Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't happy about Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis' 11-hour (11th hour) filibuster of a strict anti-abortion bill that would ban pregnancies after 20 weeks and close all but five abortion providers in the nation's second-largest state. On Wednesday, he announced plans to convene a special session of the Legislature next month so Republicans can reintroduce the legislation. On Thursday, he took a more personal shot at Davis. Referring to the fact that Davis was herself a teen mom (she had her first child at 19, before going on to Texas Christian University and Harvard Law), Perry mused: "It is just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."
This isn't the first time Perry has wandered into uncomfortable territory when talking about teen pregnancy, though. He sort of has a knack for it.
In February, he blamed rising teen pregnancy rates on the fact that America had strayed from the core values exemplified by the Boy Scouts—something he feared would be exacerbated if the organization drifted from its morals and embraced openly gay members. The Boy Scouts advocate abstinence before marriage. Then again, so does the state of Texas—and all it has to show for it is the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.
Speaking of that, in a 2010 interview that went viral during his presidential campaign, Perry was asked by Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith to explain the disconnect between Texas' high teen pregnancy rate and its policy of abstinence-only sex education. "Abstinence works," Perry said, to laughter from the audience. He continued:
It works. Maybe it's the way that it's being taught or the way that it's being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form to teach our children. I'm just gonna tell you from my own personal life abstinence works. And the point is if we're not teaching it and if we're not impressing it upon them, no, but if the point is we're gonna go stand up here and say, "Listen, y'all go have sex and go have whatever is going on and we'll worry with that and here's the ways to have safe sex," I'm sorry, call me old-fashioned if you want, but that is not what I'm gonna stand up in front of the people of Texas and say that's the way we need to go and forget about abstinence.
It is just unfortunate that the governor of Texas hasn't learned from his own example that nothing good ever happens when he talks about teen pregnancy.
The Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, ruling that the United States had sufficiently moved beyond its Jim Crow past and has rendered the law's formulas unconstitutional. Writing for the conservative 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who has a long history of trying to undermine this law, struck down Section 4 of the act. This part of the law determines which states and counties must adhere to strict guidelines governing any change to their voting laws. (The point of this provision is to prevent regions that have a history of fiddling with voting laws to discriminate against certain groups from trying such stunts again.)
More MoJo coverage of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act
As proof of the nation's racial progress, Roberts cited elevated voter registration figures among black voters (setting aside the main issue of whether black voters have the same access to the voting booth once they're registered) and the fact that civil rights battlegrounds such as Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Selma, Alabama, currently have black mayors.
In the court's view, the Voting Rights Act has accomplished its mission of squashing racism:
Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Largely because of the Voting Rights Act, "[v]oter turnout and registration rates" in covered jurisdictions "now approach parity. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels." Northwest Austin, supra, at 202. The tests and devices that blocked ballot access have been forbidden nationwide for over 40 years. Yet the Act has not eased [its] restrictions or narrowed the scope of [the formula that determines which parts of the country that are covered]. Instead those extraordinary and unprecedented features have been reauthorized as if nothing has changed, and they have grown even stronger.
TheNew Republic's profile of Sen. Rand Paul is well worth a look—and so is the remarkable cover photograph, which captures the Kentucky lawmaker crossing his fingers:
The New Republic
The amazing photo set off a round of accusations that the image had been Photoshopped to make Paul look bad. But the picture, by the esteemed photographer Platon, wasn't doctored. Nor, as TNR senior editor Noam Scheiber points out, did Platon ask Paul to pose in this fashion. It wasn't until Platon was reviewing his photographs after their shoot that he noticed the money shot.
So why was Paul crossing his fingers? As some internet commenters have observed, there may be deeper significance to this "good luck" hand gesture. The crossed fingers have traditionally been used by POWs trotted out for propaganda purposes to indicate that the subject is participating under duress. Perhaps Paul was embracing the role he's carved out in Washington from Day One—that of a conservative freedom fighter deep in enemy territory.
The hidden messages may not stop there. Paul's choice of neck tie may also be sending a signal. As Matthew Schmitz, the deputy editor of the conservative religious magazine First Things, notes on Twitter, the libertarian-leaning lawmaker appears to be wearing a floral tie from a London-based company: Liberty.
Paul's office didn't respond to an inquiry about whether he was photographed under duress, or about whether the symbolism of his attire was intentional.
Edward Snowden revealed to the world the startling breadth of the National Security Agency's surveillance efforts, but his story also highlighted another facet of today's intelligence world: the increasingly privatized national security sector, in which a high school dropout could bring in six figures while gaining access to state secrets. Over the last decade, firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden worked for three months, have gobbled up nearly 60 cents out of every dollar the government spends on intelligence. A majority of top-secret security clearances now go to private contractors who provide services to the government at stepped up rates.
"I like to call Booz Allen the shadow [intelligence community]," Joan Dempsey, a vice president at the firm, said in 2004, as captured in Tim Shorrock's book, Spies for Hire. No kidding. Here's a look at our mushrooming intelligence contracting sector:
OUR PRIVATE INTELLIGENCE APPARATUS, BY THE NUMBERS
12,000: Number of Booz Allen Hamilton employees with top-secret clearances
483,263: Number of contractors with top-secret clearances
1.4 million: Number of public and private employees, total, with top-secret security clearances, as of FY 2012
7th: Where employees with top-secret clearances would rank, by population, if they were a single American city
1: Occupations, out of 35 analyzed by the Project On Government Oversight, in which privatization yielded statistically significant savings—groundskeepers
4.4 million: Number of private contractors serving the federal government in 1999
7.6 million: Number of private contractors serving the federal government 2005
In January, Politicoreported that the conservative pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List was organizing special training sessions to teach male Republican lawmakers how to not make ignorant comments about rape (see: Akin, Todd). How's that working out so far? On Wednesday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who is sponsoring a bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, pushed back against an effort to insert an exception for women who have been raped by arguing that rape usually doesn't result in pregnancy:
The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. But when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment.
TheAtlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta has the best deconstruction of this myth, but most serious studies of the issue conclude that pregnancies from rape are quite common. I've reached out to Rep. Franks' office to ask if he had attended the SBA List rape seminar. It seems unlikely.