February 23rd, 2011

bartlet for america

(no subject)


Iranian warships cross Suez canal

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu views Egypt-approved manoeuvre 'with utmost gravity'

Two Iranian warships have crossed the Suez canal en route to Syria, in a move that Israel said it viewed with the "utmost gravity".


The naval frigate and a supply ship entered the canal at 5.45am after receiving approval from the Egyptian authorities. It was the first time Iranian naval vessels have passed through the strategically important waterway since before the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979.

There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli government, but the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told his cabinet on Sunday that Iran was trying to exploit instability across the region.


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What does it really mean that Iran sent ships through the Suez Canal?

from Foreign Policy magazine

A missile-armed Iranian frigate and a supply ship passed through the Suez Canal today in what Israeli leaders have described as a "provocation" and an effort by Tehran to exploit recent instability in the Middle East "in order to expand its influence." The ships, which will travel along the Israeli coast on their way to a training exercise with Syrian forces, are the first Iranian naval vessels to cross the waterway since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. 

There's been some speculation over whether former President Hosni Mubarak would have allowed the ships through or whether the United States would put pressure on the new Egyptian government to deny the Iranians' passage, but the truth is that the Egyptians didn't have all that much choice in the matter. Use of the canal is still governed by the 1888 Convention of Constantinople, which clearly states that it "shall always be free and open, in time of war as in time of peace, to every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag." As long as the Iranian navy ponied up the $290,000 entry fee, it has as much right to the canal as any other country.

Iranian operations in the Mediterranean have been limited in the past, not by Egypt's control of the canal but by Iran's own minimal offshore naval capabilities. I spoke with Commander James Kraska, chair of operational law at the U.S. Naval War College, about the strategic implications -- such as they are -- of Iran's move: 

This is one warship and a supply vessel. Quite frankly, it won't change the strategic picture a whole lot. It's certainly one more thing to keep track of. Iran has meddled in Lebanon in the past, and I can see where it's a concern. But I just don't see where [Israel] coming out ahead and publicly trying to make the international community focus on this and putting pressure on Egypt to deny them passage was really effective.

Iran is mostly limited by its capability. It's very hard to do out-of-area operations. This is analogous to China sending ships to do anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden or Russian warships in Venezuela. It's a show-the-flag sort of thing. It's not as though Iranian ships can now operate routinely or comfortably away from their home base.



Pakistan Case Tests Laws on Diplomatic Immunity

WASHINGTON — An American C.I.A. contractor is accused of killing two men at a crowded intersection in Pakistan. Can Pakistani officials lawfully prosecute him for murder?

American Held in Pakistan Worked With C.I.A. (February 22, 2011)
In debating the fate of Raymond A. Davis, who is charged with gunning down two people in Lahore last month under circumstances that remain murky, the United States and Pakistan are writing a new chapter in the long history of operatives who work under diplomatic cover.

For Pakistanis, many of whom are angry at the apparent impunity with which the C.I.A.’s drone missiles regularly kill terrorism suspects — and, at times, innocent bystanders — Mr. Davis’s case has proved galvanizing. Protesters have called for Mr. Davis to be hanged.

But for Obama administration officials, the legal case is clear-cut. They insist Mr. Davis has diplomatic immunity that protects him against prosecution in Pakistan. Pakistan can expel Mr. Davis, the administration says, but it has no right to imprison him and move forward with a murder case.

“If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution” under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, President Obama said last week, adding that Pakistan should abide by that rule.

American officials say Mr. Davis was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team collecting intelligence and conducting surveillance on militant groups in Pakistan.

At the core of the debate is the principle that those proclaimed to be diplomats working abroad should be immune to prosecution because they should be beholden only to the legal systems of the countries that sent them, rather than local courts. The usual remedy is expulsion. This has generated international disputes when diplomats have been accused of murder or other crimes.

But this case also rests on legal technicalities, with confusion arising from contradictory statements by the State Department in the first days after Mr. Davis’s arrest. Those statements have called into question whether Mr. Davis was working — officially, at least — as a diplomatic official or a consular one. Consular officials are afforded somewhat weaker legal protections because they are thought of as administrators, rather than diplomats.

Initially, State Department officials described Mr. Davis as a staff member for the United States Consulate in Lahore.

Days later, however, the United States government said that Mr. Davis was actually listed with the administrative and technical staff of the United States Embassy in Islamabad — and that it had formally notified the Pakistani Foreign Ministry of his status there on Jan. 20, 2010.

The distinction is crucial. If Mr. Davis was listed as a technical staff member for the embassy’s diplomatic mission, then he would be covered by a 1961 treaty that gives diplomats total immunity to criminal prosecution. In that case, Pakistan should be allowed only to expel him. Victims’ families, however, might still be able to sue him for civil damages.

But if Mr. Davis were instead listed as a staff member for the consulate in Lahore, then he would be covered by a 1963 treaty that governs the rights of consular officials and that allows host countries to prosecute them if they commit a “grave crime.”

The contradictory statements over Mr. Davis’s assignment are just part of the evidence that Pakistani news accounts have cited in criticizing the United States’ position. On the day of the shootings, for instance, a State Department spokesman said at a news briefing that Raymond Davis was not the actual name of the person who was in Pakistani custody. The United States now says that he is indeed Mr. Davis.

The State Department says that for legal purposes all that really matters is that the embassy had listed him as a member of the diplomatic mission’s technical and administrative staff.

“This is all just a sideshow,” said John Bellinger, a State Department lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush.

However it is resolved, Mr. Davis’s case appears destined to join a rogue’s gallery of notable disputes arising from invocations of diplomatic immunity.

In 1984, for example, someone inside the Libyan Embassy in London fired a gun out of its window and killed a British policewoman. The shooting caused an uproar that tested the limits of diplomatic immunity, but the British government allowed the embassy staff to return to Libya.

In 1997, a Georgian diplomat driving drunk in Washington killed an American teenager. Although the man was initially released, the Georgian government waived his immunity. He was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

The United States, however, has made clear that it will not waive immunity for Mr. Davis. That stance raises the question of what happens if Pakistan continues to hold him and moves forward with prosecution, arguing that he was not a real diplomat.

Diplomatic history is full of incidents in which host countries have accused people working as embassy officials of being spies. But in most cases, the officials have simply been expelled.

Perhaps the most notable exception was in 1979, when Iranian militants overran the United States Embassy in Tehran. They claimed their hostages were “mercenaries and spies” who did not deserve “diplomatic respect.”

The United States sued Iran in the International Court of Justice. In 1980, the court ruled against Iran — saying its only remedy if it thought the embassy officials were spies was to expel them or break off diplomatic relations.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/asia/23immunity.html?hp

For more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/world/asia/22pakistan.html?ref=asia

Wisconsin Unions Call For General Strike

The South Central Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization representing more than 45,000 workers in Wisconsin, voted last night to endorse a general strike if the state legislature passes Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

About 100 delegates of the 97-union federation voted unanimously in favor of the strike, and called for the group to start educating its members and affiliates on the "organization and function of a general strike." There were no details available about how the strike would work or how many workers would take part.

About 68,000 people came out Saturday to protest the bill, which would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights. Protests are now entering a second week but were smaller today as most teachers returned to work.

Wisconsin's Senate Democrats have not returned to the state from their hideout in Illinois, leaving Republicans to try to lure them back by moving forward on other legislation. Republicans have enough members to be able to vote on measures that don't spend money, but 20 senators must be present for a vote on spending bills.

So far, there is no prospect of a resolution to the stalemate over Walker's bill. The Governor, who said Monday that he will not negotiate over the bill, plans to address voters during a "fireside chat" tonight, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The emergency budget repair bill, which includes $165 million in bond refinancing, must be passed by Friday to make sure the state can pay its bills in the 2011 fiscal year. Walker said Tuesday that 1,500 people could lose their jobs by July if the legislation is not passed.


Governor Walker to Burn Piles of Cash to Appease The Gods of the Free Market

Who Needs $46 Million Dollars Anyway?

Gov. Walker Informed That Bill Targeting Unions May Cost State $46 Million In Federal Funds

Budget referees and transportation officials in Wisconsin have informed Gov. Scott Walker (R) that if he were to pass his controversial anti-union legislation into law, he could be forfeiting tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation.

Under an obscure provision of federal labor law, states risk losing federal funds should they eliminate "collective bargaining rights" that existed at the time when federal assistance was first granted
. The provision, known as "protective arrangements" or "Section 13C arrangements," is meant as a means of cushioning union (and even some non-union) members who, while working on local projects, are affected by federal grants.

It also could potentially hamstring governors like Walker who want dramatic changes to labor laws in their states. Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass -- in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place.
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Mooz-lum - A movie about Muslim Americans

This seems like a pretty good movie. The reviews I've read had a positive response, and it seems to offer a variety of views on Muslims, not as this hive-mind group with the same values and opinions, one example as depicted with the protagonist's struggle with his religion in contrast with his strict father. I also think the director Qasim Basir has represented himself and the movie well in the interviews I've seen him in (you can watch his interviews in the video section of the Facebook page). I'd like to be able to watch and support this especially if it seems to be able to give a positive impact, not only in terms giving a much needed positive brush on Muslims in America, but diversity in films in general, so to anyone who's interested hopefully you all could make it to see the movie if it's played in your city - with an enough amount of buzz hopefully it could be distributed internationally soon (as I'm not American). Thoughts?

Mooz-lum Facebook Page

Edit: Here's the demand page in case the link wasn't clear in the facebook page, and if anyone's interested in the movie but it's not playing in your city yet.
This is not a Cylon
  • alryssa

OHIO - SB-5 Protestors locked out of statehouse Tuesday

Protesters Permitted Inside Ohio Statehouse Only After Threat of Lawsuit
By Julie Kent. Published on 02/22/2011 - 9:39pm

Thousands of protesters made their way to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to demonstrate against Senate Bill 5. Upon arriving, however, most found themselves shut out of the building, being told they had to wait outside or watch the hearing at an off-site theater via simulcast. Lobbyists were allowed to enter the building, where the wined and dined the bill's Republican supporters in the basement. It was only after the threat of a lawsuit and potential court order that the Statehouse doors were opened to the throngs of union workers who had waited outside patiently for hours.

The doors were opened only moments before a hearing on SB 5 was to begin at 4pm. Preceding the opening, Democratic legislative leaders said that they were prepared to head to Franklin County Common Pleas Court to get an order opening the doors.

Senate Bill 5, if passed into law, would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers. It would also restrict collective bargaining rights for other local government workers including teachers, police officers, and firefighters, amongst others.

Columbus attorney Don McTigue said that he had finished preparing a lawsuit just as the protesters were let into the Statehouse. He said that they were prepared to file it by 5pm, if the situation had not been rectified.

Source - Cleveland Leader

Other items on the protests yesterday:

Slideshow of photos via Cincinnati's WCPO

Middletown Journal slideshow

Story: Ted Strickland and John Kasich face off over collective bargaining changes

Protestors greet Kasich in Canton, OH

NPR blog - some GOP lawmakers questioning SB5

Republican Butler Co. Sherriff Richard K Jones 'Not a fan of union buster'

SB-5 Basics: A non-partisan rundown of what the bill in its current form would do

I was out there yesterday in the freezing cold for hours before they'd let us in, and that was only around 4pm when the hearings actually started. Some of the Dem legislators tried to bring people in in groups before that but were blocked. As I understand things, the bill is still in committee, and deadlocked on votes, but I heard that the GOP are looking to replace the no-voting Republican on that committee in order to push it out anyway. This isn't over, not by a long shot. Sherriff Jones likes to think of himself as an Arpaio in training. I can't stand that guy, so for him to be against this is not insignificant, but ngl, it makes me feel like I need to take a shower.
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Scott Walker phone-pranked by fake Koch

Did Scott Walker Get Crank-Call Pwned? (AUDIO) UPDATE: YES

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ORIGINAL POST: Is that really Scott Walker? [Update: Yep.] A New York-based alt-news editor says he got through to the embattled Wisconsin governor on the phone Tuesday by posing as right-wing financier David Koch...then had a far-ranging 20-minute conversation about the collective bargaining protests. According to the audio, Walker told him:
  • That statehouse GOPers were plotting to hold Democratic senators' pay until they returned to vote on the controversial union-busting bill.
  • That Walker was looking to nail Dems on ethics violations if they took meals or lodging from union supporters.
  • That he'd take "Koch" up on this offer: "[O]nce you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time."

But was it for real? Check out the details on the guerrilla caller and audio of his conversation below the jump.

According to his Wikipedia entry, Ian Murphy is a gonzo journalist and editor of the Buffalo Beast, an online mag that was founded in 2002 as an alternative biweekly by gonzo Matt Taibbi and a band of colleagues. Murphy's probably best-known for a tough read about America's war dead called "Fuck the Troops." But if his latest Beast post, "Koch Whore," is to be believed, it's likely to be read a lot more widely.

When Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tim Carpenter complained that Walker wouldn't return any of the Dems' calls, Murphy says he wondered: "Who could get through to Gov. Walker? Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-bid budget? The obvious candidate was David Koch." Koch, of course, is one of the right-wing brothers behind Americans for Prosperity and a host of other GOP-friendly causes; MoJo's own Stephanie Mencimer broke the news last week on the Koch brothers' past support for Walker and his agenda.

So, Murphy says, he managed to have a phone audience with the governor by posing as Koch. And he taped the whole thing, copied on the videos below. What Walker says on the tape is pretty convincing...and sweeping. There'll be no negotiations with the unions or their legislative supporters, he says; after all, he doesn't need them:

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Source: Mother Jones

OP note: Mods, can we get a Koch tag? Also, LOL!

ETA: Top Wisconsin Democrat: We Won't Be Falling For Walker's Prank Call Scheme at Talking Points Memo.

ETA 2: Transcript here at DailyKos for those who can't listen to audio. Thanks to mooyoo for link!
David Thewlis - Head in Hand

Missouri State Senate propose bill with tougher late-term abortion restrictions

A proposed law to limit the use of late-term abortions in Missouri by recasting the definition of a viable unborn child met with both praise and criticism Tuesday at a Senate hearing.

Supporters of the bill, which makes it a felony to abort a medically viable fetus 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy, call it a common-sense solution to moral issues raised by late-term abortions. But critics say it creates an arbitrary, unscientific cut-off point that further erodes abortion rights.

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TW tales square
  • aviv_b

The Year in Hate & Extremism, 2010

The Year in Hate & Extremism, 2010

By Mark Potok
Illustration by Sean McCabe

For the second year in a row, the radical right in America expanded explosively in 2010, driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government’s handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities. For many on the radical right, anger is focusing on President Obama, who is seen as embodying everything that’s wrong with the country.

Hate groups topped 1000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center began counting such groups in the 1980s. Anti-immigrant vigilante groups, despite having some of the political wind taken out of their sails by the adoption of hard-line anti-immigration laws around the country, continued to rise slowly. But by far the most dramatic growth came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement — conspiracy-minded organizations that see the federal government as their primary enemy — which gained more than 300 new groups, a jump of over 60%.

Taken together, these three strands of the radical right — the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots — increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%.

What may be most remarkable is that this growth of right-wing extremism came even as politicians around the country, blown by gusts from the Tea Parties and other conservative formations, tacked hard to the right, co-opting many of the issues important to extremists. Last April, for instance, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070, the harshest anti-immigrant law in memory, setting off a tsunami of proposals for similar laws across the country. Continuing growth of the radical right could be curtailed as a result of this shift, especially since Republicans, many of them highly conservative, recaptured the U.S. House last fall.


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An interesting analysis of the growth of hate groups over the last two years, particularly the sovereign citizen, the Patriot, and the nativist movements.  Not surprising that these groups are largely concerned with taxes and immigration/citizenship laws.

There are some interesting graphs at the source that I was unable to insert here.
source: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/spring/the-year-in-hate-extremism-2010?ondntsrc=MBC110270HCE&newsletter=newsgen-20110222

Ga. Law Could Give Death Penalty for Miscarriages

It's only February, but this year has been a tough one for women's health and reproductive rights. There's a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize some miscarriages, and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal and punishable by death. Basically, it's everything an "pro-life" activist could want aside from making all women who've had abortions wear big red "A"s on their chests.

I doubt that a bill that makes a legal procedure liable for the death penalty will pass. The bill, however, shows an astonishing lack of concern for women's health and well-being. Under Rep. Franklin's bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could convicted of a felony (and therefore be subject to the death penalty or life in prison) if they cannot prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what "human involvement" means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that "the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally."

Holding women criminally liable for a totally natural, common biological process is a big freakin' problem. Even more ridiculously, the bill holds women responsible for protecting their fetuses from "the moment of conception," despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren't accurate until at least 3 weeks after conception. Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it's unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key.

I've seen a lot of anti-woman, hate-filled bills this year, but this one takes the cake. Congrats, Rep. Franklin, you've officially put the "rights" of Georgia's "prenatal citizens" (his words) over the lives of actual, born, human beings. Luckily for the US, only "natal citizens" (my words) can vote.

gay empire by jackshoegazer
  • wemblee

Obama says DOMA is unconstitutional

Obama Won't Go to Court Over Defense of Marriage Act
by Marc Ambinder
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 12:47 p.m.

President Obama believes that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and will no longer defend the 15-year-old law in federal court, the Justice Department announced today.

The decision, which stunned and delighted gay rights activists, means that the administration will withdraw its defense of ongoing suits in two federal appeals circuits and will leave it to Congress to defend the law against those challenges. It will remain a party to the lawsuits. The law itself remains in effect.

DOMA, signed by President Clinton in 1995, allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages preformed in other states and provides a federal definition for “marriage” that exempts same-sex couples.

Attorney General Eric Holder said that Obama had decided to subject classifications based on sexual orientation
to a “more heightened standard of scrutiny.” That means that the federal government no longer believes that there is a “rational basis” for discriminating against gays.

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HuffPo has the letter from the DOJ to Boehner.

Oh Toto! Rachel Maddow has come to Kansas.

(The Freestate brewery is a locally owned restaurant and central meeting place of KU students as well as the more politically "liberal" easter side of Kansas. My coworker says " a lot of political types hang out there."  I love this place and if I had known in advance that Maddow was coming,  I would be down there stan'in right now.  The reason I posted this, however, is to highlight her continuing coverage on abortion issues and her documentary on Dr. Tiller. )

The Maddow Show live from Free State Brewery in Lawrence tonight
By Justin Kendall
published: Wed., Feb. 23 2011 @ 11:00AM

The Rachel Maddow Show live Lawrence.
Source: A local KC Entertainment rag called The Pitch

​As the Phill Kline ethics saga continues, Rachel Maddow's MSNBC talk show will broadcast live from Free State Brewery in Lawrence tonight.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported that the show will be following up on the assassination of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, which Maddow has done an excellent job of covering (see the documentary, "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller"). The show has also been following Kline's ethics hearings. Check out last night's segment with Tiller's attorney, Lee Thompson 

Maddow's show airs live at 8 p.m. 

Here is part one of the Documentary,  the rest of the documentary and other clips investigating the crime and the various corruption around this man's death can be found on MSNC's Maddow Show website here


Indiana Official: "Use Live Ammunition" Against Wisconsin Protesters

Update 2:

Deputy AG loses job after tweet drama

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The Indiana Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday afternoon its deputy attorney general is no longer employed by the agency, after reviewing political website Mother Jones'   published allegations that he advocated the use of force against protesters in Wisconsin.

According to the online article , Jeff Cox tweeted “Use Live Ammunition” in response to a Mother Jones tweet reporting riot police had been called into the state capital to remove protesters.

Mother Jones later learned Jeff Cox held a post as an Indiana official.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Attorney General office said, "Civility and courtesy toward all members of the public are very important to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. We respect individuals’ First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility."

In an earlier statement released Wednesday, the agency said, “The Indiana Attorney General’s Office does not condone the inflammatory statements asserted in the “Mother Jones” article and we do not condone any comments that would threaten or imply violence or intimidation toward anyone."

The reporter who wrote the “Mother Jones” article informs us that the offensive postings over the weekend were made using a personal Twitter account and personal email, not a state government email account.


Obama administration: "Oh, um, I guess DOMA actually IS unconstitutional."

Obama admin will no longer defend federal marriage act in court

From NBC's Pete Williams

In a major reversal, the Obama administration has notified Congress that it will no longer defend the federal law that says marriage can exist only between a man and a woman.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he has recommended, and the president has agreed, that the law unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples who are legally married but whose status is not recognized by the federal government.

"Given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination," Holder wrote in a statement, the administration has concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation must be subject to a higher constitutional standard than ordinary laws. And the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not meet that test, he says.

Read the full statement here.

Here's the immediate practical effect of this change:

-The Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect unless a federal court strikes it down or Congress repeals it.

-The government will stop defending the law in two court cases, in New York and Connecticut, where the law has been challenged, and in any other cases challenging the law.

-If the law is to be defended, members of Congress would have to step up and join those lawsuits.

In the statement, Holder argued that the legal landscape has changed since the Defense of Marriage Act was passed 15 years ago and signed into law by President Clinton. He mentioned the Supreme Court's ruling striking down criminal laws against homosexuality, the repeal of the military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy, and the fact that several lower courts have found the DOMA law unconstitutional.



Next up: The Obama administration declares that water is wet?

Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON – The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:

In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court. Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment. While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.

Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit. We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation. I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option. The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

Furthermore, pursuant to the President ’ s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense. At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a “reasonable” one. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional.

Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.






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Featured photo by Scott Nelson

Separate submissions related to the protests may likely be rejected. Please link articles in THIS post for discussion/entry spotlights.

Oklahoma House panel approves bill to change negotiation process for cities, unions

A House committee on Wednesday passed what one Republican lawmaker called three of the most anti-union bills in recent years, including a measure that would eliminate a labor union bargaining process between city governments and police and fire departments.

The two Republican House leaders, Speaker Kris Steele and Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, were needed to vote for two of the bills to get them passed by the House of Representatives General Government Committee.

Committee Chairman Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, held the vote open for nearly 10 minutes in what he called “not a traditional practice” so that Steele, R-Shawnee, could make it to the committee room and vote for House Bill 1576, which would eliminate the process known as binding arbitration.

Hickman, R-Fairview, already had voted for the measure, but it was tied 8-8 until Steele cast his vote. Steele and Hickman, because of their leadership positions, are ex officio members of all House committees and can vote on measures. HB 1576 passed 9-8 and now goes to the House floor.

Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who characterized the measure as the toughest anti-union measures in recent years, peppered Johnson with questions while committee members waited for Steele to arrive.

“I believe that we're making a mockery of the process,” Terrill said as a crowded room of spectators, including 16 firefighters lined up along two walls, waited.

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mus | like a bird in a cage

Deputy AG loses job after tweet drama

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The Indiana Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday afternoon its deputy attorney general is no longer employed by the agency, after reviewing political website Mother Jones'   published allegations that he advocated the use of force against protesters in Wisconsin.

According to the online article , Jeff Cox tweeted “Use Live Ammunition” in response to a Mother Jones tweet reporting riot police had been called into the state capital to remove protesters.

Mother Jones later learned Jeff Cox held a post as an Indiana official.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Attorney General office said, "Civility and courtesy toward all members of the public are very important to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. We respect individuals’ First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility."

In an earlier statement released Wednesday, the agency said, “The Indiana Attorney General’s Office does not condone the inflammatory statements asserted in the “Mother Jones” article and we do not condone any comments that would threaten or imply violence or intimidation toward anyone."

The reporter who wrote the “Mother Jones” article informs us that the offensive postings over the weekend were made using a personal Twitter account and personal email, not a state government email account.


Doctor Who- PANIC

Mayor Emanuel eaten by Time Vortex- The Doctor Unavailable for comment.


Thousands mourn
Doctor unavailable for comment

At approximately 8:40 Eastern time, after many months of loud cursing, psychedelic trips to through the crawl space, and dealing with the immense nerdiness of Carl the Intern, MayorEmanuel, the one true Mayor of Fake Twitter accounts apparently vanished into a Time Vortex.

The event had been hinted at for the past week, and despite the protest of thousands (both from Chicago and beyond), seemed inevitable with the election of the 'other' Rahm Emanuel to office of Mayor in Chicago.

The esteemed cursing Mayor left behind Quaxelrod, Hambone, and David Axelrod. The whereabouts of Carl the Intern is unknown.

Feel free to mourn together in the comments.
really. look.
  • chaya

To Celebrate Black History Month, Anti-Abortion Group Buys Offensive Billboard in Soho

Anti-Abortion Billboard In SoHo Targets Blacks, Sparks Outrage

The anti-abortion group Life Always just unveiled a giant billboard on the corner of Watts Street and Sixth Avenue that features a photo of a black girl and the caption, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." Part of a national campaign, the billboard is about a half-mile from a Planned Parenthood facility on Bleecker Street. "During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion,” says Life Always Board Member Pastor Stephen Broden. Others, like City Council Member Letitia James, find the message a tad offensive.

"It is misguided to use Black History Month as a tool to promote this message," James said in a statement. "Every woman has the right to make personal choices in regards to her body, and I respect many different points of view, but to compare abortion to terrorism and genocide is highly offensive." (Life Always' press release also asserts, "There is a battle being waged in the United States that has taken more lives than any foreign war or act of terrorism. The enemy is abortion.")

James also points out that the website’s “Pregnancy Help” section guides users to various Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), which are "notorious for being intentionally vague concerning their agenda to deter women from seeking abortion services; and some have been accused of being deceptive about abortion risks and procedures while intentionally targeting poor and working-class women, immigrant women, and women of color to utilize their services." According to Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of the organization’s health services are abortion services, while an overwhelming 82 percent are services to prevent unintended pregnancy.

But Life Always is focusing on this statistic from the NYC Health Department: Blacks had the highest number of abortions in 2009, with 40,798. (Hispanics had the second highest at 28,364.) NYC's abortion rate was almost 40% that year, and the three Planned Parenthood facilities nearest the billboard reported nearly 17,000 abortions in 2010. Asked for his reaction to the billboard yesterday, one man on the street told WCBS, "I think they’re trying to send a message to us African-Americans because we do do a lot of abortions and I think we shouldn’t be doing it."

In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the billboard "a reprehensible tactic. Planned Parenthood knows that every woman, of every background, takes her health decisions seriously and makes deeply personal decisions after consulting with her doctor and with loved ones she trusts." This Saturday, pro-choice groups will be holding a rally to protest a recent bill passed in the House of Representatives that would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The rally will be held at Foley Square, downtown by City Hall, from 1 to 3 p.m. Gloria Steinem and Kathleen Turner are among the scheduled speakers, and Kathleen Hanna, Nellie McKay and The Mountain Goats will perform.


King Scott Walker Drunk on Power to Kick Medicaid out of His Fiefdom

Scott Walker's Plan To Take Control Of Medicaid Decisions In Wisconsin

So far, most of the attention on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget repair bill has focused on the section that would strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Less noticed is a provision in the 144-page piece of legislation that could dramatically change the state's Medicaid program.

The bill would grant the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) sweeping authority to making changes to the state's Medicaid program -- which covers one in five residents -- with virtually no public scrutiny. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Walker's plan would use "emergency" powers to allow DHS to restrict eligibility, raise premiums and change reimbursements -- all moves traditionally controlled by the legislature.

Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, equated it to if President Obama gave Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius total power to rewrite Medicare policy, even though it wouldn't save any money in the current fiscal year.

"That's what you have here in what's being proposed," said Peacock. "If President Obama proposed that, there would be rallies all over the country, and we would be marching out there arm in arm with Tea Party members, protesting against it."

"While the provision may result in significant savings in the future, it has been included on the list because it would remove the entire Legislature from determining substantial elements of the medical assistance program," concluded the fiscal bureau's analysis.

Part of the reason that advocates are so alarmed at the legislation is that the man who heads DHS is Dennis Smith, someone who has advocated for states to leave the Medicaid program.

In a December 2009 article for the Heritage Foundation, Smith, who was then on staff at the conservative think tank, advocated against health care reform proposals being considered by Congress and argued it would be smart for states to leave the Medicaid program.
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