Clerk’s gay marriage protest divides the Republican field – By Jesse Byrnes September 02, 2015, 04:38 pm

Republican presidential candidates are split on whether a Kentucky county clerk should be forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has cited religious objections in refusing to issue the licenses, has pushed gay marriage toward the center of political debate at a time when the Republican Party is grappling with its stance on the issue.

The clerk’s crusade has become the first major legal flare-up over gay marriage since the Supreme Court’s decision in late June that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates denounced the high court’s ruling, calling it judicial overreach that threatens the religious liberty of faith-based organizations and business owners.

Democrats mostly cheered the court while dismissing the warnings about religious freedom as overblown.

Rowan is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning after defying a judge’s order to issue the licenses, a ruling that the Supreme Court itself refused to block.

With attention on the case growing, presidential contenders are beginning to stake out their positions on whether Rowan should be compelled to issue the licenses.

Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, on Wednesday gave Rowan a full-throated endorsement after speaking to her on the phone.

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The Republicans’ Red Scare – By NAHAL TOOSI 08/28/15, 02:36 AM EDT

GOP presidential candidates have a new country to bash: the People’s Republic of China.

This week’s Chinese stock market crash — and the resulting turmoil in U.S. markets — prompted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to demand the White House cancel next month’s state visit by China’s president. Donald Trump said he’d treat the Chinese president to McDonald’s instead of a fancy dinner.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 14:  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at Red Rock Harley-Davidson on July 14, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Walker launched his campaign on Monday, joining 14 other Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 14: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at Red Rock Harley-Davidson on July 14, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Walker launched his campaign on Monday, joining 14 other Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

There’s likely more China-bashing in the works: On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio and Walker will deliver dueling foreign policy speeches in South Carolina that in Rubio’s case will focus primarily on the communist-led state.

But while scapegoating Beijing and its questionable economic policies may seem like an appealing campaign tactic, China specialists – including many in the GOP – warn that Republicans run the risk of looking ignorant about U.S.-Chinese ties.

“Welcome to the most complex and challenging relationship of the 21st century,” said Jon Huntsman, a former GOP White House contender and ex-ambassador to China who was once mocked for speaking Chinese during a debate. “It’s foolhardy to think that you can just wave off the work of the China-U.S. relationship for political purposes, but it’s also no surprise that in primary season people make such statements. You want to be seen as a tough guy on the world stage.”

To be fair, China gives White House hopefuls lots of material for a tough-guy routine.

Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, its suspected role in cyberattacks on the U.S. and its dismal human rights record are just a few areas already seized upon by Republicans (and some Democrats) for criticism. China’s currency policies have long frustrated the United States in particular, and its increased military spending has led to wariness around the world.

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Hillary hints at support for $12 minimum wage – July 30, 2015, 03:55 pm

Hillary Clinton hinted Thursday that she’s supportive of legislation hiking the minimum wage to $12.

Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, has backed the concept of a wage hike on the campaign trail without specifying a figure — a reticence that’s been criticized by her closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who’s pushing for a $15 rate.

But on Thursday, after meeting with leaders of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Clinton got as close as she’s come to endorsing a specific level, hinting that a $12 minimum wage proposal sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) might offer a viable path forward.

“Patty Murray is one of the most effective legislators in the Senate bar none, and whatever she advocates I pay a lot of attention to because she knows how to get it through the Congress,” Clinton told reporters. “Let’s not just do it for the sake of having a higher number out there, but let’s actually get behind a proposal that has a chance of succeeding. And I have seen Patty over the years be able to do just that.”

Earlier in the press conference, Clinton advocated an unspecified increase in the federal minimum wage — which has stood at $7.25 per hour since 2009 — and then allowing states and local governments to make adjustments as they see fit based on regional cost-of-living variations.

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White progressives must address racial injustice – by Kimberly C. Ellis July 25, 2015 2:00AM ET

On July 18, two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — faced protests during a town hall discussion at the liberal Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix. The Black Lives Matter campaign, which is effectively merging online and offline activism against racial injustice, staged a demonstration in the conference hall, asking the candidates, Which side are you on?

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The 2016 candidates must heed the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and formulate proper policy responses

Initially, O’Malley handled the protest well, even tapping his hands to the rhythm of a song the group sang and starting his remarks by answering questions about criminal justice and police reform. But he fumbled, inviting boos from the majority white progressive crowd when he said, “Black lives matter, and white lives matter, and all lives matter.” He should have known that the phrase “black lives matter” is part of an attempt to eradicate the racist and structural inequalities in the criminal justice system, which so often manifests as police brutality and other state-sanctioned violence. Hence, the emphasis upon black lives.

Sanders, whose appearance followed O’Malley’s, was given a rehearsal and a series of talking points by two Black Lives Matter activists who took the stage during the protest — Tia Oso and Patrisse Cullors. But clearly unmoved, he stepped off on the wrong foot by gesturing to the protesters and the audience to settle down so that he could get to “some serious things” he wanted to address, as if their questions were a mere frivolous disruption from the major issues facing the United States. He then proceeded to give his prepared campaign speech and threatened to leave if the audience “did not want him” to be there.

The incident, which followed a well-received keynote address by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren a day earlier, laid bare a major political divide among white progressives and may now serve as the foundation for challenging other 2016 presidential contenders.

Unlike the two candidates, Warren did not simply recite the phrase “black lives matter”; she effortlessly connected the fight for racial justice with the struggle for economic justice in this country. “It shouldn’t take a revolution on YouTube to drive a revolution in law enforcement,” she said. “It shouldn’t take a hurricane in New Orleans or a massacre in Charleston for Americans to wake up to what is happening — what is still happening — to people of color in this country.”

Sanders maintains that the rise of “the billionaire class” is the key problem facing the United States today. And he believes that racial injustice is an outcome of economic injustices and will be solved only through an economic revolution. Racism is not simply a byproduct of class oppression and economic exploitation. Race and class are inextricably linked to the institution of slavery and, thus, the rise of capitalism in the United States, which dehumanized and objectified black lives by separating families and creating race-based, structural inequalities with clear economic outcomes.

In this regard, the Black Lives Matter protest was a teachable moment for everyone, particularly for white progressives. White progressives need to address racial injustice by picking a side. Will they be Warren progressives, who incorporate racial justice and economic justice? Will they be Sanders progressives, who prioritize economic justice as the cause of racial injustice? Or will progressives create an even better platform than what either of these politicians has articulated? Their answers are critical to shaping the conversation and electoral agenda in 2016.

White progressives must address the destructive nature of slavery and white supremacy to chart a new era of inequality and end the exploitation of black bodies and lives.

Ultimately, progressive or not, no presidential candidate in the United States can win without a proper structural and political response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sanders bombed his Netroots appearance, but there are two precedents that progressives who support him can emulate: First, the Radical Republicans, who from the 1850s to 1870s championed the needs of white and black progressives. Backed by members of the Republican Party, the group rejected gradualism and demanded immediate citizenship for the enslaved, equal protection under the law and economic reparations for them, in the form of 40 acres and a mule.

Second, the populist movement of 1890s effectively represents how most progressives feel about government today. Black and white farmers in the South and Midwest fought corporate greed, white supremacy and both the Democratic and Republican parties’ lack of attention to their concerns by forming the Populist Party. As Warren articulated at Netroots conference, the Populist Party too wanted the government to regulate banks, prevent corporate monopolies and otherwise assuage economic strife.

The two movements could have significantly changed the trajectory of American history. But they were thwarted by white racial violence in the form of domestic terrorism. White supremacist groups, ranging from Confederacy lovers to the Ku Klux Klan, routinely destroyed crops, houses and livestock and killed black people. As anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnet noted in her 1895 pamphlet “A Red Record,” white assaults targeted black individuals and communities that provided opportunities for economic competition for white communities during and after slavery such as in Wilmington, North Carolina; Chicago; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

White progressives, including Sanders, must understand and address the destructive nature of slavery and white supremacy and the intersectionality of race, class, gender and sexuality in order to chart a new era of inequality and end the exploitation of black bodies and lives. Otherwise, a claim to being progressive or liberal will serve simply as an academic or intellectual exercise.

Sanders has since expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter campaign in a series of comments posted on Twitter after the hashtag #BernieSoBlack, which criticized his stances, trended nationally and made headlines. Other candidates have taken notice. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who skipped the Netroots conference, has since put out a statement and a video explaining her support for the campaign and a policy proposal on police body cameras. That will not be enough, but it is a start.

During this presidential election cycle, we need a clear-eyed formulation of a progressive policy agenda for the 21st century. Among other things, this includes raising the minimum wage, debt-free college, paid sick leave for families, reining in corporate influence in politics and strengthening Social Security, criminal justice and Wall Street reforms.

Addressing the needs and demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and knowing that black people’s voices and participation in our politics matter would be the first step in correcting these long-held gaps in the practice of American democracy.

A better way to talk about abortion: Aspen Baker TEDWomen 2015 · 10:58 · Filmed May 2015

Abortion is extremely common. In America, for example, one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, yet the strong emotions sparked by the topic — and the highly politicized rhetoric around it — leave little room for thoughtful, open debate. In this personal, thoughtful talk, Aspen Baker makes the case for being neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice” but rather “pro-voice” — and for the roles that listening and storytelling can play when it comes to discussing difficult topics.

Confederate flags spotted outside the US – BBC News 10 July 2015

Santa Barbara D'Oeste in Brazil

The flag rises in Santa Barbara D’Oeste, Brazil

A backlash against the Confederate flag in the US has gathered pace, with its removal from state properties and off the shelves of retailers. But it is also seen flying in other parts of the world.

To its opponents, the battle flag used by Southern states in the American Civil War is a symbol of slavery but to its supporters it is part of southern heritage.

It is also seen outside the US. In the rural Brazilian town of Santa Barbara D’Oeste, descendants of Confederates that fled to Brazil hold an annual reunion at which the flag plays a central part.

Readers have been getting in touch to say where else they have seen it displayed.



I have seen it at Napoli football matches in Italy. I was told by one supporter that they liked the colours and the rebellious symbolism it carried in Italy where the South and North still have a rivalry. It goes beyond football. Gustavo M Lanata, Italy


When I visited Protaras, Cyprus, in 2004 the main strip along the beach was lined with Confederate flags. One of the oddest things I’ve come across. No one there seemed to know the flag’s history or even what country it was from. Locals and UK tourists both assumed it of Scottish origin given the angles of the “X”. The flag was everywhere and no one knew what it meant (the desired reunification of Cyprus or pre-war attempt to merge with Greece don’t seem to match the rebellion theme, though I assumed it perhaps started as some protest flag). Pete Bullwinkel, New York


The southern coastal region of Croatia is referred to as Dalmatia and I have seen the Confederate battle flag on buildings there. I was told by a Croatian that the coastal region associates this symbol with being from the southern portion of the country and distinguishes them from the mountainous regions to the north around the capita of Zagreb. Clint Hodges, Split, Croatia


Every year, the town of Millport in North Ayrshire, Scotland, holds a country and western festival and the little island is covered in Confederate flags. Emma Morgan, Belfast


While campaigning in the most recent UK general election, I saw a man proudly displaying the Confederate flag in the front window of his Battersea, London, flat. As an American living in London, I was surprised to see that flag so I asked him what he thought it represented, and he replied that he flies that flag because he’s “a rebel”, and that’s the “rebel” flag. Ben, London

I fly the North Virginia battle flag in my back garden. It is not a racist flag, it is now only a symbol of the South. My forebears fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and I celebrate that. Britain still flies the Union flag after years of historical slavery abroad and many atrocities. D Fortesque, Market Drayton, UK


I live in Luxembourg now (moved from the USA) and I was shocked to come across several houses flying the Confederate flag in some villages here. I never had the chance to ask the people who lived at the house what it meant to them, but for me it has instant connotations of racism and hatred. It saddened me to see it here. Ann, Luxembourg


I have seen the Confederate flag being waved around the UAE while I was growing up in Dubai. There were many cars and trucks, usually owned and operated by rich wealthy Emiratis who would post the Confederate flag all over their cars and on top of their pick-ups. And just drive around waving the flags around town. It never made much sense to me there and interestingly enough it appeared to have a cultural connection to their love of cars, especially brute American muscle power cars. Very strange. Tiago Niles, Sao Paulo

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5 takeaways from Jeb’s big announcement – By ELI STOKOLS and MARC CAPUTO 6/15/15 8:46 PM EDT Updated 6/16/15 12:01 AM EDT

Bush brings a heavy helping of Latin flavor (and punctuation) to his debut.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, upper left, poses for a selfie with a supporter as he signs autographs from the window of a food truck after he formally announced that he would join the race for president with a speech at Miami Dade College, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — When Jeb Bush finally took the stage after 40 minutes of warm-up speakers and musical acts — a prolonged windup that still pales in comparison to the 18 months of planning and plotting that led to Monday — what he said was no surprise, even if he sought to portray it that way.

“I have decided,” Bush said. “I am a candidate for president of the United States.”

His 30-minute announcement speech, a detailed and selective overview of his record that drew heavily on professional accomplishments and lighter on the personal, revealed how Bush plans to present himself to a conservative primary electorate that thinks he’s too soft and a country that’s tired of political dynasties trading the White House back and forth.

Here are five takeaways from Bush’s campaign launch:

1. ¡JEB, the Latino candidate! From beginning to end, Bush’s campaign kickoff bore the stamp of Miami’s Latin flavor. Salsa music intermittently played as guests took their seats in the gymnasium of Miami Dade College in the suburb of Kendall.

The Chirino Sisters — the three daughters of Latin crooner Willy Chirino — took the stage and sang three songs, two in Spanish. And Chirino, a Cuban exile, briefly contrasted the lack of democracy in Cuba with the 2016 presidential race. Bush’s son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, briefly spoke in Spanish, as did the candidate toward the end of his announcement.

“As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language,” Jeb Bush said in English, transitioning to Spanish as he called on people to have a campaign that “welcomes” people and emphasizes our “shared values [and] the cause of all who love freedom, the noble cause of the United States.”

Bush has backed a pathway to residency — or citizenship in some cases — for some undocumented immigrants. But he was briefly interrupted by a group of pro-immigration activists, wearing neon-lime-green shirts each with an oversized letter that, together, spelled out “LEGAL STATUS.” The crowd drowned out the activists with the chant “USA!” Bush promised to pass “meaningful” immigration reform, eliciting more shouts of approval from the crowd. The energy didn’t surprise Mel Martinez, Florida’s first Cuban-American senator.

“This isn’t fake. This is real. If you want a good political rally, bring a bunch of Latins. The best rallies I had running for the Senate was right here in Miami,” Martinez said. Asked about Marco Rubio, who holds the seat he once did, Martinez said, “I wish he would stay there.”

2. Jeb wants to be the candidate of reform, not grievance. Bush pushed an image of himself as a fix-it politician who would start an aggressive reform agenda on Day One. “We need a president willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation’s capital,” Bush said, zeroing in on education, one of his top issues as governor.

While other candidates have rattled off long lists of Washington failures, and as the Republican Party still struggles to shake off its reputation as the party of no, Bush emphasized his ability to not just spot weaknesses but also address them head-on. From the moment he entered the Florida Governor’s Mansion in 1999, Bush fashioned himself as a conservative reformer, from taking on public-school unions to scaling back affirmative action to privatizing more aspects of Medicaid.

He channeled that reputation on Monday, highlighting education.

“After we reformed education in Florida, low-income student achievement improved here more than in any other state,” he said. “We stopped processing kids along as if we didn’t care — because we do care, and you don’t show that by counting out anyone’s child. You give them all a chance.”

Unmentioned by Bush: Common Core, the set of interstate educational standards that have become increasingly unpopular, especially among conservatives.

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The Supreme Court Could Make Abortion One of 2016’s Big Campaign Issues – By Pema Levy | Fri Jun. 12, 2015 6:05 AM EDT

And that could be bad news for Republicans.

But the American people may not be able to avoid the issue of abortion as next November nears. This week’s ruling paves the way for the US Supreme Court to take up the most important abortion case in more than 20 years to determine how far states can go in cutting off access to abortion. If the high court takes the case, the justices’ decision could be announced right smack in the middle of the 2016 campaign, forcing candidates to discuss abortion whether they want to or not. And, as Perry seems to recognize, that could be bad news for Republicans.

The Texas case isn’t the only chance for the Supreme Court to reanimate the abortion debate, but it may be the best. A number of legal challenges to abortion restrictions passed in Republican-controlled states are slowly making their way through the courts. A few have already reached the Supreme Court and are waiting for the justices to decide whether to take them. There’s a Mississippi law struck down by the 5th Circuit, which the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to take, that could close down the state’s only abortion clinic. And a North Carolina law that requires women to receive an ultrasound and listen to the doctor describe the fetus before getting an abortion was struck down in 2014 but has been appealed to the Supreme Court by the state.

But court watchers agree that the facts in the Texas case as well as an unresolved circuit court split make it the one most likely to be heard by the justices. “It only takes four justices” to take a case, says Caitlin Borgmann, a professor at the CUNY School of Law and a former state strategies coordinator at the Reproductive Freedom Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “At least four of the justices expressed an interest in hearing a case of this kind,” she says.


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With eye on U.S. election, Republicans assail Russia’s Putin – BY STEVE HOLLAND Mon Jun 8, 2015 7:35am EDT

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Something about Vladimir Putin makes Republicans in the U.S. presidential race see red.

The Russian president has emerged as a symbol for what they view as President Barack Obama’s weak foreign policy, and an easy route for criticizing his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ likely choice for the November 2016 election.

With his bare-chested swagger and wily geopolitical moves, Putin is an easy target, the man whose aggression against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea have revived Cold War tensions that Republicans credit their hero, President Ronald Reagan, with having ended in the 1980s.

“What Putin is trying to do is market the strongman concept,” Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, a U.S. senator from South Carolina, told Reuters. “He has a brand and his brand is to be in your face and say, ‘We’re not going to be pushed around by the West.'”

No leader abroad draws more Republican criticism than Putin does. The candidates’ message is clear: If any of them are elected president, U.S. relations with Russia will turn even more negative.

“I think it will resonate with Republican voters,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. “There’s real concern about what Putin is really up to.”

It helps them that the 62-year-old former KGB officer is deeply unpopular in the United States. A survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center in February said Putin was viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of Americans.

Foreign policy does not always figure prominently in U.S. presidential elections. The quadrennial vote often hinges on the health of the U.S. economy. Republicans this time have seized on the daily drumbeat of news around the world: Islamic State beheadings in the Middle East, Chinese claims to disputed waters, Russia flexing its muscles.


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