Meet Cathi Herrod, Arizona’s Extreme Anti-LGBT “Legislative Terrorist”

November 13, 2014 5:02 pm ET by Carlos Maza

An NBC affiliate in Arizona aired a softball interview with Cathi Herrod, the state’s leading anti-LGBT culture warrior. But while the segment depicted Herrod as a victimized Christian activist, it ignored her history of peddling extreme smears about the LGBT community while fighting against basic legal protections for gays and lesbians.

On November 7, NBC’s Phoenix affiliate Channel 12 News aired an interview with Herrod, the president of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy (CAP). A promo for the segment described Herrod’s critics as being “hypocritical,” depicting her as a “Christian catching hell”  because of her religious beliefs.

The interview itself, conducted by Channel 12 anchor Lin Sue Cooney, similarly painted Herrod as a victim of “hate” from LGBT activists. The segment, which highlighted Herrod’s Christian faith and upbringing, described her work as “protecting traditional values”:

But Channel 12’s description of Herrod’s work glossed over the extremism that motivates her and her organization’s anti-LGBT work.

Read the full entry ...

NC Sen. Goolsby Identifies "Illegals" By Their Inability To Speak English

August 23, 2012 11:39 am ET by Salvatore Colleluori

Two weeks ago, the anti-immigrant organization IIImpact held a two day conference in Wilmington, North Carolina to discuss the presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States and what immigration policies North Carolina politicians should pursue. The conference hosted many anti-immigrant voices, including Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) President William Gheen and Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County, North Carolina as well as both North Carolina State and Federal legislators. One of those politicians in attendance was Republican State Senator Thom Goolsby. During his session with ALIPAC's Gheen and Sheriff Page, Goolsby — who is up for re-election this year — attacked the practice of hiring court interpreters for undocumented immigrants who are involved in court proceedings and claimed we know who the non-citizens are "because they can't speak English."

Watch:

GOOLSBY: Well Curtis, I go into court every day and we have all our court documents now printed in Spanish. I mean, explain that to me. I mean, as we talked about earlier when I did my session, I mean, to get a — to be a U.S. citizen, as Jude was telling us earlier, her husband from Brazil, he had to take a test in English and give answers in English. You have to speak English in order to become a citizen of this country. We have court documents every day, we have court interpreters that you spend hundred — millions of dollars a year to hire, for illegals to come into court, to plead guilty, to be found guilty to maybe be put in jail or not.  And that's it, I mean they're done, they touched the court system, we know they're illegal because they can't speak English. And they go to jail, or they don't, or they get put on probation, and they're done. As the Sheriff says, he arrests them; he contacts ICE, Sheriff, what happens most of the time? ICE does nothing. They're released on bond or whatever else and they never get touched again until they break the law again, then it happens over again, and then that's it, and they stay here, and they stay here and they stay here. Period. Until they do something really bad and then they commit a Federal crime and then maybe they'll — maybe they'll take them out of the country.

Goolsby's comments reveal his lack of understanding for the necessity of offering alternative language services. Over 55 million people in the United States currently speak a language other than English at home. These also aren't just Spanish speakers, as the percentages of those speaking French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean has also grown since the 1980's as new immigrants enter the United States. Despite Goolsby's contentions, many of these non-native English speakers are legal residents and citizens of the United States.

The inability of some to understand English prompted former President Bill Clinton to issue an executive order which improved the ability for non-English speakers to obtain access to federal programs. This ensured that those who could not speak English were able to receive equal access to Federal benefits no matter their national origin.

ALEC-Inspired Education Bill Helps Fund Loch Ness Monster Truthers In Louisiana

June 26, 2012 2:39 pm ET by Brian Powell

It's not a myth — the Loch Ness Monster has turned up in, of all places, Louisiana. According to the New York Daily News, Louisiana's Eternity Christian Academy is using a textbook that asserts the monster is not only real, but that its existence disproves evolution. What's more, the school is eligible for taxpayer funded vouchers, thanks to a bill signed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal that strongly resembles model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

From the NYDN (emphasis added):

The Scottish legend of the Loch Ness Monster is suggested as truth in a biology book that a private Christian school in Louisiana is using in its curriculum.

But that's only part of the outrage from critics: Students who are eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers will be allowed to attend Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake for the 2012-13 school year, according to reports.

The startling claim about Nessie's authenticity is made to bolster creationism within the textbook, the Scotsman newspaper reported Monday. The Loch Ness Monster is described as a type of dinosaur, and if dinosaurs and man co-exist, then presumably there would be holes in the scientific argument for evolution.

[...]

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, advocated for the voucher plan, telling Reuters, "We are letting parents decide what's best for their children, not government."

According to Gannett Louisiana, the voucher plan was part of a Louisiana bill that allegedly mirrored model legislation written by ALEC, an influential conservative group that promotes model legislation favorable to its corporate funders through statehouses across the country. From Gannett (emphasis added):

The sweeping changes aimed at improving Louisiana's failing public schools are new to the state, but they are not new.

The changes signed into law in April — on teacher effectiveness, tenure and accountability; on charter schools, vouchers and other school-choice tactics; and on systemic changes to early childhood learning — all reflect the strategic thinking of one of the nation's most active conservative public-policy organizations.

Reading Gov. Bobby Jindal's education legislation — passed by the state Legislature in House Bills 974 and 976 and Senate Bill 581 — is akin to reading model bills drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

[...]

Whether ALEC, or any other such tax-exempt entity, does "too much lobbying" is a matter of annual scrutiny by the IRS.

Either way, ALEC has plenty of influence. Some say Jindal likely based his education legislation on models drafted by ALEC, which in August 2011 awarded Jindal the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award for public service.

Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for the governor, says that was not the case.

Earlier this month, Reuters described the education plan as "the nation's boldest experiment in privatizing public education," and noted that the voucher program would cover "the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools."

While one of those "Bible-based" schools is set to instruct students on the veracity of Loch Ness Monster sightings, another school — the Islamic School of Greater New Orleans — was forced to withdraw an application for government-paid vouchers after Louisiana lawmakers expressed concern about taxpayers funding "Islamic teaching." From the Huffington Post:

Stakes escalated last week when, to the frustration of some lawmakers, the Islamic School of Greater New Orleans applied for federal funds under the voucher program. Republican state Rep. Kenneth Havard objected to the Islamic School's request for 38 government-paid student vouchers, saying he opposed any bill that "will fund Islamic teaching," the Associated Press reports.

"I won't go back home and explain to my people that I supported this," he said.

"It'll be the Church of Scientology next year," Democratic state Rep. Sam Jones told AP.

The Islamic School of Greater New Orleans withdrew its request for vouchers before the bill went to vote.

Big Oil's Big Money Pays Off As Republicans Tour Nation On Their Behalf

May 25, 2012 2:15 pm ET by Brian Powell

Earlier this month, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) founded the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), a "committed group of House members" dedicated to "promot[ing] Republican energy policies." Thirty-four members of Congress were recruited to the cause, dedicating their district work period to "promoting energy independence for America." As McCarthy's press office put it, the dedicated members of the HEAT squad would "clearly demonstrate that House Republicans are on the side of the small businesses and families."

Judging from their campaign coffers, however, reasonable citizens might question who these members are really fighting for. Members of HEAT have already received nearly $1.3 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in the 2012 election cycle alone (according to a Political Correction records search on OpenSecrets.org of each individual HEAT member, excluding contributions from individuals). The average amount received per member comes in at about $38,232; HEAT leader Rep. McCarthy alone has received over $114,000.

Thursday, Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), a member of HEAT and former oil executive, toured a hydraulic fracturing site and released a statement:

Flores toured the Enervest site as a part of the nationwide House Energy Action Team 2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour. The point of the tours is to "highlight America's domestic energy resources and the need to increase domestic production."

"Burdensome Washington bureaucrat regulations and high energy costs are causing a roadblock to economic recovery and job creation," Flores said in a release. "We can clear this roadblock by increase our domestic energy production and decreasing our reliance on unstable Middle East oil. Yet, many folks in Washington view our domestic energy resources as a liability; and they continue to dream up ways to lock-up, restrict, tax, or otherwise regulate these assets away from the American people." [...]

"The oil and gas industry is vital to our economy and hydraulic fracturing is an integral tool to increase domestic energy production," Flores said. "I am working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Americans are able to take advantage of one of our great natural resources we have in Texas that provides well-paying jobs, improved tax bases for Texas school districts, and lower energy prices. In [a] nutshell, if we want to have American energy security, we need to develop a smart, stable and transparent regulatory scheme for hydraulic fracturing."

According to OpenSecrets.org, the "oil and gas industry" is the number one donor to Flores's 2012 campaign. In addition to money from energy industry PACs, he's received thousands of dollars this election cycle from James C. Flores, an executive at Plains Exploration and Production (PXP). PXP was in the news in recent weeks after it began fracking in southern California's Baldwin Hills Oil Field, a move that allegedly broke promises to nearby communities concerned about the safety of the process.

HEAT members are currently touring the nation's oil fields and energy companies. They're tweeting up a storm about the need for an "all-of-the-above energy solution," but they ignore green energy, the public health risks of drilling practices like fracking, and the economic realities of expanded domestic drilling (hint: it won't drive down gas prices). And none of them disclose the tens of thousands of dollars they're receiving from oil and gas companies. In other words, it's just a lot of hot air.

Gov. Scott Misses Out On $200 Million For Children's Health Care Funding

May 04, 2012 1:07 pm ET by Salvatore Colleluori

Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likes to reject most things that come from the federal government. In the latest rejection of federal funds, his administration has rejected almost $200 million in bonuses that would have gone to health care for children. As Health News Florida points out:

Over the past two years, Florida did such a good job of enrolling uninsured children in KidCare that the state could have qualified for as much as $200 million in federal bonuses - money that could have helped get more children into care.

But the state did not take the steps required to get the money. A spokesman for the Florida House said it appears the reason was the cost involved in making changes to certain agency rules, but was unable to offer specifics Friday morning.

While Scott has made it clear that he won't accept the millions of dollars in funding under the Affordable Care Act legislation, this money does not come from ACA but rather from the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). CHIPRA has already benefited 1.1 million children above expected levels. As the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families explains:

Data on the bonuses show that in the 23 states that received bonuses in FY 2011, an additional 1.1 million kids were enrolled above expected levels. The most (123,000) can be found in the state of Ohio. While we can't say that the bonuses fully explain this jump in enrollment, it would certainly be fair to say that they get some of the credit for supporting states in reaching these kids.

One could only imagine the impact it would have on Florida because as Think Progress notes, "Currently, 687,300 or 16 percent of children are uninsured in Florida — six percentage points higher than the national average."

A Look Back At Two Years Of Arizona's SB 1070

April 24, 2012 2:28 pm ET by Salvatore Colleluori

Tomorrow the United States Supreme Court will hold hearings in Arizona v. United States on their way to deciding the fate of Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law, SB 1070 (and by extension the fate of the many copycat versions that have passed around the country — most notably in Alabama and Georgia). Since this legislation's introduction and subsequent passage, it has been a point of controversy not just in Arizona, but throughout the country.

Defenders of the law claim that SB 1070 is necessary to stop crime in Arizona, but crime had been falling across the United States overall, including in Arizona, prior to the law's passage. Even Jan Brewer, Arizona's governor admitted that the law "doesn't have anything to do with border security." In fact, despite rampant crime on the Mexican side of the border, in both 2010 when SB 1070 was passed and again in 2011, border towns were some of the safest cities in America.

Proponents of the law also claim that it merely mirrors existing federal law and therefore they are helping the federal government do their job. However, as FactCheck.org pointed out, the law "does more than merely mirror federal law" and actually potentially allows for racial profiling. The laws lead sponsor, the recently recalled Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce, has compared immigrants to a "cow with mad cow disease" and held an immigration policy summit where he questioned whether or not President Obama is "illegal." After the law's passage, Pearce claimed the immigration system wasn't broken and said that he wanted to send the message that "illegal immigrants" are "not welcome in Arizona."

Unlike Pearce, whose approval decreased after the law's passage, the law's author, current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, benefitted from an elevated national profile. Kobach has helped author several anti-immigrant laws across the country, most notably the precursors to SB 1070 in Hazelton, PA and Fremont, NE, while racking up $6.6 million in fees. For his work with SB 1070 alone, he received $13,000 in fees. Kobach has had a history of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and previously worked for the Immigration Reform Law Institute — the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney even made him an advisor on his campaign until controversy over Kobach's polarizing views on immigration recently forced Romney to attempt to disassociate himself with Kobach.

SB 1070 brought national attention to immigration enforcement in Arizona, a conversation that has empowered and showcased two notorious proponents of the bill -- Arizona sheriffs Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu. Sheriff Arpaio, who is also known for the extreme treatment of his prisoners in Maricopa County, is facing a corruption scandal and a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department. Recently, it was exposed that he botched more than 400 sex crime investigations, "including dozens of alleged child molestations."

Babeu, who has used his fame to run for the House of Representatives in Arizona, also has a history of anti-immigrant behavior. In 2010 Babeu appeared on the "pro-white" radio show Political Cesspool and The Alex Jones Show, which is hosted by 9-11 truther and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. In 2011, he was the keynote speaker at FAIR's "Hold Their Feet To The Fire" conference which seeks to advance reforms "that relieve many of the burdens that mass immigration — legal and illegal — imposes on the American people."

Given the continued push nationwide to enact similar legislation, Americans should be aware that the implications of this case go far beyond the Arizona state lines.

Rep. West Attacks Rep. Rush For "Immature Gimmickry" On The House Floor

March 29, 2012 5:42 pm ET by Salvatore Colleluori

Earlier today on Laura Ingraham's radio show, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) commented on his colleague Rep. Bobby Rush's (D-IL) decision to don a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses while making a floor speech about the Trayvon Martin shooting. From The Hill:

West said the incident might be funny now, but he speculated that at the time, Capitol Police were likely concerned.

"Initially, they did not know who it was and they were concerned that someone had just walked off of the street or kind of had broken away from a tour group," West said on conservative Laura Ingraham's radio show.

"Look, this is the type of immature gimmickry we see coming from the other side that you know, does not have any place, especially on the House floor and really in the United States," he continued.

Clearly, West wasn't concerned with what Rush actually did or the message Rush was trying to convey. As The Hill pointed out, Rush took off a suit jacket that he wore onto the house floor prior to pulling the hoodie, which was under his jacket, onto his head. (Rush was giving a floor speech condemning the remarks of Fox News' Geraldo Rivera, who claimed  that wearing "the hoodie" played a part in Trayvon's death.) Despite West's criticisms of "the other side," it's Republican Rep. Don Young (AK) who definitely takes the "gimmickry" cake.

Last year during a committee hearing, Rep. Young wore a propeller beanie with the Obama campaign logo on it and the words "Obama's energy plan," in an obvious attempt to mock the President's energy strategy.

While the two incidents are clearly different (for many reasons), it shows that when it comes to Democrats, Rep. West will attack them for almost anything — even for protesting a situation that he himself called "an outrage" last week.

Sen. McConnell Appoints Islamophobia Validator To Federal Commission

March 27, 2012 5:04 pm ET by Matt Gertz

Five years ago, Zuhdi Jasser was just a physician and self-proclaimed Muslim leader who used regular appearances on Glenn Beck's television and radio shows to criticize the supposed "Islamist" leanings of leading American Muslim groups. Now, thanks to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he's the newest Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom:

The U.S. Congress has appointed two individuals, Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, to serve as Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Comprised of nine commissioners, USCIRF monitors and advocates for religious freedom abroad wherever that right is being abused.  USCIRF also offers policy solutions to improve conditions at the critical juncture of foreign policy, national security, and international religious freedom standards. On March 20, the Commission issued its 2012 annual report which recommended to the Secretary of State that the Obama administration designate 16 nations as countries of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Dr. George was appointed by The Speaker of the House John Boehner. Dr. Jasser was appointed by the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Jasser gained prominence thanks to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the House Homeland Security Committee chairman who, in spite of Jasser's lack of both experience in the law enforcement field and followers in the Muslim community, selected him as a witness for the first of the committee's hearings on "the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community's response."

A year ago we wrote of Jasser:

With no relevant credentials to speak of, Jasser's authority in conservative circles as an "expert on radical Islam" seems to be derived from his willingness to frequently attack the Obama administration (whose terrorism advisor Jasser says "deserves honorary membership in the Muslim Brotherhood") and Muslim-American civil rights groups ("front organizations" for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Jasser).

[...]

Given these facts, it should be no surprise that Fox News' Glenn Beck has dubbed him the "one Muslim that we were all searching for after 9-11" and said he is "a voice that I trust." Jasser has appeared on Beck's show to provide "expert" validation of Beck's zany apocalyptic conspiracies in the wake of recent unrest in the Middle East.

The Center for American Progress has also highlighted Jasser's background and work, describing him as a "leading light of the Islamophobia network" and "the validator for Islamophobic propaganda."

In spite of those deficiencies, McConnell apparently thinks Jasser is the best qualified individual to serve on a commission whose mandate is the spread of religious liberty.

Recent Florida Case Undermines Stand Your Ground Apologists

March 27, 2012 3:58 pm ET by Chris Brown

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law has become the subject of increasing scrutiny after the Sanford police cited the statute in their explanation of why they did not arrest George Zimmerman following his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's lawyer has also indicated that "Stand Your Ground" would likely be part of his defense against potential charges.

State legislators that backed the bill and a major gun lobby ally have begun claiming that Zimmerman's actions aren't covered by "Stand Your Ground." A central part of that claim is that "Stand Your Ground" doesn't cover Zimmerman because he pursued Martin. Writing at Foxnews.com, state Rep. Dennis Baxley, the author of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" legislation, argued:

There is nothing in the castle doctrine as found in Florida statutes that authenticates or provides for the opportunity to pursue and confront individuals, it simply protects those who would be potential victims by allowing for force to be used in self-defense.

Former Florida Sen. Durell Peaden echoed the sentiment saying, "There's nothing in the Florida law that allows him to follow someone with a d*** gun." On Hardball With Chris Matthews, the Second Amendment Foundation's Alan Gottlieb suggested "Stand Your Ground" didn't apply, saying Zimmerman "was the pursuer" and that "when you're pursuing you're not standing your ground."

Despite their protestations, a recent Florida case shows that Zimmerman's self-defense claim isn't the first time someone has pursued a person they later killed and then cited "Stand Your Ground" to avoid prosecution.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, Greyston Garcia pursued a car burglar attempting to steal his car's radio more than a block before stabbing him to death, an event captured by a video recording. Last Wednesday the judge threw out murder charges against Garcia citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Garcia "no longer needed to use deadly force to protect his home or unoccupied vehicle. "

Read the full entry ...

After Two Years, Florida Republicans Are Still Ignoring The Realities Of Health Care Reform

March 27, 2012 9:46 am ET by Brian Powell

Gov. Rick Scott

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments challenging President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Almost immediately upon passage, Florida (via Attorney General Bill McCollum) spearheaded a lawsuit against the act (subsequently joined by several other states), which has now reached the nation's highest court. At the same time Florida was filing its paperwork against the ACA, the Republican leadership in Florida began its case in the court of public opinion by fear-mongering about the law with misrepresentations, omissions and hyperbolic vitriol.

Some of the most ludicrous attacks have come from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has been in full denial mode. Initially, he publicly denied that the ACA was the "law of the land," despite having been passed by Congress and signed by the president. Lately, he's chosen to deny federal aid to the people of Florida. Scott has managed to shun hundreds of millions of dollars in PPACA grants that would, among other things, bump up Medicaid payments to primary care physicians and directly benefit Floridians right now.

Other Florida Republicans have followed Scott's lead. Some examples include Sen. Marco Rubio, who claimed "Obamacare" has been "detrimental to our economy;" Longtime Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who alleged the ACA "raids half a trillion dollars from Medicare, jeopardizing seniors' access to the care they need and deserve;" Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who characterized the law as a "job-killing takeover of our healthcare system," and Tea Party darling Rep. Allen West, who has declared the law an "unconstitutional, anti-constitutional and, most certainly, an awful piece of American policy" that is "destined to fail."

Unfortunately for the GOP cause, the harsh rhetoric of the Florida Republicans doesn't match the reality on the ground in their state. Even though the ACA's full rollout is still some years down the road, many of its provisions have already had a big impact on Florida citizens. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has published some noteworthy statistics that the GOP in the sunshine state failed to mention. Here are a few:

  • The ACA Is Saving Florida Seniors Hundreds Of Dollars In Prescription Drug Costs. From HHS:

Thanks to the new health care law, 256,600 people with Medicare in Florida received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 238,362 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $596 per person, and a total savings of $141,948,339 in Florida. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12, emphasis added]

  • Over 157,000 Young Floridians Have Gained Coverage As A Result Of The ACA. From HHS:

Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family's coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 157,185 young adults in Florida gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12, emphasis added]

  • Cancer Patients And Others With Chronic Diseases Are No Longer Burdened By Lifetime Caps On Coverage. From HHS:

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits - freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 5,587,000 residents, including 2,170,000 women and 1,411,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12]

  • Thousands Of Floridians With Pre-Existing Conditions Now Have Options For Health Insurance Coverage. From HHS:

As of the end of 2011, 3,736 previously uninsured residents of Florida who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12]

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