|By: Jon Walker Tuesday February 7, 2012 8:15 am|
Efforts to stop voter suppression (Image: Baratunde, flckr)
Virginia is on track to be the next state where the Republican Party creates new restrictions on voting access in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” From Roanoke Times:
Legislation that would tighten Virginia’s voter identification requirements passed a divided state Senate on Monday, despite protests from Democrats who derided the bill as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of minorities and other groups.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the legislation, providing another measure of the muscle Republicans have flexed since taking working control of the evenly divided Senate last month. Similar bills were killed in a Senate committee the past four years, when Democrats held a majority in the chamber.
The bill should easily pass the Republican controlled House of Delegates and is expect to be signed into law by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
The new law would require voters to show proof of ID before their vote will be counted. Not surprisingly groups that are less likely to carry IDs (minorities, elderly and people who don’t own cars, etc…) are also groups that tend to vote for Democrats.
This bill in Virginia is the latest in a wave of voting laws pushed all over the country by the Republican Party after its big wave election in 2010. In the past two years the Republicans have passed similar laws in states like Florida and Kansas that will make it harder for people who mainly tend to vote for Democrats to both register to vote and vote on election day.
|Senate Passes FAA Authorization Bill with Anti-Union Elements|
|By: David Dayen Tuesday February 7, 2012 7:45 am|
FAA Bill includes measures to weaken unions (photo: BrianR, flickr)
Despite fierce opposition from major transit unions, the Senate yesterday gave final approval to the FAA Authorization bill, a five-year extension that removes uncertainty from the FAA, approves a next-generation air traffic monitoring system and, in Harry Reid’s telling, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. But unions were unhappy about changes to labor law insisted upon by House Republicans, and they expressed betrayal at the hands of Senate Democrats.
The bill avoids the main labor tweak that House Republicans wanted, which would have counted any worker not voting in a union election as a No vote. But it does raise the bar for the number of workers needed to sign cards stating they want to join a union from 35% to 50% of the workforce. Worse, it makes those cards public to the employer, and it weakens the oversight of the lead transit union regulator, the Labor Mediation Board. Eighteen unions with some foot in the transportation sector sent a letter last week protesting these measures in the bill, which was reconciled in a conference committee after almost a year of House-Senate wrangling. But it was to no avail.
The final vote was 75-20, with most of the opposing Senators Democrats. But 37 Democrats supported the bill, including Commerce Committee chair Jay Rockefeller, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and top leadership members Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin. Here were the 15 Democrats who opposed it:
Akaka (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harkin (D-IA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Sanders (I-VT), Stabenow (D-MI)
The conference report now moves to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. How this will affect the on-again, off-again relationship between Democratas and labor in the Obama era is unclear.
|White House, Surrogates Push Back on Catholic Bishop Uproar Over Contraception|
|By: David Dayen Tuesday February 7, 2012 7:00 am|
I didn’t think we had reached the point in America where providing free contraception would be seen as a risky political maneuver, but here we are. Last month, the Administration agreed to universal access to birth control as part of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies would need to provide coverage for contraception in both employer plans and on the insurance exchanges without a co-pay.
The ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services actually had a religious exemption to it, but only churches and religious non-profits would be exempt. Other religiously-affiliated employers – particularly hospitals and universities – were given one year to transition to coverage that offers contraception.
This set off a firestorm among the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which we saw during the Stupak amendment is a powerful force in Washington. Many bishops have said they will refuse to comply. The matter will almost certainly get sent to the courts. And of course, the opportunistic Republican Presidential candidates have jumped all over it.
The Administration has begun its pushback against the uproar, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defending the exemption that exists in the law and why they limited it:
Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don’t cover it [...]
In choosing this exemption, we looked first at state laws already in place across the country. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all.
The religious exemption in the administration’s rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California.
It’s important to note that our rule has no effect on the longstanding conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception. Nor does it affect an individual woman’s freedom to decide not to use birth control. And the president and this administration continue to support existing conscience protections.
This has a tinge of defensiveness in it. But a more offensive stance was delivered by the Irish Catholic Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) pushed back against conservative criticism of new White House rules which would require religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control, calling the attacks “too much hyperventilating.”
“This is not about abortion,” said O’Malley during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “It’s about covering contraception as part of the healthcare coverage, mandatory basic coverage.”
O’Malley, who said he was a Catholic, stressed that the decision was similar to rules already in place in much of the country. “28 states already require this and in Europe,” he added [...]
“These same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things,” he noted.
If conservatives want to put the right to birth control up to a public vote, I’d like to see those results. This pushback does make clear the issue of how the Catholic bishops really view women’s bodies, and while conservatives will try to position it as the President having disrespect for people of faith, I think on this issue that’s a hard sell. It’s actually much simpler than that. It’s about imposing religious beliefs on members of other faiths who work at these universities and hospitals.
The Catholic Church is very unhappy that the Obama Administration is going to shove birth control down their throat by making them provide contraception benefits in their health plans for their employees, most of whom are already using it and then conveniently forgetting to mention it in confession. And when the Catholic Church gets fighting mad they turn to rageaholic Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.
|Trojan Horses, Rick-Rolls and Multi-Angle Livestreaming as #OccupyPittsburgh Awaits Eviction|
|By: RFShunt Tuesday February 7, 2012 6:00 am|
The Occupy Pittsburgh encampment is a site of uneasy anticipation as people have gathered to support the occupation during what is probably its last hours at People’s Park (formerly Mellon Green). The day of waiting produced a great deal that is metaphorical of this ad hoc social movement.
A variety of links to articles/interviews on current topics that may be of interest.
Having used evangelicals to win Iowa, Rick Santorum is appealing, somewhat successfully, to the same Midwestern strain in Minnesota.
This has got to be my all-time favorite excuse for racist behavior EVER. “I wasn’t insulting black people, I was insulting Asian people! Also people with ears, as regards the Linkin Park thing. What, that’s no cool anymore?”
|Invitation to Evicted Occupiers From Occupy Delaware|
|By: ghostof911 Monday February 6, 2012 7:15 pm|
Occupy Delaware made its march to Spencer Plaza in the heart of downtown Wilmington, Delaware on November 6, 2011. It pitched its first tents on November 10, 2011. With the help of the ACLU, it secured its right to remain in the Plaza by taking its case to Chancery Court where judge Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III issued a restraining order against the City of Wilmington on behalf of the protesters. In an effort to avoid a court case involving First Amendment freedom of speech issues that it mostly likely would have lost, the City then offered the protesters a deal, which in effect gives Occupy Delaware the right to remain as an encampment in Spencer Plaza as long as it chooses.
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