Abby Rapoport

Internet Killed the Political Party Star?

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)

One of the most visible publicity campaigns at South by Southwest Interactive festival this year featured two guys dressed up as a fighting elephant and donkey. They ran around downtown complete with gloves, satin boxing shorts, and even a referee. Americans Elect—the political group they represented that wants to nominate an independent presidential challenge for the 2012 election—tweeted photos of the pair fighting. They also tweeted attendees to invite them to the group's lounge. The room featured t-shirts, hats, and "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots"—with a donkey and elephant head instead of robotic heads. Of course, the biggest draw was the free beer, which they advertised nonstop.

A GOP Governor Is Pushing Tax Hikes?

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Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval came into office with tough talk about taxes. Since then, it seems, he's grown disenchanted with Grover Norquist-style governance. For the second time in as many years, he's pushing to extend a group of temporary tax increases, rather than cut public-education funding. What is the world coming to?

Texans Fight Back Against Cuts

(Flickr/WeNews)

It's hard to overstate just how dire the situation is around women's health care in Texas. The state has the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country and one in four women are uninsured. After cutting family-planning funding by around two-thirds last legislative session, conservative lawmakers are now standing by their decision to cut off Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program, a move that ended $35 million in federal funding.

SXSWedu: How to Stop Worrying (about Education) and Love Technology

(Flickr/opencontent)

I was expecting some fireworks at South by Southwest Edu. The nerdy cousin of the hip SXSW festival, Edu held its second annual conference last week, as a place where those in tech and education could come together. Many showed up with apps to sell, and others showed up looking to buy. Teachers came, many with an eye toward incorporating technology into their lessons. But the many panels and three keynote speeches all came against a backdrop of budget cuts, low teacher morale, and changes in the the basic expectations of schooling, particularly around assessment. The panels would often allude to the trouble—one I attended, on "Redefining 'Data-Driven'" proved to be cathartic for some of the teachers laboring under strict expectations of performance.  

Voter-ID Laws Face Major Roadblocks

(Flickr/ezola)

Texas Republicans have been trying for years to pass a law that would require state voters to show identification before hitting the polls—and state Democrats have been equally determined to stop such a measure. The Rs came close in 2009, but the House Democrats, only two seats away from a majority, blew up the legislative session rather than see the measure pass. By 2011, however, fresh from Tea Party victories, the GOP had overwhelming majorities in both Houses.

The Dennis Kucinich Debacle

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At 4 a.m. Saturday morning, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald put up a 2,500-word blog post that excoriated my post from earlier in the week, “So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich.” I'd written four paragraphs that amounted to a light-hearted farewell for the congressman, quickly noting both his most famous political efforts and two of his more well-known personal stories. Greenwald portrayed the article—along with pieces at The Washington Post and The New Republic—as a contemptuous and mean-spirited celebration of Kucinich's defeat in last week’s Ohio Democratic primary.

State of the Week

(Flickr/Image Editor)

This week's State of the Week is ... Florida!

Rush Limbaugh's Bust Is a Go

Imagine you were the speaker of the Missouri state House. In addition to legislating and naming committee chairmen, you'd also have a pretty awesome perk: choosing who gets bronze busts in the state Capitol rotunda. Who to pick might be a challenge. As The New York Times notes, there are a lot of famous Missourians without the giant casts, from modern folks like Maya Angelou to old West heroes.

Minority Parties Get Feisty in Budget Battles

Bumpy roads ahead! (Flickr/401K)

Legislatures in Washington state and Virginia have both garnered plenty of national attention for their fights over culture wars—the push to recognize gay marriage and the controversial debate over requiring pre-abortion sonograms. But with their lawmaking sessions winding down, both states are in the midst of epic budget battles, that will almost definitely force them into special sessions. In both cases, parties out of power are using the budget debates to leverage their positions, gambles with big potential risks and payoffs should they succeed.

So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich

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(Ready Abby's response to Salon's Glenn Greenwald.)

The Daily Show, April 11, 2011:

John Oliver: Help me understand how you have been re-elected in the state of Ohio?

Representative Dennis Kucinich: Harmony and understanding, sympathy, and trust abounding.

John Oliver: Are you quoting the musical "Hair"?

Will Florida Bar Jewish Divorce?

(Flickr/walknboston)

Starting Wednesday, the Florida Senate can vote on a measure to ban Sharia law in the state. But in an unintended consequence, the measure would also ban traditional Orthodox Jewish divorces from being recognized.

Crazy Idea: Laws To Encourage Voting

(Flickr/Katri Niemi)

Voter ID laws have been all the rage around the country, with conservative lawmakers pushing to make it harder to vote, often by requiring some form of government-issued photo identification. The goal, at least according to rhetoric, is to keep the process safe from fraud—despite there being no real evidence of in-person voter fraud, the only kind such laws would actually prevent. In the meantime, states struggle with low-turnout rates and sometimes low registration rates. In Texas, which recently passed one of the more stringent ID requirements, residents vote at among the lowest rates in the country. 

Parental Trigger Hits the Florida Senate

(Flickr/simonov)

Throughout Florida's legislative session, education reform groups and teachers' unions have done battle over proposals to pass a very controversial  "parent trigger" law. The state House has already passed its version of the measure and the state Senate is schedule to vote on it tomorrow, while opponents make a last ditch effort to kill the bill. With the session ending on Friday, the stakes for both sides are high. 

The Other Big Ohio Primary

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Tomorrow, one of the nastier primary races in recent memory will come to an end.

Nope, not the Republican presidential race. (That may drag on for eternity.) Ohio will be the first state to hold a congressional primary, which means an end to the vicious fight between Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, two Democrats who both currently hold office. (A third Democrat, Graham Veysey, is also running in what's likely to be a distant third.)

Right to Know Versus Right to Withhold

In the debates over pre-abortion ultrasound bills, advocates often say such measures are vital to ensuring that women have all the relevant information. The argument is often based in part on the idea that abortion providers make money off of the procedures—and therefore may try to trick women into terminating their pregnancies. The reasoning also assumes that when deciding to have an abortion, a woman should know the physical details of the fetus, like how many fingers and toes have developed.

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