PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Alabama County Brings the Voting Rights Act to Court

An 87% white county in Alabama is arguing that some of the anti-discrimination protections in the Voting Rights Act are no longer necessary…and its case might end up in the Supreme Court.

Shelby County is protesting Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires counties with a history of discriminatory election practices to run new election rules by the Justice Department.

"For Congress to continue to interfere with Shelby County's electoral autonomy in 2010 based on conditions that existed in 1965 is both arbitrary and without constitutional justification," according to one of the county's written arguments in the case.

Shelby County's complaint is that Section 5 of the law -- which says the Justice Department has to make sure election-related changes don't discriminate against minority voters -- is no longer necessary and that complying with the law is a significant legal expense for county taxpayers.

The county, however, does not provide any details about the "taxpayer dollars, time and energy" it has spent over the years asking the federal government to pre-approve things like new district lines or polling place changes. The U.S. Justice Department, the defendant in the lawsuit, argues the claim about expenses is vague and unsupported by evidence.

A number of African American residents of Shelby County disagree that voter discrimination is an outdated problem, and have tried to stop the county’s suit from going forward. They have some concrete examples to back them up. Just in 2008, a redistricting plan for one city in Shelby didn’t pass Justice Department muster because it eliminated the city’s one majority-black council district.

Shelby County’s argument recalls some of the right-wing objections to the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act. Georgia Republican Lynn Westmoreland said of the 1965 bill, "It was set up to be temporary, just to get things to where they should be," he said. "And if you look at the results we have here in Georgia, I think you can see that it's worked. Its time has passed."

If only it had.
 

PFAW

Beck and Palin’s 9-11 Gravy Train

Glenn Beck was none too happy when President Obama designated Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service. But while volunteerism might be a 9/11 no-no, it turns out that exploiting the occasion for personal profit is just fine.

Media Matters reports on Beck and Sarah Palin’s lucrative plans for the ninth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks:

The spiritual guru of the 9-12 Project will be marking the anniversary of 9-11 along with his new best friend Sarah Palin with a high-priced (and as far as the actual program goes, somewhat mysterious) event at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The potential event has been rumored and discussed under the radar for days, possibly even as the launch of a Palin 2012 presidential bid.

But apparently, in the immortal words of Steve Martin in "The Jerk," it's yet another "profit deal" for the two leading high-def hucksters of the right wing. According to the Ticketmaster page, tickets for this solemn 9-11 commemoration run from a low of $73 to a top price of $130, and that's not all. There's also $225 for a special meet-and-greet with Beck (and possibly with Palin), so that die-hard (and not economically struggling) Beck fans can wish him a happy 9-11 in person.

If there's a contradiction or some sort of irony in cashing in over 9-11, that seems to have eluded the hosts. Palin wrote this week on her Facebook page: "We can count on Glenn to make the night interesting and inspiring, and I can think of no better way to commemorate 9/11 than to gather with patriots who will 'never forget.' "

All I can say is: Doesn't it stab you in the heart?
 

PFAW

Sign the Pledge: Stand for Religious Freedom and Against Intolerance

The past month’s attacks on Muslim Americans have marked a disturbing break from the core American values of religious freedom and tolerance. The National Security Network, a leading foreign policy organization, is calling on Americans to affirm those values by signing a pledge in the week before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks:

We are proud to live in the United States, a country founded on the principles of tolerance and religious freedom as embodied in the U.S. Constitution.
We affirm America's commitment to these principles.
We condemn bigotry and intolerance by any and all, especially those who murder others in the false name of their religion.
We condemn the act of burning the Koran, a sacred text for millions of Americans and others around the world, as we would condemn the burning of all sacred texts.
We pledge to remember Americans and others from around the world, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths, who were murdered on September 11, 2001, American service men and women of all faiths who have lost their lives in the wars since then, and innocent civilians, of all faiths, who have died in those wars, and to honor their sacrifice by reaffirming our commitment to the principles of tolerance and religious freedom.
We encourage all to light a candle on the evenings of September 10 and 11 in memoriam and in reaffirmation of these principles.

You can add your name to the pledge here, and support the campaign on Facebook here.
 

PFAW

Today’s GOP “More Extreme” than Bush?

Remember when GOP candidates were doing everything they could to distance themselves from President George W. Bush? Well, the GOP is still moving away from Bush…moving to his right. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein talked with David Axelrod, President Obama’s strategist, about the upcoming elections:

"I saw that [Alaska GOP Senate candidate] Joe Miller said that he would abolish Social Security if he had the chance and he is not alone," said chief adviser David Axelrod. "This is akin to what [Nevada GOP Senate candidate] Sharron Angle has said in Nevada and also a number of these other Republicans. So, this could go one step beyond the policies of the Bush administration to something more extreme than we have seen."

And it’s not just new faces like Miller and Angle who are moving the Republican part to the right - even key players in the party’s center have moved rightward since President Obama’s inauguration (just look at Maverick McCain’s shifting stands on immigration reform, campaign finance, and religious freedom).

Axelrod is far from an impartial observer, but he makes a good point: this year’s Tea Party-fueled Republican Party is looking a lot more extreme than the right-wing administration Americans rejected two years ago.

But what happens if the political pendulum does swing and extreme-right Republican candidates are faced with acting on their promises? It’s hard to believe that abolishing Social Security, repealing Health Care Reform, and denying citizenship to thousands of children will actually be an effective strategy for governing, let along a long-term political success.
 

PFAW

Focus on the Family Brings Sex-Ed Fight to China

While consistently pushing to marginalize and prohibit comprehensive sex-education in schools throughout the United States, Focus on the Family is now hoping to introduce flawed abstinence-only programs in China. William Wan writes in the Washington Post that Focus on the Family is gaining a significant foothold in the country:

In Yunnan schools this year, teachers are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The agreement with the Yunnan ministry of education is a milestone for Focus on the Family, which has struggled for four years to make inroads on abstinence in China.

But China isn’t the only country that has been the subject of Focus on the Family’s efforts:

In the past decade, Focus on the Family has found relative success with its abstinence program in other countries - notably majority Muslim nations such as Egypt and Malaysia, where its Christian brand of abstinence coincides with the teachings of Islam.

Worldwide, the group says it has reached nearly 3 million teens. Despite Focus on the Family’s new push to bring abstinence-only until marriage programs into schools across the world, abstinence-only education in the US has been an abysmal failure. A congressional report from Representative Henry Waxman found that abstinence-only programs frequently employ misleading and erroneous information about human health and contraceptives. Moreover, studies show that signers of the virginity pledge, “the hallmark of the Christian group's abstinence program,” tend to engage in sex before marriage at the same rate of those who do not sign a virginity pledge, while pledge-takers are less likely to use contraceptives or seek testing for sexually transmitted diseases. “No abstinence-only program has yet been proven through rigorous evaluation to help youth delay sex for a significant period of time, help youth decrease their number of sex partners, or reduce STI or pregnancy rates among teens,” writes Advocates for Youth. With Focus pushing unsuccessful abstinence-only curriculums abroad, Americans should be wondering why our federal government still provides $50 million to promote the fundamentally flawed and ineffective programs.

PFAW

Corporate Groups take aim at Hodes in New Hampshire

What happens when a principal leader in the fight for greater corporate accountability runs for higher office? He becomes the target of a tremendous and misleading assault by new corporate-backed groups that have gained new prominence in the wake of Citizens United.

As one of the first leaders to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Citizens United, New Hampshire Congressman and Senate candidate Paul Hodes understands the risks posed by swelling corporate power. He has also signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy, which asks candidates to give Congress back the right to curtail electoral spending by corporations.

Pro-corporate organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the American Action Network have started to pummel Hodes with ads in order to tear down his run for the open Senate seat vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg, one of Wall Street’s champions in Congress. The Chamber of Commerce, which has pledged to spend $75 million altogether in the 2010 elections, has already committed $1 million to criticize Hodes over the airwaves. Political Correction describes the Chamber of Commerce’s anti-Hodes advertisement as “deeply dishonest” and responsible for employing grandiose and embellished allegations regarding health care reform.

The American Action Network has spent $500,000 against the Congressman, which is unsurprising since the organization is led by a mix of Wall Street moguls and their advocates. Their ads in the New Hampshire race have come under such scrutiny that even a former Republican state senator who is supporting GOP frontrunner Kelly Ayotte co-wrote an op-ed which claims that the group’s ad campaign against Hodes is filled with “gross inaccuracies” that “corrode public confidence in the political process, and are completely contrary to the national interest.”

According to Democracy 21, even though these groups are spending large sums attacking progressive champions like Paul Hodes, they have not disclosed their donors to the FEC. Kenneth Doyle of the good-government group writes that the Chamber “provided no information in their FEC reports about where they get the millions of dollars used to pay for their political advertising.” Like the Chamber, the American Action Network “provided no information about any donors supporting the group’s campaign efforts.” Consequently, New Hampshire voters may never know which corporations or individuals are behind the enormous endeavor to vilify Paul Hodes and his effort to rein in corporate clout in government and abuses on Wall Street.

PFAW

More GOP Islamophobia... and its ugly consequences

From OpenLeft:

In his post, "A clash of civilizations revealed in Newsweek poll," Paul Rosenberg notes:

The notion that Obama "favors the interests of Muslim Americans"  is frankly ludicrous.  But, then, so was the notion that blacks had too much influence in 1964.  Yet, as I noted in a recent diary, that's exactly what a substantial number of people believed, particularly those who were more conservative:

 

And here are two from Talking Points Memo:


Here are the RESULTS of all the divisive, fear-mongering rhetoric:

  • Sacramento: A small pig statue marked with the messages "No Mosque in NYC," "Remember 9-11," and "MO HAM MED the Pig" was left in the mailbox of the town's Islamic center, the local Fox News station reports.
     
  • Seattle: A man has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly throwing his change at the feet of a turban-wearing 7-Eleven clerk and then hitting the clerk in the head. According to UPI, a related police report says, "After the suspect struck (the clerk) with his fist he said, 'You're not even American, you're (al-Qaida). Go back to your country.'" The clerk's actually a Sikh. 
     
  • Upstate New York: Five teenagers have been arrested for disrupting religious services at a mosque in upstate New York after allegedly driving by the mosque during Ramadan services, honking their horns and firing a shotgun.
     
  • Newsweek reports that all this manufactured outrage and anti-Muslim hate over the so-called 'Ground Zero Mosque' is proving to be a great recruiting and fundraising tool for the Taliban who says it helps show the U.S. is anti-Islam. A Taliban operative told the magazine, "Showing reality always makes the best propaganda," and "The more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get."
     
PFAW

Tom Toles is Right On

Check out this excellent Tom Toles cartoon from the Washington Post, which captures perfectly points made in PFAW President Michael B. Keegan's recent Huffington Post op-ed.

PFAW

The Tea Party and the Religious Right at "Restoring Honor"

Many political commentators suggested that the emergence of the Tea Party would diminish the foothold and clout of the Religious Right in American politics, especially within the Republican Party. Politico’s Ben Smith said that social conservative leaders mistrust and fear the rising influence of the Tea Party. David Waters, the Religion editor of the Washington Post, expressed skepticism of any alliance between “Tea Partying fiscal conservatives” and the “Christian Right,” claiming: “this is an anti-government movement, not a pro-God movement.” “So far,” Waters said, “it seems the Tea Partiers are mostly interested in reclaiming America for the Chamber of Commerce.”

But the Religious Right’s free-market ideology is tremendously consistent with the Tea Party’s pro-corporate agenda. Sharron Angle, Nevada’s Tea Party-backed Republican nominee for US Senate, believes that government programs such as Social Security and Medicare violate the Ten Commandments: “We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government.” Texas Governor Rick Perry, a favorite of the Tea Party, expressed his fight against “big government” in religious terms: “Do you believe in the primacy of unrestrained federal government? Or do you worship the God of the universe, placing our trust in him?” Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, founder of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, is a prominent Religious Right activist, and led a prayer ceremony calling for the defeat of health care reform. Michele Goldberg notes that along with Christian Right superstar Sarah Palin, the Tea Party National Convention featured leaders such as “Rick Scarborough, Roy Moore, and Joseph Farah, men who are radical even by religious-right standards.”

The ever-present religious rhetoric of the Restoring Honor rally and the Divine Destiny reception demonstrated the use of religion to legitimize the Tea Party and justify its political goals. One speaker at Restoring Honor claimed that “we are Americans and we stand together: Black, White, Jew, Gentile, together in unity as one strong group of people of Americans, today in the name of Christ.” Rev. C. L. Jackson said that supporters should follow the “servant of God, son of God, Glenn Beck,” and another speaker called for attendees to become “covenant warriors in Christ.”

At “Divine Destiny,” Beck introduced David Barton, a frequent guest on his show, as “a true American hero.” Barton and his organization, WallBuilders, were extremely influential in the Far-Right’s rewriting of history and science curriculum in the Texas textbook controversy, and is a leading opponent of the separation of Church and State. Barton and WallBuilders promote a discredited and religious interpretation of American history that claims that the Founding Fathers meant to build a Christian nation ruled according to the Bible. Now Beck and Barton want to export the Texas textbook battle to the rest of the country in their efforts to modify American history and distort the Constitution.

One lesson from this weekend is that the political leaders of the Tea Party and Religious Right movements believe they have a shared interest in convincing Americans that their agendas represent the supposedly “original vision” of the Founding Fathers.

PFAW

Newsweek Poll: Republicans Think Obama 'Probably' Wants To Impose Islamic Law

According to a new poll, a majority of Republicans thinks President Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other Americans and that he wants to impost Islamic Sharia law throughout the world.

From Talking Points Memo (emphasis mine):

The poll asked: "Some people have alleged that Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world. From what you know about Obama, what is your opinion of these allegations?"

The top-line result was definitely true 7%, probably true 24%, probably not true 36%, and definitely not true 25%. Among Republicans, however, it was definitely true 14%, probably true 38%, probably not true 33%, and definitely not true 7%.

Another question asked: "Thinking about Barack Obama and what he has said about issues like the proposal to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York City... Do you think Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other groups of Americans, or do you think he has generally been even-handed?"

The top-line result: favoring Muslims 30%, he has been even-handed 60%. Republicans said that Obama favors Muslims by 59%-34%, Democrats said he has been even-handed by 82%-9%, and independents pretty much matched the top-line, saying he has been even-handed by 62%-28%.

It's interesting to note not only that a majority of Republicans believe Obama wants to impose Islamic law, but that a large portion of those respondents would only say it that such a severe accusation was "probably" true.

At a certain point, when it comes to questions like birtherism, Islam or any number of other outlandish accusations, you get the feeling that a lot of Republican respondents simply like to give the somewhat negative response about Obama just out of spite rather than serious belief.

This is not so unbelievable considering that someone like Rush Limbaugh, who refers to the president as “Imam Hussein Obama,” is considered a mainstream voice on the Right.

UPDATE: Also from Newsweek, a new study shows that because of something called "motivated reasoning," people are more likely to buy false claims about someone if they perceive those claims to be negative and they already have a dislike for that person. The tacit endorsement of such claims about the president by the Republican political leadership doesn't help...

PFAW

FL-22: House Candidate Allen West Speaks the Tea Party's Language

Allen West is a potential long-term concern. A possible star in the GOP... he’s ultra-conservative, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, charismatic and speaks directly to the passions of the Tea Party. On top of that, he’s African American.

We know that Tea Party leaders love to have African Americans speak against "inner city entitlement culture" because it gives them cover for their racially inflammatory agenda. So no wonder the Tea Party is drooling over Allen West, who is a zealous evangelist of the people-in-need-are-parasites message the Right is so hot on right now.

This YouTube clip shows how his charm and charisma as a speaker belie the venom in his message.

PFAW

FL-Senate: Tea Party Candidate Marco Rubio Trumpets the GOP's Backwards, Orwellian Anti-Logic on Deficits and Bush Tax Cuts

Thank you, Heather at Crooks and Liars:

After Dick Cheney famously told us that "deficits don't matter" and the Bush administration broke the bank with their tax cuts for the rich and military occupations, Marco Rubio in this week's Republican Weekly Address tells us that the "American dream" is threatened by deficit spending and for heaven's sake, don't get rid of those Bush tax cuts that helped break the bank in the first place.

I'd like for Marco Rubio to explain why Bush had the worst job creation record of any president if those tax cuts helped to create jobs?

But in the mean time... USA!... USA!... we're the greatest country on the face of the earth. And more tax cuts for the rich. Good grief. Their idea of the "American" dream is for all of us to be living in squalor.

Watch Rubio's address here.

PFAW

NV-Senate: Sharron Angle, like Michele Bachmann, believes there are "domestic enemies" in Congress (among other things)

Sharron Angle, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Nevada, has said that if Republicans can't take back Congress, they may resort to "Second Amendment remedies." She has expressed support for eliminating the Department of Education, and like several other Tea Party candidates, has indicated support for phasing out Social Security and Medicare. She's also echoed founder of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) that there are domestic enemies in the U.S. Congress… and she's sticking to her story:

In an interview with a conservative talk show host [last week], Angle was given two clear chances to disavow the claim that there are "domestic enemies" within Congress, an assertion she previously expressed unequivocal agreement with. Both times, Angle refused.

The Plum Line has the audio.

Oh yeah, and she's a Christian Reconstructionist who believes "entitlement programs" like Social Security and Medicare violate the Ten Commandments. Maybe the Tea Party and the Radical Religious Right are not so different after all.

PFAW

AK-Senate: Palin protégé Joe Miller is standing by his most extreme positions

Joe Miller, a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate who is on the verge of upsetting Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican Senate primary in Alaska, has said some pretty wild things... indicating support for ending both Social Security and Medicare, and questioning the constitutionality of unemployment benefits.

Now that it looks like the nomination is probably his, one would think that he'd tone back these extreme views for the general election season. One would think...

Joan McCarter at Kos: On this weekend's Face the Nation, Miller suggested that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.

...

Miller had another couple of opportunities to address this today, when both ABC's Rich Klein and MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell gave him the chance to backtrack. He hedged a bit, but stuck with the basic story.

Just what kind of tea are these guys drinking??

PFAW

"Restoring Honor" Draws 87,000 ... Or a Million, Depending Who You Ask

CBS News hired experts to help it estimate that the crowd at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally this weekend was roughly 87,000 strong. An impressive number to be sure.

Beck told the crowd he heard it was "between 300,000 and 500,000." And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking soon after the Beck rally at her own impromptu event nearby, said: "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today -- because we were witnesses."

A little bit of healthy exaggeration is fine, as is passing on information to the crowd which, from the stage, must have looked massive and undeterminable in number. But these assertions by Beck and Bachmann are probably worthy of quick note just so we can see if the stand by them in the next few days. After all, these are two people who have never let pesky things like "facts" and "reality" get in the way of what they said in the past.

Check out the more than 300 pictures PFAW Foundation staff and volunteers snapped at this weekend's rallies on Flickr.

PFAW