2011 - %3, April

Indiana Shoots Down Rape/Incest Abortion Exceptions

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 2:27 PM EDT

The Indiana House yesterday passed a bill, HB 1210, that would force women to carry pregnancies past 22 weeks to term, even if the father of the fetus is their rapist or family member. The only reason a woman could get an abortion after 22 weeks (and most medical experts don't consider a fetus viable until around 27 weeks) is if carrying the fetus to term would result in the woman's death or "substantial physical impairment." Even then, her doctor would be required by law to perform the abortion in a hospital with a prenatal unit, and in the way that "would result in the best opportunity for the fetus to survive."

The bill passed with overwhelming support, 72-23. State representative Gail Riecken, a Democrat, tried to amend the bill to include exceptions for rape or incest, but her amendment failed. Among the amendment's critics was Rep. Eric Turner (Republican), who wrote HB 1210. He argued that the amendment would provide a "loophole" to women who wanted abortions. They would, he suggested, lie about being raped. "I don't want to disparage in any way someone who's gone through the experience of a rape, or incest," Turner said, "but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they've been raped or there's incest."

Turner's statement was quickly followed up by Rep. Linda Lawson (D), who worked as a sex crime investigator for six years. After being instructed to "take a minute" to "collect herself," Lawson fiercely rebutted Turner's claims. "I don't think anybody in this room has ever sat where I sat... They [women] don't make it up!" Video of Lawson and Turner below.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Besides "Uterus", What Other Dirty-Sounding Words Would the GOP Ban?

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 2:21 PM EDT

Fresh on the heels of Uterusgate (and the hashtag meme #GOPnames4uterus), we wondered what other dirty-sounding non-dirty words Republicans would prefer that you not say on a legislature's floor. So far we've got:

  • Uterus
  • Moist
  • Knickers
  • Penal
  • Caucus
  • Assonance
  • Ventricular
  • Annals
  • Panties
  • Titmouse
  • Gonad
  • Urethra
  • Screw Jack
  • Stimulus
  • Spotted Dick
  • Global Warming
  • Christian Fundamentalist
  • Equal Pay
  • Empathy
  • Public
  • Community
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Tort (unless followed by "reform")
  • Racism (unless preceded by "reverse")

Got others? Add 'em in the comments!

GOP Presidential Frontrunner: Fred Karger?

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 2:09 PM EDT

Gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger has been heavily campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa this year, having been the first Republican to officially declare his candidacy. He's been working the youth vote, putting forward a proposal to lower the voting age and other ideas that might lure in young people to his campaign. The effort seems to be working: On Thursday night at St. Anselm College, Karger participated in a Republican presidential straw poll organized by the school's college Republicans. He is the only candidate to have actually addressed the students, and he ended up winning 79 out of the 322 votes cast, which made him the night's big winner, over Mitt Romney, who took second, and Donald Trump, who garnered but 26 votes. (The night's big loser: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who received a single vote.)

The win, however small, will no doubt help Karger's Federal Elections Commission complaint against Republicans in Iowa who refused to allow him to participate in an early presidential forum there last month. After a nice showing in the key primary state of New Hampshire, the GOP will have a hard time arguing to the FEC that Karger isn't a serious candidate.

DADT Repeal Going Smoothly

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 2:04 PM EDT

Politico reports that the repeal of DADT is going great so far:

The military’s repeal of its longstanding “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not facing resistance from troops and is on track to take full effect this fall as planned, top commanders told a House committee on Friday.

Clifford Stanley, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel that the military has trained 9 percent of its forces over the past month without any resistance to the new policy....Stanley, and U.S. Navy Vice Admiral William E. Gortney who also testified, said they hadn’t heard of any service members grumbling about the new policy. “I think we’re on the right path and I think midsummer is achievable” Gortney said.

That's good news. But here's my favorite part of the article:

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), [...] wondered aloud whether DADT repeal is even necessary. He said he suspected that the gay and lesbian military who have been discharged have likely violated other standards of conduct.

Gortney quickly rejected the hypothesis, telling Scott that he had himself dismissed a Navy officer in the early 1990s, shortly after the policy was implemented, simply because the officer had told his chaplain that he was gay. The anecdote shocked Scott.

“He did not violate your standard of conduct?” Scott asked.

“No, sir,” Gortney replied.

“That’s not the answer I thought you would give,” Scott said.

To which Gortney said quickly: “It happens to be the truth.

This kind of stuff really makes you wonder. Was Scott genuinely surprised by this? Is he so stuck in the conservative bubble that he truly didn't know that the vast majority of gays and lesbians who have been discharged under DADT did nothing else wrong? These guys really need to get out more.

Republicans and the Poor

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 1:45 PM EDT

Ezra Klein writes today about Republican Party priorities:

I’m not saying that congressional Republicans don’t care about poor people.

I'm not sure why you wouldn't say that, but whatever. Onward:

But they really care about rich people. So far, the policy agenda they’ve pushed has been a mixture of very expensive tax cuts for the very wealthy and very deep cuts to a lot of programs that focus on the very poor. It’s . . . curious.

....Now they’ve moved onto deficit reduction, or at least spending cuts, and their priorities in the 2011 budget are telling. Their cuts are coming from non-defense discretionary spending. That’s a category of spending, as you can see here, that tends to focus on services to the poor, the jobless and children. Among other cuts, they’ve proposed slicing more than $1 billion off Head Start, $1.1 billion off the Public Housing Capital Fund, $752 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, and $5.7 billion from Pell Grants. I could, of course, go on. Democrats have tried to widen the cuts out to other categories so their impact falls less heavily on the disadvantaged, but so far, Republicans have refused. If we’re going to cut spending, we’re going to do it on the backs of the poor.

In other words, congressional Republicans don’t care about poor people. But then, that's hardly anything new. They never have before, so it's hardly surprising that they still don't.

UPDATE: And the GOP assault on Medicaid is about to gear up too. Jon Cohn has details here.

On the Mall, Penis Trumps Tea-ness

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 1:38 PM EDT

On Thursday, the Tea Party Patriots held a "continuing revolution" rally on Capitol Hill. Originally, the rally was advertised to take place on the east side of the Capitol, which isn't the most desirable spot for a protest. Later, the activists ended up even farther down the Hill in a wooded spot near the Robert Taft memorial and away from most gawking tourists. At least one tea partier suspects that the location problem stemmed from the fact that the most desirable spot on the Hill—the west lawn, where tea partiers have held most of their big protests—has been occupied most of the week by a group of anti-circumcision activists. Those particular activists have been protesting on the Hill annually at this time for 16 years.

David Wilson, who runs Stop Infant Circumcision, says he applied for a permit before the tea partiers did, and as such, he was naturally entitled to the space. "I feel as though my purpose and cause is greater than their is," he told me. Wilson notes that at least 120 boys die every year from circumcision and "you don't hear a big outcry over this." That said, Wilson, who sports long dredlocks and a large Uncle Sam hat that would fit right in at a tea party rally, says that because he and his group will be protesting most of the week, he would have happily accommodated the tea partiers for a couple of hours Thursday if they'd just asked him.

Perhaps you can't blame the tea partiers for not wanting to have foreskin preservation propaganda cluttering up their C-SPAN broadcast. And while likely presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) may not have minded the presence of a few bloody fetus posters during her speech (there were some), it's hard to imagine she would have wanted to be filmed in front of posters of screaming babies emblazoned with the slogan "Don't Snip the Tip!". But Wilson thinks that he and the tea partiers would find some common ground. Perhaps the conservative activists might even help move his foreskin cause to the forefront. "I'd be interested to see what the tea party has to say about this. They believe in personal freedom."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Rick Scott Slashes Support for the Disabled

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 1:21 PM EDT

Continuing his assault on Florida's most vulnerable, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order on Thursday that immediately slashes money for the developmentally disabled. The cuts will reduce payments to group homes and social workers by 15 percent. The Orlando Sentinel reports

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered deep cuts Thursday to programs that serve tens of thousands of residents with Down syndrome,cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities…[which] providers say could put them out of business and threaten their clients' safety.


"lt's not like, 'Gee, does this mean I have to skip a vacation this year?'" said Amy Van Bergen, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. "Potentially, these cuts have life and death implications for these people."

 An estimated 30,000 Floridians with severe developmental disabilities receive services that help them live outside of nursinghomes—typically with family or in small group homes. Aides help them eat, bathe, take medication and otherwise care for themselves.


But Scott's executive order is only the first of many cuts that could hurt the disabled. With the governor's full support, the Florida statehouse is currently considering a bill that would privatize Medicaid—a proposal that would also turn health care for disabled beneficiaries in the program over to private managed care companies. 

The problem is that HMOs "do not have the expertise" in dealing with developmentally disabled patients, Debra Downs, executive director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, warns in an interview. What's more, "when you put [these services] into the private sector, there's going to be some money off the top for administrative costs," she adds, warning that HMOs could end up spending money on bureaucracy rather than services.

So Florida's most vulnerable residents have gotten the short end of the stick as Florida trys to rein in its budget. And Republicans in Washington are following the exact same playbook.

Senate Dems to GOP: Drop the Riders

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 1:15 PM EDT

As lawmakers work to negotiate a grand bargain on the federal budget, top Senate Democrats hosted a conference call with reporters to insist that they won't let social issues derail a deal to keep the government—and the still-nascent economic recovery—going.

The watchword of the day is "rider," a term used to describe provisions tacked on to government funding bills that restrict how money can be spent. House Republicans wedged plenty of riders into their budget proposal, but some—including provisions to ban funding for Planned Parenthood and restrict the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases—are particularly galling to Democrats, who still control two-thirds of the government.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, also criticized the GOP's cuts to Title X funding, which supports contraception and other health services for low-income women, and cuts to the Head Start program, which funds education programs for low-income families. "This should be the kind of thing upon which reasonable people can agree—that this is not the right thing to do," Reid said. "It's certainly not something over which it's worth shutting down the government." Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) echoed Reid: "Please don’t let the ship of state crash over riders.... let's not shut down the government on a fight over some bumper sticker issue that may have been around for the last ten or twenty years."

Durbin acknowledged that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is stuck been a rock and a hard-charging, aggressive tea party. But Durbin said he also remains confident that the speaker understands the devastating implications of closing down the government. During the last shutdown, over $3 billion of exports sat idle in ports, according to Reid. "We're calling on speaker Boehner to sit down and in good faith work with us. We've agreed on the number," Durbin said, referring to the $73 billion in spending cuts for the 2011 budget negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden earlier this week. "Now it's a matter of putting together the cuts that will achieve our goals of reducing spending in a responsible way." If Boehner can do that, then he's sure to find friends on the other side of the aisle, Durbin promised.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also weighed in on Boehner's intra-party dilemma. "We're on the doorstep of a deal as long as the Speaker resists the tea party Republicans in the House," he said. Because Boehner has been boxed in by the tea party, Schumer added, the Speaker will need the support of Democrats, and must look to make cuts to mandatory rather than domestic discretionary spending. "We're going to insist that mandatory savings be part of any deal. Because otherwise the cuts become so deep on certain programs that they cut in the bone."

Meanwhile, Reid said that the Democrats have found an unlikely ally in their fight to keep the government open: the Republican-leaning US Chamber of Commerce. Reid said that Chamber president Tom Donohue told a gathering of over 100 Republicans yesterday that they would be making a huge mistake shutting down the government. And the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of major U.S. corporations, warned that a government shutdown would kill the momentum the private sector has gained in recent months.

"You can't balance this budget... on the backs of people who had nothing to do with the debt," Reid said. "They had nothing to do with making the debt what it is. And they shouldn't be the only answer to it."

Who's Afraid of the F-Bomb?

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 12:42 PM EDT

A few years ago, after Cher and Bono dropped a couple of F-bombs on live TV, the FCC tightened up its obscenity rules and fined a bunch of broadcasters. The broadcasters fought back, and in 2009 the Supreme Court sent the case back to the 2nd Circuit Court, which overturned the FCC's new rules. So what's next? Stephanie Mencimer reports:

With the Second Circuit decision, broadcasters have been liberated to drop the F-bomb at will, and evangelical groups are seething. But what really ticks off indecency activists these days is that the case has landed squarely in the lap of the Obama administration, whose Justice Department is charged with appealing—or not—the decision to the Supreme Court on behalf of the FCC. To date, the Justice Department has twice asked for an extension for filing the appeal, which is now due April 21. Religious-right groups have accused Justice of dragging its feet to let the case simply die.

On Wednesday, Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, blasted the administration for not doing more to protect America's children from dirty words....Meanwhile, the Parents Television Council, which brought the original complaint regarding the Golden Globes broadcast in 2003, sent out an urgent appeal to supporters asking them to pressure the administration to act.

Ah yes, the Parents Television Council. I remember them. Back in 2004, when this stuff was first in the news, Mediaweek obtained an estimate of where indecency complaints came from. Answer: the Parents Television Council. That's it. In 2003-04, the PTC was responsible for over 99.8% of all indecency complaints to the FCC. I've illustrated this with the handy chart on the right.

As Stephanie points out, one reason the Justice Department might be hesitating is because the 2nd Circuit made it very clear that writing obscenity rules precise enough to be constitutional is really hard. But another reason might be that virtually no one except the PTC actually seems to care much about obscenity on television anymore. Welcome to the cable era, folks.

The New York Times' Paywall and Nate Silver's Reporting Rankings

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 11:45 AM EDT

On Monday, after a 14-month, $40 million dollar development process, the New York Times finally launched its much-heralded, much-debated paywall scheme.1

Reviews are mixed.2 But perhaps the most interesting response to the paywall was from the Times' stats expert, polling guru Nate Silver. Instead of attacking or defending the concept of the paywall head-on, Silver took a different tack: attempting to quantify what, exactly, the $15 per month would buy you. To do that, Silver put together a ranking of how much original reporting the 260-odd top journalism outlets actually produce. The results, as you might expect, made the Times look like a pretty good value. The eight top organizations ranked—the Associated Press, the Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the BBC, AFP, and CNN—were responsible for more than half of the original reporting Silver catalogued.3