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The outside groups, in retrospect

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 14-01-2011

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The influx of outside money — a major Democratic campaign theme in 2010 — doesn’t actually seem to have been a huge factor, as evidence at the time also indicated:

A new study from the Wesleyan Media Project found that while outside groups spent slightly more on ads in House and Senate races in the 2010 cycle proportionately to the total amount invested in the campaign, their contributions represented only a small increase from 2000.

Despite the heightened attention on independent groups over the course of the campaign, according to the study, candidates and campaign committees actually drove most of the spending. By the time the final campaign ad aired, candidates and parties paid for 85 percent of all ads in Senate races and 88 percent of ads in House races.

“The initial evidence suggests that while interest groups were aggressive players in the air war, their impact may not have been as negative or as large as initially predicted,” writes Michael Franz, the study’s author and an associate professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College.

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Gay groups criticize Justice Department brief

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 13-01-2011

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 President Obama seemed to have mended his difficult relationship with his the gay rights movement by getting the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" done, but this evening brings another flare-up.

Gay groups are furious with a Justice Department brief defending — though in quite narrow terms — the Defense of Marriage Act, which Candidate Obama, unlike even his Democratic rivals, had pledged to repeal in full. 

"DOMA is supported by rationales that constitute a sufficient rational basis for the law. For example, as explained below, it is supported by an interest in maintaining the status quo and uniformity on the federal level, and preserving room for the development of policy in the states," says the government’s brief (.pdf) in two cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The brief focuses solely on the virtues of keeping the federal law while state’s experiment, and not the underlying question of marriage. 

The half-heartedness of that defense didn’t offer much solace to activists who — despite the Justice Department’s traditional role defending federal laws — are demanding that Obama return to the full support for same-sex marriage that he advocated in the 1990s.

"There are some improvements in tone in the brief, but the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens," said Equality Matters chief Richard Socarides in an email. "And that is unacceptable."

"The Administration claims that it has a duty to defend the laws that are on the books. We simply do not agree. At the very least, the Justice Department can and should acknowledge that the law is unconstitutional," Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in an email to the group’s members, signaling that even the relatively conciliatory group will take a more confrontational tone on marriage. "All families deserve the recognition and respect of their government. It’s time for President Obama to state his support for full, equal marriage. And we want your help in telling him that it’s time."

Solmonese also wrote that Obama "has done more for the nation’s LGBT community than any other president in history."

(h/t Metro Weekly)

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Abortion-rights groups concerned on filibuster reform

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 13-01-2011

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Leading abortion-rights advocacy groups have quietly raised concerns with Senate Democrats over plans to reform — and potentially weaken — the ability of a minority of Senators to block action on legislation, for fear that the move could open the way to anti-abortion legislation.

Senators Tom Harkin — who has been seeking to limit filibusters since 1995 — Tom Udall, and Jeff Merkley are leading a push to limit the requirement for 60-vote supermajorities on motions to proceed and to require "talking" filibusters, rather than theoretical ones, among other "reform" measures. The plans reflect frustration at Senate dysfunction, but they could also strengthen the hand of the current Democratic majority and of a future Republican majority. 

Abortion-rights groups told POLITICO that they’re currently examining the details of proposals, and aren’t ready to weigh in:

“Like many organizations, we have had discussions with Senate offices about the various filibuster reform proposals which we are currently evaluating," said Amy Taylor, the interim vice president for public policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in an emailed statement.

"We are monitoring this debate and talking with Senate offices about filibuster reform along with other issues. Regarding the filibuster reform specifically, we’re evaluating the proposals, but we have not issued a formal position yet," said NARAL Pro-Choice America spokesman Ted Miller.

But a staffer for a major abortion rights groups said they’re raising concerns to Senate offices on the question, and specifically on what impact the requirement that Senators actually stand there and talk would have on the current informal standoff on abortion-related issues.

"Our main concern is that traditionally, out of the filibuster, an automatic 60-vote threshold has emerged on abortion isues," said the staffer, noting that as a matter of informal Senate rules, no abortion-related bill or amendment proceeds without that supermajority support.

"After the November 2 elections, and looking at the trajectoryy on this issue, it’s really important that the automatic 60-vote threshold on abortion amendments is preserved," the staffer said, anticipating "a litany of amendments undermining women’s access that are coming out fo the House."

"We’re going to need the Senate to be able to beat back attacks," the staffer said.

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Michigan Lawmaker Feels Threatened By ‘Extreme Rhetoric’ Of Anti-Gay Groups

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 13-01-2011

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In October, the City Commission in Traverse City, MI unanimously passed an ordinance that made it illegal to fire or deny housing to someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Traverse City became the 18th city in that area of Michigan to pass such a law. But some local anti-gay activists mounted a vociferous campaign against the ordinance, and in particular, against City Commissioner Jim Carruthers, an openly gay man who introduced and advocated for the law. When it passed, Carruthers spoke out against the “violent, angry, ugly” e-mails he’d been receiving, but said “[t]hese to me are all reasons why we need to do this. There is so much hate and ignorance out there.”

Last week, a local anti-gay activist named Paul Nepote posted a video to his Facebook group, “Traverse City Opposing a Gay Agenda Ordinance,” showing men shooting a rifle at human-shaped targets, and added a comment: “I love this rifle!” In the wake of that posting, along with shocking violence against public officials in Arizona, Carruthers has gone public with deep concerns for his safety:

In an e-mail to his fellow city commissioners, local media, and the city police chief, Carruthers said:

“Considering what has taken place, I am going on record to say (as I have in the past) I personally as a political leader feel threatened by the extreme rhetoric that is being espoused by anti-gay hate groups in Traverse City toward people such as myself.”

“These people are unstable and I fear bad will come from them in the future,” he said. “I fear more and more for my personal safety with such hateful people in our midst.

Nepote’s Facebook group is littered with epithets against “homosexual activists” who “SHOULD STAY OUT OF TRAVERSE CITY.” One post in November featured a picture of Carruthers, his address, and a note from Nepote: “KNOW THE OPPOSITION – Homosexual Activist.” He also posted a video in which Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly appears to call for the murder of gay activists who crashed a church service in California.

On his group’s page, Nepote also repeatedly bashes M’Lynn Hartwell, an openly gay woman and former Traverse City Human Rights Commissioner. Hartwell reports that, in the past, during campaigns to enact the human rights ordinance and during other local gay rights campaigns, the “outside of her house was vandalized twice…and two years ago she returned from vacation to find a bullet hole in the wall of her home.”

Police in Traverse City say there’s nothing they can do about the seemingly insinuated violence on Traverse City Opposing a Gay Agenda Ordinance’s Facebook page. Contacted by the Michigan Messenger, Nepote said Carruthers is “full of shit”: “If somebody was going to shoot him he’d be dead years ago.”

(HT: Michigan Messenger)


Fulfilling Father’s Campaign To Segregate Public Schools, Koch Groups End Successful Integration Program In NC

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 12-01-2011

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Today in the Washington Post, reporter Stephanie McCrummen detailed how a right-wing campaign in the Wake County area of North Carolina has taken over the school board with a pledge to end a very successful socio-economic integration plan. The integration plan, which created thriving schools in poor African-American parts of the school district along with achieving diversity in schools located in wealthy white enclaves, was a model for the nation. However, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Tea Party group founded and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, worked with local right-wing financier (and AFP board member) Art Pope to fundamentally change Wake County’s school board:

“I don’t want us to go back to racially isolated schools,” said Shila Nordone, who is biracial and has two children in county schools. “But right now, it’s as if the best we can do is dilute these kids out so they don’t cause problems. It sickens me.”

In their quest to end the diversity policy, the frustrated parents have found some influential partners, among them retail magnate and Republican operative Art Pope. Following his guidance, the GOP fielded the victorious bloc of school board candidates who railed against “forced busing.” The nation’s largest tea party organizers, Americans for Prosperity – on whose national board Pope sits – cast the old school board members as arrogant “leftists.” Two libertarian think tanks, which Pope funds almost exclusively, have deployed experts on TV and radio.

In a way, the Koch brothers are simply fulfilling their father’s legacy. In 1958, Fred Koch — the founder of Koch Industries — joined a group of manufacturing executives and Jack Welch to found the John Birch Society, a virulent far-right group that dominated the civil rights debate. The John Birch Society organized an impeachment campaign against then-Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren for the Brown v. Board decision outlawing racial segregation, and mobilized its supporters to oppose integration of schools on the grounds that mixing black and white would lead to the “mongrelization” of the races. Fred supported the John Birch Society’s anti-civil rights campaign, and wrote a screed denouncing the civil rights movement as communist-inspired.

Charles and David did not only inherit an oil company, they inherited a political philosophy. The Tea Party movement, orchestrated by AFP and other Koch fronts, reflects the paranoid style of the movement started by their father, Fred. As Thom Hartmann has explained, corporate interests have long funded far-right, paranoid movements to continually shift the balance of politics in America. The radical right creates political space for corporate candidates like Richard Nixon or Mitt Romney to appear “moderate” in contrast. David Koch, it should be noted, actually supports Romney for president in 2012 even though David’s fronts have spent the last two years boosting reactionaries like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Sue Sturgis of Facing South has reported that the AFP campaign in Wake County was also aided by the private school industry, including a company called the Thales Academy. AFP has called for more charter and private schools, and now with its slate of Tea Party candidates controlling the system, they will have the power to continue their racially-segregated privatization scheme.


Jewish Groups: ‘We Are Deeply Disturbed’ By Palin’s Use Of Anti-Semitic Term ‘Blood Libel,’ She Should Apologize

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 12-01-2011

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On a day when the president and the nation are mourning the victims of the tragic shooting in Tucson, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is trying to seize the spotlight to mourn her tarnished reputation. Palin apparently views herself among the real victims of the tragic shooting this weekend that killed six and wounded 14. This morning, Palin launched an aggressive Facebook and web-video campaign to counter what she deemed a “blood libel” against her by the media to connect her infamous cross-hairs map and other right-wing incendiary rhetoric to violence.

Of all the terms Palin could have used, from “defamation” to even “implicating me in murder,” why did Palin choose “blood libel”? As the conservative National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who says he “agree[s] entirely with…Palin’s, larger point,” notes, “Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their ritual.” Indeed, many Jews consider the term extremely offensive, and the Anti-Defamation League and other prominent Jewish organizations has spoken out against its use in the Muslim world, the U.N., and elsewhere on dozens of occasions in the past.

Palin could be ignorant to the true meaning of “blood libel,” as Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) has suggested. But Politico’s Ben Smith speculates, Palin’s advisers, especially the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, “get the context — so this is a pot being stirred, not an accident.” Goldfarb “is practically a talmud scholar,” Smith added.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, writing on Politico’s Arena, notes “Now is not the time to use words like “blood libel” or to attack those who seek to lessen the use of violent words or deeds.”

Indeed, Jewish groups are taking offense to Palin’s choice of the term. Noting that accusations of blood libel have been “directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries,” the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Palin’s use of the term:

Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a “blood libel” against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries — and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today. […]

All we had asked following this weekend’s tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin’s invocation of a “blood libel” charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.

Likewise, the president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish lobby J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said he was “saddened by Governor Palin’s use of the term ‘blood libel,’” adding that he hopes “she will choose to retract her comment [and] apologize“:

The country’s attention is rightfully focused on the memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shooting. Our prayers continue to be with those who are still fighting to recover and the families of the victims. The last thing the country needs now is for the rhetoric in the wake of this tragedy to return to where it was before.

We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term “blood libel” brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds. When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.

Meanwhile, Simon Greer, the president of Jewish Funds for Justice, said he was “deeply disturbed” by Palin’s use of the term, arguing that she “failed to live up to her own standards” in a statement about using responsible rhetoric:

We are deeply disturbed by Fox News commentator Sarah Palin’s decision to characterize as a “blood libel” the criticism directed at her following the terrorist attack in Tucson. The term “blood libel” is not a synonym for “false accusation.” It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line. […]

Ms. Palin clearly took some time to reflect before putting out her statement today. Despite that time, her primary conclusion was that she is the victim and Rep. Giffords is the perpetrator. As a powerful rhetorical advocate for personal responsibility, Ms. Palin has failed to live up to her own standards with this statement.

It’s worth noting that conservative Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds first injected the term into the post-shooting debate this week in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel.” Meanwhile, right-wing media tycoon Andrew Breitbart warned “the gutless GOP establishment” yesterday that those “who watch[] in silence the blood libel against @SarahPalinUSA. We will remember.” But, because Palin is a far more high-profile figure and fashions herself as a national leader, she should choose her words far more carefully than incendiary pundits.

Moreover, the use of a term associated with real evils like genocide to defend oneself in the face of catty punditry shows a startling degree of narcissism — even for Palin. As ThinkProgress’ Matt Yglesias jokes, “Indeed, Jews throughout America can join me in remembering when our ancestors fled Eastern Europe in order to live in a land where nobody would ever criticize us on television.”

ThinkProgress’ requests for comment from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — the only Jewish Republican in Congress — and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) were not immediately returned.

Full statements from the groups here

NEW YORK – Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice, released the following statement in response to Sarah Palin “blood libel” comment:

We are deeply disturbed by Fox News commentator Sarah Palin’s decision to characterize as a “blood libel” the criticism directed at her following the terrorist attack in Tucson. The term “blood libel” is not a synonym for “false accusation.” It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line.

In the past two months, Ms. Palin and Glenn Beck, the most well-known media personalities on Fox News, have abused two of the most tragic episode in the history of the Jewish people: the Holocaust and the blood libel. In addition, Roger Ailes, the head of the Fox News channel, referred to the executives at NPR as “Nazis.” Perhaps the popular news channel has such an ingrained victim mentality that it identifies with one of the most persecuted minorities in human history. But the Jewish community does not appreciate their identification, which only serves to denigrate the very real pain so many Jews have suffered because of anti-Semitic violence. It is clear that Fox News has a Jewish problem.

Sarah Palin did not shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Only the perpetrator can be found guilty for this act of terrorism. But it is worth pointing out that it was Rep. Giffords herself who first objected to Ms. Palin’s map showing her district in the crosshairs. “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, it has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.” According to Ms. Palin’s logic, Rep. Giffords statement was a blood libel against the Fox News host. The fact that Rep. Giffords is Jewish and Ms. Palin is Christian makes the accusation even more grotesque.

Ms. Palin clearly took some time to reflect before putting out her statement today. Despite that time, her primary conclusion was that she is the victim and Rep. Giffords is the perpetrator. As a powerful rhetorical advocate for personal responsibility, Ms. Palin has failed to live up to her own standards with this statement.

WASHINTON, DC- The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today condemned Sarah Palin’s charged “blood libel” accusation, released early Wednesday by video. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said upon hearing Palin’s statement:

Following this weekend’s tragedy, we—and many others—simply did two things: we prayed for our friend Gabby while keeping all of the murdered and wounded in our thoughts and prayers, and we talked in broad terms about our increasingly charged level of political debate—asserting that now is as good a time as any to look inward and assess how all of us need to dial back the level of vitriol and anger in our public square. Nobody can disagree with the need for both.

Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a “blood libel” against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries—and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today.

Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today.

All we had asked following this weekend’s tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin’s invocation of a “blood libel” charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement in response to Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” in her comments on the tragedy in Tucson:

J Street is saddened by Governor Palin’s use of the term “blood libel.”

The country’s attention is rightfully focused on the memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shooting. Our prayers continue to be with those who are still fighting to recover and the families of the victims. The last thing the country needs now is for the rhetoric in the wake of this tragedy to return to where it was before.

We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term “blood libel” brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds. When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.


Pakistan: Islamic supremacist groups to hold rallies protesting Pope’s call to scrap blasphemy law

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 11-01-2011

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Still no word on those anti-bin Laden rallies denouncing the Tiny Minority of Extremists, but I’m sure they’re just around the corner!

“Pakistan: Islamists criticise Pope’s anti-blasphemy law comments,” from AKI, January 11 (thanks to C. Cantoni):

Islamabad, 11 Jan. (AKI) – An alliance of Pakistani Islamist organisations said they would hold rallies to protest Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks that called on the country to scrap an anti-blasphemy law which allows for the death penalty for insulting Islam.

“The Pope’s statement is part of a conspiracy to pit the world’s religions against each other,’ said Sahibzada Fazal Karim, a member of Pakistan’s parliament and the leader of Sunni Ittehad, an alliance of eight Sunni Muslim groups, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn News.

Speaking on Monday during an address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Benedict called on governments to do more to protect Christians who have recently been the victims of violence in Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq.

He also called for the abolition of a law in Pakistan which cited last week’s assassination of the Punjab governor Salman Taseer who called supported a Christian woman on awaiting execution for under the blasphemy law.

“I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities,” Benedict said.

Karim called the pope’s comments a “violation of the UN’s charter of peace,” saying they meddled in a sovereign country’s internal affairs….

Get on that right away, Ban Ki-Moon! Jump!

Jihad Watch

Israeli ‘Human Rights’ Groups Are Political Agents of Influence

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 09-01-2011

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On Sunday December 19, the self-proclaimed “Israeli human rights” group B’Tselem disseminated a shocking story to the local and international media. B’Tselem claimed that the previous day Palestinian shepherd Samir Bani Fadel was peacefully herding his sheep when he was set upon by a mob of Israeli settlers. He alleged that these kippah-clad Israelis drove up in a car and chased him away. Then they torched the pasture and burned 12 pregnant ewes alive and badly burned five others. B’Tselem furnished reporters with graphic photos of the dead sheep.

While the media published the account without a shred of suspicion, the police found Fadel’s account hard to believe. Observant Jews neither drive nor light fires on Saturdays.

And indeed, when questioned by police investigators, Fadel admitted he made the whole attack up. He accidentally killed his herd himself when he set fire to a pile of bramble. Too embarrassed to admit his mistake, he decided to blame the Jews and become a local hero. B’Tselem was only too happy to spread his lies.

On January 3, Channel 2 aired a video produced by B’Tselem. The video purported to show residents of Yitzhar — a community in Samaria – throwing rocks at Palestinians from the neighboring village Bureen for no reason whatsoever.  Channel 2 presented the footage as further proof – if anyone needed it — that the Israelis who live in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem are a bunch of lawless, hate-filled, violent fanatics.

Unfortunately for B’Tselem and Channel 2, Yitzhar residents also own a video camera. And they also filmed the event. The Samaria Regional Council released the video to the media on Tuesday.

The Yitzhar video exposes the B’Tselem video as a complete fraud. As it happened, on Monday afternoon a group of Palestinians joined by Israelis and/or foreigners descended on Yitzhar and attacked its residents with bricks and rocks of all sizes. Among the assailants was the cameraman who shot the footage presented on Channel 2. Not only did the videographer – who has blond hair – participate in the violent assault on Yitzhar. He staged the incident by alternately throwing rocks, filming, and directing his fellow attackers where to throw their rocks.

The Jews of Yitzhar only began throwing rocks to fend off their attackers.

This past Saturday the Palestinians’ invented what has all the trappings of a new blood libel against Israel.

Every Friday Israeli anti-Zionist activists, Palestinian Authority employees, and foreign anti-Israel groups join forces at Bil’in. Together they attack IDF soldiers guarding construction of the separation barrier adjacent to Bil’in village.

Saturday, the PA claimed that Jawaher Abu-Rahmeh, a woman from Bil’in died from tear gas inhalation at the previous day’s riot. The PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed that her death was an IDF war crime.

Erekat of course, has not distinguished himself as a paragon of truthfulness. To the contrary. He has a long track record of spreading lies about Israel on the international stage. In just one notable example, in April 2002, Erekat claimed in multiple television appearances that the IDF killed more than 500 people at Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield. He also claimed that the IDF buried some 300 people in mass graves.

The UN later reported that during the pitched battle in Jenin refugee camp, 52 Palestinians were killed. 23 IDF soldiers were killed in the battle.

Despite Erekat’s rich history of lies, B’Tselem’s Executive Director Jessica Montell joined his bandwagon immediately. As NGO Monitor documented, in a Twitter post on Saturday, Montell wrote, “Sad start to the year. Jawaher Abu Rahmeh died this morning after inhaling tear gas yesterday in Bil’in demonstration.”

Her claim was echoed in similar statements from her fellow Israeli anti-Zionist pressure groups. Anarchists Against the Wall, Yesh Din, Gush Shalom, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and attorney Michel Sfard who is associated with Yesh Din, Al Haq and Breaking the Silence all alleged that the IDF murdered Abu Rahmah with tear gas.

As luck would have it though, eyewitnesses say that Abu Rahma didn’t even participate in the weekly riot. Ilham Abu Rahma, her 19 year old cousin and neighbor told Britain’s Independent that deceased was at home when the riot took place.

For its part, the IDF has reported that the medical information it received about Abu Rahma’s death are not consistent with death through overexposure to tear gas. During her hospitalization, Abu Rahma received an unusual mix of drugs that is usually only administered to treat poisoning, drug overdose or leukemia. The IDF also revealed that Abu Rahma had been recently hospitalized at a Palestinian hospital.

The easiest way to determine what caused Abu Rahma’s death would of course have been to perform an autopsy. The IDF asked for one to be performed. But the PA refused the request and instead buried her in record time.

THE SAD truth is that a case can easily be made that all of this might have been avoided if B’Tselem hadn’t taken it upon itself to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense. As part of its efforts, in 2002 B’Tselem spearheaded the international campaign against Israel’s right to build the separation fence to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of its major cities.

As NGO Monitor’s recent in-depth report about the lawfare campaign to use the language of law to criminalize Israel shows, B’Tselem was the first NGO to launch a campaign against the security fence. It coined the draconian term, “The Wall” to define the barrier which is in most places nothing more than a wire fence. NGO Monitor recalls that in 2002 and 2003 B’Tselem “issued two lengthy position papers, which became accepted as the definitive analyses of ‘the Wall’ and were widely adopted.”

B’Tselem’s campaign against the security fence was quickly joined by other NGOs, the UN and the EU. Its allegations formed the basis of the international campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to build the barrier.

That campaign reached a high point in 2004 with the publication of International Court of Justice’s opinion on the matter. The ICJ’s opinion parroted B’Tselem’s charge that Israel has no right to defend itself from Palestinian aggression. So too, the “evidence” against Israel’s right to defend itself submitted by the PLO was based largely on the two B’Tselem reports.

If B’Tselem hadn’t launched the campaign against the fence, it is possible that Israel’s decision to built it might have been greeted with the same indifference as the security fences erected by the likes of India, Spain and numerous other countries in disputed territories. That is, it might have been seen as the legitimate act of self-defense it is.

The central role that B’Tselem and its anti-Zionist comrades in the Israeli NGO community play in the international political war being waged against Israel’s right to exist first came under significant public scrutiny following the publication of the UN Human Rights Committee’s Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

As NGO Monitor and the Zionist student movement Im Tirtzu demonstrated last year, B’Tselem and 15 other Israeli NGOs funded by the New Israel Fund and foreign governments lobbied the UN Human Rights Council to form the Goldstone Commission with the clear agenda of criminalizing Israel and whitewashing Hamas’s war crimes against the Jewish state.

Moreover, B’Tselem and its fellow-NIF grantees, provided 92 percent of the anti-Israel allegations originating from Israeli sources. These allegations – most of which were firmly denied by the IDF – were used by Judge Richard Goldstone and his colleagues to “prove” that Israel committed war crimes in prosecuting its campaign to protect southern Israel from Hamas’s illegal missile onslaught.

Not surprisingly, when scrutinized, like the story about the scorched pregnant ewes, the Yitzhar “bullies” and the “illegality” of the fence, these allegations came apart under scrutiny.

For instance, B’Tselem claimed that during Cast Lead the IDF killed 1,387 Gazans and only 330, or less than a quarter of them were combatants. As NGO Monitor notes, the Goldstone report’s claim that “Only one of every five [Gazan] casualties was a combatant,” clearly was based on B’Tselem’s numbers.

The IDF – which B’Tselem and its comrades claim has no credibility – reported that of 1166 Palestinian deaths, 709 were fighters killed in combat. Goldstone dismissed the IDF data.

Yet in November, Hamas’s “Interior Minister” Fathi Hamad admitted to the London-based Al Hayat newspaper that the IDF’s numbers were far more accurate than B’Tselem’s. According to Hamad, 600-700 Hamas fighters were killed in Cast Lead.

ONE OF the reasons that false stories by the likes of B’Tselem and its fellow Israeli-staffed anti-Zionist pressure groups are treated with respect by the local media and the international community alike is because they are perceived as Israeli groups. Why would Israelis lie about their own army?

Wednesday the Knesset voted to form a commission of inquiry to examine these groups’ sources of funding. The rationale behind this parliamentary investigation is clear. The time has come to determine just how “Israeli” these organizations that form such an integral part of the international political war against Israel actually are. How much of their funding comes from foreign governments? And if their foreign funding is significant, then how can they claim to be Israeli groups?

B’Tselem for instance receives funding from the British, Swiss, and Irish governments, Christian Aid, the Ford Foundation, DanChurchAid, (funded by the Danish Government), Diakonia, (funded by the Swedish and Norwegian governments and the EU), Trócaire, (funded by the Irish and UK governments),and others.

Yesh Din, which specializes in conducting domestic lawfare against the IDF is funded by the Irish, Dutch, British, German, and Norwegian governments, the EU, and George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

Physicians for Human Rights- Israel, Breaking the Silence, Bimkom, Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Adalah, the Geneva Initiative, the Committee for Peace and Security and so on and so forth all receive massive funding from foreign governments. The Samaria Regional Council alleges that over the past decade, foreign governments have donated hundreds of millions of euros, dollars and shekels to these Israeli “grassroots” groups.

The fact is that these groups’ claim to grassroots’ status is as credible as their allegations of Israeli criminality and Palestinian victimhood. In truth, these NGOs are local agents of foreign governments who use them to advance their anti-Israel policies.

The Knesset’s move to investigate these groups was greeted by righteous rage from the groups’ leaders and sympathetic Leftist Knesset members. The Knesset’s decision was castigated as “McCarthyite,” and “anti-democratic.” But it is clear these groups and their parliamentary allies doth protest too much.

No one is talking about shutting them down. But the Israeli public has a right to know what these groups really are. And our political representatives have an obligation to investigate and expose subversive foreign agents. Israel and Israel’s democratic system is weakened, not strengthened when the state’s international reputation and domestic discourse is hijacked by foreign governments who hide behind their Israeli foot soldiers.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Big Peace

Tea Party, LGBT groups respond to shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 08-01-2011

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Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head Saturday afternoon at a Congressional meet and greet in her Tucson district.

Doctors says the shot went through her head, through her brain and out the other side. She has undergone surgery and is currently listed in critical condition. Police say at least 18 were shot during the attack, and five of them have been confirmed dead by hospital officials. The shooting victim are hospitalized in serious or critical condition.

Police have identified a suspect, naming 22-year-old Jared Loughner. Loughner, of Tucson appears to have a YouTube video channel on which he has posted videos of burning U.S. flags. He lists among his favorite books classics such as Alice in Wonderland, as well as the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.

Giffords was targeted by Sarah Palin in the Novemeber election because she supported health care reform legislation. Giffords’ district was one of the districts Palin’s PAC marked with a rifle sight on its Facebook Page.

“We’ll aim for these races and many others,” the site said. “This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington.”

Michigan Tea Party Activists, meanwhile, were quick to distance themselves from the shooting.

Gene Clem sent a message to the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots Facebook group:

This shooting in AZ seems to be an act by a deranged individual as of this time (4:30 pm EST, 8Jan). The main stream media is bent on bringing the Tea Party into the story. There is nothing to indicate that any Tea Party organization is behind this and to even hint that there is, is ludicrous. …

Please pray for those wounded and the families of those killed today. And pray for our nation and our local and federal leaders that they be guided by God’s Truth.

While police have the alleged gunman in custody, there has been no statement from investigators as to what motivated the shooter.

Giffords serves on the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. That group released a statement about the shooting.

“Congresswoman Giffords’ support for our LGBT family has never faltered. After coming off of one of the closest races in the most recent election cycle, one in which she was criticized for her support of equality issues, she didn’t hesitate for a moment to support the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. She has stood with us unrelentingly and in this sad time we stand with her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Congresswoman, her staff and their families,” said LGBT Congressional Staff Association President, Chris Crowe.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT organization based in D.C., also released a statement about the shooting from group President Joe Solomonese:

“We are shocked and saddened by the events involving Congresswoman Giffords and our hearts go out to her and the other victims of this awful tragedy. Gabby Giffords is a champion for LGBT equality and a principled leader for Arizona. We wish her a speedy recovery as our thoughts and prayers are with her family as well as with the families of all of those touched by today’s horrific violence.”

Michigan Messenger

Why Are American Muslim Groups So Quiet About the Assassination of Pakistani Governor?

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 07-01-2011

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American-Muslim groups were swift to issue statements condemning New Year’s Eve bombing attacks at a Nigerian army barracks and at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt. But those same groups have been silent since Tuesday’s assassination of a moderate Pakistani governor over a religious dispute as Islamists rejoice and hail the killer as a hero.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer “is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer,” confessed killer Malik Muntaz Qadri told Pakistani television.

The definition of blasphemy for Islam, therefore, has been extended to policy differences. Taseer’s unforgiveable sin was declaring Pakistan’s blasphemy law, calling for the execution of those who insult the religion or its prophet, a “black law.” He did so while defending a Christian woman facing the death penalty for an alleged blasphemy.

“Those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy,” the Jamaat-i-Ahl-i-Sunnat Pakistan said in a statement claiming to represent the views of more than 500 scholars.

The resulting adulation greeting Qadri – including the praise from the Jamaat, chanting supporters who threw rose petals at Qadri as he was led away by police, and even Facebook fan pages – is stoking fears of an open season on moderate Pakistani Muslims and secularists.

At a minimum, those who shared Taseer’s view have been threatened with a similar fate and opposition to the blasphemy law will be muted.

Pakistan already had difficulty balancing the interests of fervently religious parties with more liberal, Western-oriented interests. Analysts fear Taseer’s murder could be a tipping point in favor of the radicals, having significant, long term effects on Pakistan’s political stability and its role as an important, if not always reliable, American ally in the war on terror.

Religious extremists will be further empowered,” a paper issued Wednesday by the London-based Quilliam Institute said. “The killing of Salman Taseer is likely to further empower a range of religious extremists in Pakistan at the expense of moderate secular voices.” Religious minorities could be threatened, too.

A strong response from the international community is needed to bolster those “democratic and secular Pakistanis,” the Quilliam paper said. That response apparently won’t include national Muslim-American groups. None has issued a statement on the killing of those considered blasphemers or those who come to their defense.

That silence, however, may be more a sign of the tightrope such groups place themselves on by staking out a political agenda driven by religious ideology.

Unlike some Islamists who tried to pin the Coptic church attack on Jews, the American groups specifically criticized the terrorists’ attempts to create hatred between Muslims and Christians.

Take the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). President Zahid Bukhari called the Coptic church bombing “an abhorrent act in the name of Islam by those who have no knowledge of the Islamic way of life. They do not represent the faith practiced by almost 1.5 billion people around the world.”

So what of Taseer’s getting gunned down in the street by a security official as other officers stood by? ICNA grew out of the Pakistani-based Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and continues to tout writings by founder Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maududi.

JeI leader Munawar Hasan blamed the victim, saying “Salman Taseer was himself responsible for his killing. Any Muslim worth the name could not tolerate blasphemy of the Prophet, as had been proved by this incident.”

Sindh Asadhullah Bhutto, head of a JeI branch, told a news conference that Qadri “is a pious man and will go directly to heaven.”

Bhutto then said that Aasia Bibi, the Catholic woman Taseer defended who is facing execution for alleged blasphemy “will suffer the same fate if the punishment awarded to her by the court for using derogatory remarks against Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (PBUH) is not implemented.”

According to a paper published Friday by Quilliam co-founder Ed Husain at the Council on Foreign Relations, the trouble began last summer when Bibi offered water to some farmhands. Her offer was refused because she is not a Muslim and, in anger, she said something insulting about the Prophet Muhammad.

“In the eyes of the religious masses in Pakistan, stirred by clerics, Taseer was not viewed as the governor of Punjab coming to the aid of a woman from a religious minority community, who, whatever her alleged crime, did not deserve to be killed by the state or the mob,” Husain wrote. “Instead, he was seen as a traitor. In Urdu media outlets, mosque sermons and in mass rallies, Asiya Bibi’s case became a national symbol of defiance and asserting Muslim supremacy over ‘the other.’ Christianity symbolized the West, the U.S. drone attacks, and Taseer was part of the English-speaking elite who were in cahoots with ‘the enemy.’”

American Muslim groups which advocate interfaith dialogue can benefit from taking a stand for Taseer and Bibi.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the New Year’s Eve bombings “cowardly” attacks meant “to harm long-term relations between Muslims and Christians.” But its officials have endorsed blasphemy laws as recently as 2006.

During a news conference in the wake of the riots protesting the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, then-CAIR Chairman Parvez Ahmed said Muslim outrage about the cartoons was justified, but that “Violence is not justified. Peaceful protest is justified. Harmful, destructive behavior of properties is not justified.”

Still, he indicated that expanding hate-crime laws to cover speech might not be enough. Policy makers should “even contemplate about passing blasphemy laws,” he said, citing icons including the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad which have been ridiculed. “So governments, legislatures, international bodies … must contemplate about what are the ways in which an anti-blasphemy law can be passed that can protect the right to exercise freedom of religion.”

CAIR officials declined an invitation to appear on the “O’Reilly Factor” last month to discuss the Bibi case.

Those officials normally do not hesitate to weigh in on foreign affairs when it suits them, condemning burka bans in France and Tunisia, and issuing almost daily statements Israel’s 2009-10 fight against Hamas in Gaza. But the pattern of selective outrage is well-established. The 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh after he produced a short film, “Submission,” which was critical of Islam’s treatment of women, drew no condemnation. The same goes for threats that have followed Van Gogh’s partner in that project, Aayan Hirsi Ali.

When CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper mentions Hirsi Ali, it is to dismiss her, saying “her message is one of bigotry, not one of mutual understanding” and calling her ‘just one more Muslim-basher on the lecture circuit.”

Likewise, CAIR and other American Islamist groups had little or nothing to say on Iranian government repression of peaceful protests of tainted elections in 2009.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has stood up for free speech, hasn’t issued any statement on Taseer’s killing or what it means for Pakistan’s future. The same goes for the Islamic Society of North America.

A looming “descent into chaos” in Pakistan will only make the challenge in the fight against terror greater. A few press releases aren’t going to change that. But a united front among Muslim communities around the world that – while they may be offended by things written or said about their faith – killing the offenders is worse. That would be an important statement for tolerance and modernity.

Big Peace

Liberal groups skeptical of Daley

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 06-01-2011

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(CNN) – Weighing in on President Obama’s choice for chief of staff, the progressive organization MoveOn.org criticized William Daley for his close ties to “big banks and big business.”

“With Wall Street reporting record profits while middle class Americans continue to struggle in a deep recession, the announcement that William Daley, who has close ties to Big Banks and Big Business, will now lead the White House staff is troubling and sends the wrong message to the American people,” Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org said in a statement.

Ruben said it’s up to Daley to prove he’s “not carrying water in the White House for the big banks that took our economy over the cliff.”

The former commerce secretary and Chicago native most recently ran the Midwest operations for the investment bank JP Morgan Chase and formally accepted the top White House post Thursday.

In a statement Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said he hoped the economy would be a top priority for Daley.

“The president is of course entitled to choose a chief of staff in whom he has complete confidence,” Trumka said. “Yet President Obama and his Administration will ultimately be judged by results – whether the economy recovers robustly and begins to generate good jobs on the scale needed to improve the lives of working people.”

A statement from Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit public interest organization said the decision represented “the wrong direction” because of Daley’s ties to Wall Street.

“This is exactly the wrong direction for the administration, which seems intent on drawing exactly the wrong lessons from the 2010 elections,” Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement. “What the public wants is meaningful action on jobs and an end to the insider, corporate deal-making arrangements that William Daley represents.”

CNN Political Ticker

Anti-Immigrant Groups Begin Assault On Birthright Citizenship

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 06-01-2011

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As Steven Taylor noted earlier this week, the new year has brought with it a loosely confederated effort to attempt to redefine citizenship under the 14th Amendment to exclude the children of illegal immigrants:

Conservative legislators from five states opened a national campaign on Wednesday to end the automatic granting of American citizenship to children born in the United States of illegal immigrants.

At a news conference here timed to coincide with the start of a new Congress, Republican state lawmakers introduced two model measures curtailing citizenship rights for children of illegal immigrants. The legislators said the measures would be introduced in at least 14 states.

They acknowledged that the state bills were not likely to have a practical effect anytime soon, since they will quickly be challenged as unconstitutional. But the legislators — from Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina — said they chose the first day of a new Republican-controlled House of Representatives to start an effort that they hope will end with a Supreme Court decision on birthright citizenship, and spur legislative action in Washington.

In a separate effort, Representative Steve King of Iowa, a Republican who will be chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, said Wednesday that as soon as the new House members were sworn in, he would introduce a bill to eliminate birthright citizenship for children when both parents were illegal immigrants.

But it was the state lawmakers’ initiative that moved the highly emotional issue of birthright citizenship, which had long been marginal in the immigration debate, to the front of the Republicans’ immigration agenda in the 112th Congress.

“We are here to send a very public message to Congress,” said Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican state representative from Pennsylvania. “We want to bring an end to the illegal alien invasion that is having such a negative impact on our states.”

The effort is multi-pronged and seemingly guaranteed to create controversy and lawsuits:

One model measure the lawmakers presented was a bill creating a new definition of state citizenship, in addition to national citizenship, which would exclude babies born in the state with two illegal immigrant parents.

The second measure was a compact between states, in which they would agree to issue distinctive birth certificates to babies whose parents could not show legal immigration status.

The state bills would also deny citizenship to newborn children of hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants who live in the United States on temporary visas.

The right to United States citizenship for everyone born on American soil is described in the 14th Amendment. The state legislators argued that one phrase in the amendment — which guarantees citizenship to everyone born or naturalized in this country “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” — signals that it was not intended to apply to children of immigrants who do not have lawful status.

In addition to this effort, and Congressman Steve King’s efforts on Capitol Hill, many states are also looking to get this issue before the courts as soon as possible. On that front, however, the law seems very clear. It starts, of course, with the very first sentence of  Section One of the 14th Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside

The Supreme Court has ruled on the meaning of this provision only once, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), where it said:

[T]he Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States.


The evident intention, and the necessary effect, of the submission of this case to the decision of the court upon the facts agreed by the parties were to present for determination the single question stated at the beginning of this opinion, namely, whether a child born in the United States, of parent of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States.

This interpretation is supported by statements made by at least one of the framers of the 14th Amendment:

The author of the 14th Amendment, Senator Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan proposed the addition of the jurisdiction phrase and stated that it tracked what he believed was already the law of the land. As such, he stated, “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the family of ambassadors, or foreign ministers accredited to the the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”

In other words, the children born in the United States are citizens regardless of the citizenship status of their parents, the one exception being children of diplomats.

On the legal merits, then, it does not appear that this attempt to create two different classes of citizenship could possibly succeed in the long run. Politically, however, there are different motives.  As I noted back in August,  this is really nothing more than cynical pandering on the GOP’s part:

Even if it goes nowhere, which it won’t, they can turn to their base and say See ? We tried to do something but we just couldn’t. It’s also a way for Graham, who doesn’t face re-election in South Carolina until 2014, to send a olive branch to conservatives in South Carolina who have come to think that he’s gone off the reservation over the past several years on issues like immigration.

Cynical ? Perhaps, but that’s politics.

The truth of the matter is that there is going to be immigration reform of some kind soon, whether it comes in a lame duck session after the election or, more likely, after January. It will include increased emphasis on border security, a broadening of the guest worker program (which will be insisted upon by farming interests on both sides of the aisle), and some form of a “path to normalization” for the people that are here illegally who haven’t committed serious criminal offenses. Graham knows it. The rest of the GOP in Congress knows it. They just need to prepare their base for it.

This is about nothing more than the GOP being able to look the anti-immigrant wing of their base in the eyes and say “See, we tried.”

Outside the Beltway

LGBT Groups Look Beyond Congress, Will Focus On Courts, States While GOP Has Majority

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 05-01-2011

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The take away from Amanda Terkel’s piece on the outlook for LGBT initiatives for the next two years is that most of the action will be happening in the states and the courts, since the Republican majority in the 112th Congress is showing little interest in taking up equality legislation:

One branch of government that could hold major victories (or upsets) for the LGBT community: the judicial system. There currently are two major cases making their way through the courts, one challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, the other the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban. Either could end up at the Supreme Court.

There will also be action at the state level, with Maryland, New York and Rhode Island looking to advance marriage equality bills, and states like Tennessee, Arizona and Florida likely considering legislation to restrict adoption rights for same-sex parents.

To be sure, LGBT activists will still be pushing smaller initiatives like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to address bullying and harassment, the Older Americans Act and the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, but the larger big ticket items (ENDA, DOMA) are on hold — at least temporarily. Equality groups now have a real opportunity to build awareness of these initiatives and work to support (or protect) the expansion of LGBT equality in the states.

As Terkel points out, Rhode Island and Maryland are poised to pass marriage-equality bills and Hawaii may very well secure a civil unions legislation. While the new Republican Governor in Iowa doesn’t seem very interested in recalling the remaining pro-marriage judges, Republicans in the New Hampshire legislature could have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a bill to repeal same-sex marriage, and Republican legislators in Wyoming could reintroduce a defense of marriage law that would bar the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states. Still, with support for equality steadily rising, it’s unclear how eager Republicans will be in litigating an anti-gay agenda. One would only hope that elected Democrats — I’m looking at you President Obama — will start using the increasing support to speak out in favor of an equality agenda.

Wonk Room

Conservative Groups Split Over Participation Of GOProud At Annual CPAC Conference

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 05-01-2011

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The Family Research Council and a few other social conservative organizations like Concerned Women for America, American Principles Project and American Values are refusing to attend next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to protest the participation GOProud, a gay rights group. But Focus on Family is staying put, at least for now:

“They made a mistake,” CitizenLink spokesman Tom Minnery said Tuesday of the conference organizer, The American Conservative Union. “We’re not happy about it. We’ve got to see a better result next year or our participation is in doubt.”

Minnery said he believes discussions are underway to change the situation for next year.

“We’re encouraged to stick it out this year,” Minnery said. “It’s important for organizations like ours, for social conservatives, to be involved in the conversation.”

GOProud will be a “participating organization,” at the conference, “the second highest level of participation and will have a voice in planning the conference.” All this is too much for some conservative attendees, who are interpreting the group’s inclusion as an abandonment of conservative principles. “By bringing in GOProud, CPAC was effectively saying moral opposition to homosexuality is no longer welcome in the conservative movement,” Americans for Truth about Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera, said. Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, concurs, “We said GOProud is not a conservative organization. They are undermining the military” by promoting open homosexuality, and “undermining marriage” by opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which preserves the traditional definition of marriage by limiting it to one man and one woman. The conservative news site WorldNetDaily, a major cheerleader for the groups boycotting CPAC, is even “giving right wing activist Frank Gaffney a platform to charge the ACU with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group.”

Last year, David Keene, the head of CPAC’s main organizing group, tried to calm a very similar boycott by assuring conservatives that GOProud would not have a speaking spot and that gay rights issues would not be “open to debate.” CPAC has historically focused less on far-right social priorities than other conservative conferences, but the presence of GOProud at last year’s event caused somewhat of a civil war among the attendees. A speaker who thanked the organizers for allowing GOProud to co-sponsor the conference was met with angry boos and heckling from the audience. A few minutes later, another activist slammed GOProud and engaged in a hostile shouting match with pro-gay rights students in the audience. Watch that exchange here.

Wonk Room

High court in flux delivers victory to environmental groups

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 05-01-2011

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The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned one of the most controversial rulings in its history and upheld a citizen’s right to sue the state for issuing permits to corporations authorizing action that harms the environment.

The court also struck down an energy company’s plan to pipe partially treated contaminated water from one watershed to another.

In 4-3 decision released on Wednesday the court ruled in favor of a group of northern Michigan anglers and waterfront property owners who objected to an energy company’s plan to dispose of partially treated contaminated water in the Au Sable River via a pipeline through state land.

Writing for the majority, outgoing Justice Alton Davis said:

We hold that Merit’s discharge plan is not an allowable use of water because it is manifestly unreasonable, and we further hold that the DEQ can be sustained as a defendant in a [Michigan Environmental Protection Act] action when the DEQ has issued a permit for activity that it is alleged will cause environmental harm.

Nick Schroeck of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which filed a brief with the National Wildlife Federation in support of the anglers/plaintiffs in the case, called the decision “a huge legal victory” for environmental groups on several very important state law issues.

In a post on the Great Lakes Law blog Wayne State University law professor Noah Hall explains that the court’s Anglers of the AuSable decision expressly overrules the court’s 2004 Preserve the Dunes case, which cast doubt on whether citizens can sue state permitting agencies for authorizing environmental damaging activities.

In the Anglers of the AuSable decision the court also overruled the restrictive standing test used in its controversial 2007 Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v. Nestle ruling.

In that case the court ruled that in order to bring a suit under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act a citizen must establish that “he has suffered or will imminently suffer a concrete and particularized injury in fact.”

Justice Davis wrote that the court was wrong in the Nestle case:

MEPA, which specifies that “any person may maintain an action . . . against any person for the protection of the air, water, and other natural resources and the public trust in these resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction,” should be applied as it is written.

“This sends a signal that our lakes, streams, and the Great Lakes will not be plundered by relaxed legal principles that condone harmful diversions and exploitation,“ said Jim Olson, who represented the Anglers before the Court. ”It fully restores the rights of citizens to sue the state for permitting projects that are likely to degrade the environment and our states’ waters.”

Though it is a meaningful and welcome development for environmentalists, it is unclear how long the decision will stand. The decision was split along party lines and the dissenting Republican justices have regained a majority on the court as of this week.

In his dissenting opinion Justice Robert Young, who is now in line to become Chief Justice of the court, echoed concerns brought by state business groups. He argued that that the overturning of Preserve the Dunes would wreak havoc on the state’s legal system and “further undermine the state’s fragile economy.”

Michigan Messenger