Archive for category Conservative
The case of the Masterpiece Bakery in Colorado is one of a number of cases in which small business owners refuse to do business with gay couples on the basis of the owner’s religious objections to gay people doing things like getting married and forming long term commitments to one another.
Friday’s order from administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer says Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver will face fines if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes for their wedding celebrations.
It started out simply enough:
In July of 2012, the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple who were planning to celebrate with friends and family the marriage they had received in Massachusetts. The couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, filed a complaint, and the Colorado Attorney General proceeded to do the same, and Friday, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer ruled against Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery.
The ACLU’s argument is very straightforward:
“While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one’s religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “No one is asking Masterpiece’s owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple.”
In these cases, the courts, businesses and individuals are struggling to distinguish between religious and commercial activity.
Right-wing radio host Glenn Beck will join Utah Senator Mike Lee and various tea partyers Saturday to “clean up” national monuments by picking up trash on the National Mall.
Basically, it’s an incredibly lame attempt to blame President Obama for the Republican Shutdown that’s in Day 11 now. The Republicans can’t even tell us what they want anymore, while half a million federal employees remain on furlough.
Now that the Koch brothers have waved the white flag, the Republican Shutdown of the federal government is expected to end by the middle of next week. Senator Lee’s career as a highly-compensated trash collector will be short-lived, but at least he will have accomplished SOMETHING during his time in Washington at our expense.
So says Jonathan Chait.
In a merciful twist of fate, Juan Linz did not quite live to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died last week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief executive, was inherently unstable. In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.
Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had loads of moderates, and conservative whites in the South still clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two parties were already sorting themselves into more ideologically pure versions, leaving us where we stand today: with one racially and economically polyglot party of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary party. The latter is currently attempting to impose its program by threat upon the former. The events in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.
Both House Republicans and the President lay claim to democratic legitimacy and there is no system to resolve the dispute. So we’re left with a slugfest.
Sanford Levinson’s book, Our Undemocratic Constitution, lays out some of the inherent problems with the US system. He argued:
Significant distortions and outright failures of American politics are produced because of-and not merely in spite of-the structure of the government imposed by the Constitution, whatever the contribution of other factors like the mode of campaign financing. [snip]
However divided we are as a country these days, what paradoxically may unite far more than a majority of Americans are deep feelings of inefficacy with regard to being able to participate in what are ostensibly institutions promoting self-governance, as well as feelings of dismay at the actual legislation that is passed (or not passed).
The point is incredibly simple - our system of government as designed includes too many veto points to function if a minority is able to block one of those veto points. What we’re seeing, right now, is the result of that system in action. The shutdown, in which a minority of the House Republicans are able to take the entire nation hostage, is a result of a governing system which diffuses both power and authority.In a parliamentary system, the head of government is chosen by the majority party (or governing coalition) from the legislative branch. The head of government is empowered to enact a specific policy platform and is able to do so because he/she is the same party as that which dominates the legislative branch. The US system, with two, equally powerful houses of Congress, and a separately elected President, includes multiple points at which a minority party can frustrate the will of the majority.
Our current governing crisis is a covert Constitutional crisis. House Republicans essentially argue that the polling shows the ACA is unpopular and therefore they are on the side of the people. That’s simply the convenient, current argument. The deeper battle is informed by a Republican party controlled by movement conservatism which denies the legitimacy of any Democratic president. It’s not just that conservatives deny Barack Obama’s legitimacy, the denied Bill Clinton’s as well. As a result, what we’re seeing play out in DC right now is a slow motion attempt to strip a Democratic president, any Democratic president, of presidential power by a Republican congress which refuses to acknowledge the validity of the outcomes of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. It’s not about any specific policy. Any and every policy supported by a Democratic president is considered inherently invalid and illegitimate.
At Americablog, Becca Morn argued:
It should come as no surprise to regular readers of AMERICAblog that many Republicans have never accepted the legitimacy of the Obama presidency. They’ve been cooking polls to make themselves and their policies seem more popular than they are. When the overwhelming majority of legitimate mainstream polls say their GOP candidates are going to get trounced, they deny the polls are accurate. When they lose elections, they cry fraud, and if there’s any way to tie up the election results in court, they’ll do so.
The Democrats, whatever their many and manifest flaws, don’t do this. Crooked Democratic ballot box shenanigans pretty much ended with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Democrats don’t need to cheat. Republican candidates and policies are unpopular enough, all the Dems really need to do is turn out enough legitimate voters.
Which is, of course, why the Republicans are pulling out all the stops to prevent Democrat-voting demographics from being able to cast a ballot. Their claims it’s because there’s rampant fraud are absolutely bogus.
Everyone is familiar with the ridiculous “birther” conspiracy theories about Barack Obama. Anybody who isn’t as loony as Orly Taitz or ego-maniacal as Donald Trump knows those allegations are total rubbish. Unfounded. Ridiculous. Would not last ten seconds in a legitimate court of law. Nevertheless, the persistence of this meme is an important insight into the psyche of the political opposition.
Birtherism, along with other lies — such as referring to Obama as a Nazi/Communist/Socialist and/or secret Muslim — plus the constant lies about Obamacare “death panels” and the like are how the GOP leaders and their wingnut media lackeys keep the rubes both afraid and entertained. While Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachman and Sarah Whatshername might actually believe the nonsense crossing their pouty, poxy lips, some ‘serious’ Republicans will dance around with birther language, but they don’t buy the snake oil they’re peddling.
The constitutional crisis is grounded in the refusal of conservatives to accept the outcomes of elections with which they disagree. The result is that conservatives are attacking the constitutional system they claim to venerate.
And so the crisis grinds on with enough Republican believing the nonsense to keep the government shutdown and to cause yet another crisis at the next opportunity. It’s not about any actual policy or bill or program. Movement conservatives have defined American-ness in such a limited way that there is no way for them to accept a black Democratic president as legitimate. And in the face of a system which seems to refuse to accept their arguments about his illegitimacy, they believe they have only the most extreme tactics available to them.
Ed Kilgore, at Washington Monthly, captures one of the key forces driving the conservative movement – frustration.
Since the 1960s, the conservative movement has been trying to repeal the welfare state:
It’s the Goldwater campaign over and over and over again, with the same goals, the same demonology and the same frustration at Republican Establishment squishes who are willing to settle for what Goldwater himself (in referring to the Eisenhower administration) called a “dime-store New Deal” instead of a rollback of the whole welfare state. Indeed, the goals are so audacious and the frustration so intense that it can make conservatives look like “nihilists” if you miss the underlying patterns.
Kilgore quoted Ross Douthat:
[W]hat you’re seeing motivating the House Intransigents today, what’s driving their willingness to engage in probably-pointless brinksmanship, is not just anger at a specific Democratic administration, or opposition to a specific program, or disappointment over a single electoral defeat. Rather, it’s a revolt against the long term pattern I’ve just described: Against what these conservatives, and many on the right, see as forty years of failure, in which first Reagan and then Gingrich and now the Tea Party wave have all failed to deliver on the promise of an actual right-wing answer to the big left-wing victories of the 1930s and 1960s — and now, with Obamacare, of Obama’s first two years as well.
From the teabagger perspective, American politics has been defined as defeat followed by defeat even when electoral outcomes looked victorious. The result is a revanchist movement driven to recreate a mythical golden age before the welfare state and liberalism came along and ruined everything.
Daniel Larison points out:
. . . the experience of the Bush era is a much more important factor than disappointments with inadequate conservative victories of the past. During the Bush era, most conservatives either supported the administration’s domestic and foreign policy agenda or they didn’t put up much of a fight against any of it for at least the first five or six years. Not only did they end up backing a huge expansion of the welfare state and extraordinarily costly foreign wars, but in order to justify these moves they emphasized the value that these things supposedly had for the political fortunes of the GOP. The Bush-era GOP didn’t just fail to roll back previous government expansions, but did a great deal to increase the size and scope of government. Not long after making this bad bargain, conservatives saw the Republicans lose control of Congress, and they were still associated with one of the most unpopular presidents of modern times. Most conservatives backed almost every bad political and policy bet that Bush-era party leaders made, and it all went horribly wrong for both the GOP’s electoral prospects and conservative priorities. Many conservatives realized too late that they had put the political goals of the party first too often, and had deferred to party leaders too frequently, and so now there is great reluctance to do these things under any circumstances.
When any of those same leaders warn them against a certain course of action now, many conservatives, especially those members of Congress elected in the years since the defeats of 2006 and 2008, are not inclined to pay any attention to them.
The Bush administration should have been a roaring success. It followed the conservative playbook to a T – aggressive foreign policy, tax cuts and weakened regulation at home. Conservatives followed Bush and his team to defeat. America turned its back on them and there’s no going back. FWIW, many teabaggers are angry at Bush and his cronies, seeing them as traitors to the cause, but also as the people responsible for the rise of Barack Obama.
The net result is a movement frustrated at its leaders, angry at its leaders and everyone else, and increasingly desperate as they perceive their window of opportunity (to affect change) closing.
This story made the rounds:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.
The man is impressed. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he mutters to one of the workers.
“Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn’t. If he signs up, it’s a win-win, whether he knows he’s been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
Since the many exchanges will be run by the states (Utah included), the dreaded Federal takeover of health care won’t happen.
The crush of people don’t greet Diaz-Dempsey with tea party dogma or amateur constitutional scholarship. No one is there to complain about the individual mandate or heckle about death panels. They have questions.
They wonder if they could get coverage despite having a pre-existing medical condition, how much it will cost them. They ask if Indiana has a similar program, or if this was only for Kentucky. Could they just enroll their child? They talk about their sons and daughters, neighbors going without health care, and ask about the subsidies.
The vast majority are relieved to learn about the health exchange. Linda Parrish, 47, showed up at the table and gushed to Diaz-Dempsey: “This is what I’ve been waiting on.” Parrish has health insurance, but her best friend doesn’t.
If people sign up through the state exchanges and get insurance believing they’ve somehow avoided the dreaded Obamacare and then don’t have to pay fines because they have insurance, they’re going to be relieved. The law will have done what it was designed to do, namely get more people covered by insurance – which is a good thing.
Our conservative peers have now spent close to five years in near hysterics about health care reform. We’ve been subjected to never ending flow of lies and a veritable ocean of disinformation. If that disinformation campaign ends up helping the law, that would be at least a little bit funny.
First of all, let’s remember where the so-called Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) came from. It was invented by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.
That was then, this is now. These days, Heritage president and former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint is on a campaign to convince Republicans to shut down the government in order to defund the Affordable Care Act. According to DeMint:
“This might be that last off-ramp to stop Obamacare before it becomes more enmeshed in our culture.” The law “is not about getting better health care,” he continued. Uninsured Americans “will get better health care just going to the emergency room.”
This was a myth when George W. Bush said it, and it’s still a myth.
The so-called “free” care at emergency rooms is a result of The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act or (EMTALA), which requires hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to treat patients for emergency medical conditions regardless of legal status or ability to pay. But EMTALA only applies to medical emergencies like heart attacks or serious injury. It does not offer any treatment for chronic conditions, leaving the millions of Americans with diabetes who need regular access to medication to stay alive, or asthma patients, or women diagnosed with breast cancer without access to care.
The right-wing keeps saying “just go to the emergency room,” and there is not enough push-back on that from the reality-based community.
At Americablog, Becca Morn documents the ways in which the American religious right is aiding and abetting the spread of anti-gay attitudes around the world. The strategy is one with which American activists are familiar – create and publish a scientifically questionable study, but market it as scientifically valid (or just distort legitimate research), spread it far and wide and sit back and wait. Read the rest of this entry »
Educators in Kentucky have rolled out a new set of science standards.
Nearly two dozen parents, teachers, scientists and advocacy groups commented at the state Department of Education hearing on the Next Generation Science Standards. The broad set of guidelines will revamp content in grades K-12 and help meet requirements from a 2009 law that called for improving education.
“Students in the commonwealth both need and deserve 21st-century science education grounded in inquiry, rich in content and internationally benchmarked,” said Blaine Ferrell, a representative from the Kentucky Academy of Sciences, a science advocacy group that endorses the standards.
Seems reasonable right? Read the rest of this entry »
Jonathan Chait summed it up pretty accurately:
Spectacles like this have turned into a regular feature of life in the Republican House. The party leadership draws up a bill that’s far too right-wing to ever become law, but it fails in the House because it isn’t right-wing enough. Sometimes, as with the attempts to repeal Obamacare, the failures don’t matter much, but in other instances the inability to pass legislation poses horrifying dangers. The chaos and dysfunction have set in so deeply that Washington now lurches from crisis to crisis, and once-dull, keep-the-lights-on rituals of government procedure are transformed into white-knuckle dramas that threaten national or even global catastrophe.
The Republican Party has spent 30 years careering ever more deeply into ideological extremism, but one of the novel developments of the Obama years is its embrace of procedural extremism. The Republican fringe has evolved from being politically shrewd proponents of radical policy changes to a gang of saboteurs who would rather stop government from functioning at all. In this sense, their historical precedents are not so much the Gingrich revolutionaries, or even their tea-party selves of a few years ago; the movement is more like the radical left of the sixties, had it occupied a position of power in Congress. And so the terms we traditionally use to scold bad Congresses—partisanship, obstruction, gridlock—don’t come close to describing this situation. The hard right’s extremism has bent back upon itself, leaving an inscrutable void of paranoia and formless rage and twisting the Republican Party into a band of anarchists.[snip]
The rational way to view these events is that Republicans have marginalized themselves. But the hard-liners see it differently. In their minds, every bill that passes is a betrayal by their leaders. They know that letting Democrats carry bills through the House has been the leadership’s desperate recourse to avoid total chaos, and since chaos is their leverage, they are now working feverishly to seal off that escape route. This year, an increasing proportion of conservative media is given over to conservative activists’ extracting pledges from Republican leaders not to negotiate with Democrats. In the wake of the tax-cut deal, Republican leaders in both houses had to pledge that they would not engage in any—to quote the ubiquitous buzzword—“backroom deals.” Since all deals get made in back rooms (there is no such thing as a front room, and leaders in Western cultures like the United States habitually transact their business in rooms), this means no negotiation at all.
The Religious Right isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Since the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions, right wing commentators have gone in two distinct directions – some commentators have doubled down on their anti-gay rhetoric, while other commentators have plead for “tolerance” for their views about marriage. That second group is essentially asking for detente – “you won so be nice to us.”
Is detente between the gay community and the religious right even possible?