Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary thread

The Americans with Disabilities Act became U.S. law 20 years ago this week. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the law's key author and sponsor, keynoted an anniversary celebration in Iowa City yesterday. He called for further action, in particular personal attendant services for those who need them. But there's no question that the ADA improved the lives of millions of Americans. As Harkin told the Cedar Rapids Gazette a few days ago,

“Before the ADA, life was very different for folks in Iowa and across the country,” Harkin said. “Discrimination was both commonplace and accepted.”

After 20 years with ADA, “we recognize that people with disabilities — like all people — have unique abilities, talents and aptitudes,” he said, “and America is better, fairer and richer when we make full use of those gifts.”

However, Harkin sees the need to do more to help people with disabilities live outside of institutions and to help them gain employment.

I remember when Congress was debating this law, and some Republicans warned that new regulations on businesses would wreck the economy and spark endless lawsuits. However, President George H. W. Bush's administration ultimately decided not to go to war against this bill, and compromise language exempting small businesses from some requirements satisfied most Congressional Republicans. The final version of the ADA passed the Senate on a 91 to 6 vote in July 1990. Most Republicans joined all the Democrats present in voting yes.

Bipartisan support for ADA continued when Harkin worked with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah to "preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards." The ADA amendments act of 2008 passed by voice vote in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate. Last week a Senate resolution recognizing the ADA's 20th anniversary and celebrating "the advance of freedom and the opening of opportunity" this law made possible passed by a 100 to 0 vote. That indicates how far out of the mainstream Rand Paul is; the Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky believes the ADA goes too far and is unfair to business owners.

Harkin became an advocate for people with disabilities in part because his brother Frank was deaf. Probably most Americans have at least one friend or relative who has directly benefited from the ADA. The accessibility guidelines for curbs, doors and entrances have allowed my wheelchair-bound friend to take her son to the park, to preschool or to a coffee shop. Before the ADA, a mother in her situation would have been unable to enjoy those things.

This thread is for any comments about the ADA or continuing barriers faced by people with disabilities.

Weekend open thread: World Cup edition

Who else is watching the World Cup final? I'm cheering for the Netherlands, but De Jong absolutely should have gotten a red card for that chest kick.

I'll be satisfied with any outcome as long as it doesn't end with a penalty shoot-out and there aren't any truly horrendous calls.

Share whatever's on your mind this weekend.

UPDATE: Spain's Iniesta scores in last few minutes of extra time. I'm happy for Spain, because they looked like the better team out there, but it's incredible to think that they are the World Cup champions after scoring eight goals in seven games.

IA-Gov News roundup

I've been posting less often at MyDD lately because Iowa campaign news is keeping me busy at my home blog, Bleeding Heartland. From time to time I will keep MyDDers up to date on our highest-profile races: Roxanne Conlin's bid against five-term Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Governor Chet Culver's re-election campaign against four-term former Governor Terry Branstad.

After the jump you'll find lots links on the Iowa governor's race since Branstad won the June 8 primary with about 50 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Bob Vander Plaats and 9 percent for Rod Roberts.

There's more...

Research 2000 polling questioned

Markos Moulitsas fired Research 2000 as the pollster retained by Daily Kos a few weeks ago after R2K fared poorly in "pollster ratings" compiled by FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver. At the time I wondered whether Markos reacted a bit harshly, since Silver himself admitted, "The absolute difference in the pollster ratings is not very great." In addition, some polling experts had raised questions about Silver's rating system (see also here).

Today Markos published a remarkable analysis of "problems in plain sight" with Research 2000's polling. Three researchers uncovered "extreme anomalies" in certain results and concluded, "We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls." You should click over and read the whole thing, but here are the anomalies in question:

1. A large set of number pairs which should be independent of each other in detail, yet almost always are either both even or both odd.

2. A set of polls on separate groups which track each other far too closely, given the statistical uncertainties.

3. The collection of week-to-week changes, in which one particular small change (zero) occurs far too rarely. This test is particularly valuable because the reports exhibit a property known to show up when people try to make up random sequences.

Markos has renounced "any post we've written based exclusively on Research 2000 polling" and asked polling sites to "remove any Research 2000 polls commissioned by us from their databases."

Based on the report of the statisticians, it's clear that we did not get what we paid for. We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don't know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can't trust it. Meanwhile, Research 2000 has refused to offer any explanation.

Last year the Strategic Vision polling firm was brought down by convincing allegations that at least some of its polling results had been fabricated. Research 2000 had a much better reputation than Strategic Vision, though. Markos listed some of the news organizations that have commissioned R2K polls. I am seeking comment from KCCI-TV (the CBS affiliate in Des Moines), which has used R2K in the past. I will update this post if I hear back about their future plans regarding commissioned polls.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Joe Barton funneling oil money to Republican candidates

Howie Klein wrote a must-read post at Down With Tyranny! about "a shady outfit called the Texas Freedom Fund":

If you've been following the news lately, you couldn't possibly have missed the dustup over Congress' most oily member, Joe Barton (R-TX). Turns out he's the sole owner of the Texas Freedom Fund and he uses it to funnel vast sums of cash from Big Oil executives and lobbyists into competitive campaigns around the country, particularly into campaigns where filthy oil money might prove embarrassing to the recipients. Now, keep in mind that Barton has taken more money from Big Oil than any other member of the House-- by far: $1,447,880, so far. And after his performance last week, apologizing to B.P. for being made to clean up their mess in the Gulf, there's every reason to believe that his own personal gusher will keep flowing strongly. As the Ranking Member of the House Energy Committee he is in a position to make sure the Oil Industry's agenda becomes official policy.

Click here to view a list of Republican members of Congress and Congressional candidates who have taken money from the Texas Freedom Fund this cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data. State bloggers should take a look and spread the word if Republicans in their area are taking oil money via Barton. British Petroleum's approval rating could hardly be lower, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

NC-Sen: Marshall wins runoff, will face Burr

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has won today's runoff Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. With most of the votes counted, Marshall leads Cal Cunningham by 60 percent to 40 percent. Marshall will face first-term incumbent Richard Burr, whose approval ratings have long been anemic.

I'll never understand why the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee intervened on behalf of Cunningham in this race. Since the campaign began, Marshall has polled better against Burr than Cunningham. In fact, Tom Jensen, director of North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, noted today,

Marshall is looking considerably more competitive against Richard Burr at this point in the election cycle than Kay Hagan did against Elizabeth Dole two years ago. Our most recent poll found Marshall down 46-39 to Burr. In late June of 2008 Dole led Hagan 51-37 in our polling. Certainly the 2010 election cycle is not shaping up as positively for Democrats as the 2008 one did. But Burr's approval numbers are weaker than Dole's were, his lead in the race at this point is smaller than Dole's was, and the fact that he is easily the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country should ensure this race gets a lot of national money poured into it. Burr is favored to win but it will be close, and Democratic voters ensured that today with their votes for Marshall.

A win for Democrats in North Carolina would virtually eliminate any chance the GOP has of retaking the Senate this November. At the very least, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee will now have to spend precious resources on defense here.

UPDATE: Ed Kilgore reports on the other North Carolina primary election results.

Jobs bill looks dead for now

The Senate version of a bill designed to create jobs, support state budgets and extend various tax credits and benefit programs failed to overcome a Republican filibuster yesterday. Although 56 members of the Democratic caucus voted for the cloture motion (which would end debate on the bill), Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted with all the Republicans present to kill it (roll call here). Joan McCarter observed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

voted yes, without changing his vote, signaling that this iteration of the bill is indeed dead.

Reid followed the vote by attempting to pass the emergency provisions of the bill, the "doc fix," unemployment benefits extension, and FMAP as well as the homebuyer tax credit, as separate bills under unanimous consent. McConnell objected to each, so we're stuck in further limbo.

Extending unemployment benefits should be a no-brainer when the percentage of unemployed Americans who have been out of work for more than six months is higher "than at any time since the government began keeping track in 1948." Without the "doc fix," medical providers' reimbursements for Medicare patients stand to drop about 20 percent. FMAP stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding, relating to federal government reimbursements for part of each state’s Medicaid spending. The 2009 stimulus bill temporarily raised FMAP payments for states during the recession, with larger increases going to states with higher unemployment rates. Failing to extend this provision will put state budgets under further strain for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

Republicans who blocked this bill claim we should not be adding to the federal deficit. A spokesman for GOP enabler Ben Nelson laid out his views here. Ezra Klein pointed out a few glaring problems with the analysis: the federal budget can't start approaching balance with unemployment at 9 percent, polls show Americans are much more concerned about jobs than the deficit, and the current rate of economic recovery is "far, far too slow to really dent unemployment." Meanwhile, the same senators who claim to oppose adding to the deficit also oppose rolling back tax cuts or tax loopholes for the wealthy in order to pay for extending unemployed benefits, state fiscal aid and tax credits.

I share John Aravosis' view that it was a terrible mistake for President Barack Obama to talk tough about reducing the deficit earlier this year. As Aravosis writes,

[T]he President didn't want to blame Bush and the GOP for the deficit, and he didn't want to sufficiently defend the stimulus and explain to people that they had a choice between a Great Depression and a bigger deficit. [...] If the public understood that the deficit was a) mostly caused by Bush, and b) not nearly as important as staving off a Depression and creating jobs, the GOP would be facing far more pressure not to launch these filibusters at all.

Perhaps no jobs bill passed this week would alter the economy enough to affect the November elections, but if we accept current unemployment levels and don't pass additional fiscal aid to the states, the economy may still be very weak leading up to the 2012 election.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. From where I'm sitting, the case for filibuster reform has never looked stronger.

Read this before using copyrighted music in campaign videos

Mr. desmoinesdem alerted me to a recent court ruling in Don Henley's copyright suit against Chuck DeVore for two web videos DeVore made during his U.S. Senate campaign in California. Ben Sheffner has been covering the lawsuit at the Copyrights and Campaigns blog.

Henley sued over web videos that set new lyrics to two of his songs. DeVore changed "The Boys of Summer" to "The Hope of November" in a video that mocked Barack Obama, and he changed "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" to "All She Wants to Do Is Tax" in a video that mocked Senator Barbara Boxer.

DeVore claimed fair use on the grounds that the songs he put in his videos were parodies. The problem for DeVore was that legally, "a parody comments on the work itself; a satire uses the work to comment on something else." DeVore wasn't rewriting lyrics like Weird Al Yankovic used to do to make fun of musicians. He was scoring points against Obama and Boxer. If you haven't paid for the rights to use a song, you have to meet a higher legal standard for satire than for parody.

You can download Judge James Selna's ruling here. Excerpt:

Even assuming that "parody-of-the-author" is a legitimate transformative purpose, the Defendants' songs do not satisfy the fair use analysis, as discussed below. "Tax" does not target Henley at all, and "November," which only implicitly targets Henley, appropriates too much from "Summer" in relation to its slight jab at Henley and risks market substitution for "Summer" or its derivatives.

DeVore had claimed he was mocking Henley as part of the liberal Hollywood elite, but Henley argued in one legal brief that he has given money to some Republican candidates, including John McCain. (Who knew?)

Selna agreed with the plaintiffs' claim that by using the Henley songs in their videos, DeVore's campaign supplanted the market for derivatives of the Henley songs, because "licensees and advertisers do not like to use songs that are already associated with a particular product or cause. [...] This injury is the very essence of market substitution."

While Selna granted the plaintiffs summary judgment on the issue of copyright infringement, he did not issue a finding on whether the infringement was willful. (If so, Henley would have a stronger claim for monetary damages.) Sheffner comments, "I assume there will be a jury trial on the issue of willfulness and damages, unless the parties are able to reach a resolution."

Selna rejected the plaintiffs' claim that DeVore violated the Lanham Act by giving people the wrong impression that Henley had endorsed DeVore's Senate campaign. Sheffner explained in this post why he thought Henley would (and should) lose that portion of the lawsuit.

Other candidates and campaign staffers should review this case before they decide to use copyrighted songs in web ads.

Good news for marriage equality in Iowa

It was overshadowed by competitive races for governor and other statewide offices, but a critical Democratic primary contest in Iowa House district 66 produced a big victory for marriage equality advocates yesterday. Elder Clair Rudison, a socially conservative pastor, challenged two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad (a longtime community activist who is usually known as "Ako"). Rudison had the backing of the right-wing Iowa Family Policy Center. He sent out at least five direct-mail pieces attacking Ako's record, two of which mentioned gay marriage. I posted the images at Bleeding Heartland. One piece said marriage is a "building block of our community," noting that Clair Rudison wants to "let the people vote" while Ako Abdul-Samad "has consistently voted against allowing the Iowa House to bring this matter to the people."

Rudison's direct mail implied that "a majority of Iowans" oppose Ako's stance on marriage equality, but the latest Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV suggests a majority favor same-sex marriage rights. Iowa House district 66 contains some of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods in Des Moines (Drake area, Sherman Hill, "East Village"), so it's far-fetched to portray Ako as out of step with his constituents. Rudison made other ridiculous charges too, like accusing Ako of facilitating racial profiling because he voted for a law to ban texting while driving.

Most Iowa politics-watchers were confident Ako would win this primary, but in a low-turnout environment anything can happen, so I was relieved to see that Ako won 75 percent of the vote yesterday. The result is important because the only Iowa House Democrat who has consistently worked with Republicans to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote is retiring this year. If Rudison had won the primary, Republicans would be able to continue to claim bipartisan support for their battle against equality and reproductive rights.

That Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV should be a warning to Republicans who think bashing gay marriage will be their winning ticket in November. About 53 percent of respondents said they favored marriage rights for same-sex couples, while only 41 percent opposed them. Support for equality is stronger among women (57-36) than among men (49-46). The same poll showed independents supporting same-sex marriage rights by 58-31, closer to the Democratic numbers of 81-17 than to the Republican respondents, who oppose marriage equality by 83-14.

The latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll by Selzer and Co asked likely Republican primary voters several questions about gay marriage. While 77 percent of them agreed that "Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution to specifically ban gay marriage," I was surprised to see that 20 percent of likely Republican voters disagreed with that statement.

Meanwhile, only 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that "Iowans should vote to remove current Supreme Court justices from their office because of their decision on gay marriage." An amazing (to me) 45 percent disagreed with that statement. Regarding the statement, "Some Iowans have overreacted to this issue, and having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal," 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters agreed, while 62 percent disagreed.

Humiliation for the NRCC in Iowa

Washington Republicans have been talking up their chances of retaking the House of Representatives for months, and the National Republican Congressional Committee claims many recruiting successes in competitive House districts. However, before this week Republican primary voters had already rejected NRCC favorites in ID-01, KY-03, PA-04 and AL-05.

After last night we can add IA-02 and IA-03 to the list of districts where the NRCC sure doesn't know how to pick 'em.

There's more...

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