In two days, Congress leaves Washington for a month, and the President noted that there is still time to get things done. But rather than voting on bills that would provide resources to fight wildfires in the West, or prevent the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money, the President pointed out that Republicans in Congress are focused on one issue.
"The main vote that they've scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job."
And they voted Thursday, 225 to 201, to do just that.
The president to Congress:
"Come on and help out a little bit. Stop being mad all the time. Stop just hating all the time...Let's get some work done together."
The following was written by a friend of mine, Peter Andersen, an American currently living in Sierra Leone, who, for his internet-based coverage of Sierra Leone's civil war, was made a Member of the Order of the Rokel. The Order of the Rokel, together with the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone, is Sierra Leone's highest civilian honor. The piece is reproduced here with his permission
The media in North America and Western Europe has finally picked up on the Ebola outbreak, but mostly with the idea that it could come "here." The inflammatory headlines and statements in the first paragraphs are balanced at the bottom, should anyone read that far, by experts who point out that the chance of an outbreak in those regions is vanishingly small.
The comments left after such online articles range from the uninformed to the racist, with the German readers of Focus being especially bad. Yes, people here eat bush meat including monkey and even fruit bat. No, it is not a choice between eating bush meat and starvation. No, it is not only rich people who eat bush meat. No, it is not "superstition" which causes people to catch Ebola, unless by that you mean that people want a decent burial for their loved ones and are uncomfortable with the so-called "medical burial" where the body is zipped into a body bag and tossed without ceremony into an unmarked grave. And no, the cause of Ebola is not overpopulation.
This Ebola crisis is not "about" Europe or America, despite media there trying to find a local angle. They are trying too hard. Suddenly the Liberian official who died in Lagos, Patrick Sawyer, has become "an American of Liberian descent" in the Western press, but he remains a Liberian in the African press. In fact, he lived in Minnesota where his wife and three children reside. He is likely a dual citizen, but that does not make him "an American of Liberian descent" as the BBC would have it. That would imply that he was born in the US of Liberian parents. Ever if that were true (and it isn't), he would still have qualified for a Liberian passport. I am waiting to hear from the BBC how a Liberian official was traveling on official government business from Monrovia to Calabar, Nigeria to an ECOWAS conference with an American passport.
At present I am not worried about an epidemic, or a pandemic, or a serious outbreak in Europe or America. We have not seen a single case caused by exposure in the West, nor have we seen a single infected person arrive from Africa. This is not even, mostly, about us here in Freetown (for now) although we now have had some cases and some people have been exposed. Most of the victims on this side of the border are in Kailahun and Kenema Districts, and it is with them and their families that our thoughts, our prayers, and our sympathies lie. And most especially with those medical staff who work up to 22 hours a day to save those who have been infected. Media, stop dividing them up into Americans and Africans in order to sell your story to a certain market. Even now we are mourning the loss of Dr. Khan and the three nurses who gave their lives saving others, while the Liberians are mourning their own losses. We only recognize one category and it's called "hero."
However Ebola initially started --and fruit bats and bush meat are only an educated guess at this point -- after the initial infection, it travels person to person. With the proper isolation facilities (which the Western countries have) and effective communication of information (which they also have), Ebola should not be hard to control in the West.
While I applaud anyone's efforts to reach out to the black community and share ideas that would improve our families' lives, Paul doesn't understand a very important piece of the puzzle: earning our trust. For Paul to claim to stand up for our values while opposing policy after policy that advances our community is not the way to do this.
Paul's long and troubled history with civil rights issues is generally well known around Kentucky and in Washington, D.C., but for many Ohioans, it's time to take a closer look. Discussing the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized the law, even emphasizing that he believes private businesses should be able to do whatever they want, including discriminate. He explained his opposition by saying, "I think it's a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant, but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership."
This view goes against what the Civil Rights Act was put in place to correct, and I thought this law was settled 50 years ago. Apparently, Paul is ready to relitigate our nation's progress on civil rights. And last year, when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, how did Paul respond? He commented, "We have an African-American president." He also supports voter ID laws that disproportionately impact communities of color and women, saying, "There's nothing wrong with it. ... I don't really object to having some rules with how we vote."
So as Paul spends time in Cincinnati today, don't let him fool you. To see what he really believes on issues critical to the black community, look no further than the actions he's taken, the agenda he pushes, and the offensive words he used for years before he decided to run for president.
Rand Paul addressed the Urban League this morning in Cincinnati and in a TelePrompTer speech that included a quote from Malcolm X, Kentucky's junior Senator and famed opponent of the Civil Rights Act declared himself a minority.
Apparently opposing the Civil Rights Act is the same as being Black or Hispanic. And according to Rand Paul, all of his libertarian and Tea Party supporters are just as punished as actual minorities because of the "shade of their ideology."
Poor Rand Paul. It's hard out there for a libertarian, what with The Man always trying to keep him down, pointing out the ridiculousness of his ideology and how it never holds up in real-life scenarios. But what can a man like Rand Paul do except keep fighting the good fight, keep on keeping on to the water's edge, because Rand Paul has been to the mountaintop, Rand Paul has seen the Promised Land, and he yearns for the day when all little boys and girls, black or white, yellow or red, liberal or conservative or libertarian or communist, will be judged not by the color of their skin or the content of their political ideology, but by whatever's left. Character? Sure, let's go with character.
"He wound into a conclusion by talking about how his son, an environmental geologist, told him about how, if he ever got lost, Barber should climb to the highest ground he could find because, above a certain altitude, snakes cannot survive.
'They call this The Snake Line,' Barber said. 'We have got to get America back above The Snake Line.'"
"... if you want to be inspired to build a fusion movement that takes our political discussion above the snake line to the moral high ground, I suggest you find the time [to watch this video]. Lordy...this man is just what our spirits need these days!"
A little after 10am Tuesday morning, two Republican judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered much of the Affordable Care Act defunded. Just two hours later, another federal appeals court, the Fourth Circuit, issued a unanimous opinion upholding the same subsidies that were struck down in the DC Circuit's order.
As we explained this morning, both cases hinge upon a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare gives states the option to run a health insurance exchange selling coverage to their residents, or they may elect to have the federal government run this exchange. If read in isolation, one line of the Affordable Care Act suggests that only "an Exchange established by the State" can offer subsidies to help people pay for health insurance in the exchange. The DC Circuit's opinion relied on that line to conclude that federally-run exchange subsidies must be defunded.
The plaintiff in the DC case is a woman who worked in the Bush Administration in his Office of Faith and Community. Apparently, nothing says "love thy neighbor" like litigating to deny health care to people. The plaintiff in the 4th Circuit case is a man in West Virginia angry that his freedumbs were taken away when he was forced to get health insurance at a cost of $21 per year.
The entire DC Circuit has been asked to rule on the case and the split on that court is 7-4 Democratic appointees to Republican appointees.
The D.C. federal appeals court initially appeared to throw a stunning legal blow to Obamacare with its decision to invalidate financial subsidies offered through HealthCare.gov. The loss of those subsidies could affect 4.7 million people and send premiums skyrocketing. But the ruling was quickly tempered by a separate appeals court ruling that upheld the subsidies in another case.
[Experts told TPM] that the mechanics of how the workaround could be done aren't completely clear, but the crux would be this: States could continue using HealthCare.gov but pass a bill or otherwise indicate that the website functions as their state-based insurance exchange.
[Additionally, ] HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell "could make it much easier for a second generation of state exchanges to be established now that the federal government has a viable IT platform for both state and federal exchanges to use."
Or we could win back Congress and pass a fix to the technical language of the law.
In this week's address, the President discussed the importance of ensuring that the economic progress we've made is shared by all hardworking Americans. Through his opportunity agenda, the President is focused on creating more jobs, educating more kids, and working to make sure hard work pays off with higher wages and better benefits.
This week, the President will visit a community college in Los Angeles to highlight the need to equip our workers with the skills employers are looking for now and for the good jobs of the future, and he will continue looking for the best way to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bill that would have protected women's right to make their own health care decisions. In the 56-43 vote - four short of the 60 needed - only three Republicans supported this basic protection for women.
Although the vast majority of American women use birth control at some point in their lives, many women without insurance could not afford the method that would work best for them. The Affordable Care Act guaranteed that health insurance would fully cover the cost of contraception. A recent Supreme Court decision took back that guarantee, telling women they could only be covered if their bosses said it was ok.
"The court was wrong and the Senate Republicans are wrong," Sen. Bernie Sanders said. "Bosses should not be able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. Bosses should not be able to deny insurance-covered birth control to their female employees. Women should make their own health care decisions, not their employers.
"At a time when tens of millions of women use birth control, there is no valid reason to restrict a woman's access to safe, widely-used preventive services simply because her employer does not approve of what should be her private medical decisions."
The Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act would have ensured that employers cannot interfere in their employees' decisions about contraception or other health services.
Wingnuts are at it again-frothing at the mouth about Attorney General Eric Holder. Not that they have stopped since he was confirmed by the Senate on February 2, 2009. But the escalation of their hate has moved from contempt of Congress to cries of "impeach...impeach!"
I refuse to link to right wing sites-take my word for it, the attacks are vile. The comment sections are even worse. I think he is the "2nd most hated by racists" black man in America-after the POTUS.
He knows it. It doesn't stop him from speaking out-which he did in depth in an interview with ABC News' Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, which has escalated the calls for his removal.
In this week's address, the President recapped his visits with folks who have written him letters about their own American stories -- their successes and struggles. While congressional Republicans are blocking meaningful measures that would strengthen the middle class, the President continues looking for ways to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans.
The President again urged Congress to join him, as they were elected to do, in working on behalf of everyday Americans - including those the President spent time with this week - by investing in our infrastructure to support American jobs, and ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund does not expire.
It is emblematic of the hyperpartisanship which has our country in a stranglehold that the president has to remind people that the humanitarian crisis on the border is not theater. But apparently, no crisis or incident (BENGHAZIII!), can be addressed without first dousing the follicles set ablaze by the media and their need to fill air time and print to satisfy the 10-minute news cycle.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he is not visiting the U.S. border while in Texas because he is "not interested in photo-ops" and urged Congress to approve funding to deal with the surge of minors illegally streaming into the country.
"There is nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on," Obama said. "This isn't theater, this is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops."
Obama met with local politicians and religious leaders in Dallas, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to discuss the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border. The White House has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis, a request that has been panned by some Republicans who say the president's policies are to blame for migrant children believing they can stay in the country illegally.
Pardon me, the president's policies??? The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that reflected the president's policies and which would have helped mitigate this crisis, including some of the money that is now part of an emergency request. But the Republican House of Representatives would not take up the bill because they knew it would pass and that would enrage the nativist wing of the increasingly wingnutty Republican Party. And it is more important to keep their base frothing for the mid-term elections than to solve problems.
One of the things that for me is disheartening is the lack of national attention being focused on the Moral Mondays grass-roots fusion movement that is growing throughout the south.
We cannot depend on the Traditional Media (TM) to carry the message. While TM sources are willing to pay tribute to civil rights history events, and commemorations for fallen martyrs, they are far less apt to give headlines to, and follow the groundswell of support for the pushback against Republican repression of voting rights and civil rights.
We have the responsibility to do the work carrying the message, using our social media - email, facebook, twitter, tumblr, you tube and on blogs.
It is not a matter of the information being unavailable.
In trying to make sense of The Way Things Are in a post-Hobby Lobby world, it is important to peel away the layers and understand what the Hobby Lobby ruling is and, more importantly, what it isn't.
The Supreme Court ruled that a closely-held corporation can avoid paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive options if the belief about how those methods work offends the religious feelings of the majority stockholders.
Yes, the ruling is a direct assault on common sense in its attempt to assign freedom of religious expression to a corporation.
Yes, the ruling is science-denialism writ large.
Yes, it is a poke in the eye to the separation of powers: where a law passed by Congress and signed by the president can be, not merely ruled unconstitutional, but hacked up and rewritten by a court.
And, it is likely a specific poke in the eye to President Barack Obama who the right wing has become completely unhinged over to the point that they want to nullify the results of two presidential elections and three congressional elections.
What it really is: complete and utter disrespect for women.
In this week's address, President Obama commemorated Independence Day by noting the contributions and sacrifices from individuals throughout the history of this country -- from our Founding Fathers, to the men and women in our military serving at home and abroad.
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964
The act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin and gave the federal courts jurisdiction over enforcement, taking it out of the state courts where justice was uneven at best.
The Civil Rights Act had political ramifications as well. Its adoption caused a mass exodus of angry racists from the Democratic Party in the old south to the Republican Party. And the politics borne of hatred of The Other gave the not-so-Grand Old Party the presidency for 28 out of the next 40 years.
Well they have done it again. By "they" I mean the mostly white male honchos at National Public Radio. You may not have heard about it, yet. This is par for the course for NPR. Back in 2008 I wrote "NPR cutting black journalist Farai Chideya". More about the history of all this in a bit-but first, the latest.
NPR's "Tell Me More" which is hosted by Michel Martin, will be no more as of Aug 1. It is the only NPR program specifically targeted at a "diverse audience" as they put it, meaning African Americans.
Lots of times we don't put faces to the voices we hear on the radio. So you may not know who Michel Martin is.
Michel McQueen Martin is an American journalist and correspondent for ABC News and National Public Radio. After ten years in print journalism, Martin has for the last 15 years become best known for her news broadcasting on national topics.
A Brooklyn, New York native, Michel Martin attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire as part of the fifth class of females to graduate from the formerly all-male school. In 1980, Martin graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College of Harvard University, then pursued post graduate work at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C.
After working the local news beat for The Washington Post and becoming White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Martin joined ABC News in 1992. At ABC, Martin has reported for Nightline, and was awarded an Emmy for a report that aired on Day One. In 2001, she hosted the PBS show Life 360. Since April 2007, she has hosted Tell Me More for National Public Radio (NPR). As the host of Tell Me More, Martin focuses heavily on topics of race, religion, and spirituality. Upon the announcement by NPR of the cancellation of Tell Me More, to be effective 1 August 2014.
The Supreme Court will be in session this morning for orders starting at 9:30 Eastern. The two remaining opinions will be released starting at 10:00am. SCOTUSblog will liveblog at this link today starting at 9:15 Eastern .
Issue(s): (1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, No. 13-356 [Arg: 3.25.2014]
Issue(s): Whether the religious owners of a family business, or their closely held, for-profit corporation, have free exercise rights that are violated by the application of the contraceptive-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, No. 13-354 [Arg: 3.25.2014]
Issue(s): Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation's owners.
In this week's address, the President discussed his recent trip to Minneapolis where he met a working mother named Rebekah, who wrote the President to share the challenges her family and many middle-class Americans are facing where they work hard and sacrifice yet still can't seem to get ahead. But instead of focusing on growing the middle class and expanding opportunity for all, Republicans in Congress continue to block commonsense economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and making college more affordable.
The President will keep fighting his economic priorities in the weeks and months ahead, because he knows the best way to expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans and continue to strengthen the economy is to grow it from the middle out.
Last night, Wendy Davis spoke to a huge crowd in Austin to celebrate the anniversary of her filibuster. I met the political director of Battleground Texas at the event & promised a diary, so here it is. if you want to skip the pictures & fangirling, and just help us turn Texas blue, you can do that right here: Battleground Texas: What Will You Do?
I was thinking this week about some of the things I am often told, in a purportedly complimentary mode, about my speech, and writing ability. Have heard these things since I was a child, and after a while it gets tedious. If I had a dollar for every time I've been told I'm "articulate", "well-spoken" or simply "you write so well" from teachers, acquaintances, employers and strangers I'd be rich. I get it tossed at me in two modes- folks who assume cause I'm black that my speaking and writing American Standard English is some major achievement-and for those who have mistakenly assumed I'm Puerto Rican that somehow I've managed to transcend Spanglish/broken English as my primary language. I used to snap back and say "what do you expect from the daughter of a PhD in English Literature and Drama?", adding, "I speak Middle English too" and then spout Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Prologue..."Whan that aprill with his shoures soote, the droghte of march hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour ". I don't bother any more. I just lift an eyebrow.
I was reminded of this when listening/watching Jamila Lyiscott's Ted Talk this week.
Actually, that's basically the whole diary. The only thing I want to hear from him is an unqualified apology. And I doubt he's ever apologized to anyone. Not to Leahy for cussing him out on the floor of the Senate. Not to the chap he shot in the face. No one. I'll bet if he accidentally stepped on your foot and spilled hot coffee down your shirt in an elevator he wouldn't apologize.
I don't want to read about Megyn Kelly "schooling" him. Why should she get to use him to feign journalistic responsibility and rational thought? I don't want Rand Paul and Pat Buchanan using him to create an illusion of vibrant political diversity in the GOP. I don't want anyone beyond the local Jackson Hole media covering him.
So, that's my argument. He should really really really shut the FREAK up already. Really.
Happy Solstice, everyone. At my house we celebrate this day with the mantra, "May you walk in peace and love."
I work in non-profit. In short, I translate perspectives from people living in a war-addled country for a western ear. An American ear.
As I watch the media whip into a froth about Iraq, I can't help but notice that our perceptions about nation building are similar to our more misguided ideas about humanitarian aid. They both start by thinking that "they" are a problem that "we" can solve. Or control.