The Human Toll

Today, People For the American Way Foundation* put out a report titled The Human Toll: How Individual Americans Have Fared at the Hands of Bush Judges.  It’s essentially a review of the stories of individual Americans who have found themselves in front of judges put on the bench by George W. Bush.  In many cases, the result isn’t pretty.

With that in mind, let me point out an important fact: John McCain has supported every single one of George Bush’s judicial nominees.

So, for that matter, have most of the incumbent GOP Senators up for reelection this year.  John Sununu (NH), Elizabeth Dole (NC), Ted Stevens (AK), Gordon Smith (OR), Norm Coleman (MN), James Inhofe (OK), and John Cornyn (TX) are probably the ones in the closest races.

You might want to keep that in mind while you read the report.  It’s a pretty interesting read, if I do say so myself.

* - (Which is affiliated with People For the American Way in ways too complicated to get into here.)


"Macaca" Does Minority Outreach

Considering that George Allen's electoral hopes essentially crashed at the moment he called one of his rival's volunteers "macaca" during a campaign event in Virginia back in 2006, how does the Virginia Republican Party think this is a good idea:  

Northern Virginia Republicans, realizing they need to improve their appeal among the region's large ethnic population, will stage a "unity" rally Saturday that they say will draw 1,000 people.

Organizers said the annual rally, which has grown in recent years, is particularly significant this year because ethnic minorities represent an increasingly powerful voting bloc that will help decide which presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain, wins the state Nov. 4.


[Jim Hyland, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee] said he expects as many as 1,000 supporters to turn out for the event at Edison High School, where former senator George Allen and Reps. Tom Davis and Frank R. Wolf are expected to speak. Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III is planning to attend, as is a widely known surrogate from McCain's campaign, organizers said.


Holding Goodling Accountable

It seems that at least someone is attempting to hold Monica Goodlling accountable for her law-breaking - from the Richmond Times Dispatch:

A request for a disciplinary investigation of a former U.S. Justice Department official who improperly screened job candidates has been filed with the Virginia State Bar.

Monica Goodling resigned as the department's liaison to the White House last year. A Justice Department investigation recently concluded that she violated civil-service law and department policy by considering political affiliations in hiring decisions.

Lawyer William R. Wilder, who drafted the complaint signed by a dozen other lawyers, said yesterday he was concerned about Goodling's conduct and that she has apparently not been charged with a crime or disciplined elsewhere.

The Sept. 8 letter to the state bar alleges that Goodling violated at least two rules of professional conduct and asks that the state bar start a disciplinary investigation.


Fair Pay Issue Growing in Campaign ‘08

As you may have seen, the Obama campaign is running ads focusing on McCain’s opposition to fair pay for women.  I think it’s safe to say that everyone around here is glad to see Obama talking about the issue and eager to see McCain’s response.

But looking at the conversation, it’s important to remember that we aren’t moving forward on this issue.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re actually moving backwards.  It was, after all, the very bad decision to take away Lilly Ledbetter’s fair pay that brought pay discrimination to the fore.  And regardless of whether or not we manage to pass the Fair Pay Act, more bad Supreme Court Justices could make the situation much, much worse.

Our friends at the National Organization of Women have put together a great fact sheet on Equal Pay which is fascinating and disturbing at the same time.  (Via Dana Goldstien at TAPPED)


Supreme at Home, But Increasingly Ignored Abroad?

The New York Times reports a declining reliance around the world on what American justices have to say.

And I thought we couldn’t slip any further in the eyes of the world.

Of particular note:

The new [more sophisticated constitutional courts around the world] are, moreover, generally more liberal than the Rehnquist and Roberts courts and for that reason more inclined to cite one another.

Read the full article here.


GOP Gearing Up for a Comprehensive Voter Challenge Campaign

Well, I guess some people sit around and think, hey this group of people just lost their homes, why don’t we take their vote too? Civil right groups nationwide are up in arms about a reported Michigan GOP scheme to challenge voters on Election Day using the list of foreclosed homes as the basis for the challenge.

In addition to being a mean-spirited attempt to deny persons in extremely vulnerable states access to the polls, it is also an insufficient ground to challenge a voter’s eligibility!

According to former voting rights litigator J. Gerald Hebert, foreclosure notices may not, in and of themselves, be grounds for election challenges because “people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

Thus, implementing such a policy would likely have the effect of disenfranchising large swaths of voters, who would be and are eligible to vote. Additionally, most foreclosures in Michigan were on sub-prime loans, which went at a disproportionally high rate to African Americans at a rate of over 60%. Hmm, let’s look at all the pieces: African American Voters + Suppresion Tactics = same plan, different year.

While it still astonishes me to hear about the wanton depths some people will go to keep “certain” people away from the polls, it’s definitely not the first time we’ve seen deceptive and suppressive tactics used on people of color.

Perhaps most astonishing is the Party’s insistence upon ensuring that election procedures are followed. It is difficult to imagine the challenging of poor people and minorities who are struggling to fight their foreclosures as being evidence that our electoral process is running smoothly!

Foreclosures across the country have reached an all time high, with nearly 1.25 million homes in foreclosure, and it would be not be unlikely to expect challenges of this sort in other states with high foreclosure rates, such as Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Arizona (surprise, surprise — competitive election states!) While deceptive practices and voter intimidation and suppression tactics such as this have been common in federal elections, it is long past time to put an end to this.


Talk About Judging a Book By Its Cover

More information came out this weekend about Sarah Palin's attempts to ban books while mayor of Wasilla, AK.

From a story in Sunday's New York Times:

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

"Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."

"I'm still proud of Sarah," she added, "but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

As Palin didn't even take the time to read "Daddy's Roommate" — which, as a 32-page children's book, would probably have taken her about five minutes to get through — she didn't know anything about the book beyond its title and cover. So presumably what she found "offensive" was the book's acknowledgement that homosexuality exists.

As for the book's content? Here's a description of "Daddy's Roommate" from Publisher's Weekly:

The story's narrator begins with his parents' divorce, and continues, "Now there's somebody new at Daddy's house."

The new arrival is male; Frank and Daddy are seen pursuing their daily routine (eating, shaving, sleeping — even fighting), and on weekends the three interact easily on their various outings.

"Mommy says Frank and Daddy are gay" — this new concept is explained to the child as "just one more kind of love."

Yeah, it sounds super-offensive to me.


Have They No Shame?

In an election in which so much is at stake, and so many crucial differences between the presidential tickets, our national conversation keeps getting stuck — and not by accident. It dawned on me this week that race and gender are the elephant (and donkey) in the room — they’re more often exploited in subtle and cynical ways than discussed honestly. You need only witness the side show about "lipstick" that Republicans are using to keep the campaign away from issues that affect Americans and our shared future.

The fake outrage about Obama’s "lipstick-on-a-pig" comment, combined with the suddenly discovered concerns about sexism from the anti-feminist right, have demonstrated once again how big a role gender plays in our politics. The same goes for race. I was listening to voters in York, Pennsylvania talking about race and politics on NPR, and was struck by hearing a couple of people suggest that the press has given Obama a free pass because he’s black. These ideas don’t come out of nowhere — they’re planted and spread via talk radio, the blogosphere and the entire right-wing media echo chamber. It’s the same poisonous and divisive race politics that drove Nixon’s "Southern strategy" and the Right’s Reagan-era mobilization of white working-class Americans with the idea of "special privileges for minorities."

Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party is taking voter suppression tactics honed by the GOP in recent years to a new low — recruiting volunteers to target the eligibility of African American voters whose homes are in foreclosure. These voter challenging schemes — like the voter identification requirements pushed by Republican legislators across the country — are designed to keep minority (and presumably likely Democratic) voters away from the polls. Have they no decency?

Given our recent political history, of course, it would be crazy to count on elemental decency from the strategists who are engineering voter suppression, spreading lies about Barack Obama and making charges they know to be false — and then complaining that the "liberal media" who amplify those bogus charges are somehow conspiring against them. George Orwell couldn’t keep up with this crew.

That’s where we — and you — come in. I’m not going to let the same people who opposed every advance made by the feminist movement get away with crying "sexism" any time someone examines Sarah Palin’s actual record. (Especially the ones who are wearing buttons like "The Hottest VP from the Coolest State.") We’re shining a spotlight on the utter hypocrisy of Religious Right leaders who have been trashing Sen. Obama’s faith for months but now say it’s off limits to examine Sarah Palin’s views on church-state separation.

And most importantly we are going to work hard to focus Americans attention on what is actually at stake in this election — the nation’s ability to survive four more years of Bush’s disastrous policies — or the ability of our constitutional freedoms to survive 40 years of a Supreme Court dominated by the kind of justices John McCain has promised Religious Right leaders to nominate for our highest court.

A McCain-Palin White House would put the Religious Right in the nation’s drivers’ seat in ways that would make the Bush administration look tame.

One last note — thanks to everyone who sent in pictures to go along with our “Sarah Palin doesn’t speak for me” sign-on letter. You can view a slideshow of some of the photos now here. If you want to send in your own, e-mail it to (And if you haven’t signed on to the letter yet, you can do so here.


Victory for Equal Rights in Maryland

Need a bit of good news this gloomy-weather Friday? Here's some: there was a great victory for equal rights in Montgomery County, Maryland earlier this week.

As the good women of Feministing report, the county council passed a law a year ago prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, but right-wing groups' efforts to prevent it from taking effect have delayed its enforcement. On Wednesday, a court put an end to the right-wingers' obstructive tactics.    

Transgendered people in Montgomery County will now have legal recourse against discrimination, and, as Ann at Feministing explains, a broader range of people will also be protected: 

While most headlines couch [the victory] in terms of preventing discrimination against transpeople (which, of course, the law does), the actual language bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity. This is a broader term that covers people who may not identify as trans, but run the spectrum of gender-nonconforming presentation.

Excellent news!


We're All "Pro-Life"

Pop quiz, fellow progressives: how do you refer to the two sides of the abortion debate?

Did you say "pro-life" and "pro-choice"? Those are the terms I generally use when talking about the issue too. And, as I was reminded by a conversation between colleagues this morning, it doesn't make much sense.

In reality, people who are against reproductive rights don't have a monopoly on being pro-life. As a colleague of mine said this morning, "We're all pro-life."

I think you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find somebody who really thinks there should be more abortions. Progressives, conservatives, moderates, people of no political persuasion whatsoever: I think we're all agreed there.

You'll hear right-wingers sometimes refer to the pro-choice movement as the "pro-abortion" movement, which is, for the reasons mentioned above, ridiculous. (Again: find me the person — anywhere, ever — who actually thinks abortion is a good thing.)

I Googled certain ways of stating the positions to see how often they crop up on the internet, and found the results interesting. "Pro-life" and "pro-abortion" definitely win out over "pro-choice" and "anti-choice": 

Pro-life: 6,750,000

Pro-abortion: 903,000

Pro-choice: 3,640,000

Anti-choice: 458,000

So, two questions.

Do you think progressives should reclaim the term "pro-life" and refer to people who don't believe in abortion rights as "anti-choice"?

Second: if you are familiar with the way a non-English speaking country talks about reproductive rights — if they're fortunate enough to have the freedom to discuss these things in public — how would you translate the phrases they use to discuss it?

Let me know at


ABC News on Sarah Palin’s Book Banning Past

ABC News ran a story last night on Sarah Palin’s attempt to pressure a librarian to censor the town’s collection of books.

It’s stories like this that make me really love librarians.


Cheer Up, Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is all gloom and doom about the prospect of Obama-appointed Supreme Court Justices.

“[I]f the next two or three Supreme Court appointments are appointments made by Barack Obama, confirmed by a Democratic Senate...' -- my friends, the things we have been fighting for 30 years will not only be lost, they may, in fact, be lost permanently," Bauer contends.

But cheer up, Gary! Most Court-watchers speculate that the next few openings on the Court will come from the moderate/progressive wing of the Supreme Court.

So even if President Obama’s nominees were to the left of the current Justices, the balance of the Court really wouldn’t shift that much. After all, Chief Justice Roberts already has four votes in his pocket, and Justice Kennedy usually provides the fifth.

Of course, if President McCain gets to appoint replace those Justices with nominees “in the model of Sam Alito, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia” the lurch to the right would be seismic. And that would make Gary Bauer very, very happy.


Need to Brush Up on Your Wonk Lingo?

Luckily, the good folks at the ACLU have your back. They've just posted the concluding installment of "Congress-ese," a series of blog entries aimed at teaching you stuff about Congress you didn't learn in social studies class.

Find the answers to questions like:

And much more. A valuable learning resource. Well done, ACLUers!


Rep. Chris Smith Thinks You Don’t Have Any Values

At the RNC this week, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey declared that America’s schools and universities have become “bastions of moral relativism,” and as a remedy for this, “Our students must find the God of the Bible and Biblical values in the classroom, on the campus.” Setting aside for a moment the establishment clause of the First Amendment (which I would encourage Congressman Smith to peruse) this is a perfect example of the Religious Right’s conception of values. Namely: there are no values but our own. Whether it’s for political purposes or out of a sincere ignorance, the right has decided that the only two value systems are (1) the values that James Dobson says you should get out of the Bible and (2) moral relativism -- in which nothing is right and nothing is wrong. So if you don’t agree with them that same-sex marriage is a sin, you probably also think it’s ok to push little old ladies down the stairs. Allow me to respond:

Dear Congressman Smith: Progressives have values. Among other things, we value honesty, respect, humility, and kindness. You are violating these values and you are very, very wrong to do so. Sincerely, Drew

Clip and full transcript at Think Progress.


Voting Rights Opponent Appeals to Supreme Court

 As expected, the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One (NAMUDNO), a public utility district in Travis County, Tex., filed a direct appeal yesterday with the Supreme Court from a unanimous ruling last May by a three-judge federal district court rejecting NAMUDNO's claims that it is exempt from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and, in the alternative, that Section 5 is unconstitutional.

People For and a number of other parties intervened as defendants in the district court in order to help defend the constitutionality of Section 5. Section 5 of the VRA requires all or part of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to have their voting procedures pre-approved, or "pre-cleared," by the Department of Justice or a three-judge federal district court in Washington before they can be changed.

For more information, view People For's statement on the district court ruling. You can also view the district court's ruling here.