Cartoonists view the government shutdown

We need to keep a sense of humor about things so we can survive this Republican tantrum.  Here is my contribution.

Dan Wasserman from the Boston Glove.

101toon_wasserman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Anderson on Ted Cruz.

Anderson on Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlson on Infant nutrition.

Carlson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new axis of evil?

luckovich

Trying to made sense of it all

I think I may be ready to retreat to my cocoon to read trashy books and watch baseball and reruns of NCIS before my head explodes from trying to make sense of what is going on out there.

Yesterday, Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker had a little anecdote from my Congressperson, Mike Capuano.

…Capuano said he was in an airport last weekend flying home from Washington when a TSA screener stopped him and said, “You really need to cut our taxes!” Capuano was incredulous to hear that from a federal employee, though he probably shouldn’t have been.

“I asked him, ‘Do you know taxes pay your salary?’ ” Capuano said with a laugh.

I wish I knew what the silly TSA screener said then.  It is an example of how divorced from reality so many people are.  Maybe we should expand the shut down to include furloughs for half of the screeners.  This would cut flights so many of the members of Congress would have trouble getting home.  I don’t think this would be a bad thing.  Maybe if they stayed in Washington more, they would figure out how to talk to each other informally over a beer.  That could only help.  Maybe some of them would get a grip on reality.

As I was getting ready to write this, I Googled  both “Republican Alternate Reality” and “Republican Alternate Universe”.  Turns out people have been writing about the topic for a number of years now.  It is one thing to talk sans facts, but another to act.  And what is happening now is the action that they have all wanted:  a government shutdown.  I think they are hoping that a few weeks without government will show people they can live without it.  Maybe a good plan except that there are already Republicans complaining that monuments in Washington are closed so veterans can’t visit them.  Duh!

Back in August 2012 (2012 not 2013), Michael Cohen wrote a piece in the Guardian about the Presidential campaign.  If you recall, they had a slogan “You didn’t build that”.

On 17 July, President Barack Obama spoke at a campaign rally in Roanoke, Virginia. It was a typical event for an incumbent president who is seeking a second term. In his remarks, he offered his vision of government’s role in spurring entrepreneurship and creating jobs in the United States:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet.”

This is all fairly boilerplate rhetoric – a basic recitation of how Democrats view the role of government and its interplay with the private sector. But in this statement, there was one phrase that Republicans have grabbed on to like a famished dog with a new bone:

“You didn’t build that.”

That single phrase, taken out of context by Republicans, has become the GOP’s symbol of Obama’s supposed contempt for the free market and entrepreneurship, and for his socialist assault on America.

The Affordable Care Act is a prime example of government overreach and socialism even though it is built on private insurance companies.

“You didn’t build that” became “We built that”

And so, the Republicans made “We built that” the theme of Tuesday’s convention proceedings. Speaker after speaker hammered on this theme, accusing Obama of disrespecting small business. But they did so with almost a wilful sense of hypocrisy. For example, Delaware lieutenant governor candidate Sher Valenzuela attacked Obama for the line despite the fact that, just a few months ago, she gave a detailed speech to a business group about how they could do a better job getting government contracts.

Cohen goes on to detail a number of instances where the speakers at the Republican Convention ignored facts and concludes

But all of this is at pace with a conservative worldview that considers government to be nothing more than malevolent interference with the smooth operation of the private sector – except when it’s not. “Jobs don’t come from government,” said Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz last night, a view that basically sums up GOP economic thinking. But if you listened to Republican governors on Tuesday, you might have found yourself surprised to discover that, in their states, the government has played an oddly integral role in spurring job creation. If you listened to Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma, extol the virtues of the energy industry in her state and bemoan “more government, bigger spending and more regulation”, you might never know that the oil and gas industry is deeply reliant on – and spends millions lobbying for – tax breaks from the federal government.

One can believe that government should play a less direct role in the workings of the private economy – clearly, this is a defensible notion. But to listen to Republicans harping on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line is to hear a party that views “government” in the most simplistic imaginable terms. This isn’t a governing philosophy; it’s a caricature of how the economy actually works.

To be sure, it’s hardly unusual for political rhetoric to take liberties with the truth, or to stretch an argument to breaking-point, but with Republicans today, the issues runs much deeper. Very simply, the way they talk about what the federal government does or should do, and about the role of spending, taxation and regulation, is more than just a compendium of lies: it describes an alternate reality.

In the GOP’s defense: at least they can argue they built that.

So now they have shutdown the federal government which was a goal all along.  They built it.  And in their alternate universe, President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership should negotiate with them.  Nancy Pelosi has tried to explain what she calls “regular order”:  The Senate passes a bill.  Then the House passes one.  Then there is a conference committee.  Budget bills were passed back in March, but the House declined to appoint members to a conference committee.  Contrary to what some members of Congress seem to believe there are rules and conventions as to how to proceed.

Gail Collins has a response in the New York Times.

On Wednesday, House Republicans pushed to refund bits and pieces of the government that the members particularly like, such as veterans and the National Guard. Also anything that lends itself to a dramatic press conference, such as national parks and cancer treatment for children. Since the House proposals are never going anywhere in the Senate, there’s a limit to what you want to know about what went on during the debate. Let’s summarize:

Democrats: “Meaningless political theater!”

Republicans: “Come to the table!”

Coming to the table has now replaced strangling Obamacare as the most popular G.O.P. war cry. There is a longstanding political rule that when all else fails, you demand more talking. If you’re running for office against a guy who’s got 70 percent in the polls, it’s time to call for a debate. If you’re already having four debates, it’s time to call for six.

“Why don’t we sit down and have a conference committee about how we’re going to fund the federal government?” demanded Representative Ander Crenshaw of Florida. Republicans have posed this question a lot, and it would be an excellent one if they were not the same folks who have spent the last half-year refusing to sit down and have a conference committee about the federal budget.

Representative John A. Boehner, the House speaker, arrived at the Capitol on Thursday with his security personnel on the third day of the government shutdown.

Representative John A. Boehner, the House speaker, arrived at the Capitol on Thursday with his security personnel on the third day of the government shutdown.

I’ll give the final word on reality to Elizabeth Kolbert in her New Yorker posted this morning.

…Shuttering the government is a dumb idea under pretty much any circumstances. Still, the objections that Republicans in Congress raise to the health-care law might be worth considering if they bore any relationship to the law in question. Rarely do they.

Some lawmakers’ comments have been so off the wall that they defy parody. A few months ago, for example, Representative Michele Bachmann announced on the House floor that Obamacare needed to be repealed “before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”

“Let’s not do that,” she added helpfully. “Let’s love people.”

“All of this would be funny,” President Obama noted the other day, after bringing up the Bachmann line, “if it weren’t so crazy.”

The crazy list goes on and on. As the economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out in his Times column, congressional Republicans these days seem to think that they can override not just the laws of physics but also the rules of arithmetic. They insist that the federal budget is so bloated it could easily be cut by hundreds of billions of dollars. But when a transportation bill was drafted this summer that would have actually reduced spending, they refused to vote for it. (The bill had to be pulled from the floor.) It’s hard to cut the federal budget if you’re not willing to reduce the amount of money the government spends. “What Republicans really want to do,” Krugman wrote recently, is “repeal reality.”

It’s been so long since reality has made much of a difference on Capitol Hill that it sometimes seems it genuinely has been repealed. But the thing you can always count on with reality is that it has staying power.

I hope I can hold out until reality and fact make a comeback.

Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

What’s next? Impeachment!

I sense there is a growing level of frustration among Republican members of Congress.  Their opposition to immigration reform is not playing well with either the public or Republican party elders.  Same for their desire to shut down government to prevent the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare from full implementation.  Some of them have been hammered at town hall meetings and the videos are posted all over YouTube.  The deficit is actually shrinking.  Republican governors like Rick Perry are reversing themselves and asking for Medicaid funds.  And the President and his administration are doing the best they can given that no proposal will pass the House.  So what is left for them.  Impeach Obama!

Steve Breen wrote on MaddowBlog

When fringe figures like Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) talk about impeaching President Obama without cause, it’s a mild curiosity. When U.S. senators push the same idea, it’s more alarming.

“I think those are serious things, but we’re in serious times,” said Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn during a town hall in his home state. “And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”

The remark came after an attendee called the Obama administration “lawless” and asked, “who is responsible for enforcing [Obama's] constitutional responsibilities?”

Coburn apparently has given this a fair amount of thought, telling constituents, “What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president, and that’s called impeachment. That’s not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means.” He added that he believes “there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration.”

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator.

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what violation?

And what, pray tell, has the president done that Coburn perceives as possible “high crimes”? In keeping with the recent trend, the Oklahoma Republican never got around to explaining what the grounds for impeachment would be. Coburn mentioned that he’d heard a rumor about the Department of Homeland Security choosing to “ignore” background checks for immigrants, but he did not elaborate.

Meanwhile Sam Stein tweeted David Axelrod’s reaction

“that was his considered legal opinion as an obstetrician”

Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but I think that Americans still want government to fix roads and bridges, regulate our food, water, drugs and financial institutions, and help those you are in need.  Sure, we all wish for new, creative solutions to some of the problems that seem intractable, but on the whole I think Americans just wish that Congress would actually work with the President instead of just voting “no”.  But the fact that even Mitch McConnell has a challenger from the right in the Republican Primary does not make this seem possible.

I’ll give the last word to Steve Breen

And finally, for every Beltway pundit who proclaims with a tear in their eye, “Washington would be more effective if Obama showed leadership by reaching out to Republicans, schmoozing them, and offering to work cooperatively with his critics,” I hope they’re paying very close attention to current events. It is, as a practical matter, awfully difficult for a president to work constructively with radicalized lawmakers who refuse to compromise and cherish the idea of impeachment without cause.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t really expect Republicans to pursue this in a serious way, and my coverage on the issue is intended more as a “look how silly this is” than a “look at this threat to our constitutional system of government.” If for no other reason, GOP lawmakers wouldn’t try impeaching the president because they’d risk motivating the Democratic base to show up in the 2014 midterms.

That said, the recent talk about impeachment is nevertheless unnerving.

A cautionary tale

Some Republicans want to pass a comprehensive immigration bill and some voted to do so in the Senate.  And now two of them, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, will likely have challengers from the Tea Party wing.  Which brings me to the cautionary tale.  They should read some history and look at what happened to the Federalist Party.  They could begin by reading the very interesting piece in yesterday’s New York Times by James Traub.

Tea Partyers often style themselves as disciples of Thomas Jefferson, the high apostle of limited government. But by taking the ramparts against immigration, the movement is following a trajectory that looks less like the glorious arc of Jefferson’s Republican Party than the suicidal path of Jefferson’s great rivals, the long-forgotten Federalists, who also refused to accept the inexorable changes of American demography.

The Federalists began as the faction that supported the new Constitution, with its “federal” framework, rather than the existing model of a loose “confederation” of states. They were the national party, claiming to represent the interests of the entire country.

Culturally, however, they were identified with the ancient stock of New England and the mid-Atlantic, as the other major party at the time, the Jeffersonian Republicans (no relation to today’s Republicans), were with the South.

John Quincy Adams portrait. "John Quincy ...

John Quincy Adams portrait. “John Quincy Adams”. Metropolitan Museum of Art . . Retrieved September 4, 2009 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then came the Louisiana Purchase.

“The people of the East can not reconcile their habits, views and interests with those of the South and West,” declared Thomas Pickering, a leading Massachusetts Federalist.

Every Federalist in Congress save John Quincy Adams voted against the Louisiana Purchase. Adams, too, saw that New England, the cradle of the revolution, had become a small part of a new nation. Change “being found in nature,” he wrote stoically, “cannot be resisted.”

But resist is precisely what the Federalists did. Fearing that Irish, English and German newcomers would vote for the Jeffersonian Republicans, they argued — unsuccessfully — for excluding immigrants from voting or holding office, and pushed to extend the period of naturalization from 5 to 14 years.

They even thought about separating New England from the rest of the country.

,,,in the fall of 1814, the Federalists convened the Hartford Convention to vote on whether to stay in or out of the Union. By then even the hotheads realized how little support they had, and the movement collapsed. And the Federalists, now scorned as an anti-national party, collapsed as well.

Contrast that defiance with Jefferson’s Republicans, who stood for decentralized government and the interests of yeoman farmers, primarily in the coastal South.

They ruled the country from 1801 to 1825, when they were unseated by Adams — who, after splitting with the Federalists, had joined with a breakaway Republican faction.

In response, Jefferson’s descendants, known as the Old Radicals, did exactly what the Federalists would not do: they joined up with the new Americans, many of them immigrants, who were settling the country opened up by the Louisiana Purchase.

Their standard-bearer in 1828, Andrew Jackson, favored tariffs and “internal improvements” like roads and canals, the big-government programs of the day. The new party, known first as the Democratic-Republicans, and then simply as the Democrats, thrashed Adams that year. (Adams’s party, the National Republicans, gave way to the Whigs, which in turn evolved into the modern Republican Party.)

Will the Republicans disappear like the Federalists?  Traub doesn’t think so.  But hey are, like the Federalists, on the wrong side of history.

Republicans try to attract women

I was getting ready to call it a night as my head is swimming with a half written post about Trayvon Martin when I saw the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.  It really needs no explanation.

TMW2013-07-17color  Great pick up lines.  I’m sure that women voters will be flocking to them in droves.

More nails in the Republican coffin?

For a number of years now, I have watched part of the Republican party that has as its main, if not sole, purpose, to dismantle government.  They called the Democrats bluff with the sequester which so far has appeared to have little effect.  Who cares if a military base can’t afford fireworks or if the Blue Angels can’t afford to do a fly over?  In the big scheme of things, those are pretty unimportant.  But now more and more federal workers are being furloughed.  For example, local HUD (Housing and Urban Development) offices are closing for five Fridays in July and August.  That is 5 Fridays that staff will not be paid.  This is money that won’t be spent on a vacation or for car repairs or for food and clothing – all things that add to the economy.  (Here is an interesting website that tracks furloughs.)  And while a number of agencies have figured out ways to avoid furloughs, many workers will still be affected – still more if Congress can’t manage to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins in October.  The loss of incomes will slowly begin to mount.

But it isn’t just the failure to produce a budget.  A recent New York Times editorial summed up the issue quite neatly.  They called it a refusal to govern.

On two crucial issues this week, the extremists who dominate the Republican majority in the House of Representatives made it clear how little interest they have in the future prosperity of their country, or its reputation for fairness and decency.

The two issues are immigration reform and the removal of the food stamp program for the House agriculture bill.

These actions show how far the House has retreated from the national mainstream into a cave of indifference and ignorance. House members don’t want to know that millions of Americans remain hungry (in an economy held back by their own austerity ideology), and they don’t want to deal with the desperation of immigrant families who want nothing more than a chance to work and feed themselves without fear of deportation.

On both issues, in fact, many House Republicans are proudly asserting that they will stand in the way of any attempts to conduct a conference with the Senate. That might, after all, lead to a compromise.

And it isn’t just in the House.

Few things sum up the attitude of the current crop of Republicans in Washington than their loathing of conference committees. On issue after issue, they have passed radical bills and then refused to negotiate. On Thursday, for example, Senate Republicans refused for the 16th time to allow the Democratic Senate budget to be negotiated with its dangerously stingy counterpart in the House.

On immigration, House members fear a conference with the Senate would add back the pathway to citizenship that they consider a giveaway to undesirable non-English speakers. The eventual House border bills “should not be handed to a conference committee so that they can be reconciled with the Senate bill,” wrote Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Instead, he and others say, the Senate should be forced to take up whatever the House produces.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may believe that ending the filibuster with a majority vote will spell the end of the Senate and cause Harry Reid to be remembered “as the worst leader of the Senate ever”, but in my opinion, the continuous use of the filibuster has already come close to destroying the Senate.  Everything should not require 60 votes.

The New York Times editorial ends with this

A refusal to even to sit at a bargaining table is another way of refusing to govern. The nation’s founders created two chambers for a reason, but Republicans, in their blind fury to harm the least fortunate, are forgetting even those fundamental national values.

From left, Representatives Tim Murphy, Mark Sanford, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sean P. Duffy, all Republicans, after the House approved an agriculture bill.

From left, Representatives Tim Murphy, Mark Sanford, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sean P. Duffy, all Republicans, after the House approved an agriculture bill.

This is why the most recent Quinnipiac poll shows that while 53% felt the President was doing too little to compromise with Congress, a whopping 68% felt the Republicans leaders in Congress were doing to little to compromise with the President.  And everyone thinks Congress is dysfunctional blaming both parties.

There is something called the greater good and I think many in Congress, particularly Republicans, have forgotten that ideal.

Photograph: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

Republican gerrymandering

With the Supreme Court saying that Section 4 of the voting rights act needs a do over thus making Section 5 void, many of us are not happy.  The odds of Congress coming up with a new formula are pretty slim.  But, all may not be lost.

We know that the Republican controlled state houses used the 2010 Census to draw districts that allowed them to hold on to the House last year.  This despite Section 4 in at least some of those states.  This morning, Politico.com published a story by Alex Isenstadt in which he points out that this gerrymandering may have unintended consequences for them.

No one disputes Republicans used the once-a-decade redistricting process to  lock in their House majority — almost certainly through 2014 and possibly until  the next round of line-drawing in 2020.

But the party could pay a steep price for that dominance.

Some top GOP strategists and candidates warn that the ruby red districts the  party drew itself into are pushing House Republicans further to the right —  narrowing the party’s appeal at a time when some GOP leaders say its future  rests on the opposite happening. If you’re looking for a root cause of the  recurring drama within the House Republican Conference — from the surprise  meltdown on the farm bill to the looming showdown over immigration reform — the  increasingly conservative makeup of those districts is a good place to start.

Opposition to immigration reform by the Tea Party.

Opposition to immigration reform by the Tea Party.

These gerrymandered districts are also less diverse.

Gerrymandering and partisanship, of course, aren’t new phenomena in the  House. But the post-2010 redistricting process driven by GOP-controlled state  legislatures — Republicans wielded line-drawing power in nearly five times as  many districts as Democrats — produced significantly more districts that are  overwhelmingly conservative.

Of the 234 House Republicans, just four now represent districts that favor  Democrats, according to data compiled by The Cook Political Report. That’s down  from the 22 Republicans who resided in Democratic-friendly seats following the  2010 midterms, prior to the line-drawing.

They’re also serving districts that are increasingly white. After  redistricting and the 2012 election, according to The Cook Political Report, the  average Republican congressional district went from 73 percent white to 75  percent white. And even as Hispanics have emerged as America’s fastest-growing  demographic group, only about one-tenth of Republicans represent districts where  the Latino population is 25 percent or higher.

My Ezra Klein Wonkbook email this morning pointed out

The conventional wisdom around Washington these days is that the Republican Party needs to pass immigration reform if it’s going to survive. But remember: House Republicans aren’t the same thing as “the Republican Party.” And they probably don’t need to pass immigration reform to keep their majority. In fact, passing  immigration reform — at least with a path to citizenship — might put them in more danger. Two figures from Janet Hook in the Wall Street Journal show why.

First, “only 38 of the House’s 234 Republicans, or 16%, represent districts in which Latinos account for 20% or more of the population.”

Second, “only 28 Republican-held districts are considered even remotely at risk of being contested by a Democratic challenger, according to the nonpartisan Cook  Political Report.”

So for about 200 of the House’s Republicans, a primary challenge by conservatives angry over “amnesty” is probably a more realistic threat than defeat at the hands of angry Hispanic voters, or even angry Democrats. “Our guys actually do primary over immigration,” a top House Republican aide who wants to get immigration done told me.

Of course, that leaves some 34 Republicans who have reason to fear a Democratic challenge. And  it leaves dozens who privately support immigration reform and don’t have much to fear from either Democratic or Republican challengers.

So the Republican House members mostly represent people like themselves and need to become more conservative, not less, to keep their seats.  We aren’t talking just about immigration reform here, but a whole range of issues.  It also explains why the House’s favorite vote is to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What does all this mean for Democratic chances to take back the House in the next election?  Isenstadt writes

New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign  Committee, argued that Republicans in moderate suburban and exurban areas will  find themselves under increasing pressure in the months leading up to the  midterms.

“The problem for many Republicans in these specific districts is that if  they’re less partisan, they face a primary from the right. If they protect  themselves from a primary by being more partisan, they’re in trouble in the  general election,” Israel said. “They’re getting squeezed. We’re going to make  sure that hole is very small.”

The question is:  Are there enough of those districts for the Democrats to take the House?

It would appear that much of what is holding up legislation in the House are internal Republican fights.

When House Republicans have rallied behind legislation, it’s often been for  something deeply conservative. Two weeks ago, Republicans passed a measure that  would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Just six GOP members  opposed the bill, including two because it didn’t go far enough.

To the conservatives, softening the GOP’s positions isn’t what’s going to  save the party in the long run.

“Political success doesn’t come from moderation,” said Arizona Rep. David  Schweikert, a Republican who opposed the farm bill and supported the  anti-abortion measure. “It’s from having principles and articulating them in a  forthright fashion.”

Schweikert, who represents a conservative Scottsdale-area district that Mitt  Romney carried with nearly 60 percent of the vote, called the Senate immigration  bill a “nonstarter.” His district is 12 percent Hispanic.

The bottom line is that so-called national Republican leaders who currently do not hold elective office along with some governors and Senators who have to run statewide campaigns can call for the party to moderate positions all they want.  The House has hitched its horse to some very conservative ideals so Republican members can get re-elected.  In the long run, this is probably good for the Democrats.

Photograph:  AP

Markey v. Gomez: The Massachusetts Senate Race

With a few days left to go, this race is officially a snoozer.  Ed Markey is a fine Representative and will make a fine Senator but somehow I can’t work up any enthusiasm.  You know, if you read this blog with any regularity, that I am a campaigner and it is a measure of something that I haven’t done much of anything for Ed except throw him a few bucks and vote in the primary where he was unopposed.  I think the race would have been a lot more exciting if someone like Mike Capuano were running, but too late for that.  Maybe we should just feel sorry for these guys since after the Elizabeth Warren – Scott Brown tussle almost anything would seem dull.  This is the assessment of the race from the Daily Kos Election update for June 21.

MA-Sen: Gabriel Gomez has gotten some “next Scott Brown” hype, to the extent that he’s a moderate Republican who’s a fresh face and running in a Massachusetts Senate special election (which will be held next Tuesday) against a charisma-challenged Democrat. However, there’s one important element that seems missing: the ability to mount a late surge and actually win the race, at least if the newest public poll is any indication. UMass Lowell, on behalf of the Boston Herald, gives Ed Markey his biggest lead of any pollster who’s looked at the race so far: among likely voters, Markey leads Gomez 56-36 (and 53-32 among all registered voters). This is the pollster’s first look at the race since the primary; they did poll the general way back in early March, and found an almost identical margin (47-28 for Markey).

Most pollsters have shown a closer race, usually in the high single digits, although the last couple public polls (from UNH for the Boston Globe, and from Harper Polling) both had it in the low teens; only one recent poll (a Suffolk poll with a 17-point margin in early May) had anything similar to this one.   And then there’s the GOP internal pollsters, who continue to see the race within low single digits; the most recent of these came out Thursday from McLaughlin, with Markey up 47-44. That follows a McLaughlin poll from two weeks ago with Markey up 45-44 (on behalf of donor John Jordan), in addition to two OnMessage polls directly on behalf of Gomez, one from less than a week ago with Markey up 47-40, and one from early May with Markey up 46-43. It’s not clear what the GOP hopes to gain from constantly leaking those polls, since most observers know that leaked internal polls usually overstate support for their candidate and none of these best-case-scenarios still manage to have Gomez winning.   The 47-44 topline is all that McLaughlin leaked to Politico, but Dave Weigel seems to have gotten his hands on the crosstabs, which show Gomez’s favorables falling from 48/27 to 41/35, while Markey’s are up a little, from 42/42 to 47/40. Again, not a sign of progress for Gomez, though maybe the GOP thinks the toplines are enough to convince donors that it’s not entirely a lost cause. (Although donations at this point would probably arrive too late to do anything other than last-minute GOTV.)

As for the original Scott Brown, the ex-Senator had publicly said that he was willing to campaign for Gomez as his schedule permitted, but so far he hasn’t done anything (apparently impeded by his busy dual careers of lobbying and appearing as a Fox News analyst). Well, he is finally popping up: he’ll be appearing at a rally with Gomez on Monday night, the night before the election. Is it really a case of a busy schedule, or just not wanting to let Gomez’s likely loss appear to be a referendum on Brown himself (especially considering that he may still get in to the Massachusetts gubernatorial race… or the New Hampshire Senate race)?

And if you’ve gotten the impression that Massachusetts voters are responding to the Ed Markey vs. Gabriel Gomez special election with a collective yawn, now we’ve gotten some quantitative proof. Absentee ballot requests are down significantly from the 2010 special election that elected Scott Brown; only 49.7K ballots have been requested, compared with 63.6K at the comparable point in 2010. The absentee ballot application deadline is on Monday, one day before the election.

This photo provided by WGBH shows U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, right before a debate moderated by R.D. Sahl, center, Tuesday at WGBH studios in Boston. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

This photo provided by WGBH shows U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, right before a debate moderated by R.D. Sahl, center, Tuesday at WGBH studios in Boston. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I won’t be home on Tuesday so I’ve already voted absentee – for Markey.

As an aside:  I believe this is my 600th post.  When I started posting in July 2008, it was as a lark.  I write mostly for myself about what interests me which sometimes interests others.  I’ve had periods of inactivity and have a small, but faithful  following.    If you read FortLeft, thank you!

The House passes still another restriction on abortion

Nancy Pelosi tweeted this picture with a quote from Representative Dent last night

Embedded image permalink

Clearly the Republican leaders didn’t listen to Dent.  They love to have votes on abortion, birth control and, the favorite – repealing the Affordable Heath Care Act instead of actually passing measures that might also pass in the Senate and get signed into law.
The result of pandering again to their base was passage of a bill that will ban abortions after 22 weeks.  According to the New York Times story

The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses at that stage of development are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228-to-196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines. Reflecting how little common ground the two parties share these days, just six Republicans voted against the bill; six Democrats voted for it.

“I’m not waging a war on anyone,” said Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, offering a rejoinder to the Democratic assertion that Republicans have waged a war on women, a line of attack that harmed conservative candidates in 2012. “Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”

How about stopping atrocities like cutting food stamps and voting against bills that would provide health care and jobs for after this child that you have “saved” is born, Representative Noem?
But, remembering the bad press from hearings where all the legislators and all the witnesses were men discussing birth control the leadership did show they can learn something.

The tableau in the House chamber on Tuesday was intentionally far different from the scene last week at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee at which all 19 of the Republicans arguing for and then voting to approve the bill were men. Republican leaders made sure that their female members were front and center for the debate this time.

Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina conservative and Tea Party favorite, and Representative Marsha Blackburn, a longtime abortion opponent from Tennessee, were assigned to manage the floor debate. Representative Candice S. Miller of Michigan and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the Republican conference’s more moderate members, controlled the gavel.

But the simple math was difficult to ignore. Only 19 of the 234 Republican House members are women. Nearly all of them spoke on Tuesday. Only three Republican men were allowed to participate in the debate. Notably, Trent Franks of Arizona, the bill’s sponsor who last week caused an uproar after claiming that instances of pregnancy after rape were “very low,” said nothing from the floor.

I think that 22 weeks is getting close to the time of viability which most see as 23 to 26 weeks.  As bills move ever closer to that line,  those of us who agree that women have a right to choose to continue the pregnancy or not will be faced with a difficult question and one that we need to be prepared to answer: where, if anywhere, should the line be drawn?

Even if Democrats believed the political upper hand was theirs as they used the issue of reproductive rights to portray their opponents yet again as hostile and indifferent to the needs of women, it was clear that the question at hand — the termination of pregnancies that are five months or more along — was an uncomfortable one.

At a news conference Tuesday morning led by Democrats who favor abortion rights, the mood quickly turned tense after two journalists tried to press the representatives about their support for late-term abortions. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado cut off questions after being asked whether she would draw the line at legal abortion later in pregnancy. “The Supreme Court has spoken, and this bill is unconstitutional. Next question,” she said.

As medical science advances, the time limits laid out in Roe v. Wade may no longer hold.  There are medical and social costs to having a child born at 25 weeks.  In a 1997 story, the New York Times reported

”At the time of Roe vs. Wade it was around 26 weeks pregnant,” Dr. Ezra Davidson, past president of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said. ”It has come down a couple of weeks since that time.”

But many babies who survive birth at that stage have terrible problems.

”You have to temper any discussion about viability because though you may get into a 24-week period, or a 23-week period, a large portion of those infants are going to have serious disabilities,” Dr. Davidson said.

Most experts believe that the current limit of viability is 23 or 24 weeks into the normal 40-week term of pregnancy. Babies born at this stage are known as micropreemies and are extremely fragile. The typical micropreemie weighs 500 to 600 grams — slightly more than a pound — and can fit in the palm of a hand.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, fewer than 40 percent of infants born from 23 to 25 weeks’ gestation survive.

Moreover, Dr. William Taeusch, chief of pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital, said: ”That’s strictly survival. That’s getting out of the hospital alive, usually at three months, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if you get out of the hospital alive and you haven’t had major problems, then your chances of having a normal brain are 90 percent.”

But according to the obstetrics and gynecology group, nearly 50 percent of surviving children who weigh less than 750 grams at birth experience moderate or severe disability, including blindness and cerebral palsy.

Things haven’t really changed a great deal since 1997.  This is from the Wikipedia article on fetal viability.

Fetal Viability Chart

Fetal Viability Chart

Of course, most women who don’t have late term abortions have a full term baby.  This means the mother and hopefully father need to have jobs and assistance in caring for the baby for the next 18 years – the kind of assistance the Republicans often vote against.  It means available contraception so women aren’t faced with the choice at all.  It means sex ed  beginning in middle schools that includes information on what it is like to care for a baby.  (What happened to those programs where teens had to care for a doll that was life-like and demanded diaper changes and feedings 25/7?)

I personally have problems with late term abortions that are not for medical reasons – either the mother’s or the child’s.  But I also think we should be spending what is needed to make sure those children are fed, educated and not abused.  And I understand why sometimes the decision is so late.

Jessica Valenti has column in the Nation thinking through many of these issues, but it is her conclusion that sticks with me.

Abortion is complicated, as are our lives and health—and the fact that these  choices are so complex and nuanced is precisely why we can’t legislate them.  Wishing otherwise will never 
make it so.

Putting the minimum wage in persective

Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe explains why we need an increase in the minimum wage.

Wasserman 6-5

This needs to be a national increase.  Yes, I know.  When businesses have to pay more, they won’t hire.  But there is another side to their objection.  If they pay people more, then there will be more spending and more business and they can hire.  Plus there will be more payroll taxes paid on the larger salaries.  And more state and local taxes.  Conservatives would be happy because some folks wouldn’t need food stamps as a lot of working people do now.  Seems like a winner.

I know that some economists argue that increases always lead to higher unemployment, but a large number of small businesses already pay wages higher than the legal minimum.

Put simply, small businesses are our economy. Given that it’s still recovering, the economy needs all the help it can get to make it over the proverbial hump and flourish. Small businesses will play a key part in that journey.

Given their importance, politicians should stand up and take notice when small business owners say they strongly support a policy that has and will continue to elicit political fights of the knockdown drag-out variety, such as increasing the minimum wage. The minimum wage is a business issue that impacts a wide swath of small firms, and according to scientific opinion polling Small Business Majority released this week, two-thirds of them support increasing it and adjusting it annually to keep up with the cost of inflation.

Some have claimed that raising the minimum wage would put small firms out of business because they won’t be able to afford to pay their workers more. Our polling found a whopping 85 percent of small businesses across the country already pay their workers more than the minimum wage, though.

“You need to pay workers enough to survive. It’s in your best interest as a company because if you don’t there is nothing tying them to you.” That’s Clifton Broumand, the president of Man and Machine, a specialty computer product business in Landover, Md., who pays his workers more than the minimum wage and supports increasing it. “I want my employees to have the chance to grow and improve here. I want them to want to stay so we don’t have a lot of turnover. And I pay over minimum wage because it’s the right thing to do.”

The President proposed an increase to $9 in his State of the Union Address:  Let’s just do it.