ThinkProgress

A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

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Christian Faith and Character in Iowa

Iowa Christian talk radio host Steve Deace appears on msnbc in undated frame detail; background text via Twitter.

You know, to call Steve Deace a dick is insufficient; it’s too small a word, and not nearly a stiff enough insult.

Still, though: Full vagina?

And people can say what they will about one extreme voice, this, that, and the other, but what is the market calculation, here? Once upon a time this was the sort of thing that put political players on the naughty list, sent them to the penalty box to not be taken seriously at least for a while.

Who exactly is the king of Iowa conservative family values pitching to?

Wow … Fiorina goes full vagina right away (Steve Deace, via Twitter, 15 December 2015.Here’s the thing about the Christian radio host backing Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign: He’s betting that misogyny sells in Iowa.

What are the chances he’s right?

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Image notes: Top ― Iowa Christian talk radio host Steve Deace appears on msnbc in undated frame detail; background text via Twitter. Right ― Steve Deace message via Twitter explaining that Carly Fiorina went “full vagina” in her opening statement during a presidential debate, 15 December 2015.

Lerner, Kira. “Conservative Radio Host Says Carly Fiorina Went ‘Full Vagina’ In GOP Debate”. ThinkProgress. 15 December 2015.

An Important Difference (Play Like a Girl)

United States Women's National Team forward Abby Wambach celebrates victory at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 5 July 2015, with her wife, Sarah Huffman. (Detail of photo by Elaine Thompson/AP)

“Abby said that she wanted her final World Cup to be like a fairytale. And I’m not sure she could have written a better ending: a world champion at last, draped in the Stars and Stripes, showing us all how far we’ve come―on and off the field―by sharing a celebratory kiss with her wife.”

President Barack Obama

This is an illustration of the difference.

President Barack Obama, on Tuesday:

President Barack Obama holds a jersey and poses for photographs during a ceremony to honor the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup champion U.S. National Soccer Team, Oct. 27, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Detail of photo by Evan Vucci/AP)This team taught all America’s children that “playing like a girl” means you’re a badass. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used that phrase. Playing like a girl means being the best. It means drawing the largest TV audience for a soccer match―men or women’s―in American history. It means wearing our nation’s crest on your jersey, taking yourself and your country to the top of the world. That’s what American women do. That’s what American girls do. That’s why we celebrate this team. They’ve done it with class. They’ve done it with the right way. They’ve done it with excitement. They’ve done with style. We are very, very proud of them.

Two days later, over at the Capitol:

On Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked a resolution that called on soccer’s global governing body to “immediately eliminate gender pay inequity and treat all athletes with the same respect and dignity.”

“It is a shame that in the Senate, we cannot even agree to pass a resolution that calls for the equal treatment of male and female athletes. If we cannot even pass a non-binding resolution, how can we ever achieve real pay equity for women?” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who introduced the resolution this summer.

Earlier this year at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the pay disparity between male and female soccer players was put into sharp focus when it was reported that while the U.S. Women’s National Team received $2 million for winning the championship, men’s teams who lost in the first round of the 2014 World Cup, including the U.S. men’s team, received $8 million.

(Gibbs)

Remember this, when people tell you there is no difference, that they’re all the same.

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A Joke That Isn’t Funny

Inside New Orleans Planned Parenthood clinic. (Detail of photo by Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times)

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services.”

Judge John DeGravelles

And, yet, the hidden jewel is one you might overlook if you’re not careful. Molly Redden of Mother Jones tops His Honor, wondering the obvious: “They know vagina dentata is a myth, right?”

It’s a fair question, given the Louisiana proposal to do away with Planned Parenthood in the Pelican State and expect other providers to pick up the load.

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The Not-So-Gay Divorceé

VIII. Adjustment.

The question of a divorceé has long plagued Christian supremacists who denounce marriage equality and gay rights, but, you know, really? Not only has Kim Davis already licensed transgender man and his pansexual wife, and most likely also issued plenty of marriage licenses to divorceés, but it also turns out that Ms. Davis is herself a serial adulterer.

On this point, Travis Gettys of Raw Story considers an appearance by Dan Savage on msnbc; the author, advice columnist, and editor of The Stranger, Mr. Savage spared no punches:

“I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in,” Savage told MSNBC. “I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, in a mugshot, 3 September 2015, after being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after she refused to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.“This is about someone hypocritically cashing in, and she is a hypocrite,” he added.

Savage referred to the defiant clerk’s statement complaining that courts were asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage” — which the columnist dismissed as ridiculous.

“This is a woman who’s been divorced three times and married four times,” he said, reading from the US News & World Report article that pointed out Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, (and) they were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.”

“She’s now onto her fourth husband,” Savage said. “Jesus Christ himself in scripture condemned divorce, called it adultery and forbids it. Jesus Christ himself in scripture says not one word about same-sex marriage.”

Savage said the U.S. Supreme Court had already decided the issue of same-sex marriage, and he said Davis clearly should have followed the law all along.

“She’s not being asked to perform a sacrament, she is tasked with ascertaining that the people in front of her, the couple in front of her, have a legal right to get married and to provide them with that license,” he said. “She is not a minister. She actually thinks she works for God there in the county courthouse, when she actually works for Caesar — and someone needs to acquaint her with that fact.”

Or we might attend Mr. Savage himself, who recently blogged, among other notes:

I would say I can’t wait for a Muslim county clerk in, say, Dearborn, Michigan (which has a huge Muslim community), to refuse to issue a marriage license to a Christian couple on the grounds that the this kafir couple hasn’t been paying jizya… but that’s not going to happen. Religious minorities in this country intuitively understand that to empower religious bigots like Davis is to paint bullseyes on their own backs. So the Jesus-freak goons at the Liberty Counsel work to frame discrimination as a “religious freedom” because they’re confident that American Christians will be the ones doing the discriminating, not suffering from it.

This is an important point. Something about functional reality goes here.

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A Betrayal

Mitch McConnell

Yesterday, Steve Benen described what he sees as a “silent governing failure” of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Following a Huffington Post report that the Senate would, under his leadership, become even less productive and more intransigent about the federal judiciary, Mr. Benen reminded:

Now, some of you are probably thinking this is normal. President Obama’s second term is starting to wind down; the opposition party controls the Senate; so it stands to reason that the GOP majority would scrap plans to confirm qualified court nominees. Perhaps, the argument goes, McConnell is doing exactly what Democrats did when they had a similar opportunity.

It would be a credible argument if it were in any way true.

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The Rick Perry Show (Who’s Next?)

Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry adjusts his tie as he listens to his introduction from the side of the stage at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. Reuters/Jim Young

Ladies and gentlemen, The Rick Perry Show:

Touting his military background and his upbringing in rural America, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday that he’ll make a second bid for the White House.

Perry stood at a podium in front of a C-130 prop plane emblazoned with the words “Perry for President” and told the crowd at a hangar in this Dallas suburb that it’s time for an American “reset.”

“We have the power to make things new again. To project American strength again, to get our economy going again. And that is why today I am running for the presidency of the United States of America,” the longest-serving governor in Texas history said to loud applause.

Perry was accompanied by several military veterans, including Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL made famous in the movie “Lone Survivor.” Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle, the subject of the film “American Sniper” was also in attendance.

(Hunt and Frumin)

In honor of Governor Oops returning to the Republican Ringling, Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress notes some of the stranger beliefs Mr. Perry has expressed about the U.S. Constitution he hopes to preserve, protect, and defend.

And Simon Maloy responds to those notes with appropriately theatrical horror.

The Texas Oopsie Indicted Clown just jumped in the car.

Who’s next? Jeb? And then Bobby?

I get the argument about diversity, how more candidates is better. But isn’t there something missing from that formulation? Don’t they have to be good candidates? I mean, you know―at least a couple of them?

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Image note: Top ― Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry adjusts his tie as he listens to his introduction from the side of the stage at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Hunt, Kasie and Aliyah Frumin. “Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces 2016 presidential bid”. msnbc. 4 June 2015.

Millhiser, Ian. “9 Completely Bonkers Things The Newest GOP Presidential Candidate Believes About The Constitution”. ThinkProgress. 4 June 2015.

Maloy, Simon. “oh god I didn’t realize Perry is an anti-17th amendment crank”. Twitter.com. 4 June 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Flubbing the details on Perry’s indictment”. msnbc. 25 August 2014.

The Ted Cruz Show (Cover Songs)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex? ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

There are a number of things we might say. Sure, the state of Ohio might be trying to unmarry a dead man, Louisiana might be looking to shield discrimination by state employees, and Christians might be eyeing re-education camps for insufficiently Christian children, but, you know, hey, they’re not actually executing anyone, so … you know, get over yourselves.

And, hey, you know, we might also mention that doing better than Daa’ish is hardly a reasonable standard for American political health. We might look at Ted Cruz, then, and suggest that, hey, it’s not like we’re actually having dogs rape your ass while forcing you to say you like it, so, you know, get over yourself.

In truth, the functional problem with actually saying that would be legitimizing Mr. Cruz’s stupidity.

Bobby Blanchard tries to explain:

[Cruz] got in a light sparring round with reporters, mainly working on his attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton and defending his views on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex?” Cruz asked after fielding multiple questions on gay rights. “ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Cruz also said he did not think his opposition to gay marriage will hurt his chances with moderate voters.

“With respect, I would suggest not drawing your questions from MSNBC―they have very few viewers and they are a radical and extreme partisan outlet,” Cruz told a reporter. He cited the expansion of “mandatory same-sex marriage” as an assault on religious liberty in the United States.

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The Countdown: One Week

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

We should not let it pass unmentioned that there is one week left before oral arguments in Obergefell, when marriage equality has its day before the Supreme Court. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog offers the press some advice on covering the case, but it’s pretty much worth a read for anyone who wants to know what’s about to happen.

About the briefs. There are a lot of them. Some amount of triage is essential to get ready for the oral argument. All of the briefs are housed here on the blog (organized for each case — Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky) and on the Supreme Court’s own website.

In each of the four cases, the parties’ briefs are generally the most important. There are briefs on the merits by the plaintiffs challenging the state laws; they are known as the “petitioners” because they “petitioned” the Court to review the lower court’s decision upholding the state laws. On the other side, each set of state officials defending the laws – known as the “respondents” – filed briefs in their respective cases. The petitioners also get to file reply briefs, which are due at the Court on the afternoon of April 17.

In addition to the parties’ briefs, there are also over a hundred amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs filed by everyone from the Cleveland Choral Arts Association and Facebook – both of which filed briefs in support of the challengers – to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an advocacy group founded by Mike Huckabee, which support the states that seek to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. The United States also filed an amicus brief supporting the challengers.

With the possible exception of the Justices’ law clerks, no one will read all of these amicus briefs – and you don’t really need to either. Each amicus brief is required to contain a “summary of argument,” which lays out the issues that the brief will cover and generally gives you enough information to decide whether you want to keep reading or instead move on to the next one. The only exception is the brief of the United States, which always receives considerable attention from the Court (and which will participate in the oral argument on the marriage question).

And that’s just part of what you need to know before the show gets started. It is worth noting that the Court is allowing a longer session for oral arguments, two and a half hours split into two parts. The first will see the Court spend ninety minutes on the basic marriage question, with Mary Bonauto arguing on behalf of the same-sex couples, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli representing the United States, and John Bursch of Michigan explaining the case for the states. Of the three, only Bonauto will have rebuttal time.

The second part will have to do with the recognition question, and in this case it really would seem rather quite clear. Nonetheless, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier will stand for the challengers; Joseph Whalen of Tennessee will represent the states.

For a look at what we’ve heard before, and perhaps a hint of what’s in store, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress offers up a serving of strangeness. And despite the absurdity of a certain amicus brief, which, it should be noted, was obsolete before it was submitted―the democratic process has already brought same-sex marriage to multiple states―the crown still goes to Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of House Republicans in Hollingsworth, that gay marriage was wrong because “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society”, and further reasoned that same-sex couples “don’t present a threat of irresponsible procreation”.

What a show.

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Howe, Amy. “A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court”. SCOTUSblog. 20 April 2015.

Ford, Zack. “Ten Novel, Absurd, And Irrelevant Arguments Made In Supreme Court Briefs Against Marriage Equality”. ThinkProgress. 17 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2015.

Morbid Hilarity (King v. Burwell Throwback Mix)

That King v. Burwell has even made it to the Supreme Court becomes even more of a mystery; the cynicism of the case is plainly apparent; even Justice Scalia is reduced to cheap politicking.

Perhaps, then, we ought not be surprised at Ian Millhiser’s report for ThinkProgress, which runs under the lovely title, “The Lawyer Telling The Supreme Court To Gut Obamacare Explained Why He Should Lose In 2012”, should surprise nobody:

On Wednesday, a lawsuit seeking to defund much of the Affordable Care Act appeared to hit a roadblock when Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns that the plaintiffs’ reading of the law is unconstitutional. Though Michael Carvin, the lead lawyer challenging the law, attempted to extract himself from this roadblock, he quickly ran into an entirely different obstacle — his own past writings.

Attorney Michael Carvin, who argued King v. Burwell before the Supreme Court of the United States, 3 March 2015, on behalf of plaintiffs hoping to overturn the Affordable Care Act, in an undated photo.  (Image credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Carvin claims, in a case called King v. Burwell, that Obamacare should be read to deny tax credits that enable millions of Americans to afford health insurance in states that elected not to set up their own health exchange (under the Affordable Care Act, states have “flexibility” to decide whether to set up their own exchange or to allow the federal government to do so). During oral arguments on Wednesday, however, several justices raised concerns about the catastrophic damage Carvin’s reading of the law could inflict on those states’ insurance markets ....

.... Carvin tried to downplay the risk that consumers would simply stop buying plans in the law’s health exchanges if the tax credits were cut off, claiming that these consumers would still be attracted to exchange plans by the fact that the exchanges offer “one-stop shopping” for people looking to buy insurance. He also claimed that Congress wasn’t worried about the risk of death spirals if the tax credits get cut off. According to Carvin, “there’s not a scintilla of legislative history suggesting that without subsidies, there will be a death spiral.”

But Carvin himself sang a very different tune three years ago. Indeed, Wednesday was not the first time he’s stood in the well of the Supreme Courtroom and asked the justices to gut the Affordable Care Act. Carvin was also one of the lead attorneys in NFIB v. Sebelius, the first Supreme Court case attacking the law.

In a brief filed in NFIB, Carvin explained that “[w]ithout the subsidies driving demand within the exchanges, insurance companies would have absolutely no reason to offer their products through exchanges, where they are subject to far greater restrictions.” And, contrary to his more recent suggestion that Congress never envisioned any danger if the tax credits are cut off, Carvin wrote in 2012 that “the insurance exchanges cannot operate as intended by Congress absent those provisions.”

In a subsequent brief, Carvin elaborated that “the federal subsidies are the incentive to participate in the exchanges, and without those subsidies, there will be no mechanism to sustain the exchanges.” He also seemed to contradict his central claim that different states are treated differently depending on whether their exchange is operated by a state or the federal government. The Affordable Care Act, according to the Michael Carvin of 2012, “enables uniform and acceptable federal premium subsidies”.

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