Not everyone wants to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge. President Obama and Vice President Biden, for example, have both demurred. Due to rules related to public officials and fundraising campaigns, diplomats and active-duty U.S. troops aren't supposed to partake in the campaign, either.
A Catholic diocese in Ohio is discouraging its schools from participating in the ice bucket challenge to benefit the ALS Association, citing its funding of research involving embryonic stem cells.
In a letter sent Tuesday to its 113 schools, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's superintendent of Catholic schools says the research being funded is "in direct conflict with Catholic teaching."
Apparently, the schools can participate in the challenge in a general sense, but they're not supposed to support the ALS Association, which started the campaign to raise money and awareness about the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
The AP report added this quote from diocese spokesman Dan Andriacco: "We certainly appreciate the compassion that has caused people all over the country, certainly including many Catholics, to be interacting and engaging in a fun way to support ALS research. But it's a well-established moral principle that not only the ends be good, but the means must be good, too."
And in this case, because the "means" might include research on embryonic stem cells, the Cincinnati Archdiocese doesn't want schools contributing to the ALS Association.
I knew there were some political/policy angles to the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I'll confess, I didn't see this one coming.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will occasionally talk a good game about expanding the Republican Party, creating a more inclusive approach to conservative politics, and reaching out beyond the GOP's far-right, homogeneous base. But when it comes to immigration, when push comes to shove, the differences between Paul, Steve King, and Ted Cruz no longer exist. Sam Stein reported this morning:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in an interview published Thursday that he supports legislation ending the president's program to defer deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Speaking to Breitbart News during a medical mission in Guatemala, Paul lent his backing to House Republican efforts to address the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border.
The Kentucky Republican specifically said, "I'm supportive of the House bill and I think it will go a long way to fixing the problem." After complaining about the Senate Democratic leadership ignoring the House plan, Paul added, "I think there's a very good chance the House bill could pass in the Senate, but it won't ever pass if it doesn't ever see the light of day."
It's worth clarifying that there are actually two House bills, not one, which were packaged together, but the senator's office later clarified that Paul supports both.
And this, in turn, puts Paul squarely in the middle of what Greg Sargent calls the party of "maximum deportations."
It's been a few weeks, but let's not forget that House Republicans ignored their own leaders and rejected their own party's border bill. Left with no choice, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told far-right extremists they could craft their own legislation.
The result was ridiculous. Right-wing lawmakers largely ignored the humanitarian crisis the bill was originally intended to address, and instead targeted President Obama's DACA policy. The top Republican goal became the deportation of Dream Act kids. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the Republican Party's policy could effectively be described in three words: "Deport 'em all."
The proposals were, by any fair measure, a joke that included far-right provisions that GOP leaders had themselves rejected a few days prior. No one, including proponents, expected the House package to actually go anywhere legislatively -- it wasn't even the point. And yet, here's Rand Paul throwing his enthusiastic support to this right-wing nonsense.
Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) complained bitterly and publicly about the Obama administration for not "addressing the threat" posed by ISIS. Graham's expectations were clear: he wanted more rhetoric, sooner rather than later.
In theory, the senator has less to complain about this week. In the wake of James Foley's murder, President Obama issued a sweeping condemnation of ISIS, as did Secretary of State John Kerry. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel characterized the terrorist group as "beyond anything we have seen."
In a joint briefing at the Pentagon a day after officials revealed the U.S. secretly launched a failed mission to rescue Foley and other kidnapped Americans held by the Islamic State and Syria and Iraq (ISIS), Hagel suggested the terror group poses a "9/11-level" threat to America.
"ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen. They are beyond just a terrorist group," Hagel said. "They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess, they are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen."
During the same briefing, General Martin Dempsey, the Obama-appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated.... Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no."
The assessments came against the backdrop of additional airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq. All told, there have been 90 U.S. airstrikes against the terrorist group over the last two weeks.
As for the politics surrounding the national-security strategy, the line from the president's critics has not yet come into focus. We know they're not satisfied; we don't know what they'd do differently.
Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the Dallas Morning News, talks with Rachel Maddow about why the indictment of Texas governor Rick Perry is a bigger deal than many realize and is not a partisan attack and is about coercion, not vetoes. watch
* Ferguson: "Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday ordered the Missouri National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson, where they had been in place since Monday. The move came just after a brief altercation occurred between a state senator and a county spokesperson near St. Louis."
* Middle East: "About 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in a predawn airstrike by Israel, the most significant blow to the group's leadership since Israel's operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago."
* This seems like quite an admission: "A senior Hamas leader has said the group carried out the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June -- the first time anyone from the Islamic militant group has said it was behind an attack that helped spark the current war in the Gaza Strip."
* Ebola: "American doctor Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, both of whom contracted Ebola while treating infected Liberian patients, have been released from an Atlanta hospital. Writebol was discharged from Emory University Hospital on Tuesday, and Brantly was released on Thursday."
* ISIS: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday afternoon that it would not be possible to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria without attacking its fighters in Syria."
* It's a good thing the right was wrong about the auto-industry rescue: "[T]he number of cars coming off our assembly lines just reached its highest level in 12 years."
* No one knows why this is happening, though most agree it's good news: "For five years now, America's teen birth rate has plummeted at an unprecedented rate, falling faster and faster. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of babies born to teens annually fell by 38.4 percent, according to research firm Demographic Intelligence. This drop occurred in tandem with steep declines in the abortion rate."
* Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) hasn't just earned a reputation for his fierce anti-immigration position; he also seems to have a strong aversion to the Congressional Black Caucus.
* A city councilman in Missouri apologized this week for posting racist anti-Obama messages online. In an unfortunate choice of words, councilman Peter Tinsley's defense was he was "a very active Republican" when he published the offensive content.
For proponents of civil rights and marriage equality, the last year has been remarkably successful, though there have been some recent bumps in the road. A state court in Tennessee, for example, interrupted the winning streak last week, while the U.S. Supreme Court halted Virginia marriages that had been set to begin today.
But as we were reminded in the Sunshine State this afternoon, the larger trajectory of this fight clearly favors supporters of equal rights.
A federal judge on Thursday ruled Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered the state to recognize marriages legally performed elsewhere. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, however, immediately stayed his order until after the appeals process is completed.
"When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination," Hinkle wrote. "Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held."
It was just six years ago that voters in Florida, with relative ease, approved a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married. Amendment 2, as it was called, passed statewide, 62% to 38%.
But now, thanks to Hinkle, a Clinton appointee to the federal bench, the measure is unconstitutional. With the district court judge, however, agreeing to a stay, those hoping to take advantage of marriage equality in Florida will have to wait a little longer.
As for the larger context, let's return to looking at the scope of recent court rulings, because it really is extraordinary.
Several weeks ago, President Obama's Republican critics came up with a bizarre new accusation: the White House might be letting Ebola into the United States by failing to properly secure the Mexican border. The argument really didn't make any sense, but some members of Congress repeated the allegations publicly.
The talking point seems to have faded, but it's replaced by an equally foolish argument. Andrew Kaczynski reports on Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) appearance in Washington, D.C., this morning, where the likely presidential candidate said ISIS terrorists may be -- you guessed it -- entering the United States through Mexico.
"Individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be, and I think it's a very real possibility that they have already used that," Perry said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation Thursday.
Perry said he didn't have any "clear evidence" of that but said "common sense" tells you it could occur, citing crimes from undocumented immigrants.
The governor went on to say that he's aware of "historic" levels of border crossings from "from countries with terrorist ties." Which countries? Perry specifically referenced Ukraine -- which isn't at all known for its terrorist ties.
There are two broad problems with the Texas Republican's argument, both of which are important.