Two weeks ago, vandals spraypainted the words “Worship Satan” and drew a pentagon along the side of the Masjid Qooba mosque in St. Louis. The FBI immediately began investigating the incident, but made no arrests.
Now, vandalism has once again befallen the mosque. The words “Worship Satan” were spray-painted over a different wall of the same mosque, alarming its worshippers. The FBI and St. Louis Police are both investigating the incident, and suspect the same vandals from the incident two weeks earlier may be responsible.
In an interview with local news station KMOV, mosque spokesman Tim Kaminski said the mosque is not interested in pursuing charges against the vandal or vandals. “What we would like is for this person to come forward and come clean,” said Kaminski. “We have no rancor, no anger. We want to talk to this person. Explain to them what Islam is, that we worship the same God as the Christian and Jewish traditions do.” Watch it:
Jim Hacking, a local attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told local news station KMOX that right-wing figures have helped gin up the hatred against Muslims that is leading to vandalism. “Nationally on things like FOX News, you have people like Newt Gingrich comparing Muslims to Nazis,” Hacking said. “Just really negative, stereotypical hatred that’s been spewing out, and it’s really at its worst level, even worse than after 9/11.”
In July, following GOP allegations that states would be able to use federal dollars to cover none-Hyde abortions in the temporary high risk insurance pool program, HHS issued regulations prohibiting states from covering the procedure. “The (high-risk pool) program,” the regulation states, “is Federally-created, funded, and administered (whether directly or through contract); it is a temporary Federal insurance program in which the risk is borne by the Federal government up to a fixed appropriation. As such, the services covered by the PCIP program shall not include abortion services except in the case of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”
Progressive pro-choice advocates felt betrayed. Since there is no over-arching law that prevents states from using federal dollars to fund abortion services, the administration was not required to alter the state’s proposals. Writing at RH Reality Check, CAP’s Jessica Arons accused the administration of applying the Stupak amendment to the high risk pools and going beyond the bargain it struck. Now, 19 national pro-choice groups have “signed on to public comment, submitted Monday, urging HHS to ‘revise this rule and remove the ban.’” The group, Raising Women’s Voices has released a video and letter writing campaign, “highlighting stories of women with pre-existing conditions who have had abortions,” urging Sebelius to “lift the harmful abortion restrictions”:
My doctor said my health is at risk. Here is a Catch-22. My insurance will pay for the pregnancy that can seriously injure me, but it won’t cover the abortion that can protect my health. I don’t get it.
It’s unclear if the group can change the rules after it’s been written, but it’s fairly obvious that the pro-choice community was outmaneuvered by the Right. Few realized that Nelson’s amendment did not apply to every federal dollar in the health care law, and the administration seemed unprepared to fight once conservatives organized around the issue. In fact, when I spoke to some state sources who were implementing the pools, they were surprised to learn that the Hyde restrictions did not apply to the federal funds earmarked for the program. But what’s disappointing is that the administration felt so compelled to issue its restrictive regulations so quickly and reactively. If it was hoping to appease conservatives, then it overestimated the GOP’s willingness to recognize its concessions and underestimated its supporters ability to just accept the slight (yet again).
Public comment on the high risk pools closed Tuesday at midnight.
New Hampshire’s Republican senate nominee, Kelly Ayotte, has consistently called for extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans, which would entail borrowing and spending $830 billion in order to give millionaires a $100,000 tax break. She also wants to cut the corporate tax rate, giving large corporations who already have a tax code that they easily manipulate to their advantage yet another break.
But how about giving middle-class workers a break by guaranteeing paid sick leave? During a “lightning round” of questions at the latest New Hampshire senate debate, Ayotte was asked “would you support legislation guaranteeing paid sick leave to employees?” Ayotte said that deciding whether or not to provide paid leave is “certainly” something best left to employers:
I think that that is certainly an issue that should be addressed by employers rather than mandated by the government.
Ayotte’s opponent, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), was even quicker with an answer. “Yes,” he said.
The problem with Ayotte’s response is that employers have shown this is an issue they have no interest in addressing. Nearly 50 percent of private sector workers (including 86 percent of food service workers and 78 percent of hotel workers) do not have guaranteed paid sick leave. This amounts to some 57 million workers. The United States is the only nation in the industrialized world that does not mandate guaranteed paid sick leave.
The choice not to guarantee paid sick leave entails real health risks, particularly since so many food service workers are forced to come to work ill or forego their paycheck. Lost productivity due to sick workers attending work and infecting other employees costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually. During the swine flu outbreak late last year, public health experts expressed a concern that failure to provide sick leave was contributing to the spread of the disease.
The typical conservative response is that mandating paid sick leave will mean creating crippling new costs for businesses. But the Drum Major Institute released a study this week that examined San Francisco’s city-wide implementation of a paid sick leave law and found “no evidence that businesses in San Francisco have been negatively impacted by the enactment of paid sick leave.”
The model that Ayotte is clinging to — in which employers always do the right thing for their employees and dissatisfied workers can always leave their job to find a better deal elsewhere — sounds nice in theory. But what does that world look like in practice?
I still subscribe to the hoary conventional wisdom that increasing prosperity will, if it happens, lead to further liberalization of the Chinese political system. Gordon Chang’s account of why China’s new rich are so stingy with their charitable donations is a nice illustration of why:
But an overriding reason explains why charity barely exists in contemporary China: The Communist Party makes giving difficult. Why? The Party wants no competitors, especially organized ones. Charities, therefore, have to find government sponsors before they can register with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and this requirement severely limits the number of them. Even Hollywood action star Jet Li, a favorite of Beijing because he makes “patriotic” films, cannot register his One Foundation, which may have to suspend operations soon.
Don’t be surprised that as of last year there were, in all of China, only 643 foundations not run by the government. There were an estimated 300,000 so-called grassroots organizations that were operating without registering, or had registered as business enterprises. Such organizations, functioning in a highly unorthodox manner, invariably find it hard to raise funds, in part because donors cannot obtain tax deductions for contributions to them.
This seems on its face like an untenable situation. In a non-totalitarian society where you have rich businessmen, a public sphere in which issues are discussed, and some measure of open competition between political leaders a rule aimed at discouraging rich people from giving back to their community is not going to hold up forever. But the concern that a stronger NGO sector will weaken the political authorities’ grasp is perfectly reasonable.
Of course just because the current equilibrium is untenable doesn’t mean it will be replaced with a better one.
Yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) made the extraordinary demand that every single piece of legislation in the Senate would be blocked by his office unless it had been preapproved by his own staffers. As Roll Call reported, “Democratic and Republican aides alike were stunned, arguing that DeMint had essentially made a unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate.”
At a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck yesterday afternoon, ThinkProgress interviewed several GOP Senators about DeMint’s move to singlehandedly take control of the chamber. DeMint himself told us that his crop of candidates, like Buck, would support his efforts if they are elected to the Senate. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the GOP committee tasked with electing more Republican Senators, did not find anything wrong with DeMint’s undemocratic move to seize control of Congress. Asked about DeMint’s unilateral power grab, Cornyn simply smiled and said that he “certainly think[s] it’s a good idea” because it would give more time for lawmakers to review bills:
TP: I have a quick question about Senator DeMint. What do you think about his unilateral hold of all the bills in the Senate before they’re reviewed by a member of his staff.
CORNYN: Well, I think it’s important for every member of the Senate to review legislation before it passes by unanimous consent. There’s a lot of garbage that gets through that should be stopped, certainly ought to be reviewed. I certainly think it’s a good idea to look at it, to read it, know what we’re voting on before it passes.
TP: But what do you think about the leadership structure if just one member can hold up the entire Congress essentially, one member could just have a whim and shut everything down, right?
CORNYN: Well, what creates the pressure is, we’re at the tail end of the session. A lot of people like Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi want to get out of town and a lot of folks want to go and campaign. A lot of this stuff should have been taken care of earlier in the year.
Cornyn appears to be weary about picking fights with DeMint. Earlier this year, DeMint publicly challenged Cornyn’s power as the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and declared that he would be picking his own ultra-conservative candidates to run for office. For instance, Cornyn funneled money to his own candidate in Colorado, Jane Norton, who later lost to DeMint’s candidate, Ken Buck. While Cornyn initially tried to support his own candidates, he was eventually steamrolled by DeMint’s allies in the Club for Growth, a Wall Street front group, FreedomWorks, and other lobbyist-controlled conservative organizations.
As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote in a post yesterday, DeMint can get away with this stunt because the Senate’s rules are ripe for abuse. By exploiting the rules, DeMint can force up to 60 hours of uninterrupted debate before a final vote. Using this tactic, DeMint can require over two and a half years to deliberate just the 372 bills already passed by the House since August. “In other words,” Millhiser explained, “there is simply not enough time to get more than a fraction of the Senate’s business done if a minority is determined to do everything they can to block progress.” Regardless of national security interests, national emergencies, or really any matter confronted by Congress, DeMint wields ultimate power — while Cornyn and the GOP leadership is too afraid to stand up to him.
Currently, we have no verification regime to account for Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons. Two hundred and ninety seven (297) days have elapsed since American teams have been allowed to inspect Russian nuclear forces, and we are concerned that further inaction will bring unacceptable lapses in U.S. intelligence about Russia’s strategic arsenal. Without New START, we believe that the United States is less secure.
Yet the apparently pro-Putin Heritage Foundation in a new memo from the mysteriously anonymous “New START Working Group,” insists that there is no urgency to ratify the New START Treaty or inspect Russia’s nukes.
The two sides, in a December 4, 2009, joint statement, expressed their commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START treaty following its expiration. Is the Administration now suggesting that Russia might violate this spirit of cooperation while the Senate does its due diligence on New START? Finally, the U.S. has 15 years of data on Russian strategic forces thanks to START, and the Russians are unlikely to significantly change their forces while the Senate takes its time.
This is simply jaw dropping. The Heritage Foundation apparently thinks that it is okay to simply trust the Russians because they deem it “unlikely” they will do any cheating. This is the same organization that puts out videos grouping Putin with Kim Jung Il and advocates building super awesome Gazillion dollar missile defense system on the pretty unlikely grounds that the Russians are out to get us. There is an informal agreement to follow “the spirit” of the START treaty, despite it not having legal force. But this was always premised on the notion that New START would be ratified rapidly since it is not that different from the old treaty. In other words, there would be little reason to fear Russian cheating, since in a few months time the treaty would take force.
But 300 days later we still have no treaty. And there is a real and present danger that should the Senate punt on New START that the spirit of this agreement will collapse. Believing it unlikely that a more conservative Senate will ever ratify New START, the Russians may decide to change their approach. Anyone the least bit distrustful of the Russian military should be very afraid of this outcome. Yet, in what has to amount to a massive betrayal of Reagan’s “trust but verify” statement, the Heritage Foundation is now saying, take your time trust the Russians.
Finally, Heritage claims that the Administration should have just sought a five-year extension of the START I treaty. I mean duh, why didn’t the Administration think of that? Maybe because you can’t simply unilaterally extend treaties. There were many indications that the Russians were not interested in extending the START 1 treaty as it was. If the Russians didn’t want to, it couldn’t be done. But furthermore, the US also wanted to renegotiate and update the treaty. Many of the verification and monitoring measures in old START had become, well, old, unnecessary, and burdensome.
But lastly, debating why or why not something was done 18 months ago is irrelevant – we are where we are and that is a place where the US is rapidly losing its intel on Russia’s nuclear arsenal. It is a place where we simply trust the Russians. If the Heritage Foundation believes it was a grave mistake for the Obama administration not to have sought to extend the original START treaty so that verification remained in place, then it should be important enough to them to urge the ratification of New START now. The fact that isn’t, speaks volumes.
In an interview that will be published in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, President Obama said that Fox News has been promoting “a point of view” that “is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth” of the U.S. He said that in the past, “you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition.”
Naturally, after news of the story broke yesterday, Fox News hosts and personalities attacked the President:
MONICA CROWLEY: Look, Barack Obama is a radical progressive.
SEAN HANNITY: I’m confused as to, you know, how much one man can be so out of touch with the American people? … He seems extraordinarily thin-skinned.
DANA PERINO: The more he does these types of things the more it casts him in a light of being petty, of being partisan and of being really paranoid.
Watch the compilation:
Of course, Obama is correct. Fox News, particularly since the President assumed office, has operated primarily as the communications arm of the Republican Party. As Media Matters noted, Fox “has a long history of actively promoting the Republican agenda and of opposing economic positions which economists say would stimulate growth.”
Indeed, just in the last 9 months, Fox News has made a special effort to promote the GOP line. For example, network figures have often given the “Republican narrative” on tax cuts. Republicans credited the network with helpingget their ideas out. Sarah Palin advised right-wing senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to “speak through Fox News.” The network’s parent company donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. Fox News personalities regularlycampaigned for Republicans, and GOP senate candidate Sharron Angle said she goes on Fox to raise money.
So it seems that the President isn’t the one who is “out of touch.”
Today seems to be the day that everyone is talking about Kwame Anthony Appiah’s op-ed on which of today’s practices the people of the future are likely to condemn. I basically agree with everything he says, though I’m least certain about the environment and most certain about meat. Mike Tomask’s uncertain that future people will all be vegetarians, but Ross Douthat has this right—technological improvement will lead to the creation of better alternatives to animal slaughter and that’ll be the end of it.
But I think the more interesting thing to think about is that practices will probably evolve in directions that present-day people would find bizarre or disgusting. Today “it will put us on a slippery slope to polygamy” is considered to be a form of knock-down argument against same-sex marriage, something that supporters of marriage equality are supposed to push back against vigorously. By the same token, I’m sure if you could have convinced members of congress that within 100 years of the 19th Amendment’s ratification we’d have men marrying other men it never would have passed but of course nobody was nutty enough to even try to advance that argument.
So what does that mean for the future? Who knows? Who knows. The point is that in a century or two people are likely to be up to something so unspeakably awful by our standards that it sounds laughable to even speculate about it.