TPM Cafe: Opinion

The word of the day: “Mammogram.”

Over and over during the farce that was supposed to be a hearing on Planned Parenthood, Republican representatives attacked Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards because her organization does not provide mammograms as part of its core set of services. (They do sometimes pair with organizations for programs that offer them to low-income women.) Over and over again, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms was held out as some kind of proof that the organization doesn’t provide women’s health care. Apparently, Republicans are under the impression that women are Barbie dolls, with big breasts and nothing between our legs but a flat surface.

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We’ve been here before. A frontrunner for the Republican nomination announces a tax plan, which is immediately lauded as “populist” but is actually a massive and unpaid-for tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Earlier this month, it was Jeb Bush. This week, it is Donald Trump, who seems to have taken Jeb Bush’s plan, given every number a haircut, and submitted it as his own work. So much for being the anti-Establishment candidate.

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The Western is officially back. Although some argue that cinema’s once-dominant genre has been replaced by the superhero movie, there are going to be a lot of cowboys on screen this fall, with films such as The Keeping Room (released on Friday), The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant hitting theaters. It’s not a brand-new trend; these movies follow a rash of Westerns released in the last few years, including The Lone Ranger, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Django Unchained, True Grit, Cowboys and Aliens and The Homesman.

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The future composition of the Supreme Court is the most important civil rights cause of our time. It is more important than racial justice, marriage equality, voting rights, money in politics, abortion rights, gun rights, or managing climate change. It matters more because the ability to move forward in these other civil rights struggles depends first and foremost upon control of the Court. And control for the next generation is about to be up for grabs, likely in the next presidential election, a point many on the right but few on the left seem to have recognized.

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Earlier today, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation; after several years of facing a fiery, obstinate Congress, his relief was palpable. Boehner may very well go down in history as one of the most ineffective Speakers in history, but this kind of fervent opposition isn’t exactly unprecedented.

Consider two cases a century ago that make Boehner’s tenure look downright warm-and-fuzzy.

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On Thursday, in his speech to Congress, Pope Francis praised Dorothy Day—along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Merton—as one of four "representatives of the American people" whom he admired. Pope Francis was probably the first pope to mention Day's name in public. It is unlikely that anyone else who addressed Congress in the past had uttered her name.

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Kim Davis’s “religious freedom” justification for not issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses isn’t exactly the same as when a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription for contraception because he doesn’t believe in birth control. But it’s not all that different, either. Sure, Davis is not a pharmacist at a Target or Walgreens; she’s a government employee who was elected into office. She also went further than pharmacists by forbidding her deputies to issue licenses in her stead. But with so-called “conscience clauses” being enacted at a rapid clip during the last few years, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we are not quite sure where or when the next Kim Davis is going to pop up.

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Everything Pope Francis does seems unprecedented and unmatched, but when he stands before the General Assembly of the United Nations this week, the image of another pope will intrude. The U.N. speech delivered by Pope Paul VI in 1965, almost exactly fifty years ago, resonated across the world. Closer to home, the Pope’s words opened a breach between me and my father, and though our situation was particular, our sad conflict was not unique, but typical of a generation. For people of a certain age, Paul VI at the U.N. remains the unlikely measure of the difference a pope can make, of the pain that can come when a pope speaks the truth, and of the tragedy that can follow when that truth is ignored.

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Last week, ten days after TPM published my investigative story about Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles, the controversial ministry to which the Duggar family belongs, Gawker took note of Gothard posting on his Facebook page for the first time in two years. “I am so thankful for the outpouring of thoughtfulness and support during the last 18 months as I have faced the greatest trials of my life,” he wrote.

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Just in time for Beltway chatter suggesting a second window of opportunity may be available to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie in the 2016 GOP nomination race (okay it was Mark Halperin, but still), attorneys for the two defendants in the federal Bridgegate case filed papers late on Monday demanding that the governor’s attorneys hand over notes gathered for an internal investigation of the September 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.

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