| FAIR | April 6, 2015
Ross Douthat has written for the New York Times (4/4/15) pretty much the same column that David Brooks wrote for the Times (3/31/15) a week before– both arguing that the question of whether or not to discriminate against gay couples is “difficult and personal” (Douthat) and those who choose to do so should be met with “respect, tolerance and gentle persuasion” rather than legal sanctions (Brooks).
Douthat, unlike Brooks, acknowledges the obvious parallel between opposition to gay marriage and opposition to interracial marriage–and meets it head on with a full helping of historical ignorance:
This isn’t a structural system of oppression, a society-wide conspiracy like Jim Crow; we’re talking about a handful of shops across the country. It seems possible, and reasonable, to live and let live.
Not a “structural system of oppression”? Until 1962, when Illinois repealed its sodomy law, it was illegal in every state to even engage in same-sex sexual activity. The Supreme Court upheld such bans in 1982, with Chief Justice Warren Berger asserting they reflected “millennia of moral teaching.” Not until 2003 did the Supreme Court strike down the criminalization of gay sexuality, when such laws were still on the books in 14 states.
Elizabeth (Liza) Goitein | Brennan Center for Justice | Truthout | April 7, 2015
In February, the Director of National Intelligence issued a report summarizing the changes that President Obama has implemented since pledging major surveillance reforms in January 2014. The report chronicles a dizzying number of developments and contains links to several hundreds of pages of supporting documentation. But does this impressive accumulation of activity translate to meaningful reform?
The report makes clear that the big picture has not changed. One year after President Obama promised to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, the administration continues to apply for a FISA court order every three months directing American phone companies to turn all of their phone records over to the NSA. It also continues to exploit a surveillance program nominally targeted at foreigners to listen to Americans’ phone calls and read their e-mails without a warrant. Overseas, the administration collects communications that involve Americans on a truly massive scale with no judicial oversight or legislative restrictions. These activities constitute an existential threat to civil liberties that cannot be addressed by procedural tweaks.
It is tempting to cheer the administration’s changes simply because they happened – and because they improve the status quo, however incrementally. Context matters here: in the short period of time since 9/11, technological changes have exponentially increased the amount of personal information the government can collect, while the longstanding laws that would restrict such collection have been systematically gutted or tossed aside. Given this dizzying trajectory, any tap on the brakes is in some sense a major accomplishment.
Eveline Shen | Truthout | Truthout | April 7, 2015
Over the past month, antichoice advocates have made some alarming – dare I say, horrifying – claims about the importance of a person’s right and ability to get safe, affordable abortion care. In fact, many have suggested that it’s acceptable for antichoice legislators to expand the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion, by including it in unrelated legislation, such as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Simply put, they make the Hyde Amendment out to be no big deal, something that’s set in stone, and something that isn’t worth fighting against every chance we get.
First, let’s get some facts straight. Yes, the Hyde Amendment has been affirmed by Congress annually since 1976, but it is by no means codified law. Every year, Congress bans federal Medicaid funds from paying for abortion services through this annual rider. And despite claims by some that trafficking survivors would be covered by Hyde’s rape exception, that’s not entirely true. In fact, exemptions vary year to year and are implemented unevenly from state to state. Besides – no matter what exceptions are made – reproductive rights must apply to everyone.
Hyde is not settled in any sense of the word – and not only because we are committed to fighting it. Rather, the annual reintroduction of Hyde reopens the debate on whether the ability to get an abortion is one that belongs to everyone or only to those who have the financial means necessary to access legal, safe abortion care. This debate provides us with an opportunity to see which of our lawmakers believe that being forced to carry a pregnancy to term is the price a woman should pay for being poor, and which of our lawmakers believe abortion rights should not be based on income or socioeconomic status.
Curtis M. Wong | Huffington Post | April 7, 2015
Author, editor and activist Michelangelo Signorile believes that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters should “absolutely” be more critical of Hillary Clinton even if she does not become a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“She’s a prominent politician, she’s a prominent individual,” Signorile told HuffPost Live host Alex Berg this week. “She should be out front on [LGBT] issues. We need a full civil rights bill at the federal level…she should be not just on board with that, she should be leading and talking about that and championing that.”
Signorile, who is also the editor-at-large of HuffPost Gay Voices, also said he was skeptical of what he described.
Barack Obama. (photo: Pete Souza/White House)
Robert Parry | Consortium News | Reader Supported News | April 7, 2015
With Israel and Saudi Arabia siding with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda versus Iran and its allies, President Obama faces a critical decision – whether to repudiate those old allies and cooperate with Iran or watch as Sunni terrorist groups possibly take control of a major country in the Mideast, writes Robert Parry.
he foreign policy quandary facing President Barack Obama is that America’s traditional allies in the Middle East – Israel and Saudi Arabia – along with Official Washington’s powerful neocons have effectively sided with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State out of a belief that Iran represents a greater threat to Israeli and Saudi interests.
But what that means for U.S. interests is potentially catastrophic. If the Islamic State continues its penetration toward Damascus in league with Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and topples the Syrian government, the resulting slaughter of Christians, Shiites and other religious minorities – as well as the risk of a major new terrorist base in the heart of the Middle East – could force the United States into a hopeless new war that could drain the U.S. Treasury and drive the nation into a chaotic and dangerous decline.
To avoid this calamity, Obama would have to throw U.S. support fully behind the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, precipitate a break with Israel and Saudi Arabia, and withstand a chorus of condemnations from influential neocon pundits, Republican politicians and hawkish Democrats. Influenced by Israeli propaganda, all have pushed for ousting Assad in a “regime change.”
Matt Baume | Queerty | April 6, 2015
Four states will have to defend their marriage bans before the US Supreme Court this month, and all four are still scrambling to figure out exactly how they’re going to pull that off. They filed a series of briefs with the court last week that are full of weird claims and arguments that just don’t make sense. Kentucky says that its marriage ban doesn’t discriminate, since gay couples are still free to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is exactly the same argument that was used to justify bans on interracial marriage, and it’s essentially saying “you’re free to do whatever you want, as long as you actually do something else.”
Michigan’s brief is even crazier. They say that gaining marriage equality through a court order, rather than a popular vote, would be demeaning to gay couples. So, thanks, Michigan, for your concern. Tennessee is sticking with the argument that if gay couples can get married, then straight couples will stop raising children in stable families, somehow. And Ohio says that overturning the marriage ban would cause the people who voted for it to feel isolated. Sure.
Those four states will be going up against Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier on April 28th. Mary’s a longtime champion of marriage equality. She won the case that brought marriage to Massachusetts in 2004, and the case that overturned DOMA in 2013. Doug has argued fourteen times before the Supreme Court, and is a former Assistant U.S. Solicitor General. Those marriage bans aren’t going to know what hit them.
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)
Bernie Sanders | Reader Supported News | April 6, 2015
“We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change.”
he good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.
Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now than at any other time since the 1920s. Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
This is what a rigged economic system looks like. At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion dollars. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs — and 14 individuals saw a $157 billion dollar increase in their wealth over a two-year period.