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Open thread for night owls. Digby: This is what happens when rich people have all the money

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 22:00
money At Hullaballoo, digby writes This is what happens when the richest people have all the money:
This is pocket change for billionaires. They have so much they can afford to spend such vast sums without even feeling it: Dark money chart And 2016 is going to break all records.

With few exceptions (such as Sheldon Adelson who is spending much of his fortune on politics for the purpose of influencing Israeli politics) most of these wealthy people are doing this simply make sure they are able to keep every last dirty dime they ever touch. They want it all, including yours.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2014Michigan anti-abortion group stoops to attacking candidate's daughters:

You might have thought that Michigan's rape insurance law was about as low as the anti-choice right could go. But you'd be wrong. The law bars insurance plans in Obamacare's private insurance market from covering abortion, forcing women to buy a separate rider to cover abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Democratic House member and Senate candidate Gary Peters has strongly opposed the measure, and the response is truly disgusting:

“As the father of two daughters, I struggle with how to tell them that the state we love and where our family has been for generations is now unfairly discriminating against them and makes health care less affordable,” Peters said in a statement last week.

Right to Life of Michigan—the right-wing group that was instrumental in getting the new law approved last winter—has seized on that sentiment. In a new website highlighting Peters’ abortion policy positions, the group cites Peters’ recent comments to assert that the pro-choice lawmaker “wants to make sure abortion is accessible and cheap for his daughters.”

Did you catch that none-too-subtle slut-shaming of Peters' teenage daughters? And did it make you want to vomit? This is a staggeringly vicious and stupid attack. Vicious because, again, teenage daughters. Stupid because, really, immediate family members of United States congressmen are not the people harmed by making abortion more expensive and harder to obtain. Tweet of the Day
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we get the backstory on one of the NCAA's craziest team mascots, the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, from contributor Arliss Bunny. Next, Armando points to the latest on eGhazi from Politico, which suggests that the State Dept. was hoping to cut back on records retention. That led to an extended discussion of the issue's many complexities, and an ever-present tension in all transparency decision-making. The white supremacist Mesa, Arizona, shooter has nothing to do with white supremacy, somehow. An interesting follow-up to how scam PACs swindle small donors: ProPublica looks into how they swindle large ones.

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New data on the changing face of religion in America

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 19:59
Map of plurality religious groups by state, based on PRRI data (click to enlarge) The Public Religion Research Institute launched a new interactive feature last week called the "American Values Atlas," which lets you access a treasure trove of polling data (conducted by PRRI themselves, though Pew and Gallup also do a lot of religion-themed polling) on policy issues, but also on the demographic questions of who belongs to what religion, and where they live (which, as I've pointed out often, is a hugely important part of political geography, but something that the Census Bureau doesn't cover, meaning we need to look elsewhere for data).

If you're looking for a quick summary, PRRI hits a few of the big findings. America has ceased to be a majority-Protestant nation, and in 19 states, white Christians (of all denominations together) have ceased to be a majority. Even as Christians become a smaller segment of the country, at the same time, Christians are becoming less white as well (especially among Catholics, who are increasingly Latino, but even among evangelical Protestants as well; there has been strong recent growth among Latino evangelical churches, for instance).

Also worth noting is the rise of the "unaffiliated," people with no religious membership at all. They now comprise 22 percent of the population, and that's poised to grow significantly: young people (34 percent) are three times as likely to be unaffiliated as senior citizens (11 percent). Other non-Christian affiliations are poised to grow as well (based on the age of members): Hindus and Muslims have an average age of 36. Compare that with white evangelicals, who have an average age of 54.

The deluge of PRRI data prompted a variety of interesting new maps and charts from other sources over the last few days, as well; a good starting point may be the collection of maps that the Washington Post put together, parsing out which states have a Catholic plurality, which have an evangelical plurality, and which have an unaffiliated plurality. It also contains dozens more maps looking at each particular religion, and what percentage of people in each state are adherents.

If you want to see all that information condensed to one map, though, community member Dreaminonempty put together a composite map (the one featured at the top of this post) that looks at whether states have a Catholic, Protestant (all Protestant, not just evangelicals), or Mormon plurality, and how dominant that plurality (or majority) is.

There's more over the fold.

The next line of attacks in banning abortion—giving the fetus anesthesia

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 19:00
It may not be health care to you, buddy. Another misinformed, scientifically unsound approach from anti-abortion activists is on the march. They're going after 20-week abortion bans with a twist: mandating that anesthesia be given to fetuses after 20 weeks because, anti-abortion activists argue, they are capable of feeling pain. Naturally, their claim is completely unsupported by science, but that has never stopped them before. Tara Culp-Pressler has the details about a new bill in Montana.
Under House Bill 479, drafted by State Rep. Albert Olszewski, abortion doctors would be required to administer anesthesia to fetuses past the 20th week of pregnancy. The measure states that “substantial scientific evidence recognizes that an unborn child is capable of experiencing physical pain and suffering by not later than 20 weeks after fertilization” and the state has a “compelling interest” in preventing that.

Rep. Olszewski’s bill would not technically ban abortion procedures altogether after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But, by requiring doctors to follow a medically unnecessary protocol for administering anesthesia, it could impose significant barriers to later abortions. The providers in the state still aren’t sure exactly what the legislation would mean for their day-to-day work.

Similar to bills that require abortion clinics to meet certain building regulations that have nothing to do with patient safety, these new bills could amount to more bureaucratic red tape that either prevents or stifles abortions after 20 weeks—which are often the most critical to guarding the health of a mother.
Dr. Joey Banks, a doctor who provides abortion services at a clinic in Missoula, echoed those sentiments. “For elective procedures in this state, if this were law, it would probably mean abortion providers could not continue to provide after 20 weeks at least for a while while they determined costs, safety, and provider availability,” Banks told ThinkProgress via email. Just another approach in a long line of (often successful) attempts to chip away at access to abortion at the expense of the ability of women and their doctors to make medically sound decisions.

Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Coke FRIDAY!

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 18:30
C&J Banner


[Poink!] The First Late Night Snark of Spring Sprouts!

"Some people are still angry about the letter written by Republicans to Iran. It's also not helping that they said, 'Dear Iran or Iraq (we can never keep you two straight)…'"
---Conan O'Brien

Bumper sticker seen in Wisconsin.  march 2015 I'm told this is popular in Wisconsin. No
wonder Walker wants to kill education. "Florida's governor wants to ban the phrase 'climate change.' Sorry, Republicans, but just like the phrase 'black president,' you can't just wish it away."
---Larry Wilmore

"Eighteen states have passed or proposed 'religious freedom' laws to protect the real victims of discrimination: Christian florists, who gladly do business with all manner of divorced, non-mother-and-father-honoring, covetous, name-of-the-Lord-in-vain-taking adulterers, but whose damnation conveniently hinges only on the gay-marriage boutonnière business."
---Jon Stewart

"This new Congress is just getting started, which is why I want to acknowledge the leader of the House Republicans---as soon as I figure out who that is."
---President Obama at the Gridiron Dinner

"Yesterday was not only daylight saving time, but also International Women's Day. What better way to address the issue of inequality for women than giving them a day that's missing an hour."
---David Letterman

And this from Last Week Tonight:
John Oliver on HBO's John Oliver: The [DOJ's Ferguson] report didn’t just show evidence of disproportionate targeting and violence against African-Americans. It also showed this:
MSNBC reporter: Investigators say that they found emails from court officials and police officers that were racial jokes that referenced President Obama…
CNN reporter: Another message in June 2011 compared dogs to African Americans, suggesting the animals needed "welfare" because they are "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are."
John Oliver: It is moments like this that make me glad I'm on HBO, where you can hear me say this: Fuck those fucking assholes!!! C'mon downstairs---there's daffodils and we hooked up the Twinkie cream filling fountain. Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

GOP Sen. John Cornyn says racial tensions are merely 'phony narratives'

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 18:00
The No. 2 Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, assured journalist Meredith Shiner in an interview that no one should doubt the GOP's "commitment" to healing racial divisions even as he said there was no need for Congress to revisit the Voting Rights Act.
Well, I think the Voting Rights Act was a seminal victory for our country and a great healing moment. But there are some who want to continue to drive divisions and create phony narratives. Right. All those phony narratives about Voter ID laws being passed mostly by Republican lawmakers in more than 30 states:
As of February 2015, 31 states enforced voter identification requirements. A total of 16 states required voters to present photo identification while 15 accepted other forms of identification. But forget about all that—this is just a brilliant marketing ploy by the Obama administration, says Cornyn.
I think Eric Holder and this administration have trumped up and created an issue where there really isn’t one. For example, the attorney general sued my state for requiring a voter ID, saying somehow that suppressed minority votes, when you can get one for free. And the Supreme Court has passed, in an opinion by John Paul Stevens, who is not exactly a conservative, that this is a reasonable way of protecting the integrity of the ballot and it doesn’t unduly burden the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot. [Editor's note: Justice Stevens has said his judgment was specific to the case and “should not be taken as authority that voter ID laws are always OK.”].

So a lot of this is, I think, theatrics, to try to create division where there isn’t [any].

That's unfortunate, says Cornyn, who goes on to blame the nation's racial divisions on Obama and his team.

That, to me, is one of the shames of … the first African-American president of the United States. You would think this would be a great time of national pride and great national healing, but unfortunately, this president has tried to use his bully pulpit and his presidency to try to cause division, and that’s a shame. Wait a minute, a second ago there wasn't an issue. But now there is … and it's Obama's fault!

So should Congress fix the Voting Rights Act?

No. Oh, okay. The Voting Rights Act is perfect just the way it is after the Supreme Court gutted it last year. The problem is just with President Obama and Attorney General Holder, except for when there isn't a problem (i.e. any time that would require Congress to act).