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The GOP Has Become an Enemy of the State

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Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in the Montana special election, who physically attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, has won the election.


I cannot put this any more plainly: The Republican Party has become an enemy of the state. And it is not sudden. This is a trajectory on which they've been for a very long time, and we are witnessing its grotesque endgame.

There is no good-faith read on the GOP that concludes they are merely a party with a different, but equally patriotic, vision of this nation. That ship sailed decades ago. They are actively seeking to destroy democratic institutions and norms, annihilate vulnerable populations, and center abuse and neglect in their policy-making.

The United States is not a perfect country—far from it. But it is a far better country than the Republican Party wants it to be.

And if we are to save that which is right with this country, the things worth saving, then the GOP must be stopped. We must resist them with everything we've got.

Before we're left with nothing at all.
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diannemharris
1 day ago
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Republican candidate 'body-slams' Guardian reporter in Montana

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Audio of Greg Gianforte body-slamming Guardian US reporter Ben Jacobs The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat slammed a Guardian reporter to…
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diannemharris
5 days ago
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acdha
5 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Oklahoma Accidentally Makes All Civil Litigation “Loser Pays”

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Courts and lawyers frequently try to ferret out the “intent of the legislature” when trying to understand a statute that’s not very clear. That project assumes, of course, that the legislature actually had an “intent” to begin with. Legislatures frequently do, at least in a sense. But sometimes they do not.

That seems to be the case with the Oklahoma Legislature’s recent decision (if you can call it that) to break with almost 300 years of U.S. legal precedent and declare that in a civil case, the losing party has to pay both side’s legal fees. That was (and still is) the rule in Britain and most other countries, and many believe it’s the best rule because it tends to deter people from filing lawsuits. Many others believe it’s not the best rule, because it tends to deter people from filing lawsuits. Your approach to that likely depends on your attitude toward litigation in general, or maybe just your attitude toward plaintiffs. Regardless, the rule throughout the U.S. has long been that each party pays its own legal fees, win or lose, though there are statutory exceptions. This is sometimes called “the American Rule,” in fact, highlighting the fact that most other countries do it differently.

Usually, if you’re planning to toss a legal rule that’s been around for centuries, you discuss that with other people first. But it is still unclear whether there was any “planning” involved in the amendment to House Bill 1470See, e.g., “Massive shift in Oklahoma legal law is a mistake, author says,” The Oklahoman (May 16, 2017). The “author” there is state Sen. David Holt, who was a co-author of the bill but not the amendment that created the “massive shift.” It gives you some idea of how the process worked that a co-author of the bill is just as puzzled as everyone else about what happened.

House Bill 1470 originally was meant only to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse during childhood. It amended section 12-95(A)(6) of the Civil Procedure Code, which was set up like this:

Section 95.

A.  Civil actions other than for the recovery of real property can only be brought within the following periods …

1.  Within five (5) years: An action upon any contract … in writing;

2.  Within three (3) years: An action upon a contract … not in writing;

* * *

6.  An action based on [childhood sexual abuse] [can be brought as follows:]

* * *

B.  Collection of debts owed by inmates who have received damage awards pursuant to Section 566.1 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes shall be governed by the time limitations imposed by that section.

At the time HB 1470 passed the Oklahoma House, it only amended subsection (A)(6). But when it went to the Senate, the Judiciary Committee proposed this amendment:

C. In any action brought pursuant to the provisions of subsection A of this section, the court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.

That was adopted, the amended bill passed the Senate, and the governor has since signed it. So Section 95 now says this:

A.  Civil actions other than for the recovery of real property can only be brought within the following periods …

B.  [the inmate thing]

C.  In any action brought pursuant to the provisions of subsection A of this section, the court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.

Emphasis added. So in virtually all civil actions in Oklahoma, the losing party now pays the winner’s attorney(s), as well as his or her own. That’s a big deal. And it’s not clear anyone actually meant to do it.

Obviously this was not in the original House bill. Holt, the Senate sponsor, admitted he didn’t intend this result and said he didn’t think anyone else did, either. He thought the intent was only to shift fees in cases involving childhood sexual abuse, the cases for which they were changing the limitations rules. But “[u]pon a closer reading of the amendment,” he admitted—the kind of reading they apparently didn’t do before voting—”it seems evident that it makes all civil cases [not involving property] loser-pays. But nobody caught that.”

Well, where’d the amendment come from? According to The Oklahoman, “Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Anthony Sykes brought the amendment to the April 11 meeting [on the bill], and staff typed it during the meeting.” Did he know what he was doing? Good question. Holt thinks he didn’t. “I was there when the news was broken to him that this amendment went far beyond what we thought it did,” Holt said, “and he seemed genuinely surprised by it.” Hey, Oklahoman, was he actually surprised? “Sykes could not be reached for comment; he typically does not respond to media requests.” He’s sticking to that policy, it appears.

Oh, how about the governor?

Gov. Mary Fallin’s attorneys caught [the error, if it was one] during a review. By that time, the bill had passed both the House and Senate and was just a day away from the signing deadline. Even though her staff knew about the mistake, Fallin signed the bill.

So the governor knew about the issue, believed it was a “mistake” and made a change nobody in the legislature had intended to make, but signed it anyway. Her press secretary said she thought the other provisions were too important to scrap.

That’s understandable—the bill was intended to help survivors of childhood sexual assault, and certainly no politician wants to be seen vetoing a bill like that—but the upshot is that Oklahoma has largely discarded a significant legal rule that’s been around for centuries, and as far as we know, not a single person in state government intended for that to happen.

It is possible that a court would look at this evidence and uphold a challenge to the new law, but most courts would be very reluctant to rewrite a statute to that extent. The governor’s office noted that the measure doesn’t take effect until November 1, and suggested the legislature might want to consider something called a “trailer bill” to fix the problem in the meantime. But a spokesman for the Speaker of the House (should a Speaker have a spokesman? I don’t think so) said they had to focus on the budget between now and May 26, when the legislature adjourns. “That might be something the House looks at next session,” the Speaker’s spokesman said. So, whatever.

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diannemharris
5 days ago
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gordonrussell
5 days ago
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Interesting OKLA has adopted the British Rule - the loser pays attorney's fees for both parties.

Imagine if Hillary...

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More to the point, I won't imagine it.

I utterly refuse to imagine that a competent, prepared, eminently decent career public servant would do any of the despicable, foolish, or downright cruel things that our current fumblefuck authoritarian scofflaw of a president has done.

I have zero inclination to engage in a hypothetical with no purpose beyond making the already excruciatingly obvious point that the Republican Party is comprised of a nauseating collection of unprincipled hypocrites who will abide all manner of thunderous villainy from Donald Trump, but would have spent their every waking moment trying to destroy Hillary Clinton.

I don't need to indulge the painting of invented corruption in order to know, with certainty, that the Republicans are vicious wielders of ugly double standards.

Instead of asking me, over and over, to imagine some funhouse mirror alternate reality in which Clinton would engage in the same calamitous malice as the current occupant of the Oval Office, I invite petitioners instead to imagine this:

A country in which there was no Muslim ban, nor even repeated attempts to enact one;

in which twenty million people or so weren't in danger of losing their healthcare access;

in which DREAMers weren't being deported;

in which the Justice Department weren't being run by a racist miscreant;

in which the EPA, the Department of Education, the Energy Department, and virtually every other federal agency weren't being run by people whose primary qualification was a willingness to destroy the very departments they've chosen to lead;

in which LGBTQ rights and protections were not being rolled back but expanded;

in which the Mexico City policy had not been rescinded and the Hyde Amendment was finally in danger of going away forever;

in which most of us would never have been obliged to learn the name Neil Gorsuch;

in which the president had shaken Angela Merkel's hand;

in which investigations into Russian interference in the election, and ongoing attempts to destabilize our democratic institutions, were taken seriously;

in which taxpayers hadn't spent millions and millions of dollars funding weekend trips to a private and insecure getaway;

in which the president wasn't using the office to enhance their personal wealth;

in which any question we had about the president's income could be easily accessed, because four decades of their taxes were available online;

in which there had been no grievous disclosure of classified information to a foreign adversary;

in which the president was surrounded by competent people who were qualified for their positions and weren't as out of their depth as a dog doing particle physics;

in which we had communicated to little girls that they could be president someday, rather than that we're okay with powerful men sexually assaulting them;

in which we weren't spending every waking moment in a panic about what treacherous or imperiling fuckery will come next;

in which so many things, after only 118 days, would be different. Better.

Imagine that, even if it breaks your heart. It breaks mine into a thousand pieces. But what breaks my heart even harder is the relentless request that I imagine Hillary Clinton being a corrupt president that she never would have been.

image of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, with the word LOVE in the background
[Photo: Michael Davidson for Hillary for America.]

I voted for her because of the president she would have been, and I won't disrespect her—or my support of her—by imagining that she would have been something else, something lesser.

I will not imagine if Clinton were like Donald Trump. Never.

And if you need, for whatever reason, to engage in an alt-timeline thought experiment to make the point that the Republicans are shameless and unscrupulous frauds, whose sanctimony is outmatched only by their insincerity, then try this on for size: Imagine if Congressional Republicans treated Donald Trump the way they treated Barack Obama.

We don't have to imagine that. We can remember it.

Remember the way these reprehensible scoundrels actually treated one of this nation's most principled and ethical leaders. Remember how they hounded and disrespected him; how they obstructed his agenda. Remember how they denied him an appointment to the Supreme Court, and the ability to fill more than 100 federal court vacancies. Remember how they treated members of his Cabinet, including Hillary Clinton.

Remember how they said, again and again, that he was a danger to his nation.

President Obama had fewer scandals in eight years than Trump has had in his first 118 days. And they treated him like garbage for every minute of those eight years.

Imagine if they held Trump to the same standards to which they held Obama, with the critical difference that Trump actually warrants that scrutiny.

I neither want nor need to imagine that Hillary Clinton would have been a corrupt president—because I know that the Republicans are a corrupt party.

I'm not interested in talking hypotheticals. I'm interested in talking about that observable fact.
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diannemharris
9 days ago
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Way More Americans May Be Atheists Than We Thought

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After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

The American religious tapestry is continually being re-stitched as new religious groups slowly gain acceptance. Atheists have been on the fringe for quite some time. They remain one of the country’s most disliked “religious” groups: Only 30 percent of Americans have a “warm” view of atheists. Research has also shown that even as America has grown increasingly accepting of religious diversity, atheists have been the exception.

Americans express a considerable degree of intolerance toward atheists. More than half of Americans believe atheists should not be allowed to put up public displays that celebrate their beliefs (for example, a banner highlighting Americans’ freedom from religion under the Bill of Rights). More than one-third believe atheists should be banned from becoming president, and similar numbers believe they should be denied the opportunity to teach in public schools or the right to hold a rally.

And therein lies the problem: The stigma attached to the atheist label may prevent Americans from claiming it or sharing their beliefs with others. In certain parts of the country, pressure to conform to prevailing religious practices and beliefs is strong. A reporter with The Telegraph writing from rural Virginia, for example, found that for many atheists, being closeted makes a lot of sense. “The stakes are high,” said a Virginia Tech graduate who was raised Christian but is now an atheist. “Do I want to be supported by my friends and family, or am I going to risk being kicked out of clubs and organizations? It’s tempting just to avoid the whole issue.”

The fear of coming out shows up in polling too. A 2016 PRRI survey found that more than one-third of atheists reported hiding their religious identity or beliefs from friends and family members out of concerns that they would disapprove.

But if atheists are hiding their identity and beliefs from close friends and family members, how many might also refuse to divulge this information to a stranger? This is a potentially significant problem for pollsters trying to get an accurate read on the number of atheists in the U.S. It is well documented that survey respondents tend to overreport their participation in socially desirable behavior, such as voting or attending religious services. But at least when it comes to religious behavior, the problem is not that people who occasionally attend are claiming to be in the pews every week, but that those who never attend often refuse to say so. Americans who do not believe in God might be exhibiting a similar reticence and thus go uncounted.

Another challenge is that many questions about religious identity require respondents to select a single description from a list. This method, followed by most polling firms including PRRI (where I work as research director), does not allow Americans to identify simultaneously as Catholic and atheist. Or Jewish and atheist. But there are Catholics, Jews and Muslims who do not believe in God — their connection to religion is largely cultural or based on their ethnic background. When PRRI ran an experiment in 2014 that asked about atheist identity in a standalone question that did not ask about affiliation with any other religious group, we found that 7 percent of the American public claimed to be atheist.

Asking people about God in a multiple-choice format is self-evidently problematic. Conceptions of God vary substantially and are inherently subjective. Does a belief in mystical energy, for example, constitute a belief in God? When Gallup recently asked a yes-or-no question about belief in God, 89 percent of Americans reported that they do believe. But, in a separate poll, only slightly more than half (53 percent) of Americans said they have an anthropomorphic God in mind, while for other believers it’s something far more abstract. Many survey questions also do not leave much room for expressions of doubt. When PRRI probed those feelings of uncertainty, we found that 27 percent of the public — including nearly 40 percent of young adults — said they sometimes have doubts about the existence of God.

Attitudes about atheists are quickly changing, driven by the same powerful force that transformed opinion on gay rights: More and more people know an atheist personally, just as the number of people who report having a gay friend or family member has more than doubled over the past 25 years or so. Despite the fears that some nonbelievers have about coming out, 60 percent of Americans report knowing an atheist. Ten years ago, less than half the public reported knowing an atheist. Today, young adults are actually more likely to know an atheist than an evangelical Christian. These personal connections play a crucial role in reducing negative feelings. A decline in stigma may also encourage more atheists to come out. This would allow us to provide a more accurate estimate of atheists in the U.S. — is it 3 percent, 10 percent, or 26 percent? — and could fundamentally change our understanding of the American religious landscape.



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diannemharris
10 days ago
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hannahdraper
10 days ago
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Washington, DC
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My report and testimony wasn’t enough

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I was out at a pretty rowdy bar with several coworkers, and shortly before bar time a man started grabbing at my (very meek and shy) friend as she walked past him on her way to order something at the bar. She was trying to politely get away from him and shot me the “help me” look, but he was all over her. I walked over and got in between them, telling him firmly to back off. I’m a very small female, he was a much larger and very muscular male, and he instantly stood up and got in my space, shouting at me to mind my own business. When I told him that, as my friend, her safety was my business, he made a fist and swung. His punch landed on my sternum, lifting me off my feet and sending me flying down a few stairs into several chairs and some bystanders. He and his buddies laughed while a giant friendly bouncer scooped me up off the floor and carried me outside. I could barely breathe and was seriously dazed. My friends all gathered outside and then we left. After trying for a few hours to sleep but being in too much pain, I headed to the ER. Tests showed I had internal bleeding in my chest cavity that was impeding my breathing. I was treated and sent home to rest and recover. Later the morning, I contacted the police to report it, and they basically just gave me lip service and blew me off, saying they would fill out a report but that I shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. The next day, the bouncer that helped me went to the police of his own volition to make a report. Suddenly the police took it all very seriously, conducted an investigation, and arrested the man who hit me. He was convicted of assault and battery, and sentenced to 18 months probation with court mandated therapy, all because another man spoke up on my behalf. My report and testimony, and the witness statements of my female friends apparently wasn’t enough. Go figure.

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diannemharris
14 days ago
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jhamill
15 days ago
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This shit is disgusting.
California
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