Much has been said about how the great gerrymander of the people’s House — part of a brilliant, $30 million Republican action plan at the state level — has now produced a clot of retrograde politicians who are comically out of step with a majority of Americans. It’s not just that they oppose things like immigration reform and simple gun background checks for violent felons, while huge majorities support them…
But just look at how different this Republican House is from the country they are supposed to represent. It’s almost like a parallel government, sitting in for some fantasy nation created in talk-radio land.
As a whole, Congress has never been more diverse, except the House majority. There are 41 black members of the House, but all of them are Democrats. There are 10 Asian-Americans, but all of them are Democrats. There are 34 Latinos, a record — and all but 7 are Democrats. There are 7 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members, all of them Democrats.
Only 63 percent of the United States population is white. But in the House Republican majority, it’s 96 percent white. Women are 51 percent of the nation, but among the ruling members of the House, they make up just 8 percent. (It’s 30 percent on the Democratic side.)
“When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they’re not just talking about you,” Obama said, becoming the first sitting president to address the abortion-rights group in person. “They’re talking about the millions of women who you serve.”
Obama asserted that “an assault on women’s rights” is underway across the country, with bills introduced in more than 40 states to limit or ban abortion or restrict access to birth control or other services.
“The fact is, after decades of progress, there’s still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century,” he said. “And they’ve been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health.”
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms.
In a sense, both the hostage crisis in Algeria and the battle raging in Mali are consequences of the fall of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011. Like other strongmen in the region, Colonel Qaddafi had mostly kept in check his country’s various ethnic and tribal factions, either by brutally suppressing them or by co-opting them to fight for his government. He acted as a lid, keeping volatile elements repressed. Once that lid was removed, and the borders that had been enforced by powerful governments became more porous, there was greater freedom for various groups — whether rebels, jihadists or criminals — to join up and make common cause…
Yet Colonel Qaddafi’s fall was only the tipping point, some analysts say, in a region where chaos has been on the rise for years, and men who fight under the banner of jihad have built up enormous reserves of cash through smuggling and other criminal activities. If the rhetoric of the Islamic militants now fighting across North Africa is about holy war, the reality is often closer to a battle among competing gangsters in a region where government authority has long been paper-thin.
Congress has never been an accurate reflection of the country it serves. It remains far whiter, wealthier and more male than the nation’s population. But as their numbers in Congress gradually increase, there is a sense among these newcomers that they are forcing some of their colleagues to rethink gay rights and homosexuality. The presence of openly gay men and women and their families was a factor that many believe was decisive in turning the tide for states where same-sex marriage was legalized by legislatures. Seeing them helped put a human face on a concept that many legislators had thought about only in the abstract.
Yet even with the opportunities gay men, lesbians and bisexuals say their membership in Congress presents, their reception has not been a completely warm one. One of the first acts of the Republican-controlled House was to set aside funds to defend the 1996 law that prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages because the Obama administration has stopped supporting it.
Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard helicopter pilot, was shot down, returned fire and was wounded while on the ground in Afghanistan, but could not seek combat leadership positions because the Defense Department did not officially acknowledge her experience as combat….In the military, serving in combat positions like the infantry remains crucial to career advancement. Women have long said that by not recognizing their real service, the military has unfairly held them back….
…“It’s significant that the change came from the uniformed side, rather than being forced on the uniformed side by the civilian leadership,” said Chris Jacob, the policy director of the Service Women’s Action Network.
Israeli voters dealt a stunning political rebuke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaving parliamentary elections in a virtual tie between the right and center-left and denying him the mandate he sought to pursue hawkish policies toward Palestinian peace talks,Iran’s nuclear program and construction of West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu was still regarded as the most likely candidate to form a new government after Tuesday’s voting because there are few other credible figures. But the disappointing performance will require him to reach out to the center in order to form a governing coalition.
With all but votes from prisoners, military voters and some government workers counted early Wednesday, Israel’sconservative and religious parties had won 60 seats in theKnesset, Israel’s parliament, the same number won by centrist and left-wing parties, who were led by a surprisingly strong performance from a political newcomer, Yair Lapid.
Though the final tally could change slightly, the close race all but ensures a period of turmoil before a new government emerges, and catapults Lapid and his recently formed centrist party, Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”), into the forefront of Israeli politics.