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The Dirty Thirty – April Fool’s Edition
By: Hrafnkell HaraldssonApr. 1st, 2012more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
On March 14, 2011 we first published a list of thirty pieces of Republican legislation “that Republicans are using to destroy America” and called it “The Dirty Thirty.” That original list has been updated several times and grown significantly although the list is incomplete, given there have been a thousand bills alone restricting a woman’s right to abortion. If most of the laws directed toward Women’s Reproductive Rights seem petty and punitive, well…they are.
Some readers have objected to the use of the term “war” in this series of articles but I believe in calling things for what they are and there is no other way to describe the sustained legislative attack on women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, the environment, education, children, the poor and unemployed and the middle class. The chart below from the Guttmacher Institute is illustrative of my point:
As expected, the Republican war on America’s liberties has continued unabated as we approach the fourth month of 2012 and it is unlikely this storm of punitive legislation will come to an end without a resounding Democratic victory on Election Day. Also unsurprising is that most of it seems to be directed at women and we do have a couple of new categories, including the War on Divorce and Republican legislation protecting us from the nonexistent threat of a “New World Order.”
What we continue to lack is legislation directed at creating jobs.
(As always, new items and categories in red).
The War on Women’s Reproductive Rights
Despite an electorate that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, there is no doubt that the GOP’s first goal is to deprive women of their reproductive rights and to frame that argument not as one of health but religion. It is in fact so important an issue to the GOP that out of some 40,000 laws of all types enacted in 2011, as RMuse wrote here recently, “there were nearly 1,000 bills in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s right to legal abortion services” (up from 950 in 2010). Alternet lists the 10 worst states in which to be a woman. The lone piece of good news was the unexpected sanity of Mississippi voters. Interestingly, the GOP is now trying to co-opt the War on Women for their own, accusing liberals of waging war on “pro-choice” women, or declaring that Obama is waging a war on women and that the Obama White House has been a hostile work environment. This is while Congress, already in 2012, has taken no less than eight votes against women – in just three months. It is frightening to think what the final toll might be by December 31.
o A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute details the extent of 2011′s war on Women’s Reproductive Rights. The report states,
o Anti-abortion Laws
Republican legislators have introduced a wide array of laws designed to either outlaw abortion outright or to discourage it by making ridiculous and sometimes humiliating requirements of women who might consider having a pregnancy terminated. These include so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations.
o Arguing that it is “morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortions,” Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind, introduced a bill (HR 217) in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, despite the many other services Planned Parenthood provides to both men and women, including contraception and STD testing
o Legalizing the Murder of Abortion Doctors
o Abstinence Education
A total of 37 states mandate abstinence education while contraception falls increasingly under attack by Republican legislatures.
o ”Personhood Laws” and Fetal Rights and Mandatory Ultrasounds
In 2011 the trend in anti-abortion legislation was passage of laws that would give fertilized eggs the rights of “personhood” – in other words, fertilized eggs would have the same rights as you or me – a blatant ploy to attack women’s reproductive rights. Florida, Montana and Ohio will have “personhood” on the ballot in 2012 and according to CNN “efforts in at least five other states are in the planning stages.” Mississippi has just rejected one such extremist measure and Colorado and South Dakota have also rejected them. In 2012, mandatory ultrasounds have become the rage. However, Republican legislators seem to be realizing that voters aren’t exactly jumping on the bandwagon.
o War on Birth Control/Contraception
Republicans have tried to define contraception not as a health but as a religious issue, claiming that the availability of contraception is a violation of their religious beliefs.
o Taxing Abortions
The newest rage, direct from 13th Century Kansas, seeks to squeeze profit from abortions by taxing them.
The War on Human Fetuses in Food
Yes, you read that correctly. And no, there are no human fetuses in food. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws against them being there – if you’re a Republican, that is. The Associated Press reports that Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey, infamous for authoring failed bills, has proposed a bill “that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food, despite conceding that he’s unaware of any company using such a practice,” and even Republican Sen. Brian Crain, a self-professed “pro-lifer” and the chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee says, “I’d hate to think we’re going to spend our time coming up with possibilities of things we need to stop.” The FDA, of course, says it is “not aware of this particular concern.” Ridiculous as it sounds, the bill does also outlaw stem cell research.
The War on Divorce
o From Wisconsin comes Rep. Don Pridemore is co-sponsor of Senator Glenn Grothman’s (R-West Bend) bill (SB 507) that would list “nonmarital parenthood” as a cause of abuse. The bill states “In promoting those campaigns and materials, the [Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board] shall emphasize “nonmarital parenthood” as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” The bill is bad enough – TodaysTMJ4 tells us that “Senator Grothman claims there’s an epidemic of single parenthood, and he’s pointing a finger at women for it.” But what’s worse is Pridemore’s defense of it; he says that women in abusive relationships – the reason so many of them are single parents in the first place – ought to just take a beating and stay married: ‘If they can refind those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place it might help,’
The War on Church and State
o Americans United for Separation of Church and State (au.org) reveals that “officials in May Minette, Ala., have crossed a constitutional line by creating a program that allows low-level offenders to choose between fines and jail or going to church for a year.” 56 churches have agreed to take part in the program, which is being called “Operation Restore Our Community.”
o Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, is responsible for sponsoring legislation to reaffirm that “In God We Trust” is our national motto, claiming “As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress and our nation—like our predecessors—to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come.” The bill passed 396-9. Zero jobs were created by this incredible and unconstitutional waste of time. The Senate had already wastefully reaffirmed the motto in 2006.
o The South Dakota legislature is promoting “biblical instruction” in public schools, passing a nonbinding resolution by a vote of 55 to 15 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, that “encourages school districts to voluntarily provide instruction that makes students familiar with the content, character, and narratives of the Bible.” The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Hickey (R), is, no surprise, a pastor.
o The race to the thirteenth century seems unlikely to end before Election Day 2012. In Georgia, “A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by House lawmakers” reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The bill (sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson) passed by a vote of 161-0 and will now go to the state Senate. The influence of David Barton is plainly visible in Benton’s dishonest rationale: “If you look at the law of the United States, we have a lot of laws that are based on the Christian and Jewish Ten Commandments, so I felt that was a very appropriate item to be put in there,” This isn’t true at all. Our laws are based on English Common Law which has pagan but no biblical influences. The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with American law, invalidating the claim that there are non-religious reasons for posting the Ten Commandments.
o In Florida, on the same day it passed legislation against Sharia law, the Florida legislature said that student-led public school prayer was perfectly acceptable, allowing students to deliver “inspirational messages” at school events, slapping down Sharia law with one hand and lifting up the equally dangerous Mosaic law with the other. According to the Miami Herald, “The bill’s backers say Gov. Rick Scott has told them he would sign the legislation. The bill passed the Florida House on a 88-27 vote. Sadly, a handful of Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill, including Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat. The ACLU and the ADL both stand ready to challenge the bill despite Republican claims that it will “stand legal muster.”
o In Tennessee, a bill to permit the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658) passed the Tennessee House by a vote of 93-9. HB2658 “Authorizes local governments to display replicas of historic documents such as the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Ten Commandments in county or municipal public buildings and on county or municipal public grounds.” It matters little that there are better examples of Hittite vassal treaties than the Ten Commandments and better examples of law codes, for example, the Code of Hammurabi. The purpose of this law is to find a way to get the Ten Commandments publicly displayed without violating the First Amendment.
The War on Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
o Having ensured that children will be born through their anti-abortion legislation, House Republicans have now ensured those children will be deprived of proper nutrition once they come into the world, ensuring that 300,000 millionaires will have more money in their pockets at the expense of nearly 500,000 women and children. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the appropriations bill which reduces WIC funding from $6.73 billion this year to $5.90 billion in 2012. The bill will also cut $38 million from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSIP), as well as $63 million from the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAB). If the Republicans had been truly interested in slashing the federal budget they could have saved more money by ending tax cuts for the rich or slashing subsidies to the oil companies. Instead they starve the infants and elderly. Why do I say that? WIC could be fully funded at the cost of just one week of Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires. According to the Center for American Progress, “one day’s worth of millionaire tax cuts would feed needy families for a year.”
The War on National Public Radio (NPR)
o The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund NPR: “It is time for American citizens to stop funding an organization that can stand on its own feet,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., the sponsor. The real reason, of course, is that NPR is seen as a bastion of liberalism and it’s voice stands in stark contrast to the propaganda-laden broadcasts from FOX News. The Free Press and Freedom of Speech are the staunch enemies of fascism, and so NPR has to go. Only the “official” voice must be heard. The President is against defunding NPR and Seven Republicans broke ranks to vote against the bill. It is unlikely to pass muster in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The War on Desegregation
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Republicans are actually waging war on desegregation in the seeming belief that you can never turn the clock back too far.
o In Minnesota, the Education Finance Committee is readying a funding bill that will eliminate the goal of desegregated schools. On page 53 of the legislation is a complete repeal of the school integration section of the Minnesota Administrative rules. In defense, Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), chair of the committee, claims the goal is to change the focus to academic achievement from diversity of the student body.
o In Wake County, North Carolina, the school board eliminated integration bussing. According to the Washington Post, the Tea Party-backed school board (funded, says Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation, by the Koch brothers), has pledged to “say no to the social engineers!” and “abolished the policy behind one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.” Says one Tea Party board member, John Tedesco: “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated. We need new paradigms.” A paradigm, apparently, of “back to the 50s.”
The War on High-Speed Rail
o Gas prices are rising and President Obama wants to improve the nation’s infrastructure through the introduction of high-speed rail corridors in areas where they would be particularly effective, and linking the Midwest’s population centers with those of the East Coast. The Republicans and Tea Party are opposed.
The War on Marriage Equality and the Anti-Gay Agenda
To demonstrate how serious the GOP is about depriving a segment of Americans of their constitutional rights, conservative activist Alan Caruba called Obama’s DOMA decision an act of “societal suicide” in a column titled, “America’s Gay White House.” So the equality guaranteed by the Constitution is societal suicide? The New York Times reports: “Voters in Minnesota and North Carolina will decide in November whether to enact constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Such bans already exist in about 30 states.”
The War on Net Neutrality
o Republicans oppose net neutrality. They want corporations to control the internet to better their profits and to control the message getting out. A free press has always been fascism’s most potent enemy; it is no wonder they want to strangle it. At a Communications and Technology Subcommittee Hearing ”House Republicans pushed for a resolution to eliminate ‘net neutrality’ rules recently adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).” Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced H. J. Res. 37 which would prohibit the FCC from regulating the Internet. Republicans claim net neutrality rules amount to a government takeover of the Internet; what they really amount to is protection against a corporate takeover of the Internet. To counter this move, Al Franken (D-MN) has said he will introduce legislation that will make violations of net neutrality illegal.
o The “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA (HR 3261) would give, says FreePress.net, “corporations the power to blacklist websites at will. And it violates the due process rights of the thousands of Internet users who could see their sites disappear… for a “crime” as innocent as posting a video of themselves singing along to a favorite song.” FreePress.net reports that, “A Senate version of SOPA, called the Protect IP Act, passed committee approval in the spring following a massive push by brazen film and music industry lobbyists.”
o They are calling it a “resolution of disapproval” (of the FCC). In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced S.J. Resolution 6, which is supported by the Tea Party and corporations (of course) would, in the words of FreePress.net, “remove the FCC’s ability to protect free speech online, and place a few large companies in charge of deciding what consumers can or can’t do on the Internet. Undoing the FCC’s rules is akin to putting BP in charge of protecting our oceans or Goldman Sachs in charge of protecting the nation’s economy.”
The War on Obama: Birthers and Anti-Obama Legislation
o The Republican and Tea Parties are determined that President Obama should be a one-term president, and that meanwhile, punitive damages should be assessed against him for having the audacity as a black man to not only run for president, but to win.
o Republicans embarked on a campaign of nullification , the tactics employed by a permanent minority – for example the slave-owning states – to protect their rights. Nullification employs filibuster to procure a victory of the minority over the majority, in this case holding up presidential appointments, such as that to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. By actively refusing to participate in the functioning of the federal government, it is doing all in its power to keep the federal government from functioning at all.
o Impeachment is also in the works. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives the first week of March 2012 that while not using the word “impeach” puts everything in place by declaring: “that it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a president without prior and clear authorization of an act of Congress violates Congress’s exclusive power to declare war… and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.” Even if the measure clears the House it will never get past the Senate.
The War on Unions and Collective Bargaining/War on Middle Class
This is more than an attack on unions, teachers, the public sector and collective bargaining and it is far from being the budget/deficit issue Republicans claim. It is, as Noam Chomsky writes, an attack on democracy itself.
o Class Warfare
Examples of Republican hostility to average working- and middle class Americans are many. Rep. Tom Emmer, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota announced that many waitstaff made six figure salaries at their jobs, a statement that he quickly had to back away from as false. Do you know many waiters and waitresses making better than minimum wage? I don’t. It’s no wonder Democrat Mark Dayton won. Drug-testing of welfare recipients is the latest Republican stroke of genius to deflect attention from actually creating jobs and attacking non-problems. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Nearly two dozen states are considering similar legislation. The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney saying it’s an “excellent idea.” The Huffington Post labels it a “trend with no traction” and points out that “two months into the state legislative session, not a single welfare drug testing bill has passed into law.”
o Attacking Unions/Collective Bargaining
A Tea Party-led movement is afoot to attack collective bargaining and public sector pay as responsible for our nation’s economic woes even though the problem is clearly Wall Street. Fights are going on in several Republican-controlled states:
[img Year Right to Work Statute Enacted]
o Right to Work Laws
According to the New York Times, “Twenty-two states, mainly in the South and the West, have long had “right to work” laws forbidding contracts that require workers to pay union dues. After a decade in which business has ignored the issue, Republicans in more than 10 states over the last year have begun pushing similar laws.” The Republican claim that unions weaken economic and job growth is disproved by the facts on the ground, as the Times points out: “In fact, six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment have right-to-work laws. North Carolina, a right-to-work state, has a private sector unionization rate of 1.8 percent, the lowest in the nation. It also has the sixth highest unemployment rate: 10 percent.” Currently, says the Wall Street Journal, “At least nine states have right-to-work legislation pending, including Michigan.”
o Deregulating Wall Street – The Great Recession Part Two Plan
The War on Immigration
o Nobody hates an immigrant like the Republican Party – except for the Tea Party. Anti-immigration legislation, though bad enough in Arizona, has reached new lows in Arizona and Texas. But not only in those states (and the Arizona measures listed below were voted down on March 17, 2011): Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck, a Republican, in a recent legislative budget hearing said, “It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.”
The War on Child Labor Laws
o Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber). (A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws)
The War on the Right to Vote
o The Republican Party has a long history of disenfranchising voters. If you don’t have a viable platform all that’s left is ensuring that those who would otherwise vote against you can’t vote. President Clinton has compared Republican anti-voting laws to Jim Crow. Rolling Stone reports, “In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.” To add insult to injury, Right Wing Watch is reporting that “Robert Knight of the far-right American Civil Rights Union appeared yesterday on VCY America’sCrosstalk to discuss so-called voter fraud problems, where he accused people who oppose restrictions on voting rights such as voter ID laws of being “racist”!!! As Sarah Jones reported here on March 12, 2012: “Republicans pushed ALEC inspired voter ID laws in over 33 states and passed them in states like South Carolina (whose voter ID law was also struck down by the DOJ for discrimination), Kansas, Alabama, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin. This legislation is meant to give Republicans a much needed edge, allowing military ID and concealed handgun permits to suffice for ID, while cutting out student IDs in some states. In fact, the NRA was the corporate co-chair of ALEC Public Safety and Elections in 2011.”
The War on Islam/Islamophobia
At least 20 states are making attempts to ban foreign laws, not always naming Islam but always directed at the world’s second largest religion. As is all too often the case since 2010, Republicans are attacking a non-existent problem while ignoring America’s real problems.
o Islamophobia has become institutionalized in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives as Rep. Peter King (R – N.Y.), is begins his McCarthy-esque “investigation of radical Islam”
o The states of Missouri , South Carolina and Oklahoma are all attempting to ban the alleged “creeping influence” of Sharia Law. Needless to say, most of the opponents of Sharia Law are strongly in favor of its exact equivalent, Mosaic Law – otherwise known as the Ten Commandments. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling and injunction blocking implementation of the so-called “Save Our State” amendment. Raw Story reports that “A South Carolina state House panel will consider a bill…that aims to ban any foreign laws, including Sharia law… Courts blocked a similar law in Oklahoma last month because they said it would invalidate certain legal contracts between Muslims, who often incorporate references to Islamic prophetic traditions in their agreements.”
o Alabama proposed a law to ban Sharia law this spring, introduced by State Sen. Cam Ward (R). According to Right Wing Watch: “The Anniston Star reports that the bill’s sponsor, Republican State Senator Gerald Allen, admits that he doesn’t know of any court cases in Alabama or anywhere in the U.S. using Sharia law to make decisions. Allen’s staff lifted the legislation’s description of Sharia law from Wikipedia, and the senator admits he doesn’t even know what it is.” As for attacking non-existent problems, ThinkProgress points out that “According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, less than half of a percent of Alabamians are Muslim.”
o Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the Values Voters Summit in 2010 that he wants a federal law to ban Sharia law.
o Oklahoma passed an anti-Sharia law last year, the “Save Our State” amendment, which was supported by 70 percent of voters but was blocked by a federal judge on First Amendment grounds. Rep. Sally Kern (R) introduced a new anti-Sharia bill in 20100 - House Bill 1552 - designed to be less objectionable to courts.
o In Florida, HB 1209 (introduced on January 10, 2012), titled Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases, which bans the use of “foreign law” passed the Florida House on March 1, 2012 by a vote of 92-24. The foreign law in question is Sharia law. The law may have the unforeseen consequence of voiding divorces mediated through Jewish tribunals,” which naturally has Jewish groups in an uproar, to add to the chorus from civil liberties groups. Of course, there is no demonstrated threat from Sharia law in Florida, though Mosaic law is most definitely proving itself dangerous.
The War on the Federal Government (Tentherism)
o In Arizona, the State Senate introduced SB 1433 which “proposed nothing less than the creation of a 12-person body tasked with studying federal laws and nullifying any and all of those it deemed unconstitutional.” The bill (which failed to pass) would have applied to both existing and any new legislation. This was essentially a secession act.
o In Virginia, Robert G. Marshall (R), a Tea Partier, proposed Joint House Resolution No. 557 ”Establishing a joint subcommittee to study whether the Commonwealth should adopt a currency to serve as an alternative to the currency distributed by the Federal Reserve System in the event of a major breakdown of the Federal Reserve System.”
o In Georgia, “Constitutional Tender Act” (HB 3)sponsored by Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) would override federal monetary regulations, stating, “Pre-1965 silver coins, silver eagles, and gold eagles shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall use to make any payments whatsoever to any person or entity, whether private or governmental.” TPM reports: “Lawmakers in Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington have proposed legislation, mostly in 2009, to include gold and silver in its accepted currency forms.”
o Also in Georgia, as reported here by Rmuse, “five state senators including Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R) and senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams (R) introduced legislation that allows Georgia and its citizens to ignore any federal law Republicans do not want not follow. The legislation ignores the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that clearly states, “The Laws of the United States which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land,” and it is the reason states do not have the right to ignore federal laws.”
o Montana’s “Sheriffs First Act,” SB 114, sponsored by Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, would give precedence to local sheriff’s over any federal agent in their counties; According to the Helena Independent Record: “The bill says that if a sheriff claims that a federal agent acted without permission (with a few exceptions) the county attorney “must” — on pain of possible recall or charges of official misconduct — prosecute the federal agent for a crime such as kidnapping, trespassing or theft.”
o In Kentucky. Senate Natural Resources and Energy Chairman Brandon Smith, R-Hazard proposed Senate Joint Resolution 99 ”declaring Kentucky a sanctuary state from the regulatory overreach of the United States Environmental Protection Agency against coal operators and the coal industry in Kentucky; proscribe enforcement of federal conductivity standards; require state agency to set conductivity standard that allows for coal mining and protects health, safety, and environment; declare state agency to have jurisdiction over water quality standards; proscribe collection of fines and penalties for standards in excess of federal requirements…”
The War on Gun Control
o Reuters reports that Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich has signed into law “a bill that allows gun owners in the state to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places where alcohol is served.” The law also allows gun owners to go armed into shopping malls.
o The U.S. House of Representatives wants to undermine state gun controls by forcing each state to honor the gun-carrying permits of other states. H.R. 822 the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 “would require all states to allow out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms as long as the laws of the visitors” home states allow them to do so” which would override protections that other states citizens want. So much for Republicans opposing the federal government riding roughshod over states rights. If it’s something the GOP wants, the feds can lord it all they want. Congress rejected a similar law in 2009. It may surprise no one that the sponsor is Rep. Clifford Stearns (R-FL): read on below.
o In Florida, a new law passed in June 2011 by the Republican-controlled legislature (of course), mandates penalties against local communities and officials for not dropping their gun control laws in obedience to a 1987 act that, as the New York Times reports, “allowed the state to pre-empt the whole field of gun and ammunition controls” but which since then has been largely ignored. The deadline is now October 1. From the Daytona Beach News-Journal: State Rep. Fred Costello said the strong language in the new law — 790.33 of the Florida Statues — assumes full control of all gun regulation. No local government can override state laws or make more restrictive laws regarding guns. “The bottom line is, although some will disagree, that criminals will have guns anywhere, so it is arguably better for legal, law-abiding citizens to also be able to have guns to give the bad guys pause,” said Costello, R-Ormond Beach.
o In 2009, Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd (R-Collierville) sponsored a bill to allow guns in bars for the purposes of “self-defense” (a category of catastrophically stupid all on its own), the so-called “guns in bars” bill. Todd, actually a college graduate, has also, reports the Nashville City Paper, “compared pregnant illegal immigrants to ‘reproducing rats.’” In the Department of Irony, the same Nashville source reports that “Todd was picked up by Metro Police and charged with DUI and possession of a handgun while under the influence” on October 11, 2011. By the way, the bill passed the House 66-23.
o In Virginia, July 1, 2010 meant you could carry a gun into a bar or restaurant. The only restriction is that you can’t drink alcohol while you do so. Despite pleas from state police chiefs that it was a recipe for disaster, Governor Bob McDonnell said passage of SB334 was all about upholding the second amendment rights of good ole boys to pack heat.
o The State of Virginia wants guns, lots of guns, in the hands of pretty much anybody, or so we can conclude from Gov. Bob McDonnell signing of a law repealing the state’s 1993 gun purchase limit. McDonnell cites as his excuse his “duty to protect the Second Amendment” – but not, apparently, the lives of his fellow Virginians, or as the New York Times points out, those of other states. As is usual with Republican legislation in this era, McDonnell’s action flies in the face of what the people actually want, a recent poll showing 66 percent of Virginians favored limiting gun sales.
The War on Consumers
o In the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1315, sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), would block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new rules and replace the single director chosen by President Obama with a five-member commission answerable to the Republicans and big business, like a fox guarding a hen-house.
The War on Democracy
o Michigan passed a Financial Martial Law bill, which essentially established a Republican dictatorship in place of democracy by turning over to unelected emergency managers the powers to supersede legally elected local governments without oversight from those legally constituted local governments.
The War on Jobs
o House Democrats have demonstrated that in their first 202+ days in office, House Republicans have not only failed to deliver even one job creation bill, they have passed legislation to kill 1.9 million jobs.
The War on Science, the Environment and Health
“Rep. Joe Barton claimed that there was “no medical negative” from mercury, sulfur dioxide or other toxic air pollutants. This appalling statement flies in the face of years of scientific research and blatantly ignores the EPA’s finding that roughly one in twelve – and as many as one in six – women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies.” - From the League of Conservation Voters
o Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives kills climate committee, the Select Committee on Global Warming. Not only that, but as Care2 reports, “House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee demonstrated their commitment to science denial…by unanimously voting down three separate amendments offered by Democrats to reaffirm basic facts about climate science. They then unanimously voted to pass the Upton-Inhofe bill to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific endangerment finding on greenhouse pollution.” In other words, they have legislated that climate-change does not exist. They have legislated it out of existence.
o The House budget for 2011 would have taken $126 million away from the National Weather Service. This is, of course, the agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that prepares and warns us of nasty life-threatening and property-destroying things like tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, floods and fires. Keep in mind, the House wants to continue to subsidize the oil industry that gouges you at the pumps each week and is increasing profits hand over fist. But dying in a tornado you didn’t know about is just fine.
o Republicans oppose energy saving lightbulbs, citing the evils of government interference. In a case of Republican cannibalism, Republican lawmakers want to repeal a 2007 U.S. law (signed by President George W. Bush) which phases out the old incandescent light bulbs in favor of alternative energy-saving bulbs (that use 25%-30% less energy than standard incandescent). With typical ignorance of the facts, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blames the Obama Administration
o Senator Rand Paul blames the administration and the Department of Energy for the fact that his toilet doesn’t work, telling Energy Department official Kathleen Hogan that it’s her fault (the EPA says if we replaced our old toilets we “could save nearly 2 billion gallons per day across the country—that’s nearly 11 gallons per toilet in your home every day”
o Republicans in the House (House CR or continuing resolution) voted to cut $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health or NIH (5% below the president’s 2011 request and $638 million, or 2%, below current levels), which would do untold damage to cancer research and probably result in cuts to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research, and cause job losses.
o The Republicans launch a stealth attack on endangered species, showing they love animals at least as much as the middle class.
o The Tea Party in at least a dozen states has come up with a radical, states-rights-centered proposal to attack healthcare reform: the health care compact would allow, Mother Jones reports, “them to seize control of and administer virtually all federal health care programs operating in their states and exempt them from the requirements of the health care law.”
o The House Judiciary Committee is looking at the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 10), a bill that would undermine the public protections most crucial to our health, safety, environment and economy
o Republicans (and 12 Democrats from coal states) in the U.S. House of Representatives have passed (on July 14, 2011) the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011″ which rolls back the Clean Water Act of 1972, eliminating federal oversight on water standards and returning it to the states.
o Michele Bachmann, running as Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012 says, “I pledge to you I’m not a talker. I’m a doer…. And I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off and they will only be about conservation.” She promises, “It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.”
o In Georgia, SB 61, in the words of Jim Galloway, declared “Georgia’s sovereign authority over incandescent light bulbs that do not cross state lines.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said he wasn’t going to let the federal government do to light bulbs what they did to toilets.
o Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), second ranking member of the GOP-led Energy and Power Subcommittee, introduced legislation (H.R. 1705)- called the TRAIN Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4, 2011 to create a committee to do a cost-benefit analyses of 10 EPA regulations which are designed to curb pollution. Sullivan says Congress needs “an honest accounting of how much the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory train wreck is costing our economy and American consumers.” Democrats like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) are right to demand to know how much the bill itself would cost Americans. The TRAIN act was passed by the House on 9/23/11.
o In Florida, Governor Rick Scott says that Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state” and that “It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here.” He apparently feels that “science, technology, engineering and math degrees” are where money should be spent, apparently ignorant of the fact that anthropology is a science. Perhaps somebody should have spent more money on Rick Scott’s education?
o It’s not just the House but the Senate as well. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn proposed in September that federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects be stripped from the Transportation Bill then under consideration.
o Coburn failed as a result of public outcry but Senator Rand Paul now wants to use money allocated for bike and pedestrian projects to bridge repair – he says the bridges are a priority (so why aren’t they allocating money for it?) but since 2007, 2,800 cyclists and 20,000 pedestrians have died in this country.
o In a really bizarre end-run around environmental protections, Republicans in the House (who else?) are pushing Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop’s National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, which, the Texas Tribune says, “would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior from enacting environmental regulations that hinder the operations of the CBP on public lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border.” Argues Paul Spitler of the Wilderness Society: “There are literally no checks on the agency. They would have unfettered access and control to do whatever they choose; there would be no oversight in Congress.” So much for small, non-intrusive government.
o Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Monday that the Obama administration will be extending the Grand Canyon uranium-mining ban for 20 years. House Republicans are of course up in arms. One in twelve Americans depend on the Colorado River for drinking water so what better reason to pollute it by inviting in foreign-owned mining operations? They have introduced legislation, H.R. 3155 sponsored by Trent Franks (R-AZ), aka the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, that would nullify the administration’s decision if it passed in the next 60 days.
o The Alliance for Natural Health points out that “In 2008, the National Institutes of Health required that all federally funded research publications be made openly available.” After all, the taxpayers paid for the research; they should be able to read it without paying again. But this very un-Republican act has angered “the Association of American Publishers (AAP).” As ANH reports: “The trade group liked the old rules, where they could sell the tax-funded research back to the taxpayers. So the AAP got two members of Congress, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), to introduce HR 3699, the Research Works Act, just before the end of 2011.”
“This bill would prevent the NIH or any other agency from causing or even allowing private-sector research work to be disseminated online without prior consent of both the publisher and the study authors—even if the funding came from our tax dollars [...] This is about access to peer-reviewed scientific information—research that we pay for with our tax money. If this bill passes, Americans who want to read the results of federally funded research will have to buy access to each journal article individually—at a cost of $15 or $30 apiece. In other words, as the New York Times recently noted, taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.”
o In the U.S. Senate, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is attacking the Affordable Care Act by introducing an amendment (the Blunt Amendment) to a transportation bill that would give, in the words of the National Women’s Law Center, “virtually limitless and unprecedented license to any employer or insurance plan, religious or not, to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, in the health services they cover.” The Blunt Amendment was defeated in the Senate on a narrow vote of 51 to 48 on March 1, 2012.
o The Environmental Defense Action Fund informs us that “at a Senate hearing yesterday [March 22, 2012], Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) grilled EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and called links between air pollution and human health “figments of EPA’s statistical imagination.” This is all a backdrop to Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-OK) “toxic air bill” – S.J. Res 37 – “A joint resolution to disapprove a rule promulgated by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency relating to emission standards for certain steam generating units” which in the words of the EDF would “deny your right to clean air that won’t kill you or make you sick.” Click here for the testimony of Vickie Patton, General Counsel Environmental Defense Fund before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, March 20, 2012.
The War on Education/Historical Revisionism
o “War on Evolution/Creationism/Intelligent Design”
o House Republicans voted to cut Pell Grants, that help middle class kids go to college, by 25%
o Some 90 Tennessee counties have now adopted resolutions claiming that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the American legal system, despite the clear and incontrovertible evidence that the American legal system is based on English common-law (that is to say, ancient Pagan Germanic law) and on Pagan Roman law, which is to say, civil law.
o Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed to cut teacher pay by 12 percent to 20 percent
o In Michigan, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is considering punitive legislation against teachers that would prohibit them (and other public employees, those nasty collective bargainers) from using a publicly-owned email service to send political messages. HB 4052, adopted by the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee would mandate a $10,000 fine for an organization and a $1,000 fine and one-year imprisonment for an individual for violating the law. The Michigan Education Association correctly defines this act as “political payback.”
o In Alabama, state Senator Shadrack McGill (R) is claiming that raising teacher’s pay Is a violation of a biblical principle. “It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? “And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. ” As ThinkProgress puts it: “McGill found justification in the Bible for not increasing teacher pay, but he evidently found nothing in scripture preventing him from approving a 67 percent pay increase for legislators in 2007, which increased annual salaries for the part-time legislators from $30,710 to $49,500. He said that the higher pay helped to stop corruption.” ThinkProgress goes on to point out the following fact: “Currently, a part-time legislator in Alabama is making more than a full-time teacher with a Master’s degree and 15 years of experience.” Taking McGill’s words to their logical conclusion then, being a politician is not something God wants people to do.
o De-funding Head Start
Shutting Down the Government
The Republicans spent much of the past two years shutting down the United States government over one issue or another. It would take an entire article to account for all their underhanded attempts to hold government hostage. One example will suffice.
o House Republicans decided that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was funding abortions (it wasn’t as proven by its steering document). but because they insisted that their fantasy was true, they threatened to shut down the government over a policy rider banning funding to the UNFPA.
The War on Anti-Bullying Laws
The Republican Party maintains that the true victims of bullying are the bullies themselves. Anti-bullying law have been called “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists'] special rights agenda into law” (the Michigan Family Association), would “promote acceptance of homosexuality.” (Minnesota Family Council) or that “bullying prevention is being “hijacked by activists” who are “politicizing or sexualizing the issue” (Focus on the Family). Apparently, however, it’s quite all right for religious activists to hijack bullying prevention. Currently, 47 states have anti-bullying laws.
o In November 2011, the Michigan State Senate passed a “license to bully” bill (SB 137) which allows bulling by hose who have a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” In full: “This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.” The language was eventually stripped from the bill.
o A similar attempt to okay religious-based bullying is now underfoot in Tennessee, which is promoting its own “license to bully” bill, HB 1153: “‘Creating a hostile educational environment’ shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.” The bill goes on to say that “The policy shall not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and shall not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views; provided, that such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or damage to a student’s property.” The bill’s agenda is made abundantly clear by the following:”Harassment, intimidation, or bullying prevention task forces, programs, and other initiatives formed by school districts, including any curriculum adopted for such purposes, shall not include materials or training that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice as defined in 4-21-102(4).”
o Ever wonder what happens in the event of a complete collapse of the federal government, including currency and military? Well, naturally, Republicans think about such things when they go to their happy places. Witness Wyoming’s close call with a so-called doomsday bill.
The War on Freedom of Expression
This particular piece of legislation from Indiana may seem a minor annoyance to some, but it represents a far greater threat to America than it might seem. It also goes to show that Wisconsin and Michigan Tea Partiers have nothing on their Hoosier brethren.
o State Sen. Vaneta Becker (R) has proposed legislation that would not improve math or science skills, or indeed, anything having to do with education, but which would introduce, reports the Indianapolis Star, “‘performance standards’for singing and playing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.” Also affected would be private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers. The GOP and it’s Tea Party allies claim to be all for small and unintrusive government, but the new law would require performers “to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.” Additionally, “schools to maintain audio recordings of all performances for two years and develop a procedure for dealing with complaints if a musician is alleged to have strayed from the approved lyrical or melodic guidelines.”
You’ve pushed us white folks too far!
This piece of legislation deserved a category of its own. If you’ve ever doubted that Republicans and Tea Partiers are wasting everyone’s time and money rather than trying to fix what’s wrong with America, doubt no longer:
o Never happy with “political correctness” the Republicans in the North Dakota legislature passed a piece of legislation, House Bill 1263, which was signed into law Gov. Jack Dalrymple, which prohibits the University of North Dakota from changing their 90-year-old Native American nickname — the Fighting Sioux – in compliance with the NCAA’s policy on mascots “deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans.”
The War on Privacy
o From RawStory: “H.R. 3523, introduced last year by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), purports to help safeguard American corporations from espionage and cyber crime by allowing the NSA and other federal spy agencies to work directly with large corporate players, funneling them classified information on threat assessments to enable companies to defend themselves. While the bill is openly supported by companies like AT&T, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Facebook, Boeing and Intel.” The bill, now being considered by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, warns the ACLU, would allow corporations to share personal and private data with the government and without oversight.
The War on the “New World Order”? Really?
Republicans love conspiracy theories and the idea that a world government threatens our liberties is a favorite. What this really amounts to when time and money are invested in legislating against these fantasies is wasting those resources to fix problems that don’t exist.