Category: History

Hillary Clinton’s claim on the rationale behind Bill Clinton’s support for DoMA is total bull

In case you missed it, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was caught red-handed trying to rewrite history. Specifically, Hillary tried to claim that the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, was a defensive measure designed to appease religious conservatives, who were pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the country.

A 1996 memo, written by Clinton Administration officials Jack Quinn, George Stephanopoulos, and Marsha Scott, gives some insight as to the rationale behind what prompted Bill Clinton to sign DoMA, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress with all but one Republican and many Democrats voting for it, into law. While the memo mentioned efforts to enact marriage equality at the state level in Hawaii in the mid-1990’s, nowhere in the memo does it reference any kind of movement to enact a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In fact, the memo clearly referenced the fact that Bill opposed marriage equality in 1996.

Chris Geidner has done a ton of research on Bill Clinton’s role in regards to DoMA, and he has found zero evidence to back up Hillary’s claim that Bill supported DoMA as any kind of defensive measure to prevent religious conservatives from enacting a federal constitutional amendment enshrining anti-LGBT bigotry in the U.S. Constitution. To put that another way, Hillary’s claim on Bill’s rationale for supporting discriminatory legislation that was struck down by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court long after Bill was out of office is a bunch of bull.

I’m from an area of Illinois that is full of Religious Right extremists, and I’m very familiar with the Religious Right’s political modus operandi. If they had enough support to amend the U.S. Constitution to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution at any point in modern American history, they would have done so as quickly as possible. Their whole political modus operandi is to do everything possible to shove their religious beliefs down everybody else’s throats. For the Clintons to try to rewrite history by claiming that DoMA was some kind of defensive measure designed to ward off the Religious Right’s attempt to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution is flatly absurd.

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Paul Ryan opposed abortion rights for women impregnated by rapists during failed 2012 VP bid

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the unsuccessful Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012, is now officially considering a bid for U.S. House Speaker after previously having repeatedly refused to do so.

However, Ryan won’t negotiate with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of Republican right-wing extremists in the House that have refused to back a GOP establishment candidate for speaker unless said establishment candidate agrees to giving the Republican rank-and-file, which is chock full of right-wing nuts, more power in the House and cover-your-rear-end treatment from the GOP leadership every time someone in the rank-or-file says or does something incredibly stupid.

While Ryan considers whether or not to seek the speakership, I think it’s appropriate for me to mention that this is an actual quote from Paul Ryan from when he was running for vice president in 2012:

Well, I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea, the position, that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

What Paul Ryan effectively said was that he thinks that any woman who was impregnated by a rapist should be forced to carry the fetus(es) to term, even if she does not want to. That’s because Ryan was asked by an interviewer about his thoughts on whether or not women who are impregnated by a rapist should be allowed to seek an abortion, and Ryan said that he was strongly anti-abortion and that the “method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life”. That is an absolutely barbaric point of view. While there was YouTube video of Ryan’s remarks online back in 2012, the video has long since been removed from YouTube. However, I’ve been able to confirm that Ryan actually made the remarks, because the International Business Times, which is where I got the Ryan quote from, and several other websites with credible political reporting and/or commentary, such as the Huffington Post and AlterNet, reported on it back in 2012, and their articles are still online.

Paul Ryan’s view that women impregnated by rapists should be forced to carry their fetuses to term is barbaric and sexist. Now, he wants to be House Speaker so that he’s in even more powerful of a position to control women’s bodies by legislative fiat, especially if a Republican were to win the White House in next year’s presidential race.

Joe Biden’s “Susan Happ” problem

With Vice President Joe Biden likely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, I do want to bring up an historical parallel between Biden’s likely presidential bid and Jefferson County, Wisconsin District Attorney Susan Happ’s failed bid for Attorney General of Wisconsin last year.

The parallel between Biden and Happ is this: Both Biden and Happ are/were, prior to running for higher office (or, in Happ’s case, after winning a statewide Democratic primary in Wisconsin), viewed favorably by voters not because of their actual track records or positions on the issues, but because they liked the candidates personally. In Biden’s case, he’s seen by many voters across the country as an approachable guy with an interesting personality. In Happ’s case, she was seen by many voters in Wisconsin as someone who rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a television ad.

Happ’s campaign to become Wisconsin’s top prosecutor fell apart not long after Happ won a contested Democratic primary with a narrow majority of the vote. Republicans and the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin viciously attacked Happ’s record as a county-level prosecutor, making her look like a corrupt prosecutor who gave out light sentences to Democrats and political cronies, when, in reality, it was a major distortion of Happ’s record. The sustained attack on Happ damaged her campaign and allowed Republican racist Brad Schimel to be elected Attorney General of Wisconsin.

Biden has a legitimately awful record, especially as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, including, among other things:

  • Helping put right-wing extremist Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court despite serious sexual harassment allegations against Thomas
  • Voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall regulations on banks and other financial institutions, which led to the Great Recession
  • Voting for the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages prior to being ruled unconstitutional by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court
  • Publicly claiming that “abortion is always wrong”
  • Helping enact legislation, signed into law by George W. Bush, that made it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy
  • Helping enact legislation that expanded the prison-industrial complex in the United States
  • Voting for George W. Bush’s unjustified Iraq War

It wouldn’t take much for one of the Democratic presidential candidates already in the race to brand Biden as an awful politician, if Biden were to run.

I believe that there is an important lesson that is to be learned from the failure of Susan Happ’s campaign for Wisconsin Attorney General last year. When one runs for public office, his or her track record can, either fairly or unfairly, be used against him or her by any political opponent. While Joe Biden’s decision on whether or not to run for president is entirely Joe Biden’s decision to make, I would caution him that his record as a U.S. Senator would likely come back to haunt him politically.

Scott Walker is the WCW of presidential politics

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains some terms that are used by professional wrestling insiders, such as heel, face, shoot, kayfabe, and stable, that are not used in a normal context. A glossary of professional wrestling terms is available here.


The sudden fall of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign has caught me, and many other political observers, by surprise. Since not long after Walker survived a recall attempt against him (full disclosure: I was a vocal recall supporter from a neighboring state) in 2012, I pretty much assumed that Walker was going to win next year’s Republican presidential nomination in a cakewalk and be a formidable general election opponent to whoever Democrats nominate. However, in recent polling, Walker has only been polling at a few percentage points in Iowa, where Walker lived part of his childhood.

Molly Ball of The Atlantic magazine has a great piece about Walker’s floundering campaign here. Normally, I would link to Ball’s piece on Twitter and say that anything else I could add is redundant, but I do have something to add. The fall of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, and possibly the beginning of the end of Walker’s political career, seems eerily reminiscent of the fall of the scripted professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. What I’m about to write is, in professional wrestling vernacular, called a “shoot”, or something (in this case, a blog post) that is unscripted and not part of “kayfabe”, which is the presentation of storylines and matches in a professional wrestling promotion as being real, when, in reality, they’re scripted.

While WCW being in deep debt by early 2001 and AOL Time Warner (now called Time Warner), which was WCW’s parent company in its last years, no longer being interested in professional wrestling actually brought WCW down, WCW lost its way, and much of its audience, in the late 1990’s for a number of reasons:

  • WCW was essentially caught flat-footed by a World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now called World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) that began using their adult-oriented “attitude” programming style to boost TV ratings for its flagship weekly program, Raw.
  • WCW began rehashing the New World Order (nWo) stable and storyline, which worked very well for WCW for a couple of years in the mid-to-late 1990’s, in a number of different iterations to the point of being repetitive.
  • WCW began alienating its traditional fan base in the southeastern part of the country. In one notable instance, a storyline in which the West Texas Rednecks, a group of wrestlers (stable) with a country music-themed gimmick, were supposed to be the antagonists (heels) to a protagonist (face) stable called the No Limit Soldiers, which was led by rapper Percy “Master P” Miller. However, the storyline backfired on WCW after their fans cheered the Rednecks and booed the Soldiers.
  • On one 1999 episode of WCW’s flagship weekly program, Nitro, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone (under orders from WCW executive Eric Bischoff) gave away the result of a WWF Championship match that aired on a tape-delayed episode of Raw (Mick “Mankind” Foley defeated Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to win the title) on Nitro, which caused many Nitro viewers to tune into Raw in order to see the WWF title match. The Nitro main event that night featured the infamous “fingerpoke of doom”, in which Kevin Nash deliberately laid down after Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea poked Nash in the chest with his finger, and Nash allowed Hogan to pin him and take the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. This is often cited as the beginning of the end of WCW, which folded in 2001.

There are some interesting correlations between what led to the fall of WCW and what has led to Walker’s fall in the Republican presidential caucus/primary polls:

  • Walker (and a lot of other Republican presidential candidates) have been caught flat-footed by the Donald Trump presidential campaign, which has used overt racism and other forms of bigotry to appeal to many of the same racist, far-right voters that Walker would need to win the Republican nomination. Trump’s campaign is, in this regard, analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s edgy programming of the WWF (now WWE).
  • Walker has rehashed his infamous 2011 fight against Wisconsin labor unions repeatedly as a presidential candidate to the point of being repetitive. Walker’s campaign message is, in this regard, analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s WCW rehashing the nWo stable and storyline under various iterations to the point of being repetitive.
  • Walker has dodged questions on, refused to take a stand on, and/or flip-flopped on a number of issues, most notably immigration. This has alienated many conservatives from Walker’s campaign and is somewhat analogous to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s WCW using storylines and gimmicks that their fans did not like or respond in the way that WCW wanted.
  • In a desperate attempt to pander to Trump’s far-right supporters, Walker tried to tack to Trump’s right on immigration by suggesting building a border fence along the U.S.-Canada border. This was quickly viewed as desperate pandering to Trump’s supporters on Walker’s part, and is somewhat analogous to the “fingerpoke of doom” that led to WCW’s demise.

With increasing evidence that Scott Walker’s presidential campaign is tanking (such as recent polls showing low support for Walker within his own party and Walker cancelling a scheduled appearance at the California state Republican convention), Walker has become the WCW of presidential politics.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s racism goes much further than University of Oklahoma students signing a racist song on a bus

The national organization of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣAE, also abbreviated SAE) fraternity closed its University of Oklahoma (OU) chapter after a video showing OU SAE members singing a song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands” that included flagrantly racist lyrics was posted to YouTube.

As it turns out, there’s far more to SAE’s bigotry than just a video posted online by a member of the group’s University of Oklahoma chapter.

First, the national SAE organization touts its ties to the pre-Civil War South and the Confederacy on its own website:

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded on March 9, 1856, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Its founders were Noble Leslie DeVotie, Nathan Elams Cockrell, John Barratt Rudulph, John Webb Kerr, Samuel Marion Dennis, Wade Hampton Foster, Abner Edwin Patton, and Thomas Chappell Cook. Their leader was DeVotie, who wrote the ritual, created the grip, and chose the name. Rudulph designed the badge. Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South.

Founded in a time of intense sectional feeling, Sigma Alpha Epsilon confined its growth to the southern states. By the end of 1857, the fraternity numbered seven chapters. Its first national convention met in the summer of 1858 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with four of its eight chapters in attendance. By the time of the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, fifteen chapters had been established.

None of the founders of SAE were members of any other fraternity, although Noble Leslie DeVotie had been invited to join all of the other fraternities at the University of Alabama before founding Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States and seven for the Union Army. Seventy-four members of the fraternity lost their lives in the war.

SAE was founded in an era when slavery was legal in many states, and was founded as a fraternity of, for, and by white racists and slavery supporters, most of whom fought for slavery and the right of states to secede from the Union. Sadly, it’s not surprising that SAE is full of racists.

Second, the SAE chapter at Oklahoma State University (OSU), a public university in Stillwater, Oklahoma, had at least one member hang a Confederate flag in the window of his room, and the flag was clearly visible from outside the OSU SAE fraternity house.

Racism in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is absolutely rampant.