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The Supreme Court implicitly reaffirmed the right of government to regulate firearms. Thank goodness!

The Supreme Court implicitly reaffirmed the right of government to regulate firearms. Thank goodness!

The latest term of the United States Supreme Court delivered a mixed bag of decisions that, on the whole, should please conservatives even if appearances may be to the contrary. For example, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) won a temporary reprieve but only because of the typically sloppy way the Trump administration went about trying to end it. They will undoubtedly try again.

And whilst a Louisiana law that imposed a needless requirement for doctors at abortion clinics in the state to have admitting privileges at hospitals was set aside, this was primarily on the grounds that it was virtually identical to a Texas law that had been struck down just four years ago. Chief Justice Roberts only joined the more liberal justices because he felt bound by precedent but not before opening the door to future abortion restrictions, challenges to, which suggested, may be viewed more skeptically.

Finally, the very welcome news that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does prohibit LGBTQ employment discrimination may be undermined by the court’s fulsome embrace of religious rights that may override those of the LGBTQ community in where the two clash in the future.

However, somewhat overlooked this term was the court’s decision not to hear challenges by the gun rights crowd to a plethora of state and local firearms restrictions much to the chagrin it has to be said of its most conservative members. This is very good news indeed since it appears to reaffirm the majority’s view in a SCOTUS dominated by conservatives that the misguided decision in District of Columbia v Heller upholding the individual right to own a firearm nevertheless does not preclude reasonable regulation of that right by the government. The key here is clearly the Chief Justice and I can think of three reasons why he has sided with the liberals/moderates on this issue.

First, Roberts is no doubt mindful of Heller’s assertion that the decision did not mean that the regulation of gun rights was foreclosed. Casting doubt on that element of Heller would serve to undermine the entire decision and make it appear as a meaningless, not to mention dishonest, gesture to those concerned about gun violence. Second, to go further than Heller itself and eviscerate the ability of federal, state and local governments to regulate firearms would simply invite a future more moderate court (and, yes, that day will come) to revisit Heller as a whole, thus undoing one of the Roberts’ court’s landmark decisions. By refusing to go to the extreme, Roberts may protect Heller and his legacy.

Finally, whilst his most conservative brethren are likely driven by ideology to the exclusion of common sense, I doubt that Roberts wishes his legacy to add substantially to the carnage of gun violence in a nation already plagued with far more than any other advanced society.

Whatever his reasons Roberts in this case has done an enormous service to the country by ameliorating the otherwise pernicious effects of Heller.

Mitt Romney’s Campaign: Dishonest and Insulting

Mitt Romney’s Campaign: Dishonest and Insulting

There are plenty of positive reasons for re-electing President Barack Obama next Tuesday week and these have been described eloquently elsewhere. For some of the best and most thoughtful, see Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post and recent editorial endorsements from the Post and The New York Times. For the most thoughtful analysis also check out the latest edition of the The New Yorker magazine.

To summarize, Obama inherited a gigantic financial collapse from his predecessor that threatened an economic collapse of Great Depression proportions, and a country whose standing in the world had greatly diminished in the wake of the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the torturing and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists in Guantánamo and secret CIA prisons.

After four years, America’s standing is largely restored (Guantánamo, alas, remains in operation but the US now follows international law in the treatment of detainees) and the economy is slowly growing thanks largely to a highly effective stimulus package, that placed a floor under its precipitous descent, and well-managed automobile and banking industry bailouts; this, despite strong headwinds from poorly performing economies in Europe and elsewhere.

Yet even if the positive case for Obama failed to convince a wavering voter, the nature of his opponent should make this election a no-brainer.

Mitt Romney has lied and flip-flopped his way through this campaign in a manner that is both unprecedented and breathtaking. For Romney, truth and principle have been about as welcome as ex-girlfriends with halitosis in his efforts to win the presidency and tick off that final box on his career to-do list.

This political chameleon has morphed from a 1990’s moderate who supported a woman’s choice on abortion, who believed in an individual mandate for his state’s Obamacare-like health insurance reform law, who understood that relying on emergency rooms as a substitute for health insurance made no sense, who had progressive views on immigration, gun control and Lord knows what else, into a “severe conservative” who would take women’s health choices away from them, including the right to decide whether to have an abortion, who has become the NRA’s best pal, who will undo a national health insurance reform law modeled on his own in Massachusetts, and who will slash government programs for the neediest Americans so that those in his own class cannot only continue to enjoy their low tax rates but see them lowered still more; a man who will shred the social safety net while spending badly needed dollars on ships the navy doesn’t want or need. Oh and maybe start a war with Iran under prodding from his good buddy, Bibi Netanyahu.

He has been utterly dishonest about President Obama and his own plans. Treating fact-checkers as a sort of white background noise, Romney repeatedly tells whoppers such as Obama’s imaginary “apology tour” around the world or about the stimulus that made the economy worse when independent and authoritative analyses have effectively debunked both claims. He parrots the ideology of the most extreme adherents of what has become an extremist GOP which has no commonality with or similarity to any conservative party in the industrialized world.

The most shocking aspect of all this is how incredibly insulting it is to the American electorate. Some of his contempt was captured in his unguarded comments before a group of wealthy donors in the now famous video in which he dismisses 47% of voters as losers and freeloaders. But beyond dividing the country into strivers and whiners, Romney is also saying without actually voicing the words: I know I can tell lies about my opponent and you people will have no clue; I know I can promise to cut taxes across the board, raise spending on defense and reduce the deficit simultaneously and you idiots won’t realize that the math makes it impossible without eviscerating every other government program you can think of. And I can promise the moon without giving a single useful detail about any of it and you bozos will still elect me president.

I guess a week from Tuesday we’ll see if he’s right.

Todd Akin says women who are legitimately raped can shut down unwanted sperm in their vaginas

Todd Akin says women who are legitimately raped can shut down unwanted sperm in their vaginas

Last week’s news cycle opened with two stories involving Republican congressmen. One: Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KA) was reported to have gone skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee while on a private fact-finding tour sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation. And two: Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), who is challenging Claire McCaskill for a Missouri senate seat, had this to say during a St. Louis Sunday morning TV talk show in response to a question about whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The Yoder story is one that the media usually loves to run with because it involves a nude public figure and, had there been photos of Yoder skinny dipping (like there are of Prince Harry’s strip-pool game in Las Vegas), it would have been a bigger story. But it turned out to be not too much of a story because the media focused in on Akin’s remarkably ignorant, incredibly offensive, and sure to be the number-one most stupid statement uttered by a politician this year.

What kind of ignoramus thinks that women have some sort of built-in force field that repels the sperm of “legitimate” rapists? Oh I know, the kind of ignoramus that sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

And how stupid can someone running for office be to alienate half of his potential voters by suggesting there is “legitimate” rape which implies there must also be rape that is not legitimate. What’s that? The oh-she-brought-it-on-herself kind of rape?

Whether a rape is legitimate or not doesn’t matter to Akin because he is against abortion for any reason, including pregnancies that result from any kind of rape. He thinks it’s a crime for a woman to take a morning-after pill to prevent her from having a rape baby she definitely does not want.

Akin is an Evangelical Christian and he, like most Evangelicals, believes that life begins at conception, so taking a pill that separates a human blastocyst from a uterus is murder. Evangelicals also believe in angels, demons, and divine intervention, so I would guess that Akin felt blessed by God each time his wife became pregnant with their six children. He would of course not think of his own seed as Demon seed, but what would he think of the seed of an assailant that forcibly raped and impregnated his wife? Would he think that because she didn’t “shut it down” that she wanted to get pregnant? Would he think the seed was blessed by God or would he think it was an evil intrusion inflicted on his wife by Satan? If he were to regard her pregnancy as evil, then why not cast the demon out?

Those are all questions that, based on Akin’s moronic comment, I am quite sure he has never even considered.

The Loony Republican Party

The Loony Republican Party

If you think it’s just liberals who think the Republican Party has gone over the edge just check The Washington Post opinion page where Fred Hiatt, the right-of-center editorial page editor, joins the growing ranks of those in the middle of the ideological spectrum ridiculing the increasingly nutty pronouncements coming from the GOP presidential candidates.  

It really is difficult to believe that there is actually anyone out there who would vote for any of these clowns for president. Yet the reality is that their race to prove who can make the stupidest and most outrageous statement about the economy, or Iran, or President Obama, or just about anything else, is driven by a GOP base that is no longer capable of seeing reason – so blinded are they by their ideological prejudices. And it’s not just Mitt, Newt, Rick and Ron.

We’ve all had a fun week watching GOP Governor McDonnell of Virginia backpedaling furiously from his previous pledge to sign a bill enthusiastically passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would mandate an ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion.  The legislation required that certain details regarding the fetus be determined which, in the case of first trimester pregnancies, would necessitate a vaginal probe being inserted. Since most abortions are performed in the first trimester of a pregnancy, that would constitute the majority of women wanting abortions in Virginia.

The legislation passed even though information on the invasive procedure was already circulating as the bill was voted on. In other words, Republicans who rail non-stop about government intrusion and interference in our lives were voting for a bill that would require a vaginal wand be inserted in a woman as a condition of her obtaining an abortion. Oh, and to add insult to injury, she’d have to pay for it!

After a week of being lampooned on Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central and attracting the unwelcome attention of the mainstream media, McDonnell and the bill’s GOP authors backed off to regroup. It didn’t take long for the Virginia House to redraft the bill deleting the probe-in-the-vagina requirement; nice of them. However, what’s left is still noxious. Women in Virginia will still have to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination which they must pay for and then wait 24 hours before going through with the abortion. By any reasonable standard it’s an unconscionable government intrusion into what should be a private matter for any woman.  

Maybe we should give Virginia’s GOP politicians some credit for rethinking dumb ideas, however. They’ve shelved, at least for this session, a bill that would define life as beginning at conception. If that isn’t a can of worms, I don’t know what is – but it says so much about Virginia’s GOP legislators that even the voters of Mississippi, the most conservative state in the country, rejected the notion by a sizeable majority. 

In fact the GOP seems to have adopted an unconventional strategy for winning this year’s election: attack women’s rights. 

In a year when most Americans are concerned primarily with the economy, Republicans have targeted not only abortion rights – almost a given these days – but even guaranteed access to contraception is in the crosshairs, as we saw in the recent clash between the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the Catholic Bishops. The Republicans, who hate the ACA anyway, were only too happy to join the bishops in opposing the inclusion of contraception coverage for all but strictly religious institutions. And we’re not just talking about Brother Santorum here, whose vision for America appears to look like something out of The Handmaiden’s Tale. No, we’re talking about virtually every GOP pol and right-wing pundit who voiced an opinion.

Behind all of this is a Republican base that is so extreme that GOP presidential hopefuls are reduced to vying with each other to make the most outlandish accusation, allegation or characterization levied at President Obama. Even the guy in the field who still seems to have a limited grip on reality, Mitt Romney, has been telling whoppers from the get-go, such as the falsehood that Obama went around the world apologizing for America.

The rest of us, though, can be grateful for one thing. The GOP base is driving their presidential candidates and legislators so far to the right that, with any luck, come November they’ll go over an electoral cliff.

Did Richard Nixon Approve of Abortion?

Did Richard Nixon Approve of Abortion?

In some cases, yes:

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white – or a rape.”  Richard Nixon, January 1973.

Right… Rape comes in second to a baby conceived by the interracial union of a black and white couple.  You know… like the union that begat Barack Obama.

See?  In some circumstances, even Republicans can support abortion.

Read about the newly released Nixon tapes in The New York Times.

Michael Steele on Roe v. Wade and Homosexuality

Michael Steele on Roe v. Wade and Homosexuality

How did this guy become chairman of the Repbublican National Committee?

Yes Michael Steele did kiss Rush’s fat ass last week, but he seems to have gone off the rails again in a recent interview for GQ.  The New York Times reports:

On abortion, Mr. Steele said that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided” and that states should decide the issue. But he also said that the issue was one of “individual choice” and that women had the right to choose abortion. (The R.N.C.’s platform states the party’s opposition to abortion rights.)

Asked whether homosexuality is a choice, Mr. Steele responded no. “I think that there’s a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay,’” Mr. Steele said. “It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.’”

Both of those statements sound perfectly reasonable and therefore very “un-Republican.” 

As you would guess, conservative leaders were outraged:

…including former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who said Mr. Steele’s remarks could cause the Republican Party “to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grass-roots politics.”

Well that would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

more…

“For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it’s a violation of the most basic of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Mr. Huckabee said. “His statement today helps but doesn’t explain why he would ever say what he did in the first place.”

Look for Mr. Steele to be kissing Mike Huckabee’s ass later this week.