Friday, April 18, 2014

No Way Out

The Republicans were counting on Obamacare being unpopular as their way to winning the mid-term elections and possibly even the 2016 presidential race.  But if the experience of Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) is any guide, that plan may very well blow up in their faces.

A Florida voter had harsh words for Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) at a town hall Tuesday, admonishing the congressman for his repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare and its bevy of benefits. Ross conceded that his party should have worked to offer an alternative health reform policy to preserve benefits for newly insured Americans.

Noting that Ross and the Republican Party have now voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, the constituent took the Florida GOPer to task. “Why do you think it is so good to deny seniors on Part D to make them pay more, about $4,000 more for medicine, and people with pre-existing conditions get denied insurance, have 26-year-olds have a harder time getting insurance because they can’t get on their parents’?” the voter asked. “Why do you think those are good ideas?”

Despite voting to roll back such protections, Ross said he doesn’t actually think doing so is a good idea. He went on to chastise his own party for not offering any replacement health care bill. “I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care,” Ross said, calling the move “absurd.”

This is what happens when you let the clowns drive the car.  The GOP did nothing but call for repeal of the bill and had nothing to replace it with.  Now they’re stuck with being on the wrong side of both history and an increasing number of people who are finding out that the law is working and that they like it.

Mr. Ross is in the middle: he can’t run away from his party’s record of voting against the bill originally and the fifty times after to repeal it, nor can he switch sides because he’ll most certainly get a primary challenger from the Tea Party if he ever says anything nice about the Kenyan secret Muslim.

Close To Home

Charles Cooper, the attorney who defended California’s Prop 8 before the Supreme Court, is coming around on the issue of marriage equality.

Cooper learned that his stepdaughter Ashley was gay as the Proposition 8 case wound its way through appellate court, according to a forthcoming book about the lengthy legal battle. And with the Supreme Court ruling now behind him, Cooper cast his personal opinion on gay marriage as an evolving process.

“My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago,” Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker’s book “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.”

[...]

In June, Cooper’s daughter plans to marry her partner in Massachusetts, one of 17 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal. In a statement to The Associated Press, Cooper said his family “is typical of families all across America.”

“My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks,” he said.

Mr. Cooper isn’t the only one who is finding out that being against something like marriage equality in the abstract changes when they find out that it touches someone they care about.  It’s one reason — of many — why polls have shown such a rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage over such a short period of time: people who were opposed to it are finding out that there are gay people next door, at the next desk, or across the table at a family gathering.  For most of them, it makes it hard to demonize someone you know.

There are exceptions, of course; Phyllis Schlafly, the perpetual right-wing scold, has a gay son but that hasn’t stopped her from being cruel and unusual about her hatred for the LGBT community.  I’ll bet she doesn’t believe in any form of evolution.

At any rate, I’m glad to see Mr. Cooper figure out that marriage equality is a good thing.  It’s too bad that it took having it be through a personal epiphany rather than a sense of fairness for all of us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fox Fire

Rachel Maddow looked into the hoopla being ginned up by the right-wing noise machine — mainly Fox News — over the standoff in Nevada between Cliven Bundy, a deadbeat rancher, and the Bureau of Land Management.

The folks at Fox are harking back to Waco and Ruby Ridge as if the people who started the fights were the poor put-upon victims of the jackbooted thugs of the government when in reality they were criminals and worse.

Here’s the story from The Rachel Maddow Show — note, the video auto-starts.

These cowards in Nevada — they threatened to use women as human shields — are little more than disgruntled whiners who, as has been noted, are ripping off the taxpayers because they don’t want to pay their rent.  So they’ve come up with this cockamamie crap about “sovereign citizenship” based on the same perverted reading of the Constitution that also gives us the interpretation that we’re a Christian nation founded on biblical law and only white Christians and county sheriffs should run the country.  (Mr. Bundy would do well to re-read the U.S. Constitution as well as the constitution of his own state.)

They’re not a whole lot different than the Taliban, and Fox News is enabling them because there’s a black guy in the White House.  If you don’t think racial animus plays a part in this, imagine if Mr. Bundy was black, Hispanic, or Muslim and taking the same stand.  Fox News would be all over the ATF to get those tax-dodging moochers out of there and complaining that the Obama administration is backing down because the president supports their cause.

If You Can’t Take The Heat

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez went ballistic after Mother Jones published a cover story on her, her aspirations, and the people who work with her, including some rather colorful language about opponents.

In an email blast to supporters, Martinez attacked the messenger, calling Mother Jones a “tabloid” and “one of the most radically liberal publications in the country.” Martinez accused Mother Jones of “peddling false, personal attacks against me, using stolen audiotapes from our debate prep sessions four years ago.” She claimed that “this shows just how far the Left is willing to go to stop reforms in New Mexico.” In the email, Martinez does admit to calling 2010 Democratic opponent Diane Denish ”the B-word,” adding, “I admit it—I’ve had to fund the cuss jar a few times in my life.” Her email ends with a plea for a campaign contribution.

Her email neglects to address several parts of the story, such as the reports that Martinez’s top adviser, Jay McCleskey, wrote “I HATE THAT FUCKING BITCH!” about a fellow GOP pol, and that a former Martinez adviser mocked New Mexico political icon Ben Luján for his English-speaking abilities, saying he “sounds like a retard.”

Martinez’s campaign has also created a petition describing Mother Jones as “the far-left’s premier magazine” and calls the story “one of the most desperate and despicable attacks to date.” The Martinez campaign’s message goes on to ask supporters to sign a petition ostensibly to “show the D.C. liberal media that their desperate attacks have no place in our state.”

Mother Jones should send Ms. Martinez candy and a dozen roses for the bump in subscriptions and on-line traffic.  It never would have happened without her help.

Personhood

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post noted the other day that “personhood” — the idea that a fertilized human egg has all the rights of a fully-born person — is making a comeback in several Senate races.

This has already appeared in the Colorado Senate race, but it will likely become an issue in other races, too. In Colorado, the Republican candidate, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, renounced his previous support for Personhood after entering the contest, admitting it would “restrict contraception,” but Dems seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner only supports protecting women’s health when politically necessary.

Gardner co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act,” which provides for Constitutional protection of the right to life of each “preborn human person,” defined as existing from the “moment of fertilization.” The Pro-Life Alliance describes this as a “Personhood” measure.

Other GOP Senate candidates are on record in similar fashion. Co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act include Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, both expected general election candidates. Meanwhile, according to McClatchy, three leading GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina — Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon, and Mark Harris — all favor a “Personhood” constitutional amendment that would “grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.”

Leaving aside the sketchy science that goes along with the idea — after all, scientific facts in the debates such as climate change or teaching “creationism” in schools never matter — the idea behind personhood is control; mainly control of women and their bodies.  From the moment of conception, which, by the way, is very hard to pinpoint — it’s not like a bell rings when it happens — a second person is inhabiting her body and she cannot do anything about it other than host it.

Personhood has been on the ballot before.  It’s lost in places like Colorado and even in Mississippi where abortion is being legislated out of existence with the same legerdemain the states used to prevent integration when that was fashionable.  (Still is in some places.)  But like every perverse trend the control freaks come up with and seems like a lost cause, they have a way of coming back from another direction.  Zealots never give up.

First Drive

To commemorate the 50th anniversary today of the introduction of the Ford Mustang, I thought I’d share with you a little bit from the epic novel-in-progress Bobby Cramer.

In a previous post I told you how he got his father’s 1966 Mustang GT convertible as a graduation present.  Now he’s taking it out for its first drive.

021

The scene is Perrysburg, Ohio.  The time is May 1980.  Bobby is 18.

He only stalled the car once while turning around in the parking area in front of the house.  He looked to see if his father was still watching, but he’d already gone back into the house.  He slowly went up the driveway and made it out onto River Road without another stall.

The Mustang felt nothing like driving the Cadillac.  The growl of the engine and the whistle of the wind through the car made it feel like he was actually driving instead of floating on a cloud.  He turned on the radio, found a rock station, and cranked it up.

He heard the rustle of paper from the back seat and glanced back to see a white envelope fluttering around.  He reached back, grabbed it, and stuffed it under his leg.  When he got to the stoplight on West Boundary Street, he pulled it out.  It was addressed to “Mustang Bobby.”  He chuckled and stuffed it in his back pocket.

He pulled into the Marathon station on the corner of Indiana Avenue and Elm Street.  Filling the tank took cost almost fifteen dollars and Bobby wondered what the gas mileage was on a car like his.

At the next pump, a middle-aged woman was filling her Pontiac Le Mans.  It was red with a black vinyl top.  The lady smiled at Bobby and said, “That’s a beautiful car.”  Bobby grinned.  “Thanks!”

He drove out Louisiana Avenue, across the I-75 overpass, and out into the country.  He was now on McCutcheonville Road and it led straight southeast as if it had been drawn by a huge ruler, past fields and houses, the wind carrying the scent of fresh earth, cut grass, and the occasional whiff of exhaust from the tractors chugging through the rows.  Corn had been planted in a lot of the fields and the green stalks were already up in their rows that flashed by with dizzying precision.

There was very little traffic, and when the road was clear and he was sure there were no Wood County sheriffs cars to be seen, he pressed the accelerator, moving the needle past 55, then 65, then 75 before letting up and coasting back to the limit.  The car felt solid, handling the bumps in the pavement with ease.

The Road to the Quarry 09-24-11He drove ten miles, turning west on Sugar Ridge Road, then proceeded at a leisurely pace to the tiny town of Sugar Ridge, passing a tractor towing a hay wagon, waving at the teenager standing on the wagon.  Bobby caught a glimpse of the boy in t-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, and remembered the kid he’d seen last Christmas selling Christmas trees in the parking lot.  The boy waved back.

He made his way along the back roads, cutting back west until he came out to Haskins Road, which he knew led back home, and less than an hour after he left he parked the Mustang in the driveway in front of the house.

He read Jill’s letter sitting on the porch.  Her handwriting was firm but graceful on the lined notebook paper, and she started out right away.

Mustang Bobby –

 If you’re reading this for the first time, you’ve probably already taken the Mustang out for a joyride and cruised through your burg like the total badass I know you’re not.  I hope you had a good time anyway.

Damn if I don’t miss you already.  The place isn’t the same without you and G hanging out here and lowering the class rating on Sully’s by a notch.  Josh is busy as hell with finals even though they don’t mean anything and I don’t care because unless a miracle happens I’m not getting into Smith… as if I’d go there anyway.  Graduation next week will be a total waste and I plan to get wasted to go along with it.  Not really… seen enough of that in dear old dad and don’t need to carry on that family tradition.

I meant what I said about you meeting someone.  Don’t wait for him to find you.  Find your kindred spirit and make the first move.  I want a full report when you do.

Thanks again for everything, Bobby.  And thanks for introducing me to Garrett.  Now it’s your turn.

Hugs – JM

My real first drive in my first Mustang was in April 1969 with my dad coming home from Brondes Ford where we’d bought it.  That was a fun drive, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Little Night Music

Henry Mancini was born on this date in 1922.  Not a lot of people remember that he wrote the music for Victor/Victoria.

Disqualifier

There should be a simple test as to whether or not someone should be elected to Congress.  One of the questions should be whether or not equal rights under the law are constitutional.  (Hint: the answer is yes.)

So why does Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have a problem with it?

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), a freshman congressman aligned with the Tea Party, held a town hall Monday evening in Gainesville where he fielded a wide range of questions from constituents. One such voter was Melvin Flournoy, a 57-year-old African American from Gainesville, who asked Yoho whether he believes the Civil Rights Act is constitutional.

The easy answer in this case — “yes” — has the benefit of also being correct. But Yoho found the question surprisingly difficult.

“Is it constitutional, the Civil Rights Act?” Yoho repeated before giving his reply: “I wish I could answer that 100 percent.” The Florida Republican then went on to strongly imply it may be unconstitutional: “I know a lot of things that were passed are not constitutional, but I know it’s the law of the land.”

In his previous career, Mr. Yoho was a veterinarian.  I’m not sure I’d want someone with this brainpower to be working on animals, but he sure as hell doesn’t belong in Congress.

Hey Your Shoe Is Unhinged

The latest conspiracy theory from the right is that the incident where some poor misguided soul threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton was staged for her benefit.

Rush Limbaugh jumped on board the crazy train Monday, telling listeners that he can “totally relate” to those who believe that “everything the Clintons do is staged or choreographed.” While he has not studied the incident in detail, he believes what people told him about Clinton’s reaction not being “natural.”

“I’m sorry, I’m ill-equipped to comment,” Limbaugh said, proceeding, of course to comment at some length. “Maybe it’s because, in my subconscious, I think it was staged, or set up, or whatever. … I don’t know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary unless — maybe it’s an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos.”

The Benghazi people don’t need any help in looking like nuts and lunatics and wackos.

All Booked Up

The Louisiana legislature is voting to get themselves sued in federal court.

Legislation that would make the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana cleared the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs with a vote of 8-5 Thursday afternoon. It will now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, originally filed a bill to declare a specific copy of the Bible, found in the Louisiana State Museum system, the official state book. But by the time he presented the proposal to the committee, he changed language  in his legislation to make the generic King James version of the Bible, a text used worldwide, the official state book.

Carmody said his intention was not to mingle religion with government functions. “This is not about establishing an official religion,” he said.

Well, it’s nice to know that the wise souls in Baton Rouge think the state has the money to spare to fight a losing court battle.  That’s money well-spent and avoids having to spend it on something frivolous, like Medicare expansion.

That Won’t Teach Them

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens would like the Republicans to nominate Rand Paul so they can get the crap kicked out of them.

This man wants to be the Republican nominee for president.
And so he should be. Because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat. When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.

The problem with that plan is that the majority of the GOP would not see it as a life lesson but yet another reason to move further to the right: to them, none of the candidates in the last twenty years have been conservative enough.  Even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t pass their current requirements of hard-core wingnutsery.

The lesson would be lost on them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014