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scotusDon’t get me wrong, this is very much worth celebrating, and building off of.
 

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a beat down of Texas’ anti-abortion law HB 2. Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion piles facts upon evidence upon statistics to demolish Texas’ supposed justification for the law. At one point, Breyer even damns the law with words uttered by Texas’ own attorney. By the end of the opinion, it is surprising that Breyer did not finish with the two words “HULK SMASH!”
 
Even more significantly, Whole Woman’s Health leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down. It’s difficult to exaggerate just how awesomely anti-abortion advocates erred in urging Texas to pass HB 2 in the first place. This law was supposed to provide those advocates with a vehicle to drain what life remains in Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive freedom is stronger today than it has been at any point in nearly a decade.
(Think Progress)

The decision, though, does nothing to rid the firmament of a plethora of other forced-birther crap like Minnesota’s mandatory misinformation and gratuitous waiting period laws. To fully protect women’s rights in this, and other, matters nationwide, we need definitive federal legislative action and therefore a progressive Congress.
 
What with Texas being governed largely by those of the sort with which one is almost ashamed to share the human form, the practical effects of the decision there may not be as hoped, either.
 
Update: Good news from this morning.
 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to review further restrictions on doctors who perform abortions in Mississippi and Wisconsin, marking the first ripple effect from Monday’s landmark ruling that overturned two abortion restrictions in Texas. In so doing, the Court ensured that Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic will be allowed to remain open.
 
At issue in both states were laws requiring abortion doctors to have “admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital, a formal affiliation that is difficult to obtain. The justices rejected the cases, letting the ruling of lower courts blocking the laws stand.
(Think Progress)

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Hillary’s vice-president

by Eric Ferguson on June 22, 2016 · 3 comments

warrenI’m just going to start with the conclusion and say I think Hillary is going to pick Elizabeth Warren for vice-president, and the related point, that seems like a good choice. That’s admittedly doing some reading of the proverbial tea leaves, and tea leaf reading has such a poor record with predicting vice-presidential picks, that I make that prediction with low confidence. I can’t think of a strong counter-argument, so file that lack of confidence under “predictions are hard, especially about the future.”
 
And certainly, I’m not in Hillary’s confidence, at least not since trying to fool her with that Bill costume. You make just one bad decision, as I tried to explain to the Secret Service guy…
 
Warren is one of a number of people mentioned in reports based on leaks, or maybe claims of leaks, and reports based on anonymous whoever. For example, “Clinton has also begun to winnow a list of more than a dozen potential choices, another senior Democrat said.” Well, if “another senior Democrat” said it, who can argue? Hillary has met with Warren more than once. Warren endorsed Hillary in an interview with Rachel Maddow, and when asked if she would be ready to be president if she was vice-president and the worst happened to Hillary, she just out and out said yes. Maybe she’s just that self-confident, but that sounded like someone who had been seriously thinking about it.
 
Then there are the reports Senate minority leader Harry Reid is looking into Massachusetts’ unusual procedure for replacing a senator. Maybe he’s just idly curious. What a coincidence.
 
Vox looked at strength and weaknesses of list of candidates supposedly leaked. It seems a plausible list, and most names are popping up elsewhere. All the candidates have strengths and weaknesses, but what sticks out is that Warren has the strongest strengths, and the most addressable weaknesses. Others have weaknesses like lack of campaign experience, lack of governing experience, low name recognition, and to connect to my point about Reid, a bunch are incumbent senators whose replacements would be chosen by Republican governors. So if Hillary wins, a senate seat flips to the Republicans. I actually thought AL Franken and Amy Klobuchar would be considered, not just for what they might bring to the ticket, but because their replacement would be chosen by a Democratic governor. Warren’s replacement, though picked by a Republican, would be temporary since Massachusetts requires a special election 160 days after the vacancy occurs, not coincidental with the next even numbered general election like most states. In other words, picking Warren entails less risk of ceding a Senate seat than if several other rumored candidates were chosen.
 
And here’s an oddball reason for thinking Warren will get picked: Wall Street is convinced she won’t be.
 
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MN-06: David Snyder is DFL-endorsed

by Dan Burns on June 2, 2016 · 1 comment

dsnyderSome sampling from his website:
 

We need real and long term investment in everything from our crumbling highway system to modernizing our electrical grid, airports, sea ports and pipelines. Doing this is a basic function of government and it will create thousands of good jobs that can’t be shipped overseas…
 
Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
 
The idea that de-funding Planned Parenthood will protect women is a lie. Let’s stop the war against women, and keep funding an organization that does more preventative care and education than anything else.

In other words, we have a pro-worker, pro-woman, pro-veteran, very good candidate in MN-06. It’s the toughest district in the state for anyone to run on a platform like that, but it’s by no means impossible. Especially this time around.
 
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Not OK in Oklahoma

by Dog Gone on May 31, 2016 · 2 comments

Oklahoma is apparently a state broadly populated with conservative fools and extremists, crazies and “fundies” (evangelical Christian fundamentalists), incapable of EFFECTIVE self-government, and inhabited by haters of the United States Constitution and of true liberty.  (By true liberty, I mean ACTUAL individual freedom, not merely the illusory freedom to conform to unscientific conservative Christianity.)

 

Last Friday, OK Governor Mary Fallin vetoed legislation that would have made it a criminal offense to perform a constitutionally legal abortion.

 

Gov. Mary Fallin has been widely discussed as a potential running mate for Donald Trump.

 

There is talk of an attempt to override that veto, a vote which would have to occur by 5 p.m. this coming Friday when the lege in OK adjourns.

 

From the AP:

“I have not made a decision,” Sen. Nathan Dahm, of
Broken Arrow, told The Associated Press. “That’s what we’re pursuing,
what we’d like to see accomplished.”
He said he’ll decide during
the coming week whether to pursue an attempt — the same week that the
Legislature faces a deadline to adjourn while grappling with a $1.3
billion budget hole that could lead to cuts to public schools, health
care and the state’s overcrowded prison system. They’ve yet to be
presented with a proposed state budget.

Given that Oklahoma has a Grand Canyon sized budget hole, it is grossly irresponsible to waste ANY time on abortion legislation rather than focusing on the state budget.  But of course, that is what the crazies, and the extremists, and the religious fanatics and the science deniers do, instead of doing their jobs.

 

It’s not like OK doesn’t have more than their fair share of other problems far more serious than a useless piece of liberty-denying abortion legislation that isn’t worth a role of toilet paper in the legislative bathroom, much less the paper on which it is printed.  As states go “OK” is pretty far from being ‘okay’.

 

The state is literally shaking apart due to earthquakes from the pursuit of fossil fuel drilling, with another earthquake earlier today within 30 miles of the state Capitol.

 

Perhaps the failed prioritizing of the legislature can best be explained by the educational failings of the state.  Oklahoma is ranked among the lowest for education spending at 47th, both for K-12 and post-secondary education.  Those ‘Sooners’ have been ranked down near the lower half for number of adults with high school diplomas (36th in 2004).  And per Wikipedia:

 

In the 2007–2008 school year, there were 181,973 undergraduate students,
20,014 graduate students, and 4,395 first-professional degree students
enrolled in Oklahoma colleges. Of these students, 18,892 received a
bachelor’s degree, 5,386 received a master’s degree, and 462 received a
first professional degree. This means the state of Oklahoma produces an
average of 38,278 degree-holders per completions component (i.e. July 1,
2007 – June 30, 2008). National average is 68,322 total degrees awarded
per completions component.

Clearly, knowledge, and thinking, are not the priorities of the voters of Oklahoma.  They’re more obsessed with interference in the reproductive choices of women and their medical providers.  Because apparently both voters and legislators fail to grasp that there are other things more appropriate and more important requiring their attention.
 
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image courtesy of Imagine magazine
NOT an actual photo of
TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham

It has long been my contention that conservatives give lip service to the Constitution, but do not in practice support the content in that Constitution.

 

The continuing hypocritical efforts of conservatives, particularly those who are southern evangelicals, demonstrate equally a desperate desire to regulate the lives of others, demanding conformity to their own beliefs, while not themselves behaving consistently with those beliefs.  We have the interference in the lives of other people, while not managing one’s own very well, in the example of Tennessee’s own state representative Jeremy Durham, pervert for Jesus.

 

Evangelical Tennessee
State Rep Jeremy Durham Is ‘Banished’ From Capitol Complex After THIRTY
FOUR Women Accuse Him Of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Lawmakers in Tennessee have ‘banished’ a state representative by moving
his office at the state Capitol complex after more than three dozen
women have accused him of inappropriate behavior.
Rep. Jeremy Durham’s office is being moved to the ground floor of a
building across the street from the Capitol, House Speaker Beth Harwell
announced Thursday.
According to Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s memorandum to Harwell,
he is investigating Durham’s ‘pattern of conduct’ toward women after 34
current and former lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and interns allege
that he made sexual comments, used his position to obtain personal
contact information from women, try to meet women alone, involve alcohol
in his interactions with women and inappropriate physical contact with
them while working at Legislative Plaza, CBS News reported.

I have to wonder if Jeremy Durham will have any office when the next election cycle comes around in Tennessee, not even one across the street.  But then again, by promoting the anti-LGBT bathroom harassment bill, he might get in good with those other pervy and ignorant conservative Evangelicals again.  They go in for a lot of forgiveness so long as one conforms and grovels sufficiently, as we have seen in the past.
The establishment clause of the Constitution requires no preferential treatment of religion. That is simple enough, yet conservatives tend as a group, over and over, to attempt to replace democracy with theocracy.

 

 

We see it in the mediocre legislators of Tennessee who are persisting in trying to give preferential treatment to the Bible.  Thurs. (April 14th) Gov. Haslam vetoed an attempt to make the Bible the official book of the frankly mediocre at best state of Tennessee.

 

 

But the conservative religious extremists in government are hell-bent on pushing this through anyway, and don’t give a tinker’s damn about the provisions of religious freedom in the Constitution.

 

From the Raw Story:

The lawmakers who sponsored the measure vowed to hold a vote that
would overrule Haslam’s veto. A simple majority in each legislative
chamber would overrule his decision.
“According to polling, 62 percent of all Tennesseans favor making the
Holy Bible the state book in order to recognize its significance from a
historical, economic and cultural standpoint,” the House sponsor,
Representative Jerry Sexton, said.
“Senator (Steve) Southerland and I are prepared to move forward with a veto override and we plan to do exactly that.”

Because Tennessee is, apparently, not dumb enough or second rate enough without that next step?  Seriously, this is a state legislature which has far more important and far more legitimate issues with which to properly concern itself than forcing their religion on people.

 

It made an interesting cab ride recently where my driver, whom we’ll call Tom, knowing I do research especially fact checking, asked me if it were true, as he had heard on right wing talk radio (an occupational hazard of cab driving apparently) that four out of the five first presidents had been either ordained as clergy or held a degree in religion of some kind, and therefore that was the reason we have “In God We Trust” on our money and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance.  And no, none of those first five presidents were particularly religious; in fact George Washington is on record as never having taken communion and rarely attended church, and the other four were Deists.

 

We have been stuck (for the moment) with “In God We Trust” and “under God” because President Eisenhower (I DO like Ike, as Republican presidents go) made a deal with a group in politics known as ‘the family’, the same bunch of people who started the National Prayer Breakfast.  They are the same group who tried to get the death penalty for being LGBT in Uganda with pseudo-science.  So, we have the family influence continuing in politics, pushing an extreme form of religion, after their early success; but we also got the Interstate Highway Program which dramatically contributed to our success post WW II.

 

I’d call that a barely fair tradeoff of good (the highway system) for evil (crackpot religious conservatism).

 

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66758002Unfortunate but not surprising in the least.
 

A fifth of the information in Minnesota state-produced pamphlets given to women seeking abortions has been deemed medically inaccurate by new academic research.
 
The study examined pamphlets produced by states that have “Woman’s Right to Know” laws. Under this law, Minnesota requires that before moving forward with an abortion, women must receive a Minnesota Department of Health pamphlet on risks associated with abortion and fetal development, as well as information on resources if she decides to carry to term.
(Minnesota Daily)

Minnesota has laws mandating this misinformation, as well as a waiting period and parental notification. Of course we shouldn’t count our pomegranates while they’re still on the tree, but if a best-case scenario eventuates in November and the DFL gets legislative supermajorities, that would be a good time to show some respect for women and get rid of those laws. Unfortunately, too many still buy that choice and other women’s issues are politically toxic. Or at least they still try to use that as cover for general gutlessness.
 

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In writing previously about the hatred on the right for anything related to sex, gender and human sexuality, the following is worth sharing from Pharyngula.  It deals directly with the right wing attempt to fake they are an accredited genuinely scientific group, when their real purpose is to promote false information about children specifically and the LGBT community more generally.
 

In responding to and evaluating the claims made in the legislature, it is imperative we recognize what is factual and what is …..dangerously dishonest CRAP.
 

We can expect to see sources like the bogus American COLLEGE of Pediatricians quoted in the upcoming anti-trans bathroom use legislation promoted by the intellectually dishonest MN GOP.  Lying is for losers, and it is what the MN GOP does when the facts are not on their side; they fake the facts and they lie outright.  They are not above using the work of bogus groups to do so.
 

For those of you not familiar with Pharyngula, they are a well-respected Minnesota blog that does an excellent job of FACTUAL science reporting and commentary.
 

From Pharyngula:
 

Speaking of bad science, never trust the American College of Pediatricians

I know! It sounds so official and sciencey! It’s got “college” in it, which is formal and academic, and “pediatricians”, which are a kind of doctor, and you can never go wrong slapping “American” on your brand label. But they are a lie.

It’s also because the ACP is not a legitimate medical organization; its name is designed to be mistaken for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a national organization with some 60,000 members. The ACP, by contrast, is estimated to have no more than 200 members, and it has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBT positions.
“The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex,” the statement reads. “Facts – not ideology – determine reality.” The “facts” that follow actually reflect a social conservative ideology that rejects the very reality of what transgender children experience.

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plannedOne word: vile.
 

A new bill being pushed by 37 Minnesota Republicans would strangle funding for preventative women’s healthcare – stuff like breast exams, pap smears, and the pill.
 
Their real goal, of course, is to damage Planned Parenthood. And if that means making basic healthcare a whole lot worse, so be it.
 
Currently, Planned Parenthood is the only clinic to receive direct federal family planning funding, known as Title X. The clinic uses the money to serve low-income and uninsured people at 15 of its Minnesota clinics. It also sends money out to 22 rural family-planning clinics across the state.
(City Pages)

Eleven states have now cut Planned Parenthood funding, and more are working on it. PP has other sources of funding, so their clinics are not being shut down in general by this, but it is bad. It’s among the most prominent examples of how people are being hurt by extreme, and increasingly desperate, right-wing governance. With the electorate moving leftward, wingnuts see no choice other than to double (at least) down on the extremism and hope for a miracle. They lack both the courage and the integrity to admit that they’re wrong and “the liberals” are right.
 
Would that we could figure out how to get angry (with good reason) young women to show up at the polls in force, every time.
 
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66758002The oral arguments today seem to have gone reasonably well.
 

When the Court took the case it appeared that, if Justice Anthony Kennedy — who typically votes to uphold abortion restrictions — sided with Texas, Roe v. Wade would effectively be dead.
 
That’s not going to happen anymore, in large part because the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia took away the fifth vote Texas needed to uphold its law. The good news for abortion advocates is that, after Wednesday’s oral argument, it doesn’t look like Texas has a fourth vote either. There is a very real procedural complication in this case that could delay its ultimate resolution, possibly for a couple of years. But if he has to reach the merits of this case, Kennedy appeared inclined to strike down the law.
(Think Progress)

The “procedural complication” is discussed in some detail in the linked article.
 
The possibility, probably a fantasy, that I’ve been indulging is that SCOTUS will take this opportunity to strike down all laws restricting a woman’s choice to exercise her fundamental rights in this matter. That would include Minnesota’s waiting period, misinformation, and parental notification requirements. Like I say, apparently highly unlikely, but we can hope.
 

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66758002People are working to try to get President Obama to come through in doing more to help protect women’s fundamental right to reproductive choice.
 

Anti-women, right-wing extremists in Congress are relentless in their commitment to take health care, including abortions, away from women. One of the most powerful tools they have is the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, which prohibits the use of federal funds for any health benefits coverage that includes abortion…
 
It’s bad enough that women have to fight so hard to defend their constitutional rights against right-wing Republican extremists. It’s even worse when Democrats are also standing in the way. The Hyde Amendment has been re-authorized every year for the past 39 years, under Democratic presidents and with Congress in Democratic control. When President Obama ran for president he promised he would work to end Hyde’s dangerous intrusion on “a poor woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.” He has failed to follow through on that promise, not only by endorsing Hyde in each of his seven budgets but by allowing the Stupak Amendment to strip access to abortion from ObamaCare.
(Credo Action)

Related items:
 
“States added another 47 abortion restrictions in 2015. No doubt there are more to come.”
 
“Groups Push Obama to Clarify U.S. Abortion Funding for Wartime Rape.”
 

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