficit is still going up.

Ignorance is the GOP’s best weapon. Knowledge is ours.

The Tea Party is Boycotting Fox News Because It Is Too Liberal

The paranoia that Fox News created is turning against them, as tea party activists are boycotting the network for being too far left.

A group of tea party activists who are upset over Fox News for, in their view not investigating Benghazi enough and supporting immigration reform, are boycotting the network.

This is the group’s second boycott, and they are claiming that they are taking down Fox News as punishment for becoming a leftist outlet, “Firstly, the ratings numbers. Despite the much shorter lead/advertising time, at first I was quite disappointed to see what seemed to be only an 8% drop in the ratings on Thursday, the 1st night. A number that slight is difficult to average out because ratings fluctuate within the the margin of error, but 8% seems about right. Then looking over the numbers, we see that FOX is continually lower now than it had been before the first boycott. What has and is happening seems clear; of the 22% that walked away during the 1st boycott, it seems 10% – 12% never went back. That means the current 2nd boycott thus far is doing almost as well as the 1st one, except that the balance of the numbers past the 8% never stopped boycotting – they just went. Curiouser and Curiouser. We’ll see how the weekend shapes up; the numbers should be out by Monday or Tuesday at the latest.”

To show you how far off of the ledge these folks have fallen, they had this to say about Bill O’Reilly’s ratings, “In related developments, media is now starting to laud O’Reilly’s ratings, even though they are half of what they were two years ago. IMO this is due entirely to their displaying approval of FOX now that it has gone left, essentially abandoning FOX’s core audience that made them wealthy, an act of unconscionable, cold-blooded betrayal.”

The group’s objective is to, “To restore the same scrutiny to the Office of the President by the media that was enjoyed by presidents past like Richard Nixon, and presumably with the same results.”

The tea partiers want Fox News to go far right, and they believe that this will lead to the impeachment of President Obama. (In their view, Obama should be impeached for Benghazi.)

Ironically, many of the activists who are outraged about Benghazi probably got their information from Fox News. Fox created this paranoid audience, so it is no surprise that like Frankenstein’s monster they have turned on their creator. There are many, many reasons why Fox News is on a downhill slide of decline, but going too far to the left isn’t one of them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

International Cooperation Key to World Water Day 2013 (via Environment News Service)
NEW YORK, New York, March 22, 2013 (ENS) – “Water is central to the wellbeing of people and the planet,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon said in his video message for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. “We must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite…

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hunters, Anglers Urge Obama to Act on Climate Change (via Environment News Service)
WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2013 (ENS) – Hunters and anglers from across the United States are concerned about the impact of climate change on wildlife and natural resources and also on the U.S. hunting and angling economy, worth roughly $120 billion a year. As a coalition, they are asking President…

U.S. Drivers Could Get 100 MPG By 2050 (via Environment News Service)
WASHINGTON, DC, March 19, 2013 (ENS) – By the year 2050 – in less than 37 years – the United States could cut petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent for cars and small trucks, finds a new National Research Council report released Monday. There is no single “silver…

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

11 Heinous Lies Conservatives are Teaching America’s Schoolchildren

If recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that young Americans have taken a decided turn to the left. Young voters delivered Obama the election: the under-44 set voted Obama and the over-45 set broke for Romney. The youngest voters, age 18-29, gave Obama a whopping 60 percent of their vote.

Now Republicans have a plan to try to recapture the youngest voters out there: Take over the curriculum in public schools, replace education with a bunch of conservative propaganda, and reap the benefits of having a new generation that can’t tell reality from right-wing fantasy.

How well this plan will work is debatable, but in the meantime, these shenanigans present the very real possibility that public school students will graduate without a proper education. To make it worse, many of these attempts to rewrite school curriculum are happening in Texas, which can set the textbook standards for the entire country by simply wielding its power as one of the biggest school textbook markets there is. With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 lies your kid may be in danger of learning in school.

Lie No. 1: Racism has barely been an issue in U.S. history and slavery wasn’t that big a deal.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute reviewed the new social studies standards laid down by the right-wing-dominated Texas State School Board and found them to be a deplorable example of conservative wishful thinking replacing fact. At the top of list? Downplaying the role that slavery had in starting the Civil War, and instead focusing on “sectionalism” and “states’ rights,” even though the sectionalism and states’ rights arguments directly stemmed from Southern states wanting to keep slavery. There’s also a chance your kid might be misled to think post-Civil War racism was no big deal, as the standards excise any mention of the KKK, the phrase “Jim Crow” or the Black Codes. Mention is made of the Southern Democratic opposition to civil rights, but mysteriously, the mass defection of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party to punish the rest of the Democrats for supporting civil rights goes unmentioned.

Lie No. 2: Joe McCarthy was right.

The red-baiting of the mid-20th century has gone down in history, correctly, as a witch hunt that stemmed from irrational paranoia that gripped the U.S. after WWII. But now, according to the Thomas B. Fordham report, your kid might learn that the red baiters had a point: “It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee—and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets).” Critical lessons about being skeptical of those who attack fellow Americans while wrapping themselves in the flag will be lost for students whose textbooks adhere to these standards.

Lie No. 3: Climate change is a massive hoax scientists have perpetuated on the public.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been hard at work pushing for laws requiring that climate change denialism be taught in schools as a legitimate scientific theory. Unfortunately, as Neela Banerjee of the L.A. Times reports, they’ve already had some serious success: “Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change.” Other states are taking the “teach the controversy” strategy that helped get creationism into biology classrooms, asking teachers to treat climate change like it’s a matter of political debate instead of a scientifically established fact.

The reality is that climate change is a fact that has overwhelming scientific consensus. In 2004, Science reviewed the 928 relevant studies on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 and found that exactly zero of them denied that climate change was a reality, and most found it had man-made causes. To claim that climate change is a “controversy” requires one to believe that there’s a massive conspiracy involving nearly all the scientists in the world. So, your kids are not only not learning the realities of climate change, they are also learning, if indirectly, to give credence to conspiracy theory paranoia.

Lie No. 4: The Bible is a history textbook and a scientific document.

Texas passed a law in 2007 pushing schools to teach the Bible as history and literature in schools. Since that was already being done in most schools, the law was clearly just a backdoor way to sneak religious instruction into schools, and a report by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) demonstrates that many of them have taken full advantage. One district treats the Bible stories like history by “listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.” Many other schools are teaching that the Bible “proves” that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The Earth is actually over 4 billion years old.

Lie No. 5: Black people are the descendants of Ham and therefore cursed by God.

Among the courses justified by the 2007 Bible law, TFN found two school districts teaching that the various races are descended from the sons of Noah. All the Bible really says about the sons of Noah is that Ham was cursed by his father so that his descendants would be slaves, but American slave owners used this passage to claim that Africans must be the descendants of Ham and therefore their slave-owning was OK by God. Make no mistake. The only reason this legend has persisted and is popping up in 21st-century classrooms is that conservative Christians are still trying to justify the enslavement of African Americans over a century ago.

Lie No. 6: Evolution is a massive hoax scientists have perpetuated on the public.

Creationists have an endless store of creative ways to get around the Constitution and the courts when it comes to replacing legitimate biology education with fundamentalist Christian dogma. Various states have employed an extensive school voucher system that has allowed creationist dogma to flourish. College-age activist Zack Kopplin has been chronicling the problem, and has found various schools nationwide using taxpayer dollars to teach that evolution is a “mistaken belief” and that the Bible “refutes the man-made idea of evolution.” Why do these school administrators believe that scientists are hoaxing the public by making up evolution? Kopplin found a Louisiana school principal who claimed it’s because scientists are “sinful men” seeking to justify their own immorality, and another Florida school teaching that evolutionary theory is “the way of the heathen.”

Lie No. 7Sex is awful and filthy, and you should save it for someone you love.

While things are improving, even in notoriously fact-phobic states like Mississippi and Texas, “abstinence-only” education continues to persist in school districts across the nation. TFN found that nearly three-quarters of Texas high schools are still teaching abstinence-only, which is based on the fundamental and easily disproved lie that premarital sex is inherently dangerous to a person’s mental and physical health. On top of this, TFN found that many schools are still passing on inaccurate information on condoms and STI transmission, usually exaggerating the dangers in a futile bid to keep kids from having sex. Unfortunately, even Texas school districts that use curriculum that educates correctly on contraception use are still trying to spin abstinence-until-marriage as a desirable option for all students, even though premarital sex is near-universal in the real world.  Abstinence-only may be discredited with the voters, but sadly it’s still very normal in Texas, other red states, and even across the nation.

Lie No. 8: Dragons actually once existed. 

As much as “Game of Thrones” fans might wish otherwise, dragons are not real and have never existed. But as reported by Mother Jones, Louisiana’s notorious voucher school system has let some crazy nonsense fly in the classroom, including the claim that dragons used to roam the planet. A book being used in Louisiana classrooms titled ”Life Science” and published by Bob Jones University Press claims that “scientists” found “dinosaur skulls” that the book suggests are actually dragons. “The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke,” the book claims.

Lie No. 9: Gay people do not actually exist.

After being beat back by gay rights and sexual health advocates, Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature are once again trying to bring back the “don’t say gay bill.” The law would ban a teacher from admitting the existence of homosexuality to students prior to the 8th grade, even if the students ask them about it. Instead, the bill would require turning a student who confesses to being gay over to his parents, with the legislators clearly hoping that punishment will somehow make the kid not-gay. The entire bill rests on and promotes the premise that homosexuality isn’t a real sexual orientation, but just the result of mental illness or confusion, and if it’s enforced, that message will come across to the students.

Lie No. 10: Hippies were dirty, immoral Satan-worshippers.

In the 1960s, it was common for conservatives to try to discredit the left by stoking paranoia about hippie culture and denouncing the supposed evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Forty years have passed, but in Louisiana, some school administrators are apparently still afraid that possessing a Beatles record means a young person is on the verge of quitting bathing and taking up a lifestyle of taking LSD and worshiping Satan at psychedelic orgies.

A history textbook snagged from a Louisiana school funded by the voucher program tells students: “Many young people turned to drugs and immoral lifestyles and these youths became known as hippies. They went without bathing, wore dirty, ragged, unconventional clothing, and deliberately broke all codes of politeness or manners. Rock music played an important part in the hippie movement and had great influence over the hippies. Many of the rock musicians they followed belonged to Eastern religious cults or practiced Satan worship.” It’s unclear if the book also teaches that if you play a Queen record backward, you can hear Satan telling you to smoke pot, but that kind of critical information could also be conveyed during the teacher’s lectures on the subject.

Lie No. 11: Ayn Rand’s books have literary value.

Idaho state Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the state’s Senate Education Committee, has introduced a bill that would require students not only to read Rand’s ponderous novel “Atlas Shrugged,” but also to pass a test on it in order to graduate. Goedde claims to mostly not be serious about this bill, but instead is using it as a childish attempt to piss off the liberals, but it’s still the sort of item parents need to watch out for.

After all, Texas textbook standards require that an obsession with the gold standard be taught as a legitimate economic theory instead of the mad ravings of cranks that it is. We live in an era where no amount of right-wing lunacy is considered too much to be pushed on innocent children like it’s fact. Anyone who doubts that should just remember one word: dragons.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Richard Nixon Wanted a Handgun Ban


Previously unreported tapes of Richard Nixon reveal the president once called for a ban on handguns.
The Associated Press reports Nixon took a hard stand during an exchange on May 16, 1972, the day after an attempted assassination on George Wallace:
I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon said in a taped conversation with aides. “The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”
Nixon went on: “I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it.” But “people should not have handguns.”
Publicly, Nixon never called for this measure, though Nixon said he would sign a bill that banned on “Saturday Night Specials” — cheaply made and easily concealed guns. Beyond that Nixon took no further action, seemingly advised not to pursue the issue. At the time, Attorney General John Mitchell told Nixon, “the gun lobby’s against any incursion into the elimination of firearms.”

Pro-gun interests are only more powerful today through the National Rifle Association. Meanwhile, the debate on gun violence is a different conversation on what commonsense federal reforms could pass, such as a ban on assault weapons, large-capacity ammunition magazines, and universal background checks. Even if Nixon’s handgun ban were part of our political conversation today, it would not survive contact with the Roberts Court. Five justices held in District of Columbia v. Heller that handguns enjoy special constitutional status and cannot be banned in the home.

Nevertheless, one fact is unchanged 40 years since Nixon’s remarks: More guns increases the risk of violence and unintentional shootings.

Republicans, including Nixon and Ronald Reagan, have backed anti-gun violence measures, and yet President Obama’s commonsense, widely supported proposals have only met blanket resistance from the NRA.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Climate Heat Now Exceeds Most of Past 11,300 Years (via Environment News Service)

CORVALLIS, Oregon, March 8, 2013 (ENS) – The planet today is warmer than it has been during 70 to 80 percent of the last 11,300 years, finds a new study of ice and sediment cores from sites around the world. Results of the study, by researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard University, are…

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Arkansas Senate Advances Extreme Anti-Abortion Bill

An Arkansas Senate panel advanced one of the most restrictive anti-abortion proposal in the nation on Wednesday.

The bill would prohibit abortion after fetal heart tones can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy. The legislation contains exceptions in cases of rape, incest and if a mother’s life is in danger.

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee approved the bill by a voice vote. The legislation is currently sponsored by 19 of the 35 members in the Republican-dominated state Senate.
“This bill is bad for Arkansas women and their families,” said Murry Newbern of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “It is vital that a woman be able to make her own personal, private decisions about her health and medical care with the consultation of her doctor, her faith, and her family. The reality is each woman’s health care needs are different. That’s why it is important that abortion remains safe and legal for a woman in Arkansas if and when she needs it.

Newbern said the state would end up spending “millions of tax dollars in legal battles attempting to defend a bill that is unconstitutional.” In its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy until the fetus is viable outside the womb. A fetus is typically viable after 24-28 weeks.

Similar legislation has also been introduced in the North Dakota legislature.

Young Antonin Scalia was Fired by Kinko's for Insensitive Remarks

At the Supreme Court today, Justice Antonin Scalia told his fellow Justices how privileged he felt to serve on the highest court in the land, adding, “I can say stuff here that got me fired at Kinko’s.”
Responding to quizzical looks from his fellow Justices, Scalia related a little-known chapter from his career, when he briefly worked for the copying establishment in the mid-nineteen-seventies.

“They were pretty uptight,” he reminisced. “It seemed like every time I opened my mouth I got hauled into H.R.”

According to Justice Scalia, “The gal in Human Resources told me, ‘Nino, you can’t just go around insulting blacks and women and whatnot. There’s not a workplace in the country that will tolerate that.’ ”

“Well, guess what? She was right—until I got this job,” he chuckled.
But even as he expressed gratitude for the freedom to offend gays, minorities, and women in his current position, Mr. Scalia admitted, “It has basically spoiled me for life in the real world.”

“I’ll be at some ballgame shooting my mouth off, and suddenly I’m face down in the ground with someone’s foot up my ass,” he said. “And then I’ll have to remind myself, ‘Nino, if you’ve got something to say, save it for the Supreme Court.’ ”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Family of slain mayoral candidate: Marco McMillian’s Murder was a Hate Crime

The family of Marco McMillian has called on local authorities to investigate the gay, African American mayoral candidate’s death as a hate crime, but the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department “isn’t exploring that option,” according to spokesman Will Rooker.

McMillian was running for mayor of his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi when he went missing last week. His body was beaten, dragged and set on fire before being found by a levee, according to his family. “We feel that this was not a random act of violence, based on the condition of the body when it was found,” they said in a statement. “Marco, nor anyone, should have their lives end in this manner.”

Marco McMillian’s godfather, Carter Womack, also told NBC News that, before his death, McMillian “was very concerned about his safety; people had tried to talk him out of the race. The family feels this ought to be investigated a hate crime.”

Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith declined to comment on the family’s allegations that

McMillian was beaten and burned, but said that autopsy results are not expected to be released until toxicology tests are complete, which could take two or three weeks.

Local authorities have charged 22-year-old Lawrence Reed in connection with the murder.

McMillian, a former Alabama A&M University administrator, had recently moved back to his hometown of Clarksdale to run for mayor on the Democratic ticket.

According to the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports gay candidates, McMillian was one of the first viable openly gay candidates to run for office in Mississippi.

Fox News Could Be Facing Extinction as 29% of Their Younger Viewers Drop Fox

Younger television viewers continue to abandon Fox News in droves. In February, Fox is down another 29% with viewers age 25-54 in primetime.

While total viewership numbers remained flat for Fox News, their problem with younger viewers got worse in February. Compared to February 2012, Fox News has lost 29% of their age 25-54 viewers in primetime. Bill O’Reilly’s viewership is down 3% overall, and 29% with viewers age 25-54. Sean Hannity’s total viewership is down 11% in total, and 35% with viewers age 25-54. Greta Van Susteren’s total viewership is down 21%, and 32% with viewers age 25-54.

In comparison, MSNBC is down 3% total in primetime, and they are flat with viewers age 25-54. Ed Schultz is down 14% in total viewers, and 10% with viewers age 25-54. Rachel Maddow is down 6% in total viewers, and 5% with viewers age 25-54. Lawrence O’Donnell is down 7% in total viewers, and 12% with viewers age 25-54.

Fox News still continues to post wide overall viewership leads, but those numbers are deceiving. Senior citizens are powering Fox. The network has the oldest audience on all of television. The average age of a Fox News viewer is 66 years old and the decline in younger viewership is the biggest long term threat to the network’s survival.
Younger viewers who don’t watch Fox News are less likely to become older voters who do watch Fox News. February 2013 has been a down month across cable news compared to the same month in 2012, but MSNBC was able to keep their viewers age 25-54. The biggest age 25-54 viewership decline at MSNBC was Lawrence O’Donnell’s 12%. This is less than half of the smallest decline (O’Reilly’s 29%) on Fox. Younger people aren’t voting Republican and they aren’t watching Fox News.
In the long term Fox execs have to figure out some way to get non-senior citizens to watch or the network’s viewership will literally die off. Fox News either has to attract younger viewers, or hope that advancements in medical science push the average life expectancy to 90.
MSNBC is already the top rated cable news network with African Americans. As the demographics of America change, MSNBC is poised to grow.
It isn’t going to happen today or tomorrow, but Fox News could be facing extinction if they don’t stop the demographic bleeding.

Volkswagen XL1 Gets 261-MPG

 The production model of the XL1 made its official debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show today, with a fuel consumption of 0.9 liters per 100 km. According to the German automaker, the two-seater hybrid can be driven up to 31 miles in pure electric mode. It barely tips the scales at over 1,750 pounds and has a drag coefficient of just 0.189, and a low center of gravity.

The XL1 is powered by a 47-hp, two-cylinder turbo-diesel engine paired with a 27 hp (20 kW) electric motor. All the power is sent through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission and can accelerate to 62 mph in 12.7 seconds.

With a side-by-side seating position, this is not (we reapeat, NOT) a concept car. VW will make just 250 models with a price rumored to be close to $100,000.

Why the GOP Must Come to Terms with George W. Bush's Disastrous Presidency

It's still freezing in much of country, but it's springtime for Republican intellectuals.
With the Romney debacle behind them, a number of analysts have gone public with accounts of the party's failures and ambitious proposals for its reform. Over the last few weeks, Ross Douthat, Michael Gerson and Pete Wehner, Yuval Levin, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jim Pethothoukis, David Frum, and Tod Lindberg have all weighed in on where the GOP should go.

The proposals include promising ideas, such as emphasizing tax and regulatory simplification over income tax cuts, or moving away from hard-line positions on abortion and gay marriage. Nevertheless, these plans are a misleading point of departure for GOP renewal. That's because their authors remain in denial about the cause of Republicans' unpopularity: the catastrophic failure of the Bush presidency.

Start with foreign policy. From the 1960s until the 21st century, Republicans reliably enjoyed the trust of the public to manage America's foreign affairs and protect its national security. The attacks of September 11 gave George W. Bush the opportunity to build on that reputation. Instead, he squandered it by mismanaging the war in Afghanistan and plunging the nation into a disaster in Iraq.
Not every setback was Bush's fault. Nevertheless, the president bears more personal responsibility for foreign policy than any other issue. In most Americans' minds, then, Afghanistan and Iraq were Bush's wars. By the conventional logic of politics, that means that they are Republican wars, too.
Yet Republican reformers are reluctant to admit the obstacle that Bush's legacy poses to public confidence on foreign affairs. Although they acknowledge that the wars have been unpopular and expensive, they present these facts in the passive voice, as if the deaths of nearly 7,000 Americans were the result of weather or other uncontrollable forces. Here is how Gerson and Wehner describe the loss of the GOP's foreign policy advantage: "Nor has the decidedly mixed legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade worked to bolster the Republicans' electoral advantage in the conduct of foreign policy; if anything, the opposite is the case." Who do they think they're fooling?

Then there's the economy. The reformers write eloquently, and correctly, of the need for Republican responses to long-term problems of unemployment, wage stagnation, and rising health-care and education costs. As with foreign policy, however, they are reluctant to acknowledge that the Bush administration did little to reverse these trends, and in some ways exacerbated them. In an otherwise compelling critique of Republicans' fixation on marginal income tax rates, Ponnuru manages not to mention that the Bush administration regarded tax cuts as a signature achievement. Ordinary citizens have longer memories.

I emphasize foreign policy and the economy because these are areas of Bush's most dramatic failures. But Bush's record as an administrative centralizer and critic of Social Security also overshadows Republican efforts in education and entitlement reform. It's not good enough for Republicans to pledge that things will be different next time. To convince Americans that they're serious, reformers need to name names about the cause of the public's justifiable mistrust.

To be fair, the reformers are in a difficult position. They won't attract converts within the party if they mount a frontal assault on its idols. And they know that Bush and his policies remain popular both with Republicans in office and with many base voters.

What's more, several of the reformers have professional ties with the Bush administration. Frum, Gerson, and Wehner all worked as speechwriters in the White House. For them, rejection of the Bush legacy amounts to rejection of their own work. That's not easy for even the most rigorous thinker.
But the reformers' connections to the Bush administration reflect the GOP's larger problem: an institutional and intellectual elite dominated by alumni or associates of the Bush administration. As Robert Draper reported in The New York Times Magazine, the RNC committee established late last year to investigate the party's failings was staffed with the likes of Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary. Such a team is not very likely to ask tough questions — or to recognize unflattering answers. In addition to new policies, Republicans desperately need new personnel.

It takes a long time for political parties to recover from defeat. Since winning suggests that they're doing something right, it takes even longer to recover from victory. Because it reassured Republicans that aggressive war, fiscal policies that favor the rich, and the ideologically-inspired transformation of beloved domestic programs were fundamentally popular, the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 was like a drug that relieves symptoms without treating the underlying disease. Conservative intellectuals must help the GOP break its dependence on these dangerous nostrums — and its continuing allegiance to the doctor who prescribed them.