Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies

As I watch the unfolding Presidential campaign, I’m growing more and more depressed. No, not just at the thought of a Romney victory (which, as of now, I still think is unlikely). No, what is really depressing me is that the Romney campaign has become unmoored from facts and they know it. But they’ve recognized that the lies and distortions are working and so they’re just going to keep lying and lying and lying. Rep. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night underscored this point.

But before really jumping into Ryan’s lies, I want to highlight an article that demonstrates the attitude of the Romney campaign: Greg Sargent’s Fact checking for thee, but not for me for The Plum Line blog of The Washington Post. I posted this on Facebook earlier in the week. I’m going to reprint the whole article because I think it’s that important (but click on it anyway to give The Washington Post the benefit of the page view; emphasis and links in original):

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint.

This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.

As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”...

The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed.

“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.

That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:

“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”

The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.

By the way, this isn’t the first time the Romney camp has insisted that it is not beholden to the standards it expects the Obama campaign to follow. For the better part of a year, Romney has hammered Obama over the “net” jobs lost on his watch, to paint him as a job destroyer, a metric that factors the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost at the start of Obama’s term, before his policies took effect. Yet Romney advisers have argued, with no apparent sense of irony, that his own record should not be judged by one net jobs number.

In this sense, the Romney campaign continues to pose a test to the news media and our political system. What happens when one campaign has decided there is literally no set of boundaries that it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of its assertions? The Romney campaign is betting that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed about the disputes that are central to the campaign, in the face of the sheer scope and volume of dishonesty it uncorks daily.

Paul Krugman’s question continues to remain relevant: “Has there ever been a candidacy this cynical?”

Go back and read that key quotation from the Romney campaign: “[W]e’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers”. In other words, it doesn’t matter if a claim is demonstrably false, if the argument works, the Romney campaign will stick to it.

So let’s take a quick look at a few of the things that Paul Ryan said last night (and remember Gov. Chris Christie’s claim from Tuesday night’s keynote address that Republicans would tell “hard truths”). Um. Not so much.

One of the most incredible claims Ryan made was in regard to a GM factory in his home town of Janesville, Wisconsin. Here’s what Ryan said last night:

When he [Obama] talked about change, many people liked the sound of it. Especially in Janesville where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.''

That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.

Now I will acknowledge that Ryan doesn’t actually say that the plant closed because of President Obama. And, as you’ll see in a moment, he has made a slight change from the way he framed the allegation just two weeks ago. But to the casual viewer who hasn’t been paying attention to the details, it sure sounds like Paul Ryan is laying the closure of that GM plant at President Obama’s feet. But guess what Ryan didn’t tell viewers about that plant closure? Let’s let local Wisconsin television stations fill in a few blanks:

That’s right. The plant closure was announced months before the election, let alone President Obama’s inauguration. And did you note that in the speech shown above, Ryan claims that the plant closed, not in 2008, but in 2009 (thus tying the timing of the closure to President Obama’s term in office)? Well, I guess, in a way, Ryan is right. When the plant closed in December 2008, approximately 150 workers remained at the plant just long enough to complete an order of light trucks for Isuzu. When those trucks were finished (in March 2009, I believe), the plant was shuttered for good. So any effort to place blame for the closure of that plant on President Obama … is simply a lie.

One more point worth noting on the issue of the plant closure. Did you hear Ryan brag in his speech about having voted for the auto bailout that kept GM and Chrysler factories open and tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of auto workers working. Hmm. I didn’t hear him say that either. I wonder why not. And while I’m at it, it’s probably worth noting that Ryan also voted for TARP (the bank bailout).

Ryan also took a shot at President Obama for having “done nothing” with regard to the report of the deficit commission:

He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanks them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

But Ryan’s claim ignores a few salient points that make his statement pretty dishonest. First, he doesn’t note that the report of the debt commission (the Bowles-Simpson Commission) was not actually approved by the commission itself. A draft report was written, but the Commission couldn’t agree on its terms. And so it was voted down. But to Paul Ryan, President Obama was supposed to act on an unapproved report. But you know what’s worse? Do you know who was on the Bowles-Simpson Commission and helped convince the other House Republicans on the Commission to vote against it too? Yep. You guessed it. Paul Ryan. So think about it for a minute. He’s criticizing President Obama for not taking action on a deficit reduction plan that wasn’t actually adopted by the Commission because Ryan and his fellow House Republicans voted it down. But it’s still Obama’s fault!

Or how about this claim:

It began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States. It ends with the downgraded America.

The key thing to remember? It was House Republicans, under the leadership of the chair of the House Budget Committee, who refused to increase the debt ceiling and even toyed with the idea of allowing the United States to default on its debts. And it was the controversy surrounding the refusal to raise the debt ceiling and the Republicans’ refusal to even consider new revenues, that led to the S&P downgrade. Oh, did I mention that the chair of the House Budget Committee was Paul Ryan? So, once again, he’s trying to blame President Obama for something … but this time, he’s blaming President Obama rather than looking in the mirror!

Finally, I want to take a brief look at Medicare. Ryan accused President Obama of “funneling” $716 billion from Medicare. Ryan also claimed that:

Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan Administration with protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.

Let’s tackle these points one at a time. First, with regard to that $716 billion that Romney, Ryan, and all sorts of Republican surrogates have been screaming about, it’s worth noting that the “reduction” didn’t decrease Medicare benefits at all. Instead, the money was taken away from insurance companies and hospitals who were overcharging and committing waste. The ombudsman in charge of Medicare has noted that the “reduction” of that money extends the life of Medicare! Yes, really. And you know what else? In his (in)famous budget plan, you know, the plan that supposedly proved that Paul Ryan was a real policy wonk and deficit hawk, Ryan used that same $716 billion savings. Again, yes, really. He blames President Obama for an action that saves money and extends the life of Medicare, a plan that he himself adopted, at least until it was time to try to make President Obama look like he was doing something evil and nefarious.

And that other claim? The one about protecting Medicare? Hmm. Ryan didn’t mention that the Romney-Ryan plan (based on Ryan’s plan) to “protect” Medicare is to dramatically change it from a guaranteed benefit plan to a means-tested plan under which Americans won’t get their care paid for; rather, they’ll get a voucher to buy private insurance but without any guaranty that the voucher will be enough to purchase the necessary insurance. You may have also heard Ryan or Romney say that the Medicare won’t change for those 55 and over … except for the fact that if their plan will bankrupt Medicare sooner and, according to analysts that have looked at the impact of the plan, will cost Medicare recipients substantially more in premiums and drug costs. Add to this the plan to repeal Obamacare, which will re-open the Medicare “donut hole” and other protections that were added to protect seniors and reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

I’m not sure that Paul Ryan’s definition of “protect” is the same as mine.

It was interesting to note that Ryan did not repeat the repeatedly debunked “gutting welfare” claim that Romney and his ads and surrogates have been making for a few weeks. Maybe that lie was just a bit too far even for Paul Ryan. But I did say on Twitter last night that Ryan had been so dishonest that I hoped some of the fact checking organizations would fact check whether those kids Ryan introduced were actually his. I mean, with that degree of dishonesty, how are we to know? (And yes, I’m being sarcastic…)

There were other things in the speech as well, but I think that you’ve probably got the idea by now. Call it what you will: lies, dissembling, dishonesty, distortions, “playing fast and loose with facts”. Whatever. What Paul Ryan did not do was just tell the truth. And that’s a pattern that’s becoming all to common from the Romney campaign.

This reminds me of something that I’ve intended to post about … and kept forgetting. The very first television ad that the Romney campaign unveiled, back in November 2011, included audio of President Obama saying “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The problem? That quote came from the 2008 campaign and was taken wildly, wildly out of context. Here’s the full quote:

“Even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you are worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent’s campaign announced earlier this month that they want to ‘turn the page’ on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead,” Obama said in the speech. “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.’”

Yes, really. When I told this one to my kids, they were shocked. They got it. They understood that you just can’t do that. And they’re 12. They’re not trying to be elected President of the United States.

The Romney campaign knows that they’re telling lies. And they don’t care. They’ve admitted as much. And they just keep doing it. So, as you listen to Romney’s speech tonight, as you listen to his surrogates and his ads, as you listen to his stump speeches and those of Paul Ryan, just remember that the words that come out of their mouths … are likely to bear little resemblance to the truth. Do some homework, read what independent analysts have to say. But don’t just take Romney or Ryan at their words and make your decisions on the basis of those words, true or false.

There are important issues facing our country and important decisions to be made. But we can’t face those issues or make those decisions if we’re not given details or the truth. A constant theme of this blog has been that we can’t make good decisions about important issues on the basis of lies. But the Romney campaign wants you to cast your vote in November on just such a basis. That is a dangerous road for our country to travel down. And just imagine, given the ease with which the Romney campaign lies now and the secrecy behind which everything is shielded (tax returns, actual details of programs to be cut, actual details of tax “loopholes” to be closed, etc.), what a Romney administration might look like.


For more examples of the lies from the Romney campaign, please see Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything and Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything (Again), both published on August 7, 2012.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

A School That Ignores Its Diversity Statement … Because Federal Law Requires That It Do So

Yesterday in my post A School That Ignores Its Diversity Statement I wrote about a local elementary school apparently allowing the Boy Scouts to place signs upon the school’s grounds. The concern that I expressed was that it seemed contradictory to me for the school to have a strong diversity statement that included specific reference to sexual identity and to allow access to the school to a group that had  policies expressly opposite the specific terms and purpose of the diversity statement. Well, it turns out that the school had no choice but to allow the Boy Scouts to use the school because of a the No Child Left Behind Act and the Defense Authorization Act of 2006 (seriously).

Last night, I went to “meet the teacher night” at Clay Middle School (another school in the Carmel Clay Schools, barely a mile from the school that I wrote about). Later during the evening, I checked my email and found the following from Steven A. Dillon, Ed. D., Director of Student Services for Carmel Clay Schools:

Your recent article concerning Carmel Clay Schools entitled “A School That Ignores Its Diversity Statement” drew my attention. Hopefully I can clear up a misconception. Since public schools like Carmel Clay Schools receives federal funding to support our students education we as an organization cannot discriminate against, any group or individual. Furthermore, under the conditions of the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, we cannot deny access to our facilities. Use of our facilities for their programs, allows them to place signage at the school just prior to their recruitment nights. Following the law does not mean that we ignore our diversity statement.

Since I assume that you are interested in the truth and want your blogs to be accurate, we would appreciate a correction printed in your blog.

My contact information is below if you would like to discuss the matter.

The Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act was passed to prevent State and Federal agencies from reducing their support for the Boy Scouts of America (and other youth organizations). The bill was passed in the wake of a number of controversies involving the Boy Scouts of America, such as their exclusion of gays and atheists, and subsequent attempts to limit government support of the organization.

In particular, the bill states that no school receiving Department of Education funds:

shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, or any other youth group listed in title 36 of the United States Code (as a patriotic society), that wishes to conduct a meeting within that designated open forum or limited public forum, including denying such access or opportunity or discriminating for reasons based on the membership or leadership criteria or oath of allegiance to God and country of the Boy Scouts of America or of the youth group listed in title 36 of the United States Code (as a patriotic society).

(Emphasis in original; contact information omitted)

Now I will admit that I after posting the original article, I did wonder about the issue of the school being a limited public forum, but I wasn’t really thinking about the law when I wrote my thoughts; rather, I was focusing (as I hope I made obvious) on the issue of the collision between the diversity statement and the express policies of the Boy Scouts. But I had never given any thought to or even heard of a specific law that expressly requires schools to grant access to the Boy Scouts.

So, anyway, here is the email that I sent back to Dr. Dillon (it was late and I was tired, but I wanted to address his concerns right away):

Thank you for your email. I must admit that I was completely unaware of the law that you reference and I appreciate your directing my attention to it and I will certainly review what it provides.

I will post a follow up to my blog outlining the information that you have provided. You are absolutely correct that I want my posts to be accurate and correct and I endeavor to make corrections and clarifications as appropriate.

I am a product of Carmel Clay schools (Woodbrook, Clay, and Carmel High School '84) and my children are presently students in the school system. I am very proud both of the education that I received and of the things the school system has achieved. But I have also worked, both as a student and parent, to try to make Carmel's schools even better, especially in the areas of diversity and respect for minorities. Certainly much progress has been made from what things were like in the mid-'70s … yet there is always room for further improvement.

I am gratified, though, to see the adoption of a strong diversity statement and the elimination of the reliance upon "the church" as an essential component of the educational system.*

Thank you again for reaching out and clarifying both the law and policy as they relate to the situation that I wrote about. And thank you for paying attention and taking my concerns seriously. Your response leaves me comfortable that Carmel's schools are under strong and thoughtful leadership that is both aware of and sympathetic to concerns and to the requirements of the law.

Should you ever wish to discuss this or any other aspects of the Carmel Clay Schools, I would welcome the opportunity as I hope for nothing other than ensuring that Carmel's children continue to receive the very best possible public education.

As I promised Dr. Dillon, I’ve now done a bit of (relatively quick) research on the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act. Not surprisingly, Dr. Dillon’s explanation of the Act and his quotation of the language of the act is precisely correct. The provision quoted by Dr. Dillon is Section 9525(b)(1). I think that it’s worth noting the provisions of Section 9525(b)(2) as well:

VOLUNTARY SPONSORSHIP- Nothing in this section shall be construed to require any school, agency, or a school served by an agency to sponsor any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, or any other youth group listed in title 36 of the United States Code (as a patriotic society).

The Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act was part of the No Child Left Behind Act. Interestingly, when looking for information about the history and response to the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, I came across another related law adopted as part of the Defense Authorization Act of 2006, referred to as the Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 that has provisions very similar to the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act.

I’m going to presume that Cherry Tree Elementary School (and other Carmel Clay Schools) have made themselves limited public forums. Thus, it would appear that on the basis of Federal law, schools like Cherry Tree Elementary School have no choice but to allow groups like the Boy Scouts to hold events in or at the school, notwithstanding a diversity policy that might otherwise suggest that such groups not be allowed. Thus, my criticism of Cherry Tree Elementary School was almost wholly misplaced. And for that I apologize.

I do query whether either the Boys Scouts of America Equal Access Act or the Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 requires the school to allow the posting of signs on the school grounds, even if the group posting the signs must be permitted access to the limited public forum of the school itself. And I query for how long those signs must be allowed to remain. Can the group post them only the day of the meeting? The whole week? All year? I don’t know and I’m not sure that the law gives us much guidance there.

More importantly, I question the wisdom of the Acts. I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to have statutes giving particular protection to groups that choose to discriminate.** Furthermore, I’m not sure what message we’re sending to children when we tell them that we’re going to enforce broad and inclusive diversity statements but then tell them that the law requires us to make exceptions for certain groups that choose to do precisely the opposite of what the school’s diversity statement represents. And I wonder whether, given that the terms of the diversity statement and the purpose of the school are both grounded in education, discussion of the collision between diversity and discrimination is an appropriate topic to be addressed at the school (though, given the age of elementary school children, this would obviously be a very sensitive issue).

I guess those are all questions for another day.

Today I simply wanted to be sure that I set forth the correct information regarding the obligations of Cherry Tree Elementary School to allow the Boy Scouts to make use of the school as a limited public forum in compliance with Federal law. And again, I want to apologize for the criticism leveled against the school in my original post. Finally, as I noted in my email to Dr. Dillon, I want to thank him for responding to me and providing the pertinent information, for taking the matter seriously, and, most importantly, for the decision of Carmel Clay Schools to adopt such a strong and inclusive diversity statement.

*Last spring I wrote Who Shares Responsibility for Educating Children Attending Public Schools? in which I noted that the Student Handbook for Clay Middle School said that “that education is a continuing process, and that the responsibility of educating must be the combined effort of the school, the church, and the home.” As you can probably guess, I took issue with the inclusion of “the church”. While I have not had a chance to write about it here (I did post about it on Twitter), I’m pleased to note that the 2012-2013 edition of the Student Handbook omits the phrase “the church” from those who have responsibility for educating our children.

**I am curious to know how people who think that Girl Scouts are a “radicalized organization” that acts as the “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood with an agenda of “sexualizing young girls” and promotes a homosexual lifestyle and allows transgender youths to participate feel about Girl Scouts being treated like Boy Scouts for purposes of access to schools pursuant to the Support Our Scouts Act of 2005.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

A School That Ignores Its Diversity Statement

A few days ago, I drove past Cherry Tree Elementary School, one of the elementary schools in Carmel (about 2 miles from my home). As I drove past, I noticed numerous signs in the school’s yard and along the drive, including by the entrance to the school, advertising Boy Scouts. If I recall, the signs said “Boys Join Scouts”. Well, I was troubled by these signs. (Note that when I drove by the school again last night [after writing but before posting], the signs were gone; I’m pretty sure that they were there over the weekend. Nevertheless, the issues remain worth discussing.)

As I see it, by allowing these signs to be posted on its property and grounds, Cherry Tree Elementary School was, in essence, advocating for Boy Scouts and encouraging students to join that organization.* So what’s the problem, you ask? Simple. First, recall that Boy Scouts has previously litigated for the right to discriminate against homosexual scouts and scout leaders. Then, following a two year review of the matter, the Boy Scouts announced, just a few weeks ago, that they were standing by their policy of excluding gay scouts and scout leaders.

Now, with that in mind, please read the Carmel Clay Schools Diversity Statement that is reprinted in the Cherry Tree Elementary School Parent Handbook:


The Carmel Clay school community is dedicated to fostering an environment which promotes education and well-being regardless of ability, age, appearance, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. All educational programs, activities, and interactions are enriched by celebrating uniqueness as well as commonalities. Respect for human diversity will be encouraged, followed, and enforced by the Carmel Clay schools.

Now do you see the problem? Carmel Clay Schools and Cherry Tree Elementary School want to foster an environment that promotes education and well-being regardless of sexual orientation. Moreover, the school system and school explicitly note that “[r]espect for human diversity will be encouraged, followed, and enforced…”.

So what message is sent to gay students about respect for them? The school wants to foster a good environment regardless of sexual orientation and will enforce respect for human diversity … you, know, as long as that respect doesn’t have to extend to gay kids (or gay parents).

Take a step back and imagine that the organization in question wasn’t Boy Scouts but, instead, the Young KKK which had an explicit prohibition on African American members. Or imagine an “Pro-American” organization that forbid membership by Latinos. What if the group was the “Young Scientists” that taught kids physics and chemistry, but prohibited membership for those who openly espouse belief in the existence of a deity? I suspect that you’d feel a lot less comfortable about the school having signs for those organizations placed on school grounds. Shouldn’t the same concern apply to a group that expressly discriminates against gay children?

The Boy Scouts can make the decisions that they want to. I think that they’re wrong and I think that organized discrimination like that exemplified by Boy Scouts should be shunned. But that isn’t the issue here. Rather, the issue is whether a public school — especially one in a school district with an expressed diversity statement that includes sexual orientation — should be providing explicit (or even implicit) endorsements for or assistance to organizations that expressly and proudly violate the core of that diversity statement.

I don’t think so.

*Perhaps the school didn’t know about the signs and didn’t approve of their being placed on school grounds. But once the school saw the signs on school property and did not promptly remove them (and they were there for at least a few days), then the school “owned” the endorsement reflected by the presence of the signs. Think about it. If you walk out to get the newspaper one morning and see 5 political signs for a candidate that you don’t support or signs advertising a business that you don’t patronize, aren’t you likely to remove the signs?

Update (August 24, 2012): Please see the follow-up post A School That Ignores Its Diversity Statement … Because Federal Law Requires That It Do So posted after receipt of information from the Carmel Clay Schools administration in response to this blog post. As you will see from that follow-up post, my criticism of Cherry Tree Elementary School was misplaced because the school was acting in accordance with applicable Federal law. I apologize for the misplaced criticism, though I do believe that the conflict between the law and the diversity statement is an issue worthy of discussion.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Just What Is a “Legitimate” Rape?

By now I’m sure that you’ve heard about the ridiculous comments by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri) who claimed that women who experience a “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant because their bodies have a mechanism to prevent pregnancy. Here are Rep. Akin’s actual comments:

It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

And note that he isn’t the first to make this sort of suggestion. In the ’90s a Pennsylvania state legislator (Stephen Freind) claimed:

The trauma of rape causes women to “secrete a certain secretion which has the tendency to kill sperm”.

And a North Carolina legislator said:

The facts show that people who are raped — truly raped — the juices don’t flow.

Fay Boozman, a candidate for the Senate from Arkansas (later tapped by Gov. Mike Huckabee to run the Arkansas Health Department) claimed:

[F]ear-induced hormonal changes could block a rape victim’s ability to conceive.

And in 1999, John Wilke, then president of National Right to Life, wrote:

To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. … There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy.

(Thanks to Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at the Washington Post for these quotations.)

I’ll let others explain (as if they really need to…) why this is just patently false. For what it’s worth, there is a peer-reviewed study from the late ’90s that shows that approximately 32,000 pregnancies per year are the result of rape. In other words, the issue of whether a woman who becomes pregnant because of rape should be able to obtain an abortion isn’t just some hypothetical exercise; rather, it is a real problem.

But anyway, what I want to focus on is Rep. Akin’s concept of “legitimate rape”. As I see it, there are really two things going on here. First, there is the notion some women may complain of having been raped in order to obtain an abortion. In other words, women will lie about the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy in order to get an abortion. Might that be true in some cases? Sure. But we must also recognize that an enormous number of rapes each year go unreported by the victims for a whole range of reasons. So the question becomes, I guess, whether abortions should be more difficult to obtain for women who are raped because some women might lie about having been raped.

I’m also reminded of the Georgia Republican who tried to change the law to require that women who had been raped no longer be referred to as victims (but, rather, “accusers”) until the person that they were accusing of rape had actually been convicted. Just think of the distrust of women demonstrated by this sort of reasoning.

Of course, that’s only part of the problem. To me, at least, the bigger issue is that some people simply don’t accept some sorts of conduct as falling within the definition of “rape” in the first place. I remember back in the ’90s having discussions with my then 90-year-old grandfather about the Mike Tyson rape case. In my grandfather’s view, once a woman goes back to a man’s hotel room, she loses the right to say “no”. Unfortunately, that worldview (expressed by a man raised in Europe in the early part of the 20th Century) still seems to hold true for many people today. But they seem to go even further. There is also a notion, among some, that there is no such thing as marital rape (according to popular conservative activist and attorney Phyllis Schlafly: “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape”); in other words, a woman has no right to say “no” to sexual relations with her husband. Still others hold to the idea that unless a woman fights back, it wasn’t really a rape (thus, for example, a drunk woman too inebriated to give legitimate consent, nevertheless isn’t being raped but rather just taken advantage of … and besides, the thinking seems to go, she’s at least partially at fault for getting drunk).

Recall, too, that Rep. Akin (along with Indiana Gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence and GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan) co-sponsored a bill last year that would have changed the law about funding for abortion by limiting the existing exception for rape to include only “forcible rape” (a term that wasn’t defined in the bill).

I’d be curious to know how people like Rep. Akin view cases of statutory rape. Has a 15-year-old high school student who has “consensual” sex with her 23-year-old English teacher been the victim of a “legitimate rape” or, since she said “yes” and he didn’t hit her, is it not really a rape at all? What about a wife that tries to fight off her husband, specifically because she doesn’t want to get pregnant?

The other question to ask, of course, is why people like Rep. Akin go down this intellectual (or anti-intellectual) path in the first place. I think that’s actually an easy one. If you can convince yourself (let alone your constituents) that the only women who get pregnant by “rape” weren’t really raped at all and if you can convince yourself (and your constituents) that “real” rape doesn’t lead to pregnancy, then you don’t have to answer the hard questions in your single-minded opposition to abortion. You don’t have to ask whether the mentally-disabled 10-year-old girl who becomes pregnant via incestuous rape by her uncle should be able to get an abortion. Or you can sleep more easily at night “knowing” that the woman dragged into an alley and raped must have actually wanted it or enjoyed it, otherwise her body would have “secreted some secretions” and fought off the sperm (or something); because she wanted it or enjoyed it or was asking for it or whatever, she “obviously” shouldn’t be entitled to an abortion

Thankfully many Republicans are today coming out and strongly criticizing Rep. Akin’s comments. But there are others that are either keeping silent or even defending him. Seriously. The truth remains that there are many anti-choice activists that believe that their understanding and worldview is correct, that they “know” more than the woman involved, and therefore, the woman’s choice is subordinate to this anti-choice worldview. And, when these folks can’t get their way legitimately, they have no compunction about lying. Just look at the bills that require doctors to tell women that a fetus can feel pain or that abortion leads to breast cancer and depression, even in the absence of supporting legitimate scientific evidence.

We can’t continue to elect to our legislatures people — and especially men — with such profound lack of trust in women and science and truth. We cannot allow our laws to be made by people who, at least insofar as we’re looking at their views of woman and the world around them, are virtually indistinguishable from the Taliban.

If you don’t believe in abortion fine. Make your argument. Explain why it’s bad for society or for women. Make your moral argument too. But don’t just make up junk science. Don’t accuse woman of lying simply in order to avoid confronting the hard parts of your point of view. Don’t presume that your religious understanding is correct and all others are wrong. And most of all, don’t presume that you are in a position superior to that of a pregnant woman to make the decision that is best for her and her family.

A final note: Indiana has already passed some strict limits on abortion (and tried to pass more) even with a Governor who wanted a truce on social issues. If we elect Rep. Mike Pence as our next Governor, we’re going to find ourselves with a true social conservative activist in the Governor’s mansion and Hoosier women (among many others) will pay the price.

After writing the post above (but before having a chance to go back and proofread it), I saw that Rep. Akin had further clarified his comments (earlier, he noted that had “misspoken”). Now, he’s explained his “misstatement”. It should come as no surprise that he know says that, when he said “legitimate” rape, what he really meant was … you guessed it: “forcible” rape:

"I was talking about forcible rape," [Akin] said. "I used the wrong word.”

Ah, yes. The “wrong word” defense. So, if we substitute the “right” word, what he meant to say was:

It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a forcible rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Also, after I wrote the post above (during lunch … a salad!) but before I had a chance to proofread and publish, I came across the terrific article “Rape can make you pregnant. Period.” by Dr. Aaron Carroll, one of the best writers and speakers on healthcare issues (and someone that I’m proud to call a friend). Here’s the “money” quote:

If you put sperm near egg, women can get pregnant.

There is nothing at all about a woman's mindset that affects this. Women can't wish pregnancy away. If they could, then many teen pregnancies wouldn't occur; few teens want to get pregnant. But think of the larger picture. Women in abusive relationships get pregnant. Women in horrible socioeconomic conditions get pregnant. And, yes, women who have been raped get pregnant.

The body doesn't differentiate between “legitimate” rape and “illegitimate” rape — whatever that is. The body doesn't know whether the rapist is known to a victim. The body doesn't know if a knife or a gun, or alcohol or drugs (or any combination of them), were used.

Every sexual encounter does not lead to pregnancy, but every sexual encounter leads to the possibility of pregnancy. Period.

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Birthday Recognition and Honoring Our Veterans

Today is my father-in-law’s 91st birthday. In recognition of that, I thought I’d step aside from my usual political and social commentary (at least for a few minutes) and highlight something special. If you visit to the Indiana War Memorial and tour the museum (and if you haven’t, you should), toward the end of the World War II exhibit, you’ll see a fairly new display.

photo 1

That’s my father-in-law. The display describes how he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in 1945 but didn’t learn about it or receive his medal until 2007. He doesn’t really like to talk about the events that led to the award. In fact, for a long time he was worried that if he talked about that day he’d get in trouble because, by taking the actions that he did, he’d actually disobeyed an order, though in doing so he was able to alert his unit to the location of German forces. For 60 years he worried about getting in trouble for doing something for which he was actually awarded a medal for bravery.

In case the text is too difficult to read:

Arthur Schiller was born in Elkhart, Indiana, and enlisted in the US Army on March 22, 1943, at the age of 21. Assigned to the 3rd Division, he departed for Europe on March 23, 1945, arriving on April 4. After fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, the 3rd had joined the invasion of France, smashed through the Siegfried Line, and crossed the Rhine into Germany itself just before Schiller arrived. In April, Schiller took part in the fighting as the 3rd took Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Munich in Bavaria, Germany, and was in the vicinity of Salzburg, Austria, when the war ended in May.

During the fighting in Southern Germany and Austria, Schiller earned the Bronze Star for bravery in combat. His most vivid memory of the war was of the day Germany surrendered, May 8, 1945. Schiller had taken off his helmet and put down his rifle to take a nap, but heard loud noises that sounded like bombs exploding. When he charged outside to investigate, he was met by another soldier who asked, “Hey Schiller, what the hell is wrong with you? The war is over.”

Schiller was discharged on April 11, 1946, and eager to put the war behind him, tucked away his discharge papers which listed the Bronze Star and other honors he earned during the war. He then pursued a career as a salesman, got married, had five children and three [now four] grandchildren, and eventually retired. Then, three years ago, he and his wife rediscovered the papers and noticed the Bronze Star which he had never received. With the help of Senator Richard Lugar, the 86 year old Hoosier her was finally awarded the Bronze Star he’d earned on the battlefields of Germany more than 60 years earlier, during a Veteran’s Day 2007 convocation at Carmel High School.

I want to mention one anecdote to go along with this story. At that 2007 convocation at Carmel High School where my father-in-law was formally awarded his Bronze Star, there were quite a few active duty service members present. The respect that they showed my father-in-law and the interest that they expressed in his experience was truly something to behold. I don’t know if they were all sincere (though I suspect that most were); but the appreciation and honor that they showed to my father-in-law made a memorable day that much more special for him. Those men and women are a true credit to our military, to themselves, and to our country. And watching that ceremony, watching my father-in-law receive his award, and watching the way those other soldiers reacted, was also a special moment for his grandchildren (my children) who were there to share the day with him.

There aren’t too many World War II veterans still with us; and too many of those who are suffer from ailments, both physical and mental. But they, like soldiers who’ve served after them, continue to deserve our appreciation and recognition. We must all remember to thank them for what they’ve done, what they’ve given of themselves, and the sacrifices that they’ve made.

Thanks, Art. Happy Birthday.


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Closer Look at Personhood Legislation

As many have no doubt heard by now, Rep. Paul Ryan was a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Life Act in the House of Representatives. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Sanctity of Life Act is a so-called “personhood” law that would codify into law the notion that human life begins at conception (as opposed to viability or birth) and that an embryo or fetus is a “person” under the law. I want to take a closer look at just what that Sanctity of Life Act really proposes and what it might mean if enacted into law.

First the text of the bill (and don’t worry if a lot of this reads like lawyer mumbo jumbo; you only really need to pay close attention to Section 2):


    This Act may be cited as the ‘Sanctity of Life Act of 2011’.


    (a) Finding- The Congress finds that present day scientific evidence indicates a significant likelihood that actual human life exists from conception.

    (b) Declaration- Upon the basis of this finding, and in the exercise of the powers of the Congress--

      (1) the Congress declares that--

        (A) human life shall be deemed to exist from conception, without regard to race, sex, age, health, defect, or condition of dependency; and

        (B) the term ‘person’ shall include all human life as defined in subparagraph (A); and

      (2) the Congress recognizes that each State has the authority to protect lives of unborn children residing in the jurisdiction of that State.


    (a) In General- Chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

      Sec. 1260. Appellate jurisdiction; limitation

        ‘Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 1253, 1254, 1257, and 1258, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any case arising out of any statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, practice, or any part thereof, or arising out of any act interpreting, applying, enforcing, or effecting any statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, or practice, on the grounds that such statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, practice, act, or part thereof--

          ‘(1) protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth; or

          ‘(2) prohibits, limits, or regulates--

            ‘(A) the performance of abortions; or

            ‘(B) the provision of public expense of funds, facilities, personnel, or other assistance for the performance of abortions.’.

      (b) Conforming Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 81 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

        ‘1260. Appellate jurisdiction; limitation.’.


      (a) In General- Chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

        'Sec. 1370. Limitation on jurisdiction

        ‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the district courts shall not have jurisdiction of any case or question which the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to review under section 1260 of this title.’.

          (b) Conforming Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 85 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

            ‘1370. Limitation on jurisdiction.’.


      This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply to any case pending on, or commenced on or after, such date of enactment.


      If any provision of this Act or the amendments made by this Act, or the application of this Act or such amendments to any person or circumstance is determined by a court to be invalid, the validity of the remainder of this Act and the amendments made by this Act and the application of such provision to other persons and circumstances shall not be affected by such determination.

      Like I said above, I recognize that to the non-lawyers reading this, a lot of that may look like mumbo jumbo. And some of it is (the parts about “conforming amendments” and such). But there is one important aspect of the bill that I want to point out before I get into the real substance. Note Section 3 and Section 4. Essentially, what those sections do is to say that neither the Supreme Court nor any other Federal court has any jurisdiction to hear a case about a statute that “protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth” or prohibits, limits, or regulates abortions. What does this mean, practically speaking? It means that if this law were passed, someone could not challenge the law (or a new law restricting abortion) as being unconstitutional or depriving a woman of any rights because no Federal court would have jurisdiction to hear the case. And a Federal court couldn’t even hear a case brought to challenge the constitutionality of the law that deprived the court of jurisdiction.

      This is a favorite tactic of the right; try to pass a bill limiting some people’s rights and, at the same time, try to prohibit courts from hearing any challenges to the law. As a thought experiment, let’s pretend the issue isn’t abortion at all. Instead, just imagine Congress passing a law that says that people arrested for criticizing their Congressman can be tortured and sentenced to life in prison … and courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear cases arising out of that law. Or maybe the new law says that Muslims can’t vote unless they renounce Islam … and courts can’t hear challenges to that law. Or perhaps Congress might just declare Christianity the official religion of the United States and decree that laws must be premised on the New Testament … and prohibit courts from hearing constitutional challenges. See the problem? Well, it’s no different here.

      Oh, just in case you’re a conservative and have no problems with any of those examples, how about this one instead: What if Congress passed a law outlawing any guns other than single-shot muzzle loaders available in 1791 … and deprived courts of the jurisdiction to hear cases claiming that the law violated the 2nd Amendment. Feel any different now? OK, then.

      We can’t allow Congress to get away with passing potentially unconstitutional laws and then preventing the courts from determining whether Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing that law. Doing so completely breaks the separation of powers upon which our system is premised.

      OK. Deep breath.

      And now on to the “meat” of the bill: Section 2.

      First, I want to make a relatively brief comment about Section 2(a):

      The Congress finds that present day scientific evidence indicates a significant likelihood that actual human life exists from conception.

      I find it interesting that House Republicans are so willing to follow science when it comes to abortion (more on this in a second) but so unwilling to even believe science on things like evolution and global warming. As to the “science” on the issue of the beginning of human life, is that really something that science can tell us with any certainty? And even if science can tell us this, does the “present day scientific evidence” really do so? I mean, what does “human life” really mean? Isn’t that something that religion and philosophy have struggled with since … well, the beginning of human civilization (if not earlier)? Are these House Republicans also willing to adopt a bill (and deprive courts from hearing cases about it) that says that scientific evidence indicates that the earth is billions of years old and that human life evolved from more primitive organisms? No, I didn’t think so. But I suspect that if you talked to scientists, you’d find a much broader consensus for those propositions than you would for the proposition that science tells us that human life exists from conception.

      So now, let’s look at the real core of the bill, Section 2(b) (which I’ve reformatted for easier reading):

      (1) Congress declares that (A) human life shall be deemed to exist from conception, without regard to race, sex, age, health, defect, or condition of dependency; and (B) the term ‘person’ shall include all human life as defined in subparagraph (A); and (2) the Congress recognizes that each State has the authority to protect lives of unborn children residing in the jurisdiction of that State.

      What would this mean, practically speaking?

      Obviously, the bill would give states (or Congress) the right to ban abortions. But I’m not even going to talk about that; after all, that’s clearly the goal of the bill. If you want abortions to be illegal, this may be a great thing. And while I’d love to convince you otherwise, this post isn’t the place for me to do so (but feel free to read any of the multitude of posts I’ve written on abortion and reproductive rights).

      But the scope of this bill goes much, much further than just permitting states to ban abortions. Let me explain via some examples.

      If this bill were to go into effect, and a “person” was a “human life” that exists “from conception”, then wouldn’t any abortion automatically be a murder? Think about it. The abortion would, by definition be the intentional ending of a “human life” or “person”. Isn’t that what murder statutes prohibit?* I’m not sure whether the “murderer” would be the doctor or the woman, though.

      Even if a state were to pass legislation specifically permitting abortion, wouldn’t the embryo person still have some sort of equal protection or discrimination claim? Maybe a wrongful death claim against the mother or pharmacist?

      But it’s worse even than that. Let’s say that a woman is taking birth control pills. How do those work? In many cases by preventing a fertilized human embryo — oops, excuse me — a “person” from being implanted in the uterine wall. Wouldn’t the act of preventing the embryo person from implanting in the uterine wall (thus causing that embryo person to be expelled from the woman’s body) also be a form of murder (or maybe just manslaughter or some “lesser” crime)? Discussion of the “morning after pill” seems pointless. In other words, not only would abortion be illegal, but so too would many (most?) forms of birth control, including preventive birth control.

      And we’re not done yet.

      What about in vitro fertilization. In most cases, eggs are removed from a woman, fertilized, and then some of the eggs are implanted in the woman’s uterus. So far, so good (probably…). But what happens to the embryos that are not implanted? Is it legal to freeze a embryo person with the hope of possibly thawing the embryo person for implantation later? And in the case where the family decides to forego future implantation, can the embryo person be destroyed? I’d presume not. I mean, how can you destroy a “person” without committing murder? So I suppose that in vitro fertilization might still be legal, but only so long as every single embryo (viable, or otherwise) was implanted in the woman. You couldn’t leave any out without fear of committing murder or being forced to store that embryo, essentially, forever. And just imagine the liability if your freezer fails…

      Thought that probably isn’t the end of the story. Because remember, according to the bill, that embryo person has rights just like any other person, doesn’t it? I mean, the bill doesn’t make a distinction between an unborn and born person; after all, that’s the whole point. But now let’s think about that frozen embryo person. What rights does it have? Does it have a right to be implanted in its mother’s uterus? In the uterus of another woman? Does it have a right to be born (or at least to have the chance)?

      When children are not being properly cared for the state (or sometimes a private third party) can become that child’s guardian ad litem with the charge of caring for that child. Usually, the state can appoint someone to act as guardian ad litem via statutory authority and there is also usually a process by which a court can appoint someone to act as a guardian ad litem for an at-risk child (or adult, for that matter). So could someone come forward and ask to be appointed the guardian ad litem for a embryo person that had been frozen following in vitro fertilization? Could the guardian ad litem, acting in the best interests of that embryo person petition a court to demand the implantation of that embryo person so that it could have the chance to be born? Um, why not? I mean, remember, according to this bill, that embryo person is a person just like you and me and things like the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution don’t say that only some people have rights. That’s the whole point.

      We also need to look at other issues surrounding pregnancy, too.

      And what about a embryo person that is growing away in its mother’s host’s uterus? What rights does it have? Does it have the right to a healthy diet? What if the host drinks alcohol or smokes? We know from science that a fetus exposed to alcohol or tobacco can suffer developmental problems. So shouldn’t that embryo person have the right to stop its host from drinking or smoking? More importantly, what about pre-natal care? Is that embryo person entitled to healthcare, especially if its host either can’t or won’t provide it? What do we do about a pregnant woman who simply has an unhealthy diet? Can we lock that woman up and force her to eat healthy for the benefit of that embryo person depending entirely upon her diet for its development? Can we, in the name of protecting embryos people, prohibit pregnant women (or even potentially pregnant women) from all behaviors that might jeopardize the health, well-being, or proper development of the embryo person? Perhaps pregnant women ought not to be allowed out of their bedrooms for fear of causing harm to a embryo person.

      We can’t forget some of the more silly things, too. How will this law affect census counts? How about maximum occupancy in a restaurant? Does the host have to pay for the embryo person to go to a movie or fly on an airplane? Does the host get any tax credits for the extra family member(s)? What if a couple uses in vitro fertilization to get a whole bunch of “people” that they keep frozen in their refrigerator? Do they get standard dependent deductions for each of those “people” in their household? I can see that as a booming new cottage industry! Why, yes, Mr. IRS Man, our family consists of Mom and Dad and Billy and Sally and 197 embryonic persons. And how should we decide who is eligible to be an American President? Is the issue natural born citizen or natural conceived citizen? And can a woman, in the days following sex and until her next period begins, demand “child support” to help her care for the embryo person (you know, just in case…)?

      Finally (and back to being serious), what happens when the life of the mother really is in jeopardy? How does a doctor choose between murdering the embryo person or letting the woman die? I guess it becomes murder vs. negligence? What do we do when continuing a pregnancy could result in the woman’s death (or even injury)? Does her mental state have any bearing on the decisions to be made? Given that we’d be talking about ending the “human life” of a “person” then probably not. Don’t ask yourself about that mentally disabled 10-year-old who was incestuously raped

      Or, consider what would happen if a state were to try to permit abortions in cases of rape or incest. Shouldn’t the embryo person still have a “right” to prevent the abortion? And wouldn’t the rapist or incestuous father be able to argue that the embryo person should not be “murdered”?

      Look, I get that some people are really, really opposed to abortion. And I get that their view completely discounts the notion that those who support reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose come to the issue in good faith and after their own deep and careful thought. But in their zeal to ban all abortions they step so far over the line as to be … well … scary. I mean, think about it. Even the voters of Mississippi voted overwhelmingly against a personhood amendment to their Constitution. If the voters in Mississippi recognize just how misguided this sort of legislation is, then, well, that should tell the rest of us something. Shouldn’t it?

      But the co-sponsor of this bill is now the GOP’s candidate for Vice President. Let that sink in for a while.

      *Indiana’s murder statute (Ind. Code § 35-42-1-1) provides that “A person who: (1) knowingly or intentionally kills another human being; … or (4) knowingly or intentionally kills a fetus that has attained viability (as defined in IC 16-18-2-365); commits murder, a felony.” Interestingly, Ind. Code § 35-42-1-0.5 specifically exempts “an abortion performed in compliance with: (1) IC 16-34…”.

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      Tuesday, August 14, 2012

      Why Paul Ryan?

      So why did Mitt Romney choose Paul Ryan to be his running mate? It’s a pretty simple question. The answer, on the other hand … um … well, let’s see.

      First, I want to take a brief moment to look at Paul Ryan. I suspect that I’ll be coming back to and addressing these points in more detail in the weeks to come, but a quick summary seems appropriate when looking at why Ryan was chosen.

      I guess it probably doesn’t need to be articulated, but Ryan is clearly smarter than Sarah Palin. Of course, my kids are smarter than Palin and both seem to know as much about the Constitution and American history as she does, so I’m not sure that Palin is the proper standard against which to measure Ryan. But she was the last GOP candidate for Vice President, so… And so far, I haven’t seen any information tying Ryan to a Wisconsin separatist party or to African witch doctors. So that’s a plus, I guess. But, if anything, Ryan is probably more conservative than Palin. Yes, really. For example, when Katie Couric pressed Palin on the issue of an exception to her anti-abortion position for cases of rape or incest, Palin said that she was personally opposed and would not choose to have an abortion; but despite continued questioning from Couric, Palin never said in that interview that abortion should be illegal in cases of rape or incest. Paul Ryan, by contrast, was a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill that would likely outlaw abortion in cases of rape and incest, potentially limit access to birth control (in particular, the “morning after pill”), and most likely even outlaw such things as in vitro fertilization.

      As to other social issues, Ryan opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, opposes same-sex marriage, voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, is a big supporter of gun rights (one of the two bills he’s passed in Congress had to do with the excise tax on hunting arrows … seriously), and doesn’t believe in global warming (he has, apparently a “Biblical understanding” of man’s relationship to the environment).

      Of course, he’s most well known as author of the Republican budget plan that calls for converting Medicare into a voucher system, privatizing Social Security, drastically reducing Medicaid and Pell Grants, and exploding the deficit in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest. I read an article over the weekend that applied Ryan’s budget plan to Mitt Romney’s 2010 tax returns (the only tax return that Romney has released) and found that, under Ryan’s plan, Romney would have paid, on his income of approximately $25 million, a tax rate of … I hope you’re sitting down … a whopping 0.82%. Again, seriously.

      Oh, Ryan did support TARP and was one of the leading Republican voices advocating that bailout.

      But let’s presume for a moment that Romney didn’t pick Ryan simply because Romney wants to adopt a plan that would virtually eliminate his own taxes. Instead, let’s look for another reason that Romney chose Ryan; or, perhaps, let’s look at why Romney didn’t pick some of the other possibilities.

      Why does any candidate choose any particular running mate? Usually the calculus is to choose a running mate that either helps shore up a perceived weakness of the Presidential candidate (thus, for example, Barack Obama choosing Joe Biden to shore up Obama’s perceived lack of experience), to gain the support of a particular demographic (thus, at least in part, John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin to try to win the women’s vote), or to help gain support in a particular state or region (thus, for example, John Kerry choosing John Edwards to help Kerry in the South).

      But picking Ryan doesn’t really seem to fit into any of those categories. Ryan may help Romney in Wisconsin, which is a toss-up state. But remember that Ryan has never run for statewide office in Wisconsin; he’s only been elected to Congress from a single district. Thus, it’s not clear that Ryan will necessarily even deliver Wisconsin to Romney in November. But if the choice were made on the basis of picking up an important swing state, then it seems that Romney would have chosen either Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida, or even Bob McDonnell of Virginia. All of those are, like Wisconsin, swing states, but all have more (and in the case of Florida and Ohio, many more) electoral votes than does Wisconsin.

      I suppose the pick of Ryan could be aimed at appealing to Catholic voters, but it seems that choice would only “cancel out” Joe Biden who is also Catholic. I don’t really think that many Catholic voters will be swayed to vote for Mitt Romney because of a Catholic Vice President; rather, I think that Catholics who vote on abortion were already predisposed to vote for Romney while those who vote social justice were already predisposed to vote for President Obama. If Romney was choosing a candidate on the basis of religion, then Marco Rubio, who is also a Catholic might have been a wiser choice (given that he might also bring Florida and, perhaps, a larger share of the Latino vote). Or maybe Romney would have gone with someone from the evangelical community (Bob McDonnell again comes to mind). Given the unease that some may have with Romney’s Mormonism, I wouldn’t have been surprised with a pick clearly aimed at shoring up Romney’s support with evangelical Christians, but the choice of a Catholic doesn’t necessarily seem to have been aimed in that particular direction, especially when we consider the sometimes harsh rhetoric often directed at Catholics from certain segments of the evangelical community (anyone remember Pastor John Hagee, for example?).

      I’m not going to insult women by suggesting that Ryan was chosen to help with the women’s vote because he’s handsome (is he?), but who knows just how cynical Romney really is. But given Ryan’s positions on issues like abortion and fair pay, it seems doubtful that he women’s vote was the target. If Romney had been looking to close the gender gap, he might have tapped South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (who is also Catholic), or even tried to further his “businessman, not politician” argument by choosing someone like Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. I suppose that a certain argument could even have been made toward nominating former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (female, Jewish, moderate).

      Clearly the choice of Ryan was not aimed at shoring up support among any particular ethnic group; after all, the one group that Romney probably needs the least help with is white men. Had Romney felt that he needed to increase his support with ethnic groups, he would most likely have chosen Marco Rubio (or perhaps Susana Martinez or even Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval) in the hopes of closing the gap with Latino voters. I could even understand the choice of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (ethnic Indian [as in India, not Native American]) or South Carolina Nikki Haley (also an ethnic Indian, though in her case from a Sikh background) just to be able to say, “Nope, not just white guys.”

      I suppose that the choice of Ryan could be Romney’s attempt to capture the youth vote (or at least narrow the gap). But I don’t really think that Ryan, just because he’s young, addresses that particular voting cohort. Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems that to really make a play for the youth vote, Romney would have needed someone much better known to pop culture and who shares views on issues that are important to youth (gay rights, global warming, and so forth). I’m sure that there are Republicans who fit this particular bill, but off hand no names come to mind.

      Which leads me to the two biggest electoral groups that I haven’t yet mentioned. And it seems to me that the Ryan pick is clearly designed to shore up base among one of these groups. If I’m right, then this spells trouble for Romney (and good things for the rest of us!). Which groups am I talking about? Independents/Moderates and the Tea Party.

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see how Paul Ryan appeals to moderate or independent voters. He’s a far-right ideologue, further to the right than even Mitt Romney. Had Romney really wanted to try to move to the center, then there are certainly some Republicans closer to the political center that Romney could have chosen. But that’s not the direction that Romney chose, either.

      Nope. He chose Paul Ryan.

      And to me, that means only one thing. Mitt Romney made the choice that he felt necessary to shore up the most important part of his own electoral base: The Tea Party.

      Ryan is a darling of the Tea Party. They love his budget. They love his desire to eliminate entitlements, shrink the deficit (even though his plan doesn’t really do that), and shrink government down to the size that a wingnut with a handgun really can stand up and refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I suspect that Ryan will help Romney consolidate support among the Tea Party (whether Romney can control or even co-opt the Tea Party is a different question…). But what does it say about the internal Romney view of the coming election that Romney chose a vice presidential running mate to help shore up the most reliable, most energized part of the GOP’s base and not the political center, a particular region, or a particular demographic?

      It tells me that Romney and his advisors have realized that the billionaires funding the Romney campaign each get only one vote and that Romney needs to be sure that the core GOP base remains energized and turns out in November. It tells me that Romney is worried about winning the votes that he should have already locked down and has to spend his energy securing those votes before he can spend time worrying about independents and moderates. And it’s going to be fun to watch Romney try to sell the Tea Party on his agreement with Ryan’s budget plan at the same time that he tries to convince independents and moderates that he’s not running on Ryan’s budget plan. He’ll be flip-flop-flipping almost constantly; of course, Romney’s probably used to that by now.

      Anyway, the choice of Paul Ryan tells me that Romney is in trouble.


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      Friday, August 10, 2012

      Should a 10-Year-Old Mentally Disabled Victim of Incestuous Rape Be Required to Carry a Fetus to Term?

      When I talk to candidates who hold or express views opposed to women’s reproductive rights, one question that I almost always try to ask is whether the politician would require a woman who is raped to carry the fetus to term. It is surprising just how many will answer “yes”. Many, on the other hand, try to avoid the question by responding that the hypothetical is a red herring that never really happens.

      Well, then, to those candidates, and to others who may be on the fence on certain aspects of the reproductive rights debate, I offer the following story from Saudi Arabia’s Al Riyadh Newspaper and I ask whether this is what you think America should look like:

      The Saudi Royal Council of Healing Arts, the governing body that regulates the practice of medicine in the Kingdom, stripped the medical license of a doctor who refused to force a mentally-ill 10 year old to give birth.

      The Kingdom’s sharia police filed a complaint against Dr. Mohammed al-Nusbari alleging that his exams were not thorough enough to support his medical conclusions and his follow-up care was inadequate because he did not recommend counseling or hospitalization after each procedure.

      When hearing the case against Dr. al-Nusbari, the Council offered up their own expert to determine if any breach of the standard of care occurred. The witness insisted that in no cases is abortion a treatment that could be seen as beneficial to a patient’s mental health.

      Dr. al-Nusbari will appeal the ruling. If he loses he will have his license permanently revoked.

      Could you imagine if the type of anti-abortion worldview demonstrated in that article held sway here in America? Even if you’re against abortion in most cases, would a situation like this leave you uncomfortable?

      Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I lied to you earlier in this post. The story that I’ve reprinted (in fairly heavily edited form, though I haven’t changed the substance at all) wasn’t from Al Riyadh Newspaper. Nope. And these events didn’t take place in Saudi Arabia, either. Nope. The story comes from Kansas. You remember Kansas, don’t you? Dorothy and Toto? Right. That Kansas. I changed all of the names so that the article would be more believable.* Why? Because I wanted to lull you into a sense of the understandable. You’d probably expect repressive Saudi Arabia to treat people like this. That’s what governments run by religious extremists do, right? And I wanted you to think about how horrible this story was without putting up any sort of mental defenses first. After all, I suspect the anti-abortion folks are also pretty anti-anything when it comes to Saudi Arabia, Muslim society, or sharia law. But Americans … in Kansas?

      So take a deep breath and think about this for a minute. In Kansas — not Saudi Arabia, mind you, but Kansas — a doctor may lose her license for allowing a mentally-ill 10-year old girl who was raped by her uncle to get an abortion. What kind of world — what kind of person — thinks that a mentally-ill 10-year old girl who was the victim of incestuous rape should be required to carry a fetus to term? Seriously.

      If we continue to elect far-right, anti-abortion crusaders to our state legislatures, Indiana, like Kansas, may soon look like the Saudi Arabia or other religious societies that we hold in such contempt.

      Oh, here is Dr. Neuhaus’ actual rebuttal to the charges against her:

      “To even claim that isn’t medically necessary qualifies as gross incompetence,” said Neuhaus.  “Someone’s 10 years old, and they were raped by their uncle and they understand that they’ve got a baby growing in their stomach and they don’t want that. You’re going to send this girl for a brain scan and some blood work and put her in a hospital?”

      For more, please see the original story.

      *The Saudi Royal Council of Healing Arts is, in reality, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. Dr. al-Nusbari was actually a woman, Dr. Ann Neuhaus. The “sharia police” are actually the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

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      Thursday, August 9, 2012

      NPR Airs Story About David Barton, the Right’s Favorite Teller of Historical Lies and Peddler of Bull

      Last night, NPR’s All Things Considered aired an important story about one of the most dangerous people you’ve probably never heard of. His name is David Barton and he pretends to be a historian. In reality, he is an evangelical Christian activist and charlatan who has made a living out of trying to reinvent American history to “prove” that America is a “Christian nation”.

      While you have most likely never heard of Barton, on the right and in certain segments of the evangelical community, he is a virtual rock star. Why do I say that Barton is dangerous? Because people believe the lies that he tells (for example, please see my post Cognitive Dissonance in Action) and, more importantly, they have been using those lies to shape our laws and society. Case in point is the recent textbook adoption process in Texas in which Barton was a star witness for those who sought to make drastic changes to the Texas history curriculum in a way makes the history of America far, far different both from what you learned in school and from what virtually all true historians will tell you. Or, as you can see if you watch one of the videos below, my own Congressman, Dan Burton (R-IN) has even quoted Barton’s falsehoods from the podium in the House of Representatives.

      But Barton is an activist on a mission, so inconvenient facts don’t deter him at all.

      Anyway, have a listen to the NPR story.

      Also, at NPR’s site, there is an expanded text version of the story (well worth the read).

      I want to make a few points that I’m not sure were made completely clear in the NPR story. First, though it is mentioned, I want to reiterate that the authors of the book Getting Jefferson Right (the takedown of Barton’s pseudo-history of Thomas Jefferson) are not far left liberals or Christian-hating atheists; rather, they are themselves conservative evangelical Christians.

      The other point that I want to make is that, though Barton may have gathered 100,000 documents, he’s been caught, time and time again, either lying about what is in those documents, taking them wildly out of context, manipulating the quotations (a word change here or a sentence omitted there), changing dates, or simply making things up. His form of “history” seems to be simply holding up a piece of paper and saying, “Gee, this piece of paper proves what I’m saying,” without bothering to, you know, read and understand that piece of paper or show the actual document to those he’s trying to convince. Or, if he does show the document, he does so in a way that nobody can actually read the content of the document to compare what he claims is being said to what is, in fact, contained in the document.

      Need an example? Watch Chris Rodda’s brilliant and detailed examination of one of Barton’s document-based lies:

      How did Barton respond to Rodda’s takedown? Watch:

      What? Did you think he’d admit that he’d lied or say, “Damn, you caught me?” Of course not. He’s not a real historian, but rather a charlatan and activist. So he doubles down (or worse)! He talks about “thousands of documents” failing to note, as Rodda did, that the documents he was describing were merely pre-printed forms that had specific language required by treaty. But the people who watch and love Glenn Beck and David Barton are not, I suspect, also watching and reading Chris Rodda (whose name, you’ll note, neither Beck nor Barton reference). And so people continue to believe Barton. Of course, those who do so seem to be the same people who don’t believe real science either (you know, like evolution and global warming). On the far right, facts don’t matter and lies win the day.

      If you’re interested in more of this sort of thing, I highly recommend Rodda’s book Liars for Jesus, her website where she includes several more videos in which she takes on David Barton, and her Talk to Action blog. Or just watch a few more of them below:

      Next time you hear someone talking about the United States being a “Christian nation” you will be a bit better armed to know truth from David Barton’s fiction.

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      Tuesday, August 7, 2012

      Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything (Again)

      So shortly after finishing Mitt Romney Will Lie About Anything, I came across the newest case of Mitt Lies™. This crap is so … well, disgusting is the only word that comes to mind. First, let’s look at Romney’s newest campaign ad:

      Wow! I didn’t know President Obama had the power to just change the law like that!

      Oh, wait. What? He didn’t change the law? He didn’t “gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements”? Um, no. He didn’t. Not even close.

      Actually, in July, the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, issued a policy memo. Go ahead. Take a few minutes and read the memo (pay particular attention to the letter portion at the bottom of the memo). It’s not very long. Or, read the following highlights (but as you do, be sure to keep in mind Romney’s charge that President Obama “gut[ted] welfare reform by dropping work requirements”):

      [M]any jurisdictions expressed a strong interest in greater flexibility in TANF and indicated that greater flexibility could be used by states to improve program effectiveness. We also heard concerns that some TANF rules stifle innovation and focus attention on paperwork rather than helping parents find jobs.  States offered a range of suggestions for ways in which expanded flexibility could lead to more effective employment outcomes for families.  Two states – Utah and Nevada – submitted written comments that specifically identified waivers as one mechanism for testing new approaches to promoting employment and self-sufficiency, and a number of others states – including California, Connecticut, and Minnesota - have asked about the potential for waivers.

      As described in more detail in the Information Memorandum, the Social Security Act provides the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services with the authority to grant states waivers of certain TANF provisions for the purpose of testing new approaches to meeting the goals of the TANF statute.  The Secretary is interested in using her authority to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.  The statute does not permit tribes to receive waivers under Section 1115, however we are committed to using the underlying flexibility in federal law to help tribes innovate in their programs.

      TANF Waiver demonstration projects under Section 1115 must be accompanied by a high quality evaluation plan, which is critical to ensuring that the pilots result in rigorous evidence about what works and what doesn’t in order to inform future decisions made by policymakers at the federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local levels.  In addition, states that apply for a waiver must identify interim performance targets that will be used to hold states accountable for improving outcomes for families.  We will work with states interested in developing waiver demonstration projects to design these performance measures and targets.

      The Information Memorandum outlines the types of waivers that will and will not be considered.  The Secretary is only interested in approving waivers if the state can explain in a compelling fashion why the proposed approach may be a more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits. 

      See any differences between Romney’s charge and the actual actions taken by the Obama administration? And it’s worth noting that the two states whose actions prompted the request — Nevada and Utah — have Republican governors. I always thought Republicans just loved “states rights”.

      And it’s worth noting that in 2005, several Republican Governors wrote a letter to the Department of Health & Human Services asking for just the sort of waivers the Obama administration has now said it will consider. Here’s the signature page of that letter (look in the upper right corner…):

      Signatures of Republican governors, including Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, on letter asking for flexibility in managing TANF programs

      Right. This is something Romney wanted … until President Obama did it. And now it’s evil. Or something. (And, should you be interested, here is a letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Rep. Dave Camp, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, further describing the current action and relating it to the request made by Romney and other governors in 2005.)

      I could probably say more, dive deeper into the issue of the waivers or what the 1996 welfare reform law really says, but that would just be belaboring the simple point: Mitt Romney will apparently lie about anything to be elected President. The man has absolutely no scruples or moral fiber. He is a serial liar.

      It’s getting to the point that if Romney says the sky is blue, we better all look outside and trust our own observations rather than the drivel that comes out of his mouth.

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      Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything

      I understand that politicians tell lies. It’s part of the game. But there are lies and then there are lies. Some lies are merely exaggerations or focus on semantics. Other lies are merely “little white lies” that don’t really hurt anyone But some lies … well, some lies are lies and a politician who is willing to go that far is someone about whom we should have real character concerns.

      Which brings me to Mitt Romney.

      Here is a man who has lied and lied and lied. He even lied about his name during a Republican debate. Seriously. (His name is Willard Mitt Romney but trying to emulate CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Romney claimed that his first name is Mitt.)

      But the newest lie cuts much closer to the political core and is so egregious that it is worth highlighting.

      First, some facts.

      Ohio used to have limited early voting opportunities. But after long lines and other problems in prior elections (2004 in particular), Ohio decided to expand early voting opportunities. And then they changed their minds and decided to reduce early voting again. But then the citizens of Ohio decided to put the new voting requirements to a public referendum. In order to head that off, the Ohio legislature changed the law again in such a way that treated Ohio service members differently than Ohio’s other citizens.

      With me so far?

      Now, knowing what you do about Republicans and Democrats, can you guess which party was responsible for expanding the early voting window? And which party was responsible for shortening the early voting window? Go ahead. Guess.

      So anyway, a lawsuit has been filed in Ohio by the Obama campaign. Do you think, knowing nothing more than the basic policy positions of the campaigns and parties, that the lawsuit wants to:

      (a) Reduce the amount of time that US service members have to vote early; or

      (b) Increase the amount of time that non-service members have to vote early?</P?>

      Or perhaps I’ll ask the question slightly differently. Again, knowing nothing more than the basic policy positions of the campaigns and parties, do you think that the lawsuit wants to:

      (a) Treat all citizens of Ohio the same; or

      (b) Treat one class of Ohio citizens differently?

      In other words, is the Obama campaign seeking to restrict and shorten the time available for early voting or expand and lengthen the time available? Knowing nothing else, what would you guess?

      Well, Mitt Romney doesn’t think you’re that smart. He’s willing to offer a bald-faced lie to convince you (and more importantly Ohio voters) that the Obama administration wants to take away voting rights. You know, just like the Obama administration helped pass restrictive voter ID laws and other restrictive voting laws in many states. Oh, wait. That’s right. Neither President Obama nor Democrats have done that. Nope. Efforts to restrict and limit voting rights have been a Republican movement that the Obama Justice Department has challenged.

      Obviously, there is no reason for you to trust me over Mitt Romney. I mean, he “saved” the 2002 Olympics and is a former Governor, for Pete’s sake. So how about this? First, let’s look at what Romney has said and then I’ll quote from a part of the actual lawsuit filed by the Obama campaign. See if Romney’s claim matches the relief that the complaint seeks.

      First, Mitt Romney’s statement (published on his campaign website):

      President Obama's lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote. I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I'm entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I'll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them.

      OK. So in Romney’s view, President Obama has claimed it is unconstitutional for Ohio “to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges” and has implicitly “undermined” the voting rights of the military. So now let’s see what the Obama campaign’s lawsuit really says (and feel free to go read the whole complaint):

      1. Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day – a right exercised by an estimated 93,000 Ohioans in the last presidential election. Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters. This disparate treatment violates 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be rectified by the Court enjoining enforcement of statutory changes that eliminate early in-person voting for most Ohioans during the three days before an election.
      2. Specifically, taken together, Amended Substitute House Bill Number 194 (“HB 194”), Amended Substitute House Bill Number 224 (“HB 224”) and Substitute Senate Bill Number 295 (“SB 295”), all enacted by the 129th Ohio General Assembly, impose different deadlines for in-person voting prior to Election Day (“early voting”) on similarly situated voters. Prior to the enactment of these laws, there was a single uniform deadline of the Monday before Election Day for in-person early voting. After the enactment of these laws, voters using the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (“UOCAVA”) may vote early in-person at a board of elections office up through the Monday before Election Day, while non-UOCAVA voters can vote early in-person at a board of elections office (or designated alternate site) only up until 6 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.
      3. The differential treatment of UOCAVA and non-UOCAVA voters with respect to early voting appears to be the result of a confused legislative process initiated by the Ohio General Assembly after citizens of the State commenced the process to subject HB 194 to a referendum. HB 194 was a 300-page bill passed by a Republican dominated legislature that limited voting rights in a number of respects, including by shortening the time period for early voting – an option more likely to be used by groups of voters that tend to support Democratic candidates. While the referendum petitions on HB 194 were circulating, the Ohio General Assembly passed HB 224 with “technical corrections” to the early in person voting laws. Then, after Ohio citizens exercised their right to hold a referendum vote on HB 194 by qualifying for the general election ballot, the Ohio General Assembly passed SB 295 to repeal HB 194, but failed to also repeal the corresponding “technical corrections” made by HB 224 in the interim. Whether caused by legislative error or partisan motivation, the result of this legislative process is arbitrary and inequitable treatment of similarly situated Ohio voters with respect to in-person early voting.
      4. The Ohio General Assembly has failed to articulate any justification for this differential treatment of UOCAVA and non-UOCAVA voters, and no justification can be discerned. Indeed, these different deadlines exist despite the fact that, for purposes of in-person early voting, both UOCAVA and non-UOCAVA voters are identically situated, i.e., they are qualified electors who are physically present in their home county when they desire to vote in-person at their county board of elections office prior to Election Day.
      5. This inequitable approach to early voting will have a significant impact on voters. Between 2005 and 2011, Ohio successfully administered an early-voting system that included in-person voting in the three days prior to Election Day. This early voting system increased participation among voters, including those for whom work or family obligations make it difficult to vote on Election Day, and reduced the congestion that caused such severe waits during the 2004 presidential election in Ohio that some citizens were effectively denied the right to vote. Indeed, as noted above, approximately 93,000 Ohioans voted in the three days prior to the 2008 presidential election. Now, as a result of HB 224 and SB 295, most Ohio voters will not be permitted to vote in the three days prior to Election Day for no apparent reason. Without early voting in these last three days before Election Day, tens of thousands of citizens who would have otherwise exercised their right to vote during this time period, including Plaintiffs’ members and supporters, may not be able to participate in future elections at all.
      6. This unequal burden on the fundamental right to vote violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs have no plain, adequate, or complete remedy at law other than the relief requested in this Complaint. Unless the changes made to Ohio Rev. Code § 3509.03 by HB 224 and SB 295 are enjoined by this Court, Plaintiffs and the voters they represent will be directly and irreparably harmed in upcoming elections.
      7. For these reasons and those specifically alleged herein, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction prohibiting Defendants from implementing or enforcing the HB 224 and SB 295 changes to Ohio Rev. Code § 3509.03, thereby restoring in-person absentee voting on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all Ohio voters.

      Whew. I know that some of that is a mouthful. So let me go back and repeat a key sentence — the very first sentence of the Complaint (emphasis added):

      Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day – a right exercised by an estimated 93,000 Ohioans in the last presidential election.

      Now go back and re-read Romney’s claim that the Obama administration is undermining the voting rights of members of the military or is claiming that it is unconstitutional to allow service members to have extended early voting. See what I mean?

      The Obama campaign has not sought to restrict early voting by service members. The Obama campaign hasn’t sought to restrict voting rights for anyone. Instead, the Obama campaign seeks to expand access to early voting to all Ohioans. And Romney calls that an “outrage”?

      So here’s the question. I know that Romney wants to be President. I get that. I can appreciate that. And I understand that he wants/needs to highlight policy differences between himself and President Obama. It certainly seems to me that there are plenty of policy distinctions that Romney could try to draw (you know, like Romneycare … oh, wait … no, never mind that one). So why tell this kind of lie? Perhaps more importantly, what does it say about a man who would tell this kind of lie in the first place? What does it say about his judgment and moral character? What does it say about his fitness to hold office? If he’s so willing to lie on subjects like this now, then what should we expect from him if elected to the Presidency?

      If you’re curious to see just how often Romney lies, fibs, exaggerates, and so forth, it’s worth checking out Steve Benen’s occasional series Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity (up to Vol. XXVIII as of last Friday). And for more of my own thoughts on lies in politics, please take a few minutes to read my post Responding to Political Lies or some of the other posts that I’ve linked to in that post.

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