Archive for February 24th, 2012
Republicans are anti-women, anti-sex, and anti-contraception. And they proved it again in Utah, where the GOP dominated legislature passed a bill which would effectively ban schools from teaching contraception and birth control in sex education courses.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune:
“The House passed HB363 by a 45-28 vote after a late-afternoon debate that centered largely on lawmakers’ differing definitions of morality,” and will “prohibit schools that continue to teach sex education from instructing students in “the use of contraceptive methods or devices.””
Utah already prohibits schools from encouraging the use of contraceptives to promote safe sex. Schools are only allowed to “choose whether to simply stress abstinence or teach abstinence-only.”
The sponsor of HB 363, Republican Rep. Bill Wright says “We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest. Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”
You know what’s really “intellectually dishonest” and “devastating”? Lying to teenagers about sex. Abstinence-only programs do NOT work. A new study shows that only teaching abstinence does nothing to reduce teen pregnancy and sexual activity. It just doesn’t work. Republicans are specifically ordering schools to withhold information about contraception methods from students. This information is crucial to reducing teen pregnancy and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Bill Wright is also being dishonest about sex. People can have safe, enjoyable, and fulfilling sexual relationships without getting married. Sex is part of life and it’s healthy too. Besides, teens are going to do what they want to do. We might as well encourage that they at least be safe when they do it.
Republicans are once again waging war against contraception and are trying to push religion on students. Bill Wright specifically stated that we must teach students that “sex outside of marriage is devastating.” This is a Biblical viewpoint that has no support in civil law because no religion in this country can force people to obey religious doctrine. It’s unconstitutional because forcing people to only have sex during marriage because of a religious view is not only a violation of privacy, it’s akin to forcing people to obey Sharia Law. It’s a violation of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. It’s also highly hypocritical since many Republicans have been caught cheating on their wives which fits the definition of sex outside of marriage.
Teaching abstinence and discouraging pre-marital sex didn’t stop Bristol Palin, it won’t stop other teens. It didn’t stop Newt Gingrich either. Yet both of them are held in high regard in conservative circles. As usual, the rules don’t apply to Republicans but the rest of us don’t get a free pass.
© 2012, agentleman.
6 Pathetic Right-Wing Attempts to Defend the Indefensible Citizens United (Debunked)
Imagine this: in a week when the latest presidential campaign finance reports reveal a growing list of million-dollar donors to super PACs, right-wing bloggers and Republican lawyers are defending the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United decisions as maligned by media and of course, liberals.
The apologists are saying there’s nothing corrupt going on; it wasn’t caused by Citizen United anyway; it’s people not corporations writing the checks; it’s only free speech; it’s always been done; and it’s good for democracy.
Let’s unmask these silly assertions one by one. It might come as a shock to the right, but Americans who care about democracy can see through their charade.
1. Denying corruption.
Does anybody seriously think that any of these donors, who are some of the most accomplished businessmen in America, are just handing over millions as if they were giving a dollar to a homeless person and walking away? Or might they be investing in something, as, say, political venture capitalists?
Don’t even answer that, but go to the next assertion by the defenders of these super-citizens: that their donations are being given to groups that have no relationship whatsoever to the candidate’s official campaigns. It’s simply a coincidence, nothing more, that super PACs are doing the mudslinging for specific candidates—while official campaign ads are pure as snow.
Nope, Newt Gingrich does not owe anything to casino owner Sheldon Adelson, whose family’s $10 million gift to a pro-Newt super PAC that has kept Gingrich’s campaign alive. And when they met in Las Vegas this month, you can be sure that Newt felt no pressure nor did he talk about the campaign. Neither does Rick Santorum owe anything to William Dore or Foster Friess for their big checks to another ‘independent’ and miraculously sympathetic super PAC.
Prove there is quid pro quo corruption going on here, responds James Bopp, the GOP’s attorney behind the Citizens United case. Where’s the evidence, he asks on online forums. Surely Bopp is correct: the founders wanted to create a system dominated by patrons who would have enjoyed golf with King George III (if he were alive today) and feel no fealty.
Seriously, even the New York Times has reported that Adelson seems to be playing Gingrich and Romney’s support of Israel against each other, to ensure that whoever gets the GOP nomination will take a hard line, including the possibility of a military strike against Iran. That is what he is buying.
And to summarily dismiss pesky polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of the ruling and are losing confidence in the electoral process could not be more off base.
2. Shifting the blame from Citizens United.
It is true that the Supreme Court has deregulated campaign finance laws since the mid-1970s—a trend that transcends single decisions. But Citizens United was special, and did many things including watering down the legal definition of what constitutes corruption—saying it’s not anything that might ingratiate a candidate or officeholder. Nice, eh?
Justice John Paul Stevens, in his Citizens United dissent, called the majority’s view of corruption “crabbed,” meaning excessively narrow, and pointed to the congressional record behind a 2002 ban on soft money (an earlier big money loophole) that discussed interlacing activities that looked like corruption to the Court, when it upheld that ban. But who has time to read 100,000 pages?
The biggest claim by right-wingers such as Mediaite’s Dan Abrams is that Citizens United did not lead to today’s explosion in super PAC activity, and it is “shameful, inexcusable and distorted” for the media to say so. “This argument is wrong,” countered Fred Wertheimer, one of Washington’s most respected campaign finance reform advocates, writing this week. “A little history is in order.”
The apologists say it wasn’t Citizens United, but technically, a lesser-known case that followed, SpeechNow v. FEC, that lifted the $2,500 per-person contribution limit to PACs in the primary (Adelson’s donations were 4,000 times that limit; Harold Simmons and Contran Corp were 5,640 times that limit. Adelson told Forbes this week he might give $100 million to help Newt.)
It’s tough, but sometimes you have to do what Wertheimer did—read the actual ruling and cite it. Here it is, with the key words italicized by Wertheimer:
In the operative sentence of the SpeechNow decision, Judge David Sentelle writing for the full D.C Circuit Court of Appeals stated:
Thereafter, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010), which resolves this appeal. In accordance with that decision, we hold that the contribution limits of 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(C) and 441a(a)(3) are unconstitutional as applied to individuals’ contributions to SpeechNow. (Emphasis added).
So, uh, yeah, Citizens United lit the fuse behind the super PAC explosion.
3. Saying people, not corporations, are writing checks.
Once again, if you put on the blinders, that narrowly can be said for donations to super PACs. Indeed, most of the million-dollar or more contributions have been made by corporate executives as individuals, not by their corporate treasuries. But who says super PACs are the only game in town? They are not.
The other legal entity that is collecting really big money—to be spent exactly the same way as the super PACs are helping the GOP’s presidential contenders—are political non-profits, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which has set a 2012 fundraising goal of $300 million and does not have to disclose donors. Seven Democratic senators wrote to the IRS this week urging it to investigate whether “social welfare” groups were engaging in potentially illegal activity. (Prediction: the IRS will say yes, but only after the 2012 election is over.)
The federal judiciary’s deregulation of political contributions to groups making anything but independent expenditures does not end with super PACs. It makes sense that individuals with feelings for a candidate would donate to a super PAC supporting them in the race’s early phase, whereas corporations would wait to donate to a non-profit (whether Rove’s GPS or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) after the GOP nominee is chosen and without revealing their identity.
4. Hiding behind free speech.
As the Republican National Lawyers Association blog said this week, quoting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent speech to South Carolina’s Bar, “I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier… People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they will shut it off.”
Moreover, other defenders of this view such as the ACLU’s national board say what’s the big deal—the wealthy are paying for democracy; better them than you or me, right? And plenty of money is being thrown around by Ds and Rs, canceling any side’s advantage.
There are many problems with that thinking. The first is that it still gives outsized influence in the electoral process to the richest people and institutions. Anyone who has seen a reality TV show may have noticed that the richest Americans don’t exactly have the same “issues” as the rest of the country.
Second, when a few loud perspectives dominate the airways and debate, it eclipses the voices of people of lesser means and discourages their participation and confidence in the process. As such, wealth-driven political speech isn’t free. It’s very expensive. And the costs are not just monetary, but measured in the public’s eroding trust in representative government and the elections.
5. ‘It’s always been done.’
Anybody who follows money in politics knows that every campaign surfaces new ways to get around the legal limits that are intended to keep elections free from corruption and encourage debate. However, as Democracy 21’s Wertheimer again notes, “The argument is wrong.”
This year is not like past elections. In 2004, millions were given to the Swift Boat PAC attacking John Kerry and financier George Soros also gave millions to two pro-Kerry PACs. However, both were illegal and Wertheimer said that all these “PACs paid substantial fines to the FEC [Federal Election Commission].”
“If these PACs had properly complied in 2004 with existing campaign finance laws, the contributions from individuals to the Swift Boat PAC and to the two pro-Democratic PACs would have been limited to $5,000 per donor per year,” he wrote. “The bottom line is this: the ability of corporations, labor unions and individuals to give unlimited contributions to super PACs making independent expenditures to influence federal elections flows directly from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.”
6. The absurd claim that it’s good for democracy.
Anyone who has read this commentary can draw his or her own conclusions.
What’s clear is that the Supreme Court has unleashed a new campaign finance regime, with Citizens United being its signature ruling. That the mainstream media or others do not cite the follow-up ruling, SpeechNow, does not change their fundamental critique or analysis.
There are as many serious constitutional reasons for imposing limits on what is spent in campaigns as there are for taking a less restrictive approach. However, whether 2012’s spending is by wealthy individuals in super PACs or wealthy corporations in non-profits is another distinction without much difference.
The point is the 2012 presidential campaign—and this will be true in races for Congress and other competitive contests, including electing judges—has been marked by enormous loopholes and ways for the wealthy to spend political money with impunity and in some cases anonymously.
The remedy is not necessarily censoring the wealthiest people and institutions, but balancing their participation with Americans of more modest means. Whether that comes from constitutional amendment campaigns, appointment of the next Supreme Court justice to rebalance the Court, or a revitalized Congress that is not afraid to legislate and challenge the Supreme Court remains to be seen.
In early 2012, super-donor and super-PAC spending is what our democracy looks like. But that is not what it is supposed to look like.
Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to
© 2012, agentleman.
This past weekend was a very difficult time for so many of us.
Though I never knew Whitney Houston, I felt a profound sense of loss and sadness. On Sunday morning I took my dog for a walk in the park across the street and still could not shake the sadness I felt. I wondered if what I was feeling was perhaps related to losing my mother and brother this past year, but then I thought no, it was something else.
I watched the funeral service with the rest of the world, and cried time and time again with each story that was told. I felt like I knew more about this amazing woman than ever before. We all watched her as a little girl, center stage, singing like a bird, she was destined for superstardom. To watch her center stage full circle in death was a feeling no mother should ever have to feel. I applaud Ms. Warwick, the pastor, and all others who formed a police line of love and protection around her that was impenetrable only to those who really knew her. We, the public accepted their decision to keep it private, but they allowed us to witness her Home Going ceremony, I don’t know if I could have been so gracious. WE felt like we knew her and we knew nothing about her except what we read and hear from people like you and other media outlets. I listened to her interview with you and was compelled to say out loud. “Go on Whitney tell her like it is,” when you pried into her life back then. I had my son in the same year as Ms. Houston; we did Ebony Magazine that same year, she introducing her baby girl and me my son. I am trying to be dignified, but here goes.
The Internet has become somewhat like the 10 commandments, and this is why… whatever is posted or commented on… is forever written in stone. Neither I nor anybody can stop anyone from making up stories, reviews, lies etc, cutting and pasting whatever they decide to put together like a bad buffet breakfast.
I have had some horrible meals shoved down my throat on the web that I had no parts of. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from a recent cut and paste meal from your beloved TMZ (THE MUDSLINGING ZONE). I believe you said once “If you heard it on TMZ then it must be true,” really Wendy?
The Internet is indeed the information highway, but it can also be “a Forum of Hate.” You said that morning with tears in your eyes, that you would not discuss Whitney any further, but you crucified her the whole time she was alive, as you do so many people on your show. I want to ask you why? What do you get out of this besides money?
How do you sleep at night knowing that you are one of the biggest bullies in the world disguised as HOT TOPICS? Celebrities are not topics we are people, just like everyone else, we hurt and we hear and we bleed real blood, not fake blood, just as you do.
How do we as parents teach our children to honor each other, treat each other with kindness when all they see are images of people like you who condone and promote meanness, rude reality TV stars, and your opinion as you berate world renowned people like Janet Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and others you slam on a daily basis.
I keep asking myself why no one is saying anything about this. What the hell are they afraid of? Where are my sisters out there who feel as I do?
Well Wendy, I try to teach my son to stand up, shout, and scream when there is injustice. Yeah yeah, I know, I have been screaming for years and will continue to do so as long as there are images that depict black women as neck shaking, over bearing women who can’t get along.
A sister, a mother, a daughter, a star, left this world way too early; she was loved by the world. The world mourned, I don’t think that we needed you to try and take down another brilliant sister on that following Monday morning. (Your rude comments about Janet Jackson)
You started right back up without hesitation or pause… you need to stop Wendy. We need to stop, and the world needs to stop. I need to stop as well. There will be no more quotes from me to be misquoted. We need to join together, wrap our arms around our children, everybody’s children. Remember you have a child who will suffer every slingshot and arrow that gets thrown back at you Wendy; our public lives greatly affect our children.
I know I am going to suffer some arrows for writing this letter to you, I know you are loved by many, but remember this Wendy; they love you when you are up and they love to take you down. You will not always be up, you will not always be on the A list and attend all the parties. Ride the wave sister girl, but make sure you know how to swim when the ride is over. Artists are survivors, we work hard to build our crafts and careers and I ask that you simply remember that in the future.
I’m just sayin’ it like l mean it too.
© 2012, agentleman.