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Milton Persinger, left, and Robert Povilat wait for a marriage license at the Mobile County Probate office, Feb. 10, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Photo by Sharon Steinmann/AP)

This Week in God, 5.23.15

05/23/15 09:43AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a rare example of a religious leader actually getting arrested for exercising her religious liberty -- but in a way that social conservatives are inclined to care about. AL.com reported this week:
A Prattville minister arrested after offering to perform a same-sex wedding inside the Autauga County Courthouse in February pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
 
Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, was sentenced to 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, which was suspended in lieu of six months unsupervised probation, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. She was ordered to pay a $250 fine and other court costs.
By all accounts, the Unitarian minister, following the dictates of her conscience and the tenets of her faith tradition, hoped to perform matrimonial services for two women who had already received a marriage license, thanks to a February court ruling. But because the Autauga County Probate Office had blocked all marriage ceremonies in the office, DiPrizio and the couples were turned away.
 
The minister refused to leave before she could exercise her beliefs, and local officials had her taken into custody.
 
This might seem like the sort of thing that would cause apoplexy among "religious liberty" proponents -- government officials had a clergy arrested? -- but to date, DiPrizio received no support from any of the usual suspects.
 
The Box Turtle Bulletin added, "[I]t's worth noting that amidst all the hue and cry turning cake bakers into martyrs in the name of religious freedom, here is an actual ordained minister who was jailed and fined for seeking to practice her faith and support same-sex marriage."
 
A federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples have the right to marry in every Alabama county, but the ruling is on hold pending the Supreme Court's verdict in a related case. The decision is expected next month.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
State Department releases of Clinton emails

State Department begins release of Clinton emails

05/22/15 09:00PM

Michael Schmidt, reporter for the New York Times, talks with Steve Kornacki about the contents of the newly released Hillary Clinton e-mails from personal server during her time as secretary of state, and the confusing redactions by the State Department. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 5.22.15

05/22/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* More on this on the show tonight: "The State Department has released over 800 pages of emails sent and received on Hillary Clinton's private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State."
 
* Clinton responds: "After the event, Clinton, took questions from the press for the second time this week. She defended her use of private emails after being asked by NBC's Andrea Mitchell. 'All of the information in the emails has handled appropriately,' she replied, adding that she was glad the emails are coming out. 'I want people to be able to see all of them.'"
 
* A dash of reality: "Conspiracy-minded conservatives, be warned: The trove of Clinton emails don't prove much about her culpability for the infamous 9/11 anniversary attacks."
 
* No rush: "Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, said on Friday that she still expected the Fed to start raising its benchmark interest rate later this year."
 
* Refugio oil spill: "Officials at the company that owns the pipe that ruptured and spilled up to 105,000 gallons of heavy crude in Santa Barbara County said Friday they will not appeal a federal order to take corrective steps."
 
* California's water crisis: "California water regulators have accepted an unprecedented proposal from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmers to voluntarily cut water use by 25% -- or fallow a quarter of their cropland -- in an effort to avoid harsher, government-imposed cuts."
 
* A historic opportunity: "Irish citizens in places as far-flung as Australia and California were flying back to their home country on Friday to cast ballots in a referendum that could make Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage by a popular vote."
 
* What was he thinking? "To the right stands former Virginia delegate Joe Morrissey, 57, a Democrat running for a Virginia state Senate seat as an Independent after Democratic Party officials rejected his attempt to seek office. Joining Morrissey are his 19-year-old receptionist, Myrna Pride, and their 9-week-old son Chase, a child Morrissey publicly acknowledged as his son for the first time Wednesday."
Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, N.H., April 18, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Lindsey Graham's odd definition of 'never'

05/22/15 04:40PM

Perhaps more than any member of Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is preoccupied with fear. And the South Carolina Republican regularly paints a terrifying picture for Americans -- "The world is literally about to blow up" -- apparently because Graham wants you to be preoccupied with fear, too.
 
Take the senator's message today, for example:
"We have never seen more threats against our nation and its citizens than we do today."
Ahistorical nonsense like this is a little too common, particular from his wing of the party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) loves to tell anyone who'll listen that there's "greater turmoil" in the world now than at any time "in my lifetime."
 
McCain's lifetime includes the entirety of World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
 
And perhaps that's the root of the problem. I don't think Graham and McCain are being disingenuous -- their state of near-panic about national security seems sincere -- but I do think their understanding of history is alarmingly poor.

A new day for the culture war

05/22/15 03:07PM

It may be a while before the overall number of self-identified American liberals catch up to American conservatives, but a new Gallup report points to unseen ideological parity on social issues.
Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999. [...]
 
The broad trend has been toward a shrinking conservative advantage, although that was temporarily interrupted during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency. Since then, the conservative advantage continued to diminish until it was wiped out this year.
Among Republican voters, there hasn't been much of a change over the last decade, and the views espoused by the party's voters in 2015 are practically identical to the Gallup results from 2001.
 
But among Democrats, there's been a revolution of sorts. In 2011, a plurality of Dems described their views on social issues as "moderate," while only a third considered themselves "liberal." This year, however, those totals have reversed -- and then some. Now, a 53% majority of Democrats are social liberals, while about a third are moderates.
 
So, for the left, that's the good news. What's the bad news? Americans' views on economic issues. From the Gallup report:
US Capitol Police stand guard in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 12, 2013. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

GOP hostility towards compromise runs deep

05/22/15 12:42PM

When an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found earlier this year that a plurality of Republican voters believe GOP lawmakers compromise too much with President Obama, it seemed hard to believe. Congressional Republicans have refused to work with the Democratic White House on anything, literally since Day One. Maybe respondents didn't understand the question?
 
No, that's not it. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted yesterday that rank-and-file Republicans just want as much confrontation as humanly possible. The latest report from the Pew Research Center makes this clear:
The survey finds deep differences in how Republicans and Democrats want President Obama and GOP leaders to deal with issues. Fully 75% of Republicans want GOP leaders to challenge Obama more often; just 15% say they are handling relations with the president about right and 7% say GOP leaders should go along with Obama more often.
 
Fewer Democrats (49%) want Obama to challenge Republicans more often; 33% say he is handling this about right while 11% want him to go along with GOP leaders more often.
That's quite a bit of asymmetry. In the overall population, the number of Americans who want GOP lawmakers to go along more with the White House is roughly identical to the number of Americans who want Republicans to "challenge" the president more often.
 
But among GOP voters, the results are lopsided. This actually explains a lot.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.22.15

05/22/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) began selling "Filibuster Starter Packs" to supporters yesterday for $30, raising questions about the sincerity of his 10-hour stunt on the Senate floor this week.
 
* Rick Santorum is not at all pleased with Fox News' debate criteria, which may exclude him from participating. The former senator noted, among other things, that national polling is a poor standard -- four years ago, he won the Iowa caucuses despite poor showings in national polls.
 
* Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) presidential campaign now has four endorsements from Republican members of Congress, and all four are from the senator's adopted home state. Among the latest supporters announced yesterday: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
 
* While several Republican presidential candidates have struggled of late to finesse their position on the war in Iraq, retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson took a position that breaks with GOP orthodoxy: "I've said definitively that I was never in favor of going into Iraq."
 
* Scott Walker told an audience yesterday that Americans have reason to fear immigrants: "There's a good number from Indonesia, there are from Morocco, and other places around the world, many of whom aren't looking for work in the United States. They've got other motives and we need to wake up to that."
 
* In a bit of a surprise, Jeb Bush seemed to suggest at a campaign event yesterday that border security is better under President Obama than it was during his brother's tenure.
Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a business roundtable in Portsmouth, N.H., May 20, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Jeb once again turns to his Apple Watch

05/22/15 11:31AM

Jeb Bush caused a bit of a stir last week, telling an audience that he intends to destroy the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with a "consumer-driven" system, part of which includes his new Apple Watch.
 
"On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible," he said. "I'll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there'll be a wireless, there'll be, someone will send me a signal.... We'll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy."
 
Yesterday, campaigning in New Hampshire, the Florida Republican returned to the same subject:
"We're on the verge of a revolution in this regard, where we'll be able to know all sorts of things with, you know, devices like this. I got beat up by the left because I showed my, you know, Apple Phone -- this device will have the ability to measure your sugar content, to measure your heartbeat, to measure whether you're taking your drugs in the proper way. And you'll be able to wirelessly send text messages to your health care provider or to your loved one, or whatever, so that you can get back on track."
It seems the former governor isn't entirely clear on why he "got beat up."
Elizabeth Warren

What hypocrisy is (and what it isn't)

05/22/15 10:40AM

A couple of years ago, President Obama attended a fundraiser with some wealthy donors. The Republican National Committee said it was "the definition of hypocrisy" for the president to "run against" the wealthy while seeking campaign contributions from wealthy contributors.
 
The trouble, of course, is that this isn't the "the definition of hypocrisy" at all. Having a policy agenda that focuses on lifting up working families, while asking more from the very wealthy, does not preclude seeking contributions from those who also support that agenda.
 
This week, Hillary Clinton was accused of being "hypocritical" for criticizing the existing campaign-finance system, even while raising money within that system. But again, that's not what "hypocrisy" means -- there is no contradiction when a candidate plays by the rules while hoping to someday change those rules.
 
And today, it's apparently Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mas.) turn. Politico reported:
Elizabeth Warren is trying to kill President Barack Obama's trade agenda by raising the specter that foreign companies could use an investor-friendly arbitration system to circumvent the U.S. court system.
 
But she hasn't discussed her own role 15 years ago in the arbitration system she opposes -- as a paid expert witness earning as much as $90,000 from the U.S. government.
Once again, this isn't what hypocrisy what means. Vox's Matt Yglesias explained:
Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference on May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

The one thing Scott Walker has that his rivals lack

05/22/15 10:17AM

If it seems like there's a confab for Republican presidential hopefuls about once a week, it's not your imagination. The series of "cattle calls" is practically endless, including the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that began yesterday in Oklahoma City, drawing much of the GOP field.
 
Most of the rhetoric was roughly what one might expect, but there was something Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said that stood out for me.
"There's a lot of great people out there who are thinking about, or are currently in the race, for president on the Republican side. Now, there are some people, there are some of those folks, particularly those in Washington, who are really good fighters -- they're fighting the good fight, they're waving the flag, they're carrying the banner -- but they haven't won a whole lot of victories yet.
 
"And then there's some other folks out there that they have done a really effective job of winning elections -- a lot of friends of mine, governors or former governors who got elected and they got re-elected. They won a lot of elections, but they haven't taken on a lot of those fights.
 
"I gotta tell you, ladies and gentlemen, part of the reason why I'm even thinking about what I'm thinking about -- we haven't announced anything yet, won't until after the end of June when our state budget is done -- I have yet to see anyone in the field or in the emerging field who's done both."
And that, in a nutshell, is Scott Walker's core 2016 pitch. What's more, it's largely true.
A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

Republicans experience cognitive dissonance over ACA

05/22/15 09:32AM

The latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation offers plenty of good news for those hoping to see the American health care system succeed. For example, a combined 74% of consumers who purchased coverage through an exchange consider their coverage either "good" or "excellent," which is up a couple of points from last year.
 
This is exactly the kind of numbers proponents of the Affordable Care Act hoped to see. For all the predictions that consumers would avoid the exchanges and hate their ACA-backed coverage, we now see largely the opposite.
 
But the same survey found that Republicans, many of whom like the coverage they've received through "Obamacare," continue to hate the law anyway. Mother Jones' Kevin Drum thinks this is "crazy" and he raises a fair point.
This isn't a general survey of all Americans. It's a survey specifically of people who don't have group coverage. Most of them (probably more than two-thirds) have actually purchased Obamacare plans and therefore have personal experience with them, but favorability is nonetheless still driven mostly by party ID. You can buy an ACA plan on the marketplace, get a subsidy, and be happy with your plan -- but if you're a Republican you still overwhelmingly hate Obamacare by 74-25 percent.
 
Folks, that is hardcore.
Agreed. For years, we've seen polls showing Americans expressing general support for the provision that make up the ACA, even if they claim not to like the ACA itself, but this is just a little worse. We're looking at a group of folks who received coverage through the system, like the coverage they received, but still reflexively oppose the law that gave them the coverage they like.

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