Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fighting to the Death

RJ Matson - The St. Louis Post Dispatch - Debt Limit Fight-COLOR - English - Debt Limit Fight, Debt Ceiling, Republican Party, Party Leaders, Tea Party, Democrats

The GOP has been taken over by the Tea Party. News reports claim it is just the new freshman who are holding Congress hostage on issues like the debt crisis. But on closer inspection, there are slime, maggots and vermin under that rock of Democracy. George Zornick at The Nation has a disturbing perspective of "The 'Right-Wing Nutters' Who are Pushing the Country to the Brink."

A Conservative Rebellion
There’s a tense vote count in Washington today as House Speaker John Boehner tries to rally Republican members behind his debt ceiling plan. After one postponement and public disapproval by many prominent House Republicans, Boehner’s plan is teetering on the brink.

The conservative rebellion against Boehner’s plan is being driven by Tea Party activists and many of the freshman members they helped elect. For months, the House Republican leadership has been quietly tutoring these members on the intricacies of the federal budget and the need to raise the debt ceiling, using what Politico called a “stunningly simple” presentation of color-coded charts and graphs. This week, leadership even showed a clip from a Ben Affleck action movie to help persuade the members to act.

But so far, the aggressive pitch doesn’t seem to be working—at one point this week, Boehner was only eight votes from defeat. And if he cannot rally his party to support a dreadful plan with no chance of ultimate passage anyhow, what can he get them to vote for? In the words of British Business Secretary Vince Cable, “The biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress.”

That may seem harsh, but only to someone that’s not familiar with the specific Tea Party forces that are whipping conservative members into this rebellion. One group in particular, Let Freedom Ring, has mobilized Tea Party groups across the country and enjoys close connections to incredibly powerful Republican lawmakers. And a quick examination of the group’s history shows that if anything, Cable is being generous.

The Mobilizing Force Groups

Let Freedom Ring was founded in 2004 by Colin Hanna, a former state official in Pennsylvania who now enjoys very powerful political connections. He is a part of Grover Norquist’s weekly strategy meeting, and has served as emcee of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly gathering of far-right wingers who like to joke about nuking Chicago or the foreign-born, communist occupant of the White House. WATCH:

In recent months, Let Freedom Ring has made an aggressive pitch for the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act—this is the legislation House Republicans are currently holding out for, contra Boehner’s plan (or any other). The act would immediately cut spending to pre-2008 levels, eventually cap spending at 19.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product, and pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. Such dramatic reductions would savage domestic spending programs; Robert Greenstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said the legislation “stands out as one of the most ideologically extreme pieces of major budget legislation to come before Congress in years, if not decades.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it “perhaps some of the worst legislation in the history of this country.”

Outside Groups Leading the Charge

The legislation originated in the Republican Study Committee, a group of 175 ultraconservative House members led by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio. As soon as the RSC drafted the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, they turned to outside groups and in particular Let Freedom Ring to help promote it. In a Family Research Council interview with Hanna and FRC president Tony Perkins, Jordan explained that “we just went to members of the RSC and said ‘What makes sense?’ And we came back with this cut spending, cap spending, and get a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. And then you all took off with it,” he said, turning to Hanna. “The outside conservative groups, Americans, have taken off with this.”

Jordan added that if the long-shot legislation doesn’t pass, and the federal government hits the debt ceiling, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. “I’d rather have the crisis now and say ‘let’s deal with it,’ ” Jordan said. “Versus making a few changes, raising the debt ceiling, and having the crisis in two or three years…. virtually every economist—there’s a consensus out there saying we will have a debt crisis in two to three years.”

Soon after the legislation was unveiled, Let Freedom Ring organized a coalition of over 100 conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Tea Party Express, and local Tea Party chapters from coast to coast.

Then Let Freedom Ring and its coalition led the charge. They created a website,, which has a pledge asking lawmakers to support the legislation—so far, every major GOP presidential candidate except Jon Huntsman has signed it, along with twelve senators and thirty-nine House members. Over 240,000 people have also pledged to push their elected representatives to support Cut, Cap, and Balance, which already has forty co-sponsors in the Senate and 115 in the House.

The group had a news conference on Capitol Hill in June, featuring Hanna, Jordan, Senators Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee and Rand Paul along with Representatives Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, and others. “This is beyond partisanship; this is beyond ideology. This is truly about survival,” Hanna told the assembled reporters.

The Power of Outside Groups over the GOP

This week, when Boehner rolled out his latest debt ceiling proposal, the coalition led by Let Freedom Ring struck a major blow against it the same day. In a statement, the group blasted the proposal and said “falls short of meeting (the coalition’s) principles…. we urge those who have signed the Pledge to oppose it and hold out for a better plan.” Soon after, many conservative House members began publically denouncing Boehner’s bill.

This level of influence is impressive for a group that formed only seven years ago. In 2004, Hanna got $1 million from the reclusive conservative financier John Templeton to start Let Freedom Ring. Hanna had gained some national notoriety while commissioner of Chester County, PA, when he refused to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from the county courthouse, and Let Freedom Ring aimed to get evangelical voters to the polls that fall in support of George W. Bush.

Let Freedom Ring, Smear Ads and Negativity

At the time, the Wall Street Journal said the group was “attracting wealthy Christians who don’t want to be seen as political.” Hanna said the group would have “a positive political philosophy based upon respect for Constitutional principles, economic freedom and traditional values…. Let Freedom Ring will not engage in negative personal or partisan political attacks.”

That pledge didn’t last long. In 2005, the group aired controversial ads on national television advocating for a border fence with Mexico, where the narrator claims “illegal immigration from Mexico provides easy cover for terrorists” as slow-motion footage of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center plays on screen.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, positivity really went out the window. As the election approached, Hanna sent missives to his large membership base charging that Obama would “appease worldwide Jihadism” and “[transform] America into a country we might not recognize within just 4 to 6 years.”

Let Freedom Ring created smear ads against Obama which channeled virtually every right-wing theory about the Democratic candidate. One ad, “Puzzle,” showed images of Jeremiah Wright (a “radical and [a] racist”), William Ayres, Tony Rezko, Louis Farrakhan, Iran, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and ACORN—all in sixty-one seconds. The ads were praised by Fox News because they “did something that John McCain’s camp has still not done: create a negative ad that challenged Barack Obama’s credibility.”

Hanna was also busted by NBC News conducting a push poll in Pennsylvania only days before the election, in which voters were asked if “knowing that the former head of Fannie Mae made millions of dollars while working there and worked on the Obama campaign" would make them less likely to vote Democratic.

After Obama was elected, Hanna helped push the idea that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. In an MSNBC interview, Hanna said “Obama and those supporters around him have not answered perfectly simple and straightforward questions that would have put this to rest long ago. Where is the proper documentation?”

Let Freedom Ring and the Tea Party

Let Freedom Ring was instrumental in putting together the Tea Party and 9/12 rallies in 2009, and last year the group released a photography book of signs from the protests called Grandma’s Not Shovel-Ready. In the foreword, Hanna wrote that “it is our hope that these signs will give you strength, encouragement and an occasional chuckle in these challenging times. This book proves that in America, the spirit of freedom still lives!”

The book featured signs labeling “Comrade Obama” as “World’s #1 Crypto-Marxist,” and an “undocumented worker.” The book also flirted with revolution and overthrowing the government. “Oust the Marxist Usurper! Honduras did it!” read one sign.

Another man was pictured grimly holding a sign that said “I will give my blood for my children’s freedom.” (“Blood” was dripping with red ink). Another woman was shown holding a sign that said “A revolution is brewing. We will not subsidize tyranny. Violate our liberty at your peril.” A man stood next to her, wearing a T-shirt with crossed AK-47s and holding a sign that said “find out what happens.”

Why is this Vitriol and Dirty Politics accepted as Normal by the Mainstream Media?
This type of Tea Party vitriol and dirty politics is unfortunately standard fare, accepted long ago by mainstream journalists as part of the political game. But it’s long past time to question how an organization that puts out a book like Grandma’s Not Shovel-Ready can also be a major power player in a debate that has the country five days from financial catastrophe.
The debt ceiling issue is just the crisis du jour that the 'Right-Wing Nutters' will use to advance their racist, vitriolic, mean-spirited, untruthful, fear-gripping, slime throwing agenda. This country needs to clean out the slime from under the rock.

In an episode of the Daily Show from 2007 Colin Hanna was interviewed by John Oliver on the issue of making English the official language in the US. It does show the mindset of the man. WATCH:

Milt Priggee - - Compassionate conservatives - English - gop, tea party, debt limit, congress, credit rating, united states, america

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jon Stewart Wonders, Ponders & Represses

Randall Enos - Cagle Cartoons - Dr Marcus Bachmann - English - Marcus Bachmann, Michele Bachmann, Bachmann  Associates,Christian Therapy Clinic, gay to straight therapy,gay cure

Via Crooks and Liars:
Jon Stewart Goes There -- Questions Marcus Bachmann's Sexual Orientation

When Jon heard about Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus and his "pray away the gay" "therapy" Jon's gaydar goes off the charts.

Stewart then has Jerry Seinfeld join him on the set to help him "repress" his urge to make gay jokes about Marcus Bachmann.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cause and Effect

John Cole - The Scranton Times-Tribune - GOP booze-energy drink COLOR - English - GOP, budget, loko four, deficit, debt, tax cuts, rich, bubble economy, boehner, mcconnell, deregulation, recovery, recession

In 1996, President Bill Clinton developed his triangulation style of governing. He would position himself, not to the 'left' or to the 'right' of an issue but smack dab in the middle. Of course, this Clintonian strategy was really the brain-child of the famously issue shifting pundit, Dick Morris. This approach allowed Clinton to work with mainstream Republicans while separating himself from traditional Democratic ideas. They saw it as a political win-win situation.

Truth be told, it was a huge win for the Republicans, big business, mega-corporation, bankers and Wall St. Of course, it was also a big win for Clinton who won over Republican voters by adopting Republican positions and theories. The down side was for the American people, the worker, the middle class, the poor, the environment and the principles of the Democratic Party.

In the end, triangulation led to the ratification in whole of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1994 which opened the door for NAFTA in 1994. Clinton also signed into law the 1996 Telecommunication Act and the 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act which repealed the provisions of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933.

So why is this important today? Thom Hartmann, radio show host and author has published a book titled, Unequal Protection: How Corporations became 'People' -and How You Can Fight Back. In an excerpt from his book, Hartmann shows the historical aspects of today's politics and the importance of these events.
It was the last week of June 1944, and the war wasn’t going well for Adolf Hitler. [...]

This same weekend that opened July 1944, a three-week meeting was convened in an isolated hotel in New Hampshire’s White Mountains near the town of Bretton Woods. Bankers, economists, and representatives of the governments of forty-four nations arrived for the meeting, which was convened as the International Monetary and Financial Conference of the United and Associated Nations.

The official history of the meeting suggests it was a group of nations getting together to work out a new international economic world order that would prevent a repeat of the Great Depressions and the European inflations that had occurred in the 1930s and driven Hitler to prominence and power with his promises to “restore Germany to greatness.”

Four years earlier, in November 1940, the German minister of finance, Walther Funk, had suggested a “New Order” for the world’s finances and banking that would be dominated by Germany. Partly in response to this, in 1942 John Maynard Keynes had begun to create a plan for an International Clearing Union, which formed part of the eventual basis of the Bretton Woods discussions.

According to Raymond F. Mikesell, who was present at the meetings, on the night of December 13, 1941, the U.S. secretary of the treasury, Henry Morganthau, “dreamed about an international currency” and the next morning called his undersecretary, Harry Dexter White, to ask him to write up a paper on how it could be brought to pass.

“Two weeks later,” Mikesell wrote, “White responded with a general out- line of an International Stabilization Fund (ISF) and a (World) Bank.”

During these three weeks and in subsequent meetings, the attendees hammered out the Bretton Woods Agreement, which created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and laid early foundations for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which gave birth to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The group selected as the first U.S. executive director of the IMF the lead U.S. representative to the meeting and then–U.S. undersecretary of the treasury, Harry Dexter White.

The Bretton Woods Agreement wasn’t ratified in whole by the United States until Bill Clinton’s administration roughly fifty years later. And the near- immediate result of that would be hundreds of thousands of dead dolphins— along with the loss of as many as 20 million American manufacturing jobs. [...]

The U.S. Constitution specifically states that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” That two-thirds-of-the-senators requirement, however, made for a slow and contentious process, particularly when it came to issues that could affect American jobs.[...]

Each president from Richard Nixon to Bush Sr. pushed to get this “fast- track authority” for himself. Bush Sr. pushed for ratification of the GATT agreement but was unsuccessful.

But Bill Clinton, in the final days of his first four-year term, joined with Senate leader Bob Dole to use political pressure, fast-track procedures, and careful timing (just before the Christmas recess) to bring the GATT agreement to pass.

Thus, after much lobbying and giving out of substantial campaign contributions by multinational business interests and a Senate vote to invoke cloture—a procedure that allowed only thirty hours of congressional debate and forbade amendments—the final parts of the Bretton Woods Agreement and its offspring were ratified in November 1994, just as Congress was hurrying to head home for the holidays. Most of the members of Congress didn’t read the document they voted on, but it became the law of the land in any case. One month later the now-fully-empowered GATT gave birth to the World Trade Organization. [...]

The Role of NAFTA and GATT/WTO

The biggest hit on the average family in the developed world has been the result of changes in how international trade is regulated. While Ross Perot stepped up to the podium during the presidential campaign and warned about “giant sucking sounds” from the south, both Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. supported the U.S. ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), both saying that it would produce at least 170,000 new jobs.

NAFTA did, in fact, create that many new jobs and more—in Mexico. But in the United States, more than 420,000 jobs vanished by 1996 as a result of NAFTA, and over $28 billion in business was lost to U.S.-based workers. When job losses because of other international trade deals and the resultant U.S. trade deficit are factored in, more than 20 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared since the 1970s, most of them year-round and full-time, although many have been replaced by part-time or low-pay service-sector jobs, thus the “net loss” of “only” 420,000 jobs.

Let's not forget that it was the Bretton Woods Agreement, which created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and laid early foundations for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which gave birth to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

WATCH Hartmann explain the impact today of the WTO on the American society.

Hartmann discusses the devastating effects of the Bretton Woods Agreement and NAFTA on the U.S. economy and politics. Remember that most of this legislation was based on the Republican, conservative theory that deregulation is good for competition. However, a review of the legislation that was passed under President Bill Clinton shows just the opposite.

1996 Telecommunication Act

The stated intent of the 1996 Telecommunication Act was to promote competition and the public interest by opening up markets to competition by removing regulatory barriers. In reality, the effect has been just the opposite.

In 2005, Common Cause issue a report on an analysis of the Act.

This study tells the story of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and its aftermath. In many ways, the Telecom Act failed to serve the public and did not deliver on its promise of more competition, more diversity, lower prices, more jobs and a booming economy.

Instead, the public got more media concentration, less diversity, and higher prices.

Over 10 years, the legislation was supposed to save consumers $550 billion, including $333 billion in lower long-distance rates, $32 billion in lower local phone rates, and $78 billion in lower cable bills. But cable rates have surged by about 50 percent, and local phone rates went up more than 20 percent.

Industries supporting the new legislation predicted it would add 1.5 million jobs and boost the economy by $2 trillion. By 2003, however, telecommunications’ companies’ market value had fallen by about $2 trillion, and they had shed half a million jobs.

And study after study has documented that profit-driven media conglomerates are investing less in news and information, and that local news in particular is failing to provide viewers with the information they need to participate in their democracy.

Why did this happen? In some cases, industries agreed to the terms of the Act and then went to court to block them. By leaving regulatory discretion to the Federal Communications Commission, the Act gave the FCC the power to issue rules that often sabotaged the intent of Congress. Control of the House passed from Democrats to Republicans, more sympathetic to corporate arguments for deregulation. And while corporate special interests all had a seat at the table when this bill was being negotiated, the public did not. Nor were average citizens even aware of this legislation’s great impact on how they got their entertainment and information, and whether it would foster or discourage diversity of viewpoints and a marketplace of ideas, crucial to democratic discourse.

The 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB) which repealed the provisions of the Glass–Steagall Act (GSA) of 1933

The Glass-Steagall Act distinguished types of banks and separated them by the type of business, such as, commercial and investment banking. Another aspect of the Act was that it founded the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for insuring bank deposits. By repealing the GSA, restrictions against merging commercial and investment banking were lifted. Furthermore, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed banking institutions to provide a broader range of services, including underwriting and other dealing activities.

In 1933, in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and during a nationwide commercial bank failure and the Great Depression, two members of Congress put their names on what is known today as the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA). This act separated investment and commercial banking activities. At the time, "improper banking activity", or what was considered overzealous commercial bank involvement in stock market investment, was deemed the main culprit of the financial crash. According to that reasoning, commercial banks took on too much risk with depositors' money. Additional and sometimes non-related explanations for the Great Depression evolved over the years, and many questioned whether the GSA hindered the establishment of financial services firms that can equally compete against each other.
There are many who blame the repeal of GSA for the monetary problems today. Of course legislation which was passed after GLB also played a part in the financial crisis. The 2000 Commodity Futures and Modernization Act also exempted credit default swaps from regulation and was signed by President Clinton.
WATCH a video on the cause and effect of repealing the Glass-Steagall Act.

Here's a video of former President Bill Clinton responding to a question about his role in deregulation. WATCH:

Is deregulation the culprit? If so, then the conservative approach to governing will be more of the same laissez-faire attitude toward corporate and banking behavior. That approach has very negative effects for Americans.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Phenomenon of Carrottmob

Manchester Carrotmob

Brent Schulkin had a novel idea. If you want change. If you want a person, business or corporation to do something positive to help clean the environment. If you want to change a negative to a positive then use incentives instead of punishment. PBS has the story:

If you want to get an uncooperative donkey to move, the old adage says that you can coax it with a carrot. This philosophy is at the heart of Carrotmob, a San Francisco-based movement that’s reinventing the time-honored protest technique of the boycott. Carrotmob works like a boycott in reverse, providing incentive — the “carrots” — to businesses in exchange for reform.

As part of our Agents of Change series, Need to Know talks to Brent Schulkin, the brainchild behind Carrotmob, about how he’s growing this new model of protest into a global movement.

Watch a cartoon explanation. Check out the website.

How Organized Consumer Purchasing Can Change Business from carrotmob on Vimeo.

This is change that works.

Friday, July 1, 2011

In Name Only

Sally Steenland at the Center for American Progress has an interesting article, Abortion is Slowly Becoming Legal in Name Only. She suggests that is is occurring more frequently because state laws seek to deny women their reproductive rights.

When does a legal right become theoretical instead of real? If you want to know the answer, take a look at what’s happening to reproductive rights. States across the country are denying women what they need to protect their health and plan their families. And they’re often doing so in the name of religion and God. The laws, which we review below, should concern any American who cares about women’s reproductive health.

Antichoice laws on the rise

More than 900 antiabortion laws have been introduced since the midterm elections last November, and more than 60 have been passed. For instance, in Kansas a new licensing law for abortion clinics mandates what size and temperature clinic rooms must be, requires that staff dressing rooms have toilets, that clinics stock particular medical equipment and supplies, and that they be connected to nearby hospitals. Antichoice legislators came up with 36 pages of regulations, which one doctor called “bizarre” and “out of date with modern medicine.”

Right now there are only three abortion clinics in the state of Kansas. Soon there may be none.

South Dakota enacted an antiabortion law with requirements so onerous they essentially deny a woman her legal right to an abortion. The bill mandates a waiting period of 72 hours before a woman can have an abortion and requires two separate visits to a doctor. It also requires that a woman get counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center,” a place explicitly created to oppose abortion. On top of these obstacles, South Dakota spreads across nearly 755,000 square miles and has only one abortion clinic. A doctor is flown in from out of state once a week to see patients.

Indiana recently defunded Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state. The new law makes any organization that performs abortion ineligible for state funds. Lack of clarity in the state’s antiabortion law is affecting hospitals, too. Since its enactment, doctors in hospitals have stopped terminating pregnancies that pose a high risk to the health and life of a woman for fear of losing Medicaid patients.

According to Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Wishard Memorial hospitals, the law has “tied the hands of physicians attempting to provide medically appropriate, evidence-based care.”

Dr. Ferries-Rowe gives this example: A woman loses her amniotic fluid at 16 weeks of pregnancy. If her pregnancy isn’t quickly terminated, she risks serious infection that can damage her organs and cause brain damage or death. Given Indiana’s law, however, doctors would not be able to terminate her pregnancy.

Twenty-week bans: An extremist trend

Among the most dangerous laws are those that restrict or ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. So far, six states—Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—have passed 20-week laws, and more are likely to follow. Only about 1.5 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but those that do are often medically necessary.

Danielle and Robb Deaver felt the consequences of Nebraska’s law last fall. As reported by The New York Times, Danielle was 22 weeks pregnant when her water prematurely broke. Before passage of the law, it would’ve been routine for a doctor to induce labor to prevent serious infection. At 22 weeks the fetus is not viable outside the womb.

But the Nebraska law defines “inducing labor” as “abortion” if the goal is not to save the fetus. Danielle’s doctor and hospital lawyers determined that the procedure she needed would be illegal under the new law, so nothing was done. Danielle eventually did go into labor. The baby died within 15 minutes, and she developed an infection that required antibiotics.

What happened to Danielle Deaver could happen to women in other states that passed bills restricting abortion after 20 weeks.

Antichoice activists promoting the 20-week ban have a clear, determined strategy. Their alleged reason for the law is that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, though doctors strongly dispute such a notion. Their real strategy is to invalidate Roe v. Wade without actually having to overrule it. They hope that one of the state laws will be challenged, make its way to the Supreme Court, and be upheld. Linda Theis, a former president of Ohio Right to Life, believes her state’s so-called “heartbeat bill” offers the Supreme Court “an engraved invitation to overturn Roe.”

Once a threshold of fetal pain at 20 weeks is established, they believe it is only a matter of time before they can “prove” that fetuses can feel pain at 12 weeks, or four weeks, or three days. Indeed, the Ohio Assembly just passed legislation that would prohibit abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which happens at six to seven weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

After the bill was passed, Janet Folger Porter, former legislative director of Ohio Right to Life, said, “For every battle-weary pro-lifer who didn’t see how children were going to be protected in our lifetime, come see what God is doing in Ohio.”

Attacking access to contraception

But it’s not just abortion that the radical right is attacking. Family planning is also under the gun.

Arguments that we need to cut the budget and prevent pregnancies by defunding programs like Planned Parenthood are wrong on both counts. Only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortion services. Most of it involves prenatal care, family planning, PAP smears, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and more. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health research and policy group, every dollar spent on family planning saves the government $4 in childbearing and child care costs for low-income women. What’s more, a bill in Louisiana to defund Planned Parenthood is clearly part of a larger campaign against women, since Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana don’t provide abortions at all. And common sense tells us that cutting funding for family planning increases unwanted pregnancies—and abortion.

Fighting back against extremism

It’s important to take a reality check amid such extreme attacks. Abortion is a common medical procedure. Nearly one in three women will have had an abortion by age 45. And virtually all (99 percent) sexually active women have used contraception at some point in their lives, including Catholic women (98 percent).

Unfortunately, such realities don’t fit right-wing rhetoric that equates moral complexity with sin, demonizes abortion and the women who have them, and claims a monopoly on conscience, family, and God.

But it may be that reality is catching up with the zealots endangering women’s health and lives. When conservatives in Congress threatened to defund all Planned Parenthood clinics as part of a budget-cutting deal, the public rose up, President Barack Obama stood his ground, and the provision was dropped.

The types of reproductive health services Planned Parenthood provides enjoy strong public support. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a solid majority of Americans support access to contraception, and 6 in 10 believe abortion should be both legal and available.

People of faith are among these majorities. That’s because they understand what it means to wrestle with moral issues and to rely on prayer and conscience for guidance in matters of deep importance. Many mainline Protestant churches and Jewish faith traditions formally support women’s moral decision making when it comes to abortion. But even women from faith traditions that oppose abortion have unwanted pregnancies that they prayerfully decide to end. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute recently reported that the majority of women who have abortions are religious.

That’s why it should be no surprise that reproductive rights and justice groups are working with faith communities to reclaim moral language on sexual and reproductive health and be vocal advocates on behalf of women.

We must also call out extremists who are using religion for their own narrow ideological ends. Until now they have been counting on the fact that they are more fervent in their cause even though their numbers are smaller. But their junk science and extremist agenda have triggered fervor in the rest of us to stand up for women’s health and moral decision making. The truth is that most Americans do not live on the extremes of the abortion debate but in the complicated middle, where abortion is more than a slogan or bumper sticker.

It is neither compassionate nor morally justified for politicians to intrude into the most intimate matters of conscience and the heart. And it is deeply wrong to do so in the name of religion. There is a better way.

Rabbi Dennis Ross has a suggestion that is compassionate and morally sound. “Once a woman weighs all her options, (adoption, carrying to term, abortion) and comes to her conclusion,” he says, “we should make sure she has the best medical care and the support that she deems right for her.”

What is a constitutional right for women is being chipped away and is being legislated against by a majority of men in the name of women's health, in the name of religion and in the name of God. But abortions will happen either by a doctor in the cleanliness of the abortion clinic or by a hanger in the filth of the back alley abortion mill. Unfortunately, women's health is once again been victim to the precepts of somebody's religion and God.

Mark Halperin's Four Letter Word

Andy Borowitz is a comedian and satirist who created the satirical website the Borowitz Report. Recently on Twitter he wrote:
"In America, you can get fired for calling someone a dick; however, actually being a dick usually gets you promoted."
There is always a bit of truth in humor.

MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin was suspended on Thursday by the cable network after he called President Obama “a dick” on a popular morning show and then quickly apologized.

“I thought he was a kind of a dick yesterday,” Halperin, who also is an editor at large for Time, said on “Morning Joe,” referring to the president’s conduct during his press conference.

Jon Stewart, comedian and satirist extraordinaire, expounded on Mark Halperin's behavior and then what happened after a commercial break. WATCH:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mark Halperin Calls Obama a Dick
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

MSNBC issued a statement and suspended Halperin indefinitely.

A couple of hours later, MSNBC issued a statement, saying, “Mark Halperin’s comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the president, the White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse, and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst.”

The cable outlet also put out a statement from Halperin at the same time, saying, “I completely agree with everything in MSNBC’s statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate. Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the president, to my MSNBC colleagues and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.”

Time also issued a statement but did not suspend Halperin.

Time issued a statement later Thursday, calling Halperin’s comments “inappropriate and in no way reflective of Time’s views.”

The magazine did not suspend Halperin but said, “We have issued a warning to him that such behavior is unacceptable” and noted that he had “appropriately” apologized.

Mark Halperin, in his role as the senior political analyst for Time magazine,, and MSNBC, should be aware that by his unsavory comment he not only crossed the line between opinion and journalism but that the image of the journalist as a professional has truly been breached.

The White House response was appropriate. WATCH: