TPM Cafe: Opinion

There is a new generation of activists rising up and they are looking for leaders who are bold, for champions who are unafraid to buck convention and stand up for what is right. They want elected officials to address their needs and the needs of their communities. They want action not platitudes. And opposing the Hyde Amendment, believe it or not, just might give lawmakers that opening.

The Hyde Amendment, a law that withholds Medicaid coverage for abortion care from low-income women, turns 37 today. Spurred by the purported rationale that taxes should not go toward abortion, the measure has not only been expanded over the course of nearly four decades to deny abortion coverage to virtually any woman who receives health insurance or care from the government; it has become one of the most entrenched policies of all time.

Conventional wisdom deems any challenge to the Hyde Amendment dead on arrival, a political nonstarter. After all, the thinking goes, mix the issue of abortion with taxes and you have a potentially radioactive (Molotov?) cocktail.

But it is time for conventional wisdom to change. It is time for Members of Congress who support abortion rights to work to lift all limits on insurance coverage for abortion care. And here is why.

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For her incredible portrayal of Skyler White, the wife of the antihero Walter White on the hit show Breaking Bad, Anna Gunn won a well-deserved Emmy last week. I'm glad she got recognition for a sterling acting performance. But perhaps even more deserving than Gunn is the show's creator Vince Gilligan and his team of writers for creating such a compelling character. Skyler may be "the most fully realized female character in the history of American TV," one fan went so far as to write on Facebook.

Gilligan and his team have given fans, and women in particular, many reasons to celebrate the character of Skyler White. Smart, complex, bold yet vulnerable, she is the kind of dynamic and realistic woman that isn't portrayed often enough on TV.

So I find it all the more puzzling and disheartening that a contingent of Breaking Bad fans hate Skyler White. Hating on Skyler White became an Internet meme rife with posters calling her a bitch and a "Fuck Skyler White" Facebook page that received nearly 30,000 likes. The phenomenon drove Gunn to write an op-ed for the New York Times arguing that her character had became a "flash point for many people's feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women."

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Cruz does not like Obamacare
He doesn't like to care or share
He doesn't want to help the poor
He wants the rich to just have more
He likes to bully folks around
His own voice is his favorite sound
If Dr. Seuss had met Ted Cruz
He'd tell him, "Ted, I hope you lose."

Senator Ted Cruz has egg on his face. Green egg.

On Tuesday, during his 21-hour marathon filibuster against Obamacare, he read aloud to his daughters back home the Dr. Seuss book "Green Eggs and Ham." But he clearly missed its message.

In the Seuss tale, Sam-I-Am, a lover of green eggs and ham, tries to convince a friend to try them. But the man resists. He resists so persistently and so adamantly that he ends up sounding a lot like the Republicans on Capitol Hill who are determined to defund Obama's health care reforms. But in the Seuss story, the man is finally convinced to try the offending eggs and ham and, much to his surprise, he loves them.

If only the GOP would take a page from that book.

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Oct. 1 of this year will mark the beginning of yet another Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but most people will be unaware that it will also mark another year of funding cuts to breast cancer research. While some lawmakers are calling to defund Obamacare, the slow defunding of the American research enterprise has already begun. If the U.S. Congress can even manage to pass a continuing resolution budget to avoid a government shutdown, this will probably lock in the federal budget at current levels. That level of funding includes the now notorious across-the-board cuts known as "the sequester."

The sequester was supposed to be so draconian that it would drive politicians to accept some alternative budget compromise. Unfortunately compromise seems to be a dirty word in Washington, and it has become almost dogma for some that any government spending is inherently wrong and should be opposed on principle. But does that really extend to scientific biomedical research that can save lives?

Some types of government spending are crucial and necessary. These investments include not only breast cancer research, but all avenues of basic scientific research funded by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Private industry rarely funds very basic research because it needs a return on investment within two to five years at the most. The government is the only entity with enough patience and deep enough pockets to fund long-term basic research. Private foundations are not even in the same league in dollar amounts. The entire research budgets of charities such as Komen for the Cure ($75M) and the American Cancer Society ($160M) combined are less than the 5 percent sequester cut to the $4.8 billion National Cancer Institute budget.

The biggest breakthroughs, the fundamental advances that enable the development of new cancer drugs for leukemia or melanoma or triple-drug cocktails that keep HIV in check, come from scientists working not in private industry, but at universities, nonprofit research institutions and government labs that are funded by these agencies, and ultimately by the American taxpayer.

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I recently met Jonathan Ross, a single father trying to support his daughter on $10,000 a year. Jonathan works at a cafe at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a federal building that houses an exhibit on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Like those who marched in 1963, Jonathan is standing up for his family and all workers who deserve decent pay for a full day's work. This week, hundreds of workers like Jonathan went on strike at federally owned buildings around D.C., refusing to be ignored any longer. They called for a living wage and a voice on the job. They're standing up because they want to support their families and give their children a chance at a better future. President Barack Obama should take executive action to help working families. During a recent speech on the economy, the president said we should focus on increasing wages. "We have to make the investments necessary to attract good jobs that pay good wages and offer high standards of living." But you might be surprised to find out that the largest low-wage job producer in America isn't some big corporation--it's Uncle Sam.

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The highly-anticipated annual list features a collection of the top African-American influencers between the ages of 25 and 45 who are boldly breaking new ground in their respective fields, and impacting American society with their accomplishments. The Root's editorial team calculated the rankings of the nominees using data from Lexis Nexis, Google, and Twitter to determine their level of influence or influence score. With over 800 names submitted, the team ranked leading names by combining their influence score with a substance score for their contributions to their communities and professions.

The following are the top elected officials and political operatives from The Root 100 list. To see the full list, click here.

Elected Officials:

Corey Booker (No.2)

Kasim Reed (No.10)

Nina Turner (No.47)

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[Ed. note: The following post is republished from the New York Public Library as part of its series on Banned Books Week.]

Our next title under the microscope during Banned Books week is the canonical nonsense tale of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. "I do not like them, Sam-I-am, I do not like green eggs and ham." The People's Republic of China most notably concurred with this key mantra of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. Beginning in 1965, it was forbidden to read Green Eggs and Ham in Maoist China because of its "portrayal of early Marxism," and the ban was not lifted until author Theodor Seuss Geisl's death in 1991.

First published in 1960, this whimsical book of rhyme aimed at encouraging children to try new things was great for early readers because it conveyed this complex message while using less than 50 words. Through repetition of simple words, protagonist Sam-I-Am insistently implores his nameless counterpart to try the book's eponymous dish (in a box with a fox, with a goat in a boat), who stubbornly refuses to taste the verdant breakfast. A bargain is finally struck between the debating characters; Sam's bedraggled friend will taste the meal if Sam-I-Am agrees to finally leave him alone. Lo and behold, Sam's friend discovers that he not only likes green eggs and ham, but he can't wait to eat them in all the scenarios Sam-I-Am had been suggesting all along.

In addition to the decades-long suppression of Green Eggs and Ham in Communist China, Yertle the Tertle (1958) has recently crawled back onto banned book lists; in April 2012 the Prince Rupert School District in British Columbia, CA removed the book from schools because it violated a school ban on political messages for the line "I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we too should have rights." The Lorax (1972) similarly raised the ire of a community in California because of its portrayal of loggers as being environmentally unfriendly.

Dr. Seuss himself admitted that as an author he was "subversive as hell," and did not want to write stories about modeling good behavior for children. His books encouraged standing up to authority while comically illustrating the consequences of fear-based thinking--bold ideas that have made a Grinch out of those opposed to instilling such attitudes in children.

Liberman is a senior librarian at the New York Public Library's Mulberry Branch.

"Stock Photo: United States - Circa 1999: A Postage Stamp Printed In USA Showing An Image Of The Cat Character From The Book The Cat In The Hat Written By Dr. Seuss, Circa 1999." on Shutterstock.

Last week, a phony story supposedly from the writers of Playboy magazine asserted that the publication had scrapped its annual college party school rankings piece for a commentary on improving consent. According to the viral hoax, Playboy's mission was the stuff anti-rape advocates dream of. "Consent is all about everyone having a good time," the fake story instructed.

It's easy to see why the Playboy hoax was so appealing. The gold standard of consent says that each one of us consistently consents to events, transactions and interactions -- which in real life aren't always so clear. The Playboy hoax highlights the idea that in popular culture we tend to only contemplate consent -- and what it really means -- when we hear about the really terrifying instances of what is clearly rape and not in our day-to-day sexual lives.

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While the budget showdown is getting the lion's share of the attention, another conservative strategy to derail Obamacare is quietly forming on the right. The idea is to keep people from actually going to their computers and signing up for health insurance through the health care exchanges that open on Oct. 1. To do this, conservatives are borrowing a strategy from a much older and more established movement, the anti-abortion movement. Because if you want to reduce people's access to health care, then of course the people you want to imitate are anti-choicers, who are the world experts on trying to throw up obstacle between patients and doctors.

As documented by Jill Filipovic at Salon, the anti-abortion movement has long used a two-pronged strategy to keep women from getting to abortion providers when they need them: 1) Use your activist wing to make the actual process of going to the doctor seem fraught with peril and 2) back this up by having the government throw as many obstacles as they can legally get away with between you and your doctor. This strategy, while not doing much to reduce the actual abortion rate, has successfullyreduced the number of providers in the country and created a burgeoning black marketfor abortion drugs.

Now the same tactics are being used by the anti-Obamacare movement. Since there's no physical location to sign up for Obamacare for protesters to target, conservatives have had to get creative in trying portray the experience of signing up for health insurance as dangerous. Generation Opportunity, Koch brothers-funded group, is running ads that dishonestly suggest that people who sign up for Obamacare will be subject to unnecessarily invasive and torturous medical testing. One ad specifically insinuates that the gynecological tests women will be able to afford if they get insured are close to sexual assault, an idea that is directly borrowed from anti-choice rhetoric that equates getting an abortion with assault. (Unsurprisingly, Generation Opportunity employs at least one prominent anti-abortion activist.)

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Out of 300 million Americans, a few thousand wield disproportionate economic and political influence because of their positions at the pinnacle of America's corporate and media establishments or their roles as political allies (or puppets) of the corporate ruling class. C. Wright Mills described this group in his 1956 book, The Power Elite, G. William Domhoff has updated this analysis in his book, Who Rules America? (now in its 7th edition), and Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have described how the power elite wields its influence in Winner-Take-All Politics

Many of them have overlapping memberships on the boards of the largest corporations, business lobby groups, universities and think tanks, foundations, and media conglomerates. They are not part of conspiracy. They do not meet secretly to plot America's future. And they disagree with each other on some issues, particularly same-sex marriage, abortion and gun control. Some are corporate conservatives and moderates; some are right-wing reactionaries and racists; others are lunatic libertarians. 

But they agree on the essential concerns about the economy. The top Wall Street and Wal-Mart CEOs, the media monopolists and their talk-show agitators, the billionaire benefactors, and the business lobbyists share an antipathy toward unions, progressive taxes, and government regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment. They fund think tanks and hire college professors to promote their views and to cry wolf about government rules -- denying the reality of global warming, warning that raising the minimum wage or strengthening regulations on banks will "kill jobs," and attacking Obamacare (and Obama) as "socialist." They work closely with right-wing, conservative, and moderate politicians to carry out their agenda. They act on behalf of big business and the super-rich, but to translate their ideas into public policy they have to persuade voters that their agenda benefits middle class Americans -- a task that is getting harder and harder to do. 

Yet even among the few thousand members of the power elite, there are a small number whose influence is greater than the others. Here is a list of the 20 most influential members of the power elite. 

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