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  • November 21, 2017
    Abortion Rights and Free Speech Wrongs

    The United States Supreme Court this week announced it would soon hear a major case that could redefine the legal landscape at the critical juncture where abortion rights meet free speech. In National Institute of Life and Family Advocates v. Becerra, the plaintiffs are challenging a California statute regulating so-called "crisis pregnancy centers."

    After concluding that the Golden State's 200 pregnancy resource centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform, and even intimidate women from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care," the New York Times reported, the legislature in Sacramento required these anti-abortion counseling services to post a notice letting clients know that "free or low cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide a phone number for more information." In addition, the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act) mandates that all unlicensed centers disclose their lack of accreditation from the state. And that, attorneys for 110 CPCs operated by the faith-based Christian ministry of National Institute of Life and Family Advocates argue, amounts to unconstitutional "compelled speech."

    As it turns out, the claim that California law violates their First Amendment rights is more than a little ironic. After all, across the nation hundreds of new state abortion restrictions doubtless supported by the plaintiffs run roughshod over the freedom of speech by physicians and abortion clinics. That is, while California is mandating that crisis pregnancy centers simply tell women the truth about their services, GOP-led states are demanding that doctors lie to their patients about supposed "fetal pain," mythical "abortion regret," nonexistent side-effects, and so much more.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    November 13, 2017
    Vergangenheits-bewältigung in America

    This year represents the 25th anniversary of one of the great enduring memes of modern American culture and politics. In his thundering speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, former Nixon hatchet man and Adolf Hitler admirer-turned GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan darkly warned of a "cultural war" already underway, one he deemed a "struggle for the soul of America." After Buchanan concluded by proclaiming that "block by block ... we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country," the late humorist Molly Ivins joked:

    Many people did not care for Buchanan's speech. It probably sounded better in the original German.

    And so it was that Buchanan's kulturekampf spawned a generation of tongue-in-cheek declarations that various right-wing policies, programs and politicians--including Donald Trump--"sounded better in the original German." (For examples of such assessments of Mein Drumpf, see here, here and here.) In some cases, the translation was literal. As Scott Horton documented in Harper's in 2007, long before the Bush administration began using "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a euphemism for its regime of detainee torture, the Gestapo in 1937 introduced the original German verschärfte Vernehmung (which means "enhanced interrogation techniques") into its lexicon of savagery.

    But all snark aside, recent developments in the United States show the urgent need for an Americanized version of a German term central to the understanding of Deutschland and Europe since 1945. Vergangenheitsbewältigung (pronunciation here), variously defined as "coming to terms with" or "overcoming" or simply "confronting" the past, describes the ongoing, painful process by which Germans grapple with the inescapable, horrific crimes committed by Adolf Hitler and the nation's Nazi Third Reich.

    But while the symbols, likenesses, and ideology of the perpetrators of the conquest of Europe and Holocaust are beyond the pale in Germany, in the United States a much different approach guides Americans' attitudes toward our original sin--and world-historic crime--of slavery and the Civil War fought to eradicate it. Here, many whitewash the obvious cause of that war, traffic in antebellum nostalgia, and venerate statues erected to the traitors who in the service of perpetual human bondage killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. So, when the president of the United States calls for protecting "our great statues/heritage" and his chief of staff--a four-star American general at that--calls Robert E. Lee "honorable" and chalks up his blood-drenched treachery to a mere "lack of compromise," something about America's present is very, very wrong, indeed.

    That point was driven home to me during and after my recent trip to Berlin.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 5:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    November 3, 2017
    GOP Tax Plan Delivers Double Dose of Pain to Blue States

    Thursday's release of the House GOP tax plan will be greeted with a flurry of "hot takes" about its "winners and losers." So, for everyone's sake, let's keep this simple. Unsurprisingly, the biggest winners from what the President called a "big, beautiful Christmas present" are people named Trump and those like them. Just as predictable, the real losers are the tens of millions of Americans who live in blue states generally governed by Democrats.

    As I've documented previously, Donald Trump's 2015 boast that his tax plan would "cost me a fortune" was a lie from the moment it passed his lips. We know the abolition of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be a huge windfall for Trump; it accounted for 82 percent of his $38 million tax bill in 2005, the only year for which we've seen even partial IRS records. Slashing the tax rate to 25 percent for "pass-through" businesses is another payday for the Trump Organization, which happens to be comprised of 500 of them. And the phase-out of the estate tax after six years means the Trump heirs will get to keep all the candy--and billions of dollars--after Donald Sr. passes from the scene.

    But if Donald Trump is smiling about his winnings, he and most Republicans in Congress are downright gleeful at the blue state bashing their tax bill will deliver. Halving the cap on the mortgage interest deduction from million-dollars homes to just $500,000 means taxpayers in high-cost housing markets generally found in affluent Democratic states like California, New York and Massachusetts will get hammered. Perhaps even more damaging, ending the federal deduction for state and local taxes means Republicans on Capitol Hill will force fiscal austerity on high-tax, high-service Democratic states.

    Writing in New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explained the brutal math for blue state homeowners:

    According to the most recent (2012-2014) available data, here are the locales where over 30 percent of new mortgages are over $500,000: Marin, C.A. (47 percent), New York, N.Y. (46 percent), San Francisco, C.A. (46 percent), San Mateo, C.A. (43 percent), Falls Church City, V.A. (37 percent), Santa Clara, C.A. (36 percent), and Arlington, V.A. (32 percent). That's Manhattan plus metropolitan San Francisco and Washington. But the damage to blue state budgets will be even greater if the pernicious GOP scheme to end the state and local tax deduction (SALT) comes to fruition. Even exempting property taxes up to $10,000 still means states from Oregon and California to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be pressured to cut taxes, reduce spending or both.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    October 31, 2017
    For the Party of Lincoln, Everything is "Worse Than Dred Scott"

    On Dec. 12, Alabamans will go to the polls in a special election to determine the replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now Donald Trump's hatchet man at the Justice Department. Despite Republican control of every statewide office, there is a remote chance the "Heart of Dixie" may send a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 25 years. This possible pick-up for the blue team has less to do with a resurgence of the Democratic Party there and the strong performance of its candidate, Doug Jones, than with the growing unease over the GOP's extremist nominee, Roy Moore. As Andy Campbell reported, "Nobody really likes Roy Moore--not even Alabama Republicans."

    It's no surprise why, as one anonymous pastor put it, "Nobody feels good about Roy Moore." After all, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court was twice removed from his post for flouting the law of the land, first over the display of a Ten Commandments monument in his court house and in 2016 for refusing to enforce the marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. A vocal opponent of removing segregationist language from the Alabama Constitution, Moore, like former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, reached out to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. In 2005, Moore proclaimed "homosexual conduct should be illegal." Last December, he professed his "personal belief" that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States. While brandishing his gun during a rally may have endeared him to some GOP primary voters, revelations that Moore did not pay taxes on $500,000 in back pay from his Foundation for Moral Law probably did not.

    Nevertheless, a growing number of Senate Republicans, including the GOP's No. 2 man John Cornyn of Texas, have endorsed Roy Moore. The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have announced a fundraising pact with Moore and the Alabama GOP. In part, they doubtless did so because of--not despite--one of the very worst things Judge Moore ever uttered. After all, in November Moore denounced the Supreme Court's ruling establishing marriage equality for LGBT Americans as the law of the land as "even worse" than the 1857 Dred Scott abomination upholding slavery and denying citizenship rights to blacks. As it turns out, Roy Moore has plenty of company among Republicans comparing same-sex marriage, Obamacare, habeas corpus rights for terror detainees, the national debt, abortion, and almost everything else they hate to slavery and therefore "even worse than Dred Scott."

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    October 16, 2017
    Trump Administration Unveils the "Fetal 14th Amendment"

    While most eyes this week were on the carnage in Las Vegas, the catastrophe in Puerto Rico, or the dangerous provocations towards Pyongyang and Tehran, the Trump administration was hard at work deconstructing the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. While that bulwark of American civil rights promises "due process of law" and "equal protection of the laws" to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States," Donald Trump has declared that some persons are more equal than others.

    For starters, two years after Justice Kennedy ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the constitutionally-protected right to marry extends to LGBTQ Americans, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began turning back the clock at the Justice Department. DOJ's "Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty" signaled that the faith-based sensitivities of some religious people should literally trump the marriage rights, workplace protections, and other 14th Amendment guarantees for gay and lesbian Americans. By signing an executive order allowing any business to deny contraceptive coverage to its female employees, Donald Trump codified that when it comes to health care, women are left out of the 14th's American freedoms, too.

    But this week, Trump's Department of Health and Human Services proposed extending the 14th Amendment to a new group. And as Dr. Jen Gunter pointed out, these would-be beneficiaries aren't persons at all.

    In the draft of its "Strategic Plan, FY2018 - FY2022" now under review, HHS has unilaterally adopted what might be called the "Fetal Fourteenth."

    Organizational Structure

    HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception. Eleven operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies, administer HHS's programs. While HHS is a domestic agency working to protect and promote the health and well-being of the American people, the interconnectedness of our world requires that HHS engage globally to fulfill its mission. In addition, staff divisions provide leadership, direction, and policy guidance to the Department. [Emphasis added.]

    If this seems like an unprecedented, unwarranted, and unconstitutional redefinition of the 14th Amendment by the president of the United States, that's because it is. But the strategy of declaring fetal personhood by fiat is nothing new under the conservative sun. Republican platforms and politicians have been proposing it for years.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 9:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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    Abortion Rights and Free Speech Wrongs
    November 21, 2017
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    Vergangenheits-bewältigung in America
    November 13, 2017
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    GOP Tax Plan Delivers Double Dose of Pain to Blue States
    November 3, 2017
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    For the Party of Lincoln, Everything is "Worse Than Dred Scott"
    October 31, 2017
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    Trump Administration Unveils the "Fetal 14th Amendment"
    October 16, 2017
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    WWTP: What Will Trump Pay Under the GOP Tax Bill?
    October 2, 2017
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    The GOP's Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill is a Killer Scam
    September 25, 2017
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    State Block Grants: The GOP's Worst Health Care Idea of Them All
    September 21, 2017
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    Trump, GOP Demand Blue State Payback
    September 7, 2017
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    The Capitol's Missing Mural of Lee's Surrender to Grant at Appomattox
    September 4, 2017
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