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New Nominees Highlight Growing Diversity on the Courts

One of President Obama’s most important long-term achievements has been his concerted effort to bring qualified judicial nominees from a wide variety of backgrounds to the federal bench. 42 percent of President Obama’s confirmed judicial nominees have been women, compared with just 22 percent of those nominated by the second President Bush and 29 percent of those nominated President Clinton. Likewise, 46 percent of his confirmed nominees have been people of color, a dramatic change from the previous administration, in which 82 percent of federal judicial nominees were white. And President Obama has nominated more openly gay people to federal judgeships than all of his predecessors combined. (All of these numbers are available in this pdf from our friends at Alliance For Justice).

The four new judicial nominations that the White House announced last night are perfect examples of this effort to make the courts better reflect the people they serve. One, Judge Carolyn B. McHugh, who has been nominated to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, would be the first woman to sit on a federal appeals court in Utah. Pamela L. Reeves, nominated to the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Elizabeth A. Wolford, nominated to the Western District of New York, would be the first women to serve in their respective districts. And Debra M. Brown, nominated to the Northern District of Mississippi, would be the first African-American federal judge in her district and the first African-American woman to serve as an Article III judge in Mississippi.

Another important type of diversity among federal judges – one where there has been some progress but where there is still room for improvement – is diversity of professional background. Judges who have worked as public interest or legal aid attorneys bring a perspective to the bench that is different from that brought by prosecutors and litigators representing corporate clients. One example of this professional diversity is Iowa’s Jane Kelly, who was recently confirmed to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals with unanimous bipartisan support from the Senate. An Associated Press profile yesterday explained the important perspective that Kelly will bring to the federal bench  from her experience as a federal public defender:

The 48-year-old attorney has spent her career as a public defender representing low-income criminal defendants, a rarity in the ranks of appeals court judges who are often former prosecutors and trial judges. She'll become just the second woman in the 122-year history of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases in seven states from Arkansas to the Dakotas.

Associates say she is a smart legal thinker who has zealously defended the rights of even the most publicly despised clients, including a notorious mailbox bombing suspect and the biggest white-collar criminal in Iowa history. Even prosecutors who disagreed with her in court praise Kelly, who will take the oath of office privately.

"Her story is compelling all the way around," said Debra Fitzpatrick of the University of Minnesota-based Infinity Project, which advocates for more women on the 8th Circuit. "Her credentials and her background and her career sort of set her up to be the right candidate at the right time."

A long-distance runner, Kelly's life almost ended when she went for a morning jog on the Cedar River Trail in June 2004. She was tackled and beaten by a male stranger, then dragged to a creek and left for dead. Passersby found Kelly in a pool of blood, in and out of consciousness and struggling to call for help. Speculation swirled that the attack was linked to Kelly's legal work, but no one ever was arrested.

Kelly quickly returned to representing criminal defendants after spending months in recovery. Her colleagues gave her the John Adams Award, which recognizes an Iowa lawyer's commitment to the constitutional right to criminal defense. And hundreds gathered one year later for a "Take Back the Trail" event, where Kelly jogged there again for the first time.

Kelly grew up in Newcastle, Ind., and graduated from Duke University in 1987. She earned a Fulbright scholarship to study in New Zealand before enrolling at Harvard, where she and Obama were acquaintances but not friends. She clerked for U.S. District Judge Donald Porter in South Dakota and then for Hansen.

She taught one year at University of Illinois law school before returning to Iowa as one of the first hires for the new public defender's office. She's been a fixture ever since, often representing "not the most popular person in the room," as she put it in her confirmation hearing, including drug dealers, pornographers and con artists.

Other pending nominees with public defender experience include Michael McShane (Oregon), Luis Felipe Restrepo (Pennsylvania), Jeffrey Schmehl (Pennsylvania), Rosemary Márquez (Arizona), and William Thomas (Florida).

PFAW

Stockman: Obama Is 'Going To Be The President of the United States and Mexico'

Along with Steve King, Republican congressman Steve Stockman of Texas also appeared on The Steve Deace Show last night to criticize the push for comprehensive immigration reform and President Obama’s speech in Mexico City.

Stockman claimed Obama “basically told everybody in Mexico our doors are open, come up, come up, please,” and that they’re “all going to have a great time because y’all are going to be legal.” “He’s going to be the President of the United States and Mexico,” Stockman said.

After touting the very, very discredited Heritage Foundation report on the immigration bill, Stockman later insisted that “there will never be another Republican president and the entire agenda of the left will become the law of the land” if Congress passes a reform bill: “This is the rope that they’re hanging us and we’re going to hang ourselves with it and we’re willingly doing it.”

Stockman: It’s a horrible bill. It legalizes—I don’t know if you remember this Steve but you go down and look in Mexico, about two weeks ago the President went down there and basically told everybody in Mexico our doors are open, come up, come up, please! They were cheering him. He’s going to be the President of the United States and Mexico, apparently. And when he gave that speech it was tantamount to saying y’all come up here, we’re all going to have a great time because y’all are going to be legal.

Deace: People are finally doing the math on this. Now you’ve got Byron York at the Washington Examiner doing this math, you have National Review doing this math with Andrew McCarhty—

Stockman: Heritage Foundation.

Deace: Heritage Foundation. What they’re finding is, if this is your panacea to get the Hispanic vote you better try harder because Romney was going to have to win 73 percent of the Hispanic vote to win this last election and obviously this is not going to help that at all. I still don’t see what the benefit is to this for people paying taxes and obeying the law and silly me congressman I think we ought to pursue legislation that benefits the people paying taxes and obeying the law.

Stockman: Let me say this. Reagan passed comprehensive immigration reform, which was supposed to be the last time we ever needed to do it. After he passed it, California went totally Democrat. They have two Democrat senators, a Democrat legislature, a Democrat governor and you’re going to continue to see that if we pass this. There will never be another Republican president and the entire agenda of the left will become the law of the land. This is the rope that they’re hanging us and we’re going to hang ourselves with it and we’re willingly doing it because we’re intimidated by the press and intimidated by political consultants in the Republican Party who say this is what we need to do as to hang ourselves.

Steve King: Immigration Reform Hurts 'American Liberty' To Help Hispanic 'Special Interest Group'

Rep. Steve King attacked the proposed immigration reform legislation during an appearance on The Steve Deace Show last night, warning that the bill will do great damage to “American liberty” and “the underpinnings of the pillars of American exceptionalism.” He said that undocumented immigrants, whom he believes are approximately 33 million in number, and their children and grandchildren will “be taught to disrespect” the rule of law and collect tens of thousands of dollars in welfare benefits.

King maintained that Democrats are only pushing the reform bill in order to create a voting bloc “similar to that bloc that they have created out of African Americans,” describing Hispanics as a “special interest group” that will become part of the Democrats’ “powerful political base.”

It destroys the rule of law with regard to immigration and if that happens the generations of people who would follow, those beneficiaries of amnesty, would not be taught and raised to respect the rule of law, they’d be taught to disrespect it and they would be rewarded for disrespecting the law. The only claim that this 11.5 million people that’s more legitimately projected to be 33 million people, the only claim to the welfare benefits that range up into the area of $46,000 a year for typical benefits for a household, the only claim that the people have for that is that they broke American law. That is the wrong reason, it’s the wrong thing, it’s wrong economically, it’s wrong culturally, it’s wrong for the underpinnings of the pillars of American exceptionalism such as the rule of law and there’s no way that Americans benefit from this. When we ask the question, why? There is no real reason except Barack Obama and the Democrat Party [sic] for a long time have been seeking to create a monolithic voting bloc out of Hispanics that is similar to that bloc that they have created out of African Americans and they have designs to go right on down the line with each special interest group, creating a more powerful political base at the expense of our American liberty.

Radio Host Frequented By Gun Activists Calls For Shooting of Bush Family & Obama, Sexual Violence Against Hillary Clinton

Right Wing radio host Pete Santilli says he wants to shoot Hillary Clinton in the Vagina and see President Obama shot for treason.

Rand Paul Misrepresents Statements from GOP 'Whistleblower' to Attack Hillary Clinton

Upon news that Republicans altered emails from government officials to make it appear that the State Department was engaged in a cover-up of the attack in Benghazi, Sen. Rand Paul attempted to revive the non-scandal in his column for the Washington Times.

Paul writes that “[Gregory] Hicks testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the night of the attack and that a special-forces unit was stopped from deploying.”

I think Mr. Obama has failed that test of power. From the cover-up in Benghazi to letting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) target the Tea Party to First and Fourth Amendment violations in obtaining records from the press, Mr. Obama has shown disregard for the Bill of Rights and his responsibilities as commander in chief.

The handling of the tragedy in Benghazi continues to raise more questions than it produces answers. The White House’s original story, that no one was told to “stand down” on the night of the attack, was contradicted last week by Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens‘ deputy, Gregory Hicks. Mr. Hicks testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the night of the attack and that a special-forces unit was stopped from deploying.

But Hicks actually testified that the order came from Special Operations Command Africa, not the State Department or anyone in the Obama administration, and that the security team in question was not organized to intervene in the attack but to secure the airport for evacuation.

PolitiFact explains:

But Hicks’ testimony and a State Department review board report show it was clear the “people that were getting killed” were already dead when the security team was ready to go.



“We determined that we needed to send a second team from Tripoli to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel from Benghazi after the mortar attack,” he said.



During Hicks’ testimony last week, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., read from a Defense Department press release explaining the security team was directed to stay in Tripoli because those in Benghazi “had shifted to evacuation.”

"We continue to believe that there was nothing this group could have done had they arrived in Benghazi, and they performed superbly in Tripoli," she read. "In fact, when the first aircraft arrived back in Tripoli, these four played a key role in receiving, treating and moving the wounded."



But it’s clear from Hicks’ testimony that four Americans "getting killed" in Benghazi were already dead when the decision was made to keep the special forces team in Tripoli. The mortar attack was over. A Defense Department drone watched overhead in Benghazi as Libyan militia members helped Americans get to the airport.

GOP Obstruction of Judicial Nominees Continues

Republicans have yet to allow votes on all the judicial nominees who were left pending on the floor at the end of the previous Congress.
PFAW

Minnesota Republican Lawmaker Warns of 'Gay Agenda in Public and Parochial Schools' and Hate Speech Laws

Following the passage of his state’s marriage equality law, Minnesota Republican state representative Glenn Gruenhagen is urging constituents to “resist the implementation of the gay agenda in public and parochial schools.” The blog Bluestem Prairie noticed Gruenhagen’s letter to the editor of the McLeod County Chronicle Wednesday, in which he claims that in Massachusetts there have already been cases where “citizens who would not succumb to politically correct speech have been charged with hate crimes.”

He cites the anti-gay group MassResistance as the source of his information and links to their website.

Of course, there are no such cases of people being “charged with hate crimes” for not using “politically correct speech.”

What is more troubling is that a state lawmaker is citing an organization whose leader Brian Camenker suggested gay marriage led to a rise in homelessness, crime, poor air quality and domestic violence, denies that gay people died in the Holocaust, likened pro-gay rights educators to “Nazi concentration camp guards” and compared gay rights efforts to Jim Crow laws.

Under this legislation, children could be chided and corrected for using gender specific terms like “mother and father” and instead will be told to use gender neutral terms like “parent and spouse” so as not to offend certain groups.

This may be difficult to believe, but as a long-term school board member, I do not make this statement lightly. I have personal experience as a board member, where state statutes were changed and eventually school curriculum and speech had to conform. I was then chided for public comments on school issues when I used terminology that was not politically correct.

In other countries and in the state of Massachusetts, where gay marriage has become the law, we have observed that citizens who would not succumb to politically correct speech have been charged with hate crimes and their parental rights infringed upon. (Seewww.massresistance.com for more information.)

When signed, this bill will become the law of our state. We are a nation of laws, however we still have the right as citizens, parents and school officials to passively resist the gay agenda coming into our schools. …

During these past several months, Lutheran and Catholic organizations were key groups opposing the gay marriage bill. As your state representative, I am very thankful for their help in opposing the passage of gay marriage.

I plan to introduce legislation next session in an attempt to strengthen parental rights and school official rights to resist the implementation of the gay agenda in public and parochial schools. I will also introduce legislation to strengthen protection for our religious freedoms.

Kuhner: 'Obamagate' Is The Real Scandal

Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner says that the real political scandal isn’t about the IRS, Benghazi or the Associated Press, “but the president himself.” Kuhner, who has been demanding Obama’s impeachment for several years, calls the scandal “Obamagate,” which he believes best expresses his belief that “Mr. Obama is the root cause of the White House’s woes” and “is a political thug masquerading as a progressive reformer.”

President Obama is facing a perfect storm of scandals, cover-ups and criminality that threatens to sweep him from power. This week marks the 40th anniversary of the first Watergate hearings. They eventually brought down President Nixon, forcing him to resign. Mr. Obama is the liberal Nixon — a corrupt chief executive, who is presiding over a lawless administration.



Beyond the IRS, AP and Benghazi lies a deeper scandal: Obamagate. Ultimately, Mr. Obama is the root cause of the White House’s woes. The problem is not the president’s men (and women). It is the president himself. He has no respect for the Constitution or for legal constraints on his power. He has presided over a scandal-ridden administration — Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the open bribery and abuse of parliamentary procedures to pass Obamacare, suing states seeking to uphold our immigration laws, enabling the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens simply if they’re accused of being “terrorists,” and now the use of government power to suppress dissent, persecute opponents, spy on the press and cover up the jihadist slaughter of Americans. Mr. Obama is a political thug masquerading as a progressive reformer. He is worse than Nixon: No one died as a result of Watergate.

Republicans should insist that several special prosecutors be appointed to investigate the administration’s purported crimes. In the end, Nixon was unable to run from the truth. Mr. Obama is now running as fast as he can. It is our responsibility to catch and expose him.

Judicial Nominees Move Forward as GOP Obstruction Talking Points Fall Apart

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to sit on the powerful Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. There are currently four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit – and Senate Republicans have prevented President Obama from filling a single one.

The Senate GOP has been unusually cooperative with Srinivasan’s nomination, but have signaled that they will not be so friendly to future nominees to the court. Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley is actually trying to permanently lower the number of judgeships on the court to prevent President Obama from reversing its far-right, anti-consumer, anti-worker tilt.

The Senate yesterday also confirmed William Orrick to serve on the District Court for the Northern District of California, a seat that had been officially designated a “judicial emergency” because of its overworked courts. The confirmation vote came a full eight months after Orrick was first approved with bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts discussed the Senate GOP’s extraordinary obstruction of federal judicial nominees, noting the high level of officially-designated “judicial emergencies,” which has risen by 30  percent since the beginning of the year.

The Founders of our Republic gave to the President the task of nominating individuals to serve and gave us the responsibility to advise on and consent to these appointments. For more than 200 years this process has worked. 

Presidents over the years have nominated thousands of qualified men and women who were willing to serve in key executive branch positions.

The Senate has considered nominations in a timely fashion and taken up-or-down votes. Of course, there have been bumps along the way, but we have never seen anything like this. Time and again, Members of this body have resorted to procedural technicalities and flatout obstructionism to block qualified nominees.

At the moment, there are 85 judicial vacancies in the U.S. courts, some of which are classified as ``judicial emergencies.'' That is more than double the number of judicial vacancies at the comparable point during President George W. Bush's second term. Yet right now there are 10 nominees awaiting a vote in the Senate, and they have not gotten one.

Senate Republicans like to blame the judicial vacancy crisis on President Obama, whom they say has not been quick enough to nominate judges. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas ran into the fallacy of this talking point last week, when he was called out for blaming the president for Texas vacancies that Cornyn himself was responsible for. 

The president continued his steady pace of federal judicial nominations last night,  nominating four women to federal judgeships in Utah, Tennessee, New York and Mississippi. 

UPDATE: The White House points out in a blog post today that President Obama has now nominated more district court judges than had President Bush at this point in his presidency.

PFAW

Boykin Claims Mythical Christian Persecution in Military 'Threatening the Future of America'

For a number of weeks, the Family Research Council has been shamelessly pushing a myth, concocted by Fox News contributor Todd Starnes, that the Obama administration is conducting a “Christian cleansing” of the military. Never mind that the “cleansing” story is totally untrue -- and that even Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has thoroughly debunked it – in a fundraising email today, FRC’s Jerry Boykin claims that it is part of a “shocking anti-Christian movement that is threatening the future of America.”

The military’s longstanding policy, which applies to members of all faiths, is that "service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization).” But according to Boykin, this means that Christians “could be prosecuted as enemies of the state” and that it will “destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.”

Tony has asked me, as a 36-year veteran of military service, to add my perspective to the shocking anti-Christian movement that is threatening the future of America.

Here is the situation: The very troops who defend our religious freedom are at risk of having their own taken away. Less than a month ago, anti-Christian and left-wing activists met at the Pentagon with military leaders. What issues would be of such importance to gain such a high-level hearing?

According to these far-left activists, religion is one of the chief problems plaguing our troops. As the Washington Post reported, some are saying that "religious proselytizing" is at the top of the list of problems in the armed forces--even on par with sexual assault.

As a result of such complaints from the Left, the Air Force has--according to the Post--published, but not yet distributed, a new document with the directive that leaders of all levels (including chaplains) may not "promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion."

The penalty these secularists are seeking for those who don't comply with their view of religious speech is court-martial.

If this policy goes forward, Christians within the military who speak of their faith could be prosecuted as enemies of the state. This has the potential to destroy military recruiting across the services as Americans realize that their faith will be suppressed by joining the military.

Bradlee Dean Has Epic Meltdown over Minnesota's Gay Marriage Law

Minnesota-based Religious Right activist/rock star Bradlee Dean went ballistic on his radio show yesterday in response to his state’s new marriage equality law. Dean warned that Gov. Mark Dayton, who signed the same-sex marriage bill into law, is at “war with God” and is “about to find out what it’s like as to what the fallout is when you throw rocks towards God, he’s going to learn how gravity works.” He added that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who backed his state’s marriage equality law, and other pro-gay rights “criminals” will face divine justice as well: 

Dean even seems to believe that every gay person in the country showed up for yesterday’s celebration of the marriage equality law in order to “push their propaganda and their agendas on the American people,” just as Saul Alinsky commanded.

“They come from all over the country to do this so what you’ve seen was probably the whole lump of the population of the homosexual community in the United States of America,” Dean said.

After lamenting about the “pansies” in the Minnesota legislature, Dean and his co-hosts began discussing the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act,” an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bill, which he said is proof that “radical homosexuals” are part of a “UN global agenda” to “destroy the family.”

Dean then channeled his inner-Antoine Dodson and claimed that gays are coming after your wife and kids: “Go home, look at your wife and look at your kids, because now that’s what they’re coming for.”

He even lashed out at “my good friend Alex Jones,” who is apparently not anti-gay enough for Dean, despite his belief that chemicals in juices are turning kids gay.

Dean concluded the show by warning that gay rights advocates are creating a “totalitarian system” by pushing the anti-bullying legislation, fearing that “pharmaceutical giants” might diagnose anti-gay activists as mentally ill.

“The conservatives on the airwaves in Minneapolis are sitting there playing games with the homosexuals because they think it’s a puppy to be played with when in fact it’s a stinking water rat filled with rabies,” he concluded.

Thanks to RWW reader Matthew for the tip!

Pratt: Obama Raising Private DHS Force 'Equally as Powerful as the Military'

Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt has been widely credited with helping to bring down the Senate background checks bill last month, thanks in part to his cozy relationship with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and his sway among Cruz’s colleagues.

Pratt is also a radical anti-government conspiracy theorist who routinely compares President Obama to King George III and entertains conspiracy theories about the president provoking a race war and setting the police on Christian conservatives.

In an interview with conspiracy theorist Pete Santilli earlier this month, Pratt went even further than usual, detailing what he sees as a plan by the president to turn the Department of Homeland Security into a private  army “equally as powerful as the military” -- that is, if the president “can’t actually commandeer the military” first.

A lite version of this DHS conspiracy theory, which holds that the agency is hoarding ammunition in order to keep it away from gun owners, has inspired an actual bill in Congress.

Santilli: Now, Mr. Pratt, here’s my most important discussion that I’d like to have with you, and my most important concern just observing the Department of Homeland Security and the amount of ammunition and guns and the way they’re staffing up. Do you think that that DHS is a fighting force built by Barack Obama’s administration to potentially be used by the American people, even in opposition to a military that choose to be constitutional? Is that one of your greatest fears?

Pratt: During his ’08 campaign, the president had talked about setting up some kind of, what do you call it, a national security force, something of that sort that would be equally as powerful as the military. Well, that should have told us what he was up to. If he can’t actually commandeer the military, then he’ll bulk up the Department of Homeland Insecurity and he’ll have them buy a gazillion bullets. At the time they bought 100 million for this year, they already had 250 million, give or take, on hand. What is that all about? And these are anti-personnel rounds. These are not target practice rounds. They’re not semiwadcutters, they’re not even the military ball ammo, they’re anti-personnel.

Santilli: And that would be billions, not millions, right?

Pratt: It’s 100 million a year for the next ten years, well over a billion, which will then be five times, give or take, what they already have on hand. If nothing else, it would seem to be a strategy designed to drive up the price and lower the availability of ammunition in particular, firearms in general, but ammunition in particular.
 

PFAW Statement on Bipartisan Committee Approval of Sri Srinivasan

WASHINGTON – Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous approval today of Sri Srinivasan to sit on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan approval of Sri Srinivasan is an important step toward ending the extraordinary vacancy crisis on the nation’s second most influential court.

“The seat on the D.C. Circuit that Srinivasan would fill has been open for nearly five years and is one of an astonishing four vacancies on the 11-member court. Senate Republicans have prevented President Obama from filling even one of those vacancies in an effort to preserve the court’s anti-worker and anti-consumer tilt. Republicans twice filibustered the nomination of the eminently qualified Caitlin Halligan and even delayed a committee hearing on Srinivasan for nearly ten months.

“Senate Republicans cannot hide behind their friendly treatment of Srinivasan as they obstruct future nominees to the D.C. Circuit.  Republicans are pressing the claim that there’s no need to fill any more vacancies on this critically important court. This argument is false, hypocritical, and clearly politically motivated. We fully expect Srinivasan to be promptly confirmed by the full Senate and will continue to push for the nomination and swift confirmation of strong jurists to the remaining seats on the D.C. Circuit.”

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PFAW Applauds Committee Approval of Perez

WASHINGTON – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions today approved the nomination of Tom Perez to serve as Secretary of Labor. Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:

“Tom Perez will make a superb Labor Secretary. At the Justice Department, Perez has worked hard to restore the Civil Rights Division’s historic purpose,  fighting to protect the rights of women, people of color, people with disabilities, military families, LGBT people, workers, consumers and voters.

“As Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez will fight for the rights and dignity of all working Americans. We are pleased that the HELP committee has approved his nomination, and hope that the full Senate follows suit with a swift confirmation.”
 

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Pratt Wants to Impeach Obama Over Fast and Furious, Send Him Out on 'Gangrene One'

While the rest of the conservative movement is already several conspiracy theories ahead of him, Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt is still hung up on Fast and Furious, the troubled Justice Department operation started under the Bush administration that Pratt and others believe was actually orchestrated by President Obama to promote gun control.

So Pratt is elated by the scandals – some legitimate and some not so much – plaguing the Obama administration this week because, he says, they might finally allow for the chance to impeach the president over Fast and Furious. “If this isn’t the time when you can get him both politically and legally,” he told host Stan Solomon of the Talk to Solomon Show, “I don’t know when.”

Pratt and Solomon then had a baffling exchange about how to remove the president from the White House after his impeachment, involving forcing him to dangle from the bottom of a helicopter and something about gangrene:

Pratt: This last week has been a spectacular spinning out of control of the future of the president. He is no longer the big guy in town. I don’t know who that might be to take his place yet, but it sure is not he. And he’s gonna be doing well not to end up just exactly like Richard Nixon. They still have helicopters that can fly you out of the White House on that last flight.

Solomon: Yeah, right, and of course, with a little luck he can be dangling from the bottom of one.

Pratt: Gangrene One!

Solomon: Yeah.

AUL Report Highlights Rift in Anti-Choice Movement

The anti-choice movement has for several years been experiencing a quiet rift over extreme state-level measures would ban all abortions – and in some cases, in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control – in a head-on challenge to Roe v. Wade. As Personhood USA and Janet Porter gain more and more success in pushing “personhood” and “heartbeat” bills at the state level, national pro-life groups who oppose the laws for strategic reasons find themselves in a bind.

In March, when North Dakota passed a “heartbeat” bill which would ban nearly all abortions in the state and strike directly at Roe v. Wade, it also passed two narrower measures banning abortion based on genetic abnormalities or the sex of the fetus. The national anti-choice group Concerned Women for America praised heartbeat the bill,  while Americans United For Life issued press releases that ignored the bill and praised the narrower measures. National Right to Life went even further, actively speaking out against the North Dakota bill and similar “heartbeat” measures in other states.

In an article for the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly this week, Americans United For Life’s senior counsel, William Saunders, lays out his fears of what would happen if the Supreme Court were given the opportunity to reconsider Roe v. Wade. While he praises the “admirable and inspiring” efforts behind the trio of new abortion restrictions in North Dakota, Saunders warns that a direct challenge to Roe will give the Supreme Court a chance to rewrite their 1973 decision on more solid “equal protection” footing.

Instead, he argues, anti-choice activists should target incremental measures at wearing away the opposition of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the so-called “partial birth” abortion ban in Gonzales v. Carhart. “Can the statute be fashioned so as to make it as easy as possible for him (and the others) to go the one step (or two or ten) further than Gonzales in restricting abortion?,” he asks.

Taken together, these three laws provide significant food for thought.

While the persistent efforts of pro-life Americans at the state level are admirable and inspiring and must be encouraged, how does one evaluate the wisdom of any particular proposed (or enacted) law? First, I suggest, one must recognize the legal realities—what kinds of statutes will the courts certainly overturn? Of course, this is not to say that the courts should govern this matter. In fact, the usurpation of the political process by courts is, in my view, unconstitutional itself and should be resisted. However, if we know a law will be overturned by a court, we should consider the risk of such a decision. At least one significant risk is that the Supreme Court, in overturning a law, will entrench “abortion rights” more firmly in constitutional jurisprudence, perhaps under an “equal-protection”-based right, as Justice Ginsburg and three colleagues wanted to do in the Gonzales dissent.

Sad as it is to consider, Gonzales was decided by only one vote, that of Justice Anthony Kennedy. The opinion he wrote for the majority, while speaking of the right of the legislature to choose among divided experts in fashioning law and while recognizing that abortion harms at least some women, did no more than uphold the outlawing of one abortion procedure when others were available. Is such a person likely to uphold a ban on all abortions at any point in pregnancy? If so, what rationale for doing so (what basis) is likely to appeal to him? Can the statute be fashioned so as to make it as easy as possible for him (and the others) to go the one step (or two or ten) further than Gonzales in restricting abortion? Might a statute with a ban (or limit) early in pregnancy lead him to “protect” the “abortion right” and vote with Ginsburg and her colleagues in favor of a firm affirmation of a “constitutional” right to abortion? Is it better to move the ball gently, seeking to build momentum for the ultimate reversal of Roe/Doe, or to force the issue with a broad and early ban? While reasonable people can differ on the answers to these questions, the consequences of a possible forty more years of unlimited abortion due to another Casey-like decision by the Supreme Court counsels for very careful consideration of what prudence requires.

Stakelbeck Condemns Obama for Defending Right to Build Mosques; Fears Muslim 'Infiltration' of the Bible Belt

Next time Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent Erick Stakelbeck talks about religious liberty, just remember that he doesn’t seem to extend that freedom to Muslims. During a conference call with the group Tea Party Unity, Stakelbeck attacked the Obama administration for having “literally” intervened in cases to defend the construction of mosques.

Stakelbeck said he is outraged that the Obama administration is trying to stop residents from blocking the construction of mosques because how dare the Justice Department defend the First Amendment!

He was also livid that Muslims may want to build “a $5 million mega-mosque,” just as we are sure he is angry that a Southern Baptist congregation in Dallas constructed a $130 million megachurch.

But then again, what do you expect from a sports reporter-turned-terrorism “expert” who has championed anti-Muslim activists like “mosque buster” Gavin Boby?

Caller: How is it we can get these facilities, because I’m not going to call it a church or a religion, how can we get them shut down?

Stakelbeck: Well look under this administration, good luck, because I’m just working on a chapter in my new book about how this administration when locals, in places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, when local residents are up in arms about a mosque being built, the Obama Department of Justice literally intervenes, files amicus briefs in support of the mosque, we’ve seen this time and time again. Here’s a statistic for you, folks, in the year 2001 there were 1,200 mosques in America; now, just twelve years later after 9/11, that number has doubled to over 2,000 mosques, that’s a 74 percent increase since 9/11 alone, that is astounding and it is not a coincidence. Under the Obama administration the floodgates are open even more; they are literally intervening in these mosque cases around the country, in small towns with very small Muslim populations. I’m sorry, if you have a 200-strong Muslim population, why do you need a $5 million mega-mosque? And where is the money coming from? Look no further than Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. So getting mosques shut down in this era, in the age of Obama? Good luck. What you’re going to see is more mosques built.

Stakelbeck told another caller that “there is a concerted effort by Islamists to infiltrate the very heartland of American society,” particularly the Bible Belt.

Just to be clear, Muslims represent just 1% of the population of Tennessee and less than 0.5% in other Bible Belt states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Arkansas.

But maybe they’re all just hiding in national parks….

Caller: We are seeing so much Saudi in middle Tennessee, I mean they have the best health care in the Saudi embassy, we have classes at the university, so we are just seeing a major, major influx of Saudi nationals here in middle Tennessee.

Stakelbeck: Folks, it’s not a coincidence. Middle Tennessee is the buckle of the Bible Belt. This is not just in New York City, Boston, Chicago, LA, traditional gateway cities for immigrants, anymore; there is a concerted effort by Islamists to infiltrate the very heartland of American society. I write about this in my book “The Terrorist Next Door,” I call it “Southern Inhospitality,” and that’s what we’re seeing, and you’re seeing it in a major way in that Nashville area where you have tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville.

PFAW Members Join Thousands to Make Minnesota the 12th State with Marriage Equality

Photo credit: City of Minneapolis Facebook

Thousands of Minnesotans streamed into St. Paul Tuesday afternoon to witness history in the making.  Governor Mark Dayton welcomed an estimated crowd of 7,000 equality supporters to watch him sign marriage equality legislation into law, making Minnesota the twelfth state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.

People For members helped make this historic event happen.  In 2012 PFAW activists joined the fight to vote down an anti-gay ‘one-man, one-woman’ measure on the November ballot.  Following that first step, they continued working hard, joining PFAW ally organizations Minnesotans United and OutFront Minnesota in organizing their neighbors, making phone calls, sending emails, and writing letters to their newspapers, demanding full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

In late April, even a massive Midwestern blizzard didn’t stop hundreds from waving rainbow flags while rallying for same-sex marriage on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol before heading inside to lobby their legislators.  Last week the big moment finally arrived, as activists from across Minnesota trekked to St. Paul to witness the historic debate of HF 1054 in the MN House.  After a contentious three-hour debate, the bill passed easily on a vote of 75-59, evidence of the measure’s broad bi-partisan support.

On Monday the action moved to the Minnesota Senate chamber.  Once again, PFAW members in their bright red PFAW ‘Equality Now!’ t-shirts joined thousands of marriage equality supporters at noon in the capitol as the MN Senate took up the measure.  A massive crowd packing the rotunda and hallways chanted ‘Vote Yes!’ and sang protest songs, letting Senators know where they stood.  By a vote of 42-45, the Senate voted down a divisive amendment that would have allowed business owners to refuse goods and services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.  The hours-long but respectful debate on the intact same-sex marriage bill resulted in another bipartisan vote; the measure passing 37-30, sending the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

At 5:00 pm yesterday Gov. Dayton and supportive members of the Minnesota Legislature gathered in the 90-degree heat on the front steps to celebrate the historic bill signing.  A deafening roar rose from the crowd as Dayton signed the bill into law.  Following the ceremony, the thousands of equality revelers paraded to downtown St. Paul for a free party thrown by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The celebration lasted late into the warm spring night. 

PFAW congratulates all Minnesotans and our People For members in celebrating the state’s newly-minted status as the twelfth marriage equality state!
 

 

 

PFAW

The Real IRS Problem: Citizens United

Americans of all political stripes should be outraged at the recent revelation that the Tea Party was unfairly targeted by the IRS before last year's election. The IRS should never base its decisions on political preferences or ideological code words, regardless of what bureaucratic challenges it may face. But the lesson that the right is drawing from the IRS's misdeeds -- the lesson that threatens to dominate the public conversation about the news -- is wrong.

We're seeing a knee-jerk reaction, particularly from the Tea Party and their allies in Congress, that is threatening to turn the IRS's mistakes into an indictment of "big government" writ large. Some are already trying to tie the scandal to the Right's favorite target, Obamacare, and to the Benghazi conspiracy theory.

The danger of this frame is that it will discourage the IRS from fully investigating all nonprofit groups spending money to influence elections. And it will distract from the core problem behind the IRS's mess: the post-Citizens United explosion of undisclosed electoral spending.

Before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, only a limited number of nonprofit 501c(4) groups could spend money to influence elections -- those who did not take contributions from corporations or unions. But Citizens United lifted restrictions on corporate spending in elections, setting the stage for individuals and companies to funnel unlimited money through all corporations, including c(4)s and super PACs in an effort to help elect the candidates of their choice. Spending by c(4)s has exploded since Citizens United, since the decision allowed any c(4) nonprofit corporation that didn't spend the majority of its money on electoral work to run ads and campaign for and against candidates. And c(4)s, as long as they follow this rule, don't have to disclose their donors under the laws currently in place.

The IRS, then, was forced to play a new and critical role in policing this onslaught of electoral spending. IRS officials clearly made poor choices in how to confront this sudden sea change and those mistakes should be investigated and properly addressed. But strong oversight of this new wave of spending remains critically important and clearlywithin the IRS's purview.

If we let understandable concerns about bad decisions by the IRS lead to weakening of campaign finance oversight, our democracy will be the worse off for it. Instead, we should insist that the government strengthen its oversight of electoral spending -- equally across the political spectrum. We should pass strong disclosure laws that cover all political spenders, including c(4)s. And we should redouble our efforts to overturn Citizens United by constitutional amendment and reel back the flood of corporate money that led the IRS to be in this business in the first place.

This post originally appeared in theHuffington Post.

PFAW

Truth In Action Ministries Scrubs Website To Hide Bogus 'Persecution' Story

On Monday, we reported that Truth In Action Ministries spokesman Jerry Newcombe wrote a column defending a Texas student athlete who claimed he was disqualified from a tack race over a religious gesture, which Newcombe used as evidence of anti-Christian persecution in America.

But Newcombe’s account had one tiny little problem: the week before he published his column, the athlete admitted that he made the story up.

Rather than retract his post, our friends at Wonkette point out that Truth In Action Ministries scrubbed it from their website and Newcombe rewrote the column to detail the case of Texas cheerleaders who wanted to put Bible verses on banners during football games.

But despite Truth In Action Ministries’ best efforts, you can still read Newcombe’s original (and never corrected) column here:

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