Conservatives’ Pick For House Speaker Has Experience Flattening ‘Pyramid Of Power’- Greg Allen OCTOBER 11, 2015 1:33 PM ET


Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., was endorsed for House speaker by the conservative Freedom Caucus. As speaker of the state legislature in Florida, Webster gave the members more of a say, which is what conservatives in Congress want from their next leader.

Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., was endorsed for House speaker by the conservative Freedom Caucus. As speaker of the state legislature in Florida, Webster gave the members more of a say, which is what conservatives in Congress want from their next leader.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., is running for speaker of the House. His chances are not good, but a look at his career explains why he’s the choice of the House Freedom Caucus.

Those conservatives in the House say they want a speaker who will not be a top-down leader, but will give members more of a say in what legislation sees action on the floor and who controls committees.

Webster says that is the mode in which he ran the Florida House of Representatives when he was the speaker in Tallahassee from 1996-98.

“Are we going to just change the personalities in the speakership?” Webster said in a web video pitching his candidacy. “Or are we going to fundamentally transform the way we do business here in Washington, D.C?”

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/10/11/447745141/conservatives-pick-for-house-speaker-has-experience-flattening-pyramid-of-power

15 Years On, Conservatives Are Still Trying to Kill the Abortion Pill – —By Molly Redden | Fri Sep. 25, 2015 6:00 AM EDT


Happy anniversary!

Jes2u.photo/Shutterstock

When the Food and Drug Administration approved the first abortion pill in the United States 15 years ago this September, the politics of the decision were so fraught that the agency wouldn’t even name the officials behind its decision. The pharmaceutical company making the drug—a pill called mifeprex—took pains to hide its address.

September 28 marks 15 years since the FDA approved mifepristone. And today, those fears seem misplaced. Since 2000, more than 2 million women have used the drug to have an abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Twenty-three percent of women who have an abortion today get a so-called medical abortion—most of them, using mifeprex. The drug has radically reshaped abortion availability for rural women, and Danco, the drugmaker, is out in the open.

Violent anti-abortion vigilantes, in other words, are no longer standing between women and mifepristone. Instead, as with so many facets of abortion in modern America, abortion foes are going after the abortion pill with restrictive new laws. It is easy to see why abortion foes are gunning for telemedicine. When polled, patients say they appreciate the privacy afforded by the pill. (Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen, and the second course can be taken at home.) It is also less expensive than a surgical abortion. Linda Greenhouse, a legal contributor to the New York Times, called it “the ultimate in women’s reproductive empowerment and personal privacy.” But the 2 million figure belies a sustained, and in many cases, successful campaign by conservative lawmakers and activists to put mifepristone out of reach. A decade and a half after mifepristone came on the market, abortion foes are blocking its progress with a vengeance.

The attacks on mifepristone come in two varieties: those that ban telemedicine, and those that force women taking the abortion pill to spend more travel time and money.

Telemedicine is what has allowed mifepristone to be part of a sweeping change in abortion access for thousands of rural women. Ground zero is in Iowa, at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland: Several times a week, Jill Meadows, a Planned Parenthood physician, appears via video conference to patients in seven other Planned Parenthood clinics across the state. A nurse seats a woman in a room with a computer monitor. Meadows and the patient talk via video feed. The patient takes the mifepristone with Meadows watching. Then, with a remote control, Meadows opens a drawer next to the woman containing pills that will cause the uterus to expel the pregnancy. The woman takes those pills at home; essentially, she has the abortion at home.

“It’s not much different at all whether I’m in the clinic,” Meadows recently told Mother Jones. “It’s the same exact process,” albeit one that saves many women hours of driving.

 

Article continues:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/conservatives-block-abortion-pill

Paranoid history of the GOP: How conspiracy theories poisoned the Republican Party –


Wingnuts have become increasingly reliant on reality-defying paranoia. Here’s how it happened

Paranoid history of the GOP: How conspiracy theories poisoned the Republican Party

(Credit: AP/Mary Schwalm/John Duricka)

In the 1960s, William F. Buckley tried to banish organized conspiracists from the conservative movement with his crusade against the John Birch Society, which tellingly organized itself secretively, just like the Communists that it believed were everywhere. In a 2008 article in Commentary, Buckley told the story of how he, writer Russell Kirk, AEI’s William Baroody, and Barry Goldwater met in 1962, and discussed “the need to excommunicate the John Birch Society from the conservative movement,” so that they wouldn’t derail a Goldwater presidential bid in 1964. As Buckley described Robert Welch, founder of John Birch Society:

His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.” It was, he said in the summer of 1961, “50-70 percent” Communist-controlled.

It was not a winning message for a presidential campaign, but Goldwater lamented to Kirk that “Every other person in Phoenix is a member of the John Birch Society. Russell, I’m not talking about Commie-haunted apple pickers or cactus drunks, I’m talking about the highest cast of men of affairs.” And so they had to act craftily in concert, which they then proceeded to do over a period of years.

But it was only a cosmetic move, as far as the mass right-wing base was concerned. This can be seen by the massive sales of conspiracist books, far outselling Buckley and Kirk. John Stormer’s “None Dare Call It Treason,” promoted as detailing “the communist-socialist conspiracy to enslave America,” sold 7 million paperback copies, mostly during Goldwater’s campaign, at the same time that Phyllis Schlafly’s “A Choice, Not an Echo,”another multimillion-seller, gave the campaign its most memorable slogan, while promoting the conspiracy theory that the Republican Party was secretly controlled by members of the Bilderberger banking conference, who were also in cahoots with global communism. It was these us-vs.-them conspiracist narratives that pulled together the conservative movement on the ground. Given the media and political structures of the time, it was possible to hide this substantial mass of conspiracist belief, much as a iceberg hides nine-tenths of its mass underwater. But there’s no mistaking that it was there, and remained unshaken despite being kept submerged.

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/09/01/paranoid_history_of_the_gop_how_conspiracy_theories_poisoned_the_republican_party/

 

How conservatives took over sci-fi’s most prestigious award – Updated by Todd VanDerWerff on August 22, 2015, 11:00 p.m. ET


“It is the rear-guard action of people who believe that just because other people are coming in with different views, different interests, and different concerns, and aren’t willing to naturally accept the previous order of things, that all doom and terror and fire from the skies is happening,” John Scalzitells me.

We’re talking about the most recent skirmish in a larger war, a war for the soul of nerd culture. This one involves the Hugo Awards, a literary award ceremony, but it’s the latest iteration of a new battle that already feels ancient.

Scalzi is an award-winning, best-selling novelist, the author of enormously entertaining science fiction novels like Old Man’s War and Redshirts. If you’ve read his popular blog, you’ll know he’s a passionate individual, and he seems incredibly frustrated by those in the science fiction and fantasy community who have launched this “rear-guard action.”

It’s the latest iteration of a new battle that already feels ancient

Yet if you talk to the people on the other side — who have dubbed themselves the “Sad Puppies” — they will point to Scalzi as part of a larger problem within the community. Yeah, their rhetoric might be a little over the top, but they’re the ones saving the industry from political correctness and the “literati.”

These Sad Puppies are, depending on whom you ask, the saviors of the Hugo Awards from mediocre books, a bunch of bigots, or part of a cynically motivated awards grab.

Tell me what happened in 100 words or less

Science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards are chosen by a fan vote at both the nominee and winner stages. However, the number of people who vote at the nominee stage is small enough that a concerted effort by a small group can have disproportionate payoff.

That’s what happened with two groups purporting to support traditional space opera science fiction and politically conservative authors, who initially made up 72 percent of all nominees. Once this happened, many accused both slates of supporting racist, sexist sentiments. These voters say — accurately — that they followed the rules.

Who are the Sad Puppies?

The term Sad Puppies is used interchangeably to refer to a group of Hugo voters and a specific slate of works advanced by those awards. It’s also often — inaccurately — been used to refer to a completely separate campaign. We’ll get to the other campaign — the Rabid Puppies — in a moment.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/4/26/8495415/hugos-sad-puppies-controversy

 

Where America’s Democracy Went to Die – By Paul D. Shinkman Aug. 14, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT


In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bold plan to revitalize a country ravaged by war may provide stability – or it could undo it all.

More than a decade after being invaded by the U.S., Iraq is moving away from the democracy the West tried to establish in the country.

On the streets of Baghdad, and in other corners of Iraq where locals have endured almost unimaginable chaos and tragedy over the last decade, two popular phrases capture the complexities of modern life.

“We used to have one Saddam Hussein, now we have a thousand,” one saying goes. The other: “The patch is small, and the hole is big.”

The first adage helps personify what has become endemic corruption in Iraq, giving rise to massive protests against public officials’ exploiting their positions to steal money and the government’s failure to stop it. The second represents the inherent fear among Iraqis that no leader, particularly in the current government, possesses the vision to see beyond the country’s existing problems and come up with a proactive solution in service of Iraq’s future.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks at the Chancellery on Feb. 6, 2015, in Berlin.

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Abadi’s Bold Plan for Iraq

The sentiments reflect the concerns of demonstrators who have taken to the streets in recent days in frustration over the government’s inability to deliver basic services like a reliable flow of electricity at a time when summer temperatures have topped 120 degrees. The largely peaceful and nonsectarian protests, set against the urgency of war with the Islamic State group, prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to announce a bold set of anti-corruption reforms over the weekend aimed at making the government more effective. The seven-point plan attacks fraud and waste in key areas of the political, national security and leadership infrastructure where Abadi, a Shiite Muslim, sees some of the most flagrant abuses.

Some consider it the beginning of a labyrinthine path to actual reform. For others, it suggests a power grab by Abadi, who may have just laid the foundation to oust encroaching rivals, consolidate power and build his base of support.

Regardless, in a country defined by autocrats, the move almost certainly marks the official death of the model of democracy the U.S. attempted to impose over a decade of war.

“Iraqis in general blame the U.S. government [for choosing to] fund, train and support the present, corrupt Iraqi government,” says Kamal Jabar, an Iraqi-American human rights activist and journalist who recently returned to the U.S. from Baghdad and has been closely monitoring the tenor of the protests in and around the capital city. Many of the protesters on the streets celebrated the news, he says, but Iraqis have learned to temper their optimism.

Article continues:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/08/14/abadis-reforms-and-the-death-of-us-imposed-democracy-in-iraq?int=a14709

College Board Caves To Conservative Pressure, Changes AP U.S. History Curriculum BY CASEY QUINLAN JUL 30, 2015 11:04AM UPDATED: JUL 30, 2015 9:48PM


CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

CREDIT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS — Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbul

After backlash from conservatives that AP guidelines released last year by the College Board were unpatriotic, the new AP standards, which are effective immediately, will use the phrase “American exceptionalism,” and includes the founding fathers, according to Newsweek. The College Board said it “previously assumed it wasn’t something it needed to spell out as part of what would be taught in an American history course.”

Some of the main criticisms of the guidelines, conservatives voiced, were less emphasis on the founding fathers and more emphasis on slavery. The guidelines also included earlier American history that included violence against Native Americans and mentioned the growing influence of social conservatives. There were also complaints that World War II was not emphasized enough, but military victories will be given more attention in the new standards. Mentions of slavery will be “roughly the same” as previous standards, according to Newsweek.

Conservatives also took issue with the framework’s description of the term “manifest destiny.” The definition, according to The Daily Caller:

The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was based on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority, and helped to shape the era’s political debates.

AP American history courses in particular became a political battleground when the College Board released new guidelines in October 2012. According to Talking Points Memo, the public controversy started with Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher. Then The Republican National Committee noticed Krieger’s remarks and campaigned against the new framework. The RNC asked Congress to stop funding the College Board, saying it “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

After the issue picked up momentum, more and more state legislators got involved in decrying the new guidelines. An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to ban AP history class and Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) introduced legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” In Colorado, the Jefferson County school board intended to create a committee to review the AP history course. Students protested revisions to the new standards and soon after, the Jefferson County school board cancelled a review of the standards.

In September of last year, Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who is now running for president, said “most people” who take the course would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”