Monthly Archives: February 2012

This Is Obama In Campaign Mode

Today, speaking before the UAW:

“You want to talk about values?… Hard work — that’s a value. Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together — that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that is a value.  But they’re still talking about you as if you’re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten. Since when are hardworking men and women special interests? Since when is the idea that we look out for each other a bad thing?”

More like this please.

Primary Day In Michigan and Arizona

Though Michigan and Arizona will award roughly the same number of delegates tonight (with both losing half their original allocations for non-compliance with RNC calendar rules), and though Arizona will provide the larger "purse" by virtue of a statewide winner-take-all system, Michigan will get the lion's share of attention simply because it is by far the closer race, and is Mitt Romney's native state. The major drama will be all about Rick Santorum's bid for an upset there.

All the late polls in MI show a very close race, with Santorum's original lead yielding to a TV-fed Romney surge, and then a Santorum comeback, apparently on the strength of Democratic and independent voters (with the former including at least some "tactical" or mischief-making ballots cast by people who wouldn't normally support Rick for dogcatcher).

I find myself at the point where I feel it doesn't matter.  Romney, Santorum — Obama is killing both of them in the polls.  Unless the economy goes seriously south, or gas prices skyrocket to $6.00/gallon, this election is over.

But I'm told I shouldn't get complacent.

Dear Senator Baumgartner

Sen. Michael Baumgartner
Washington State Senate
Candidate for US Senate

Dear Sen. Baumgartner,

It's so nice to know there is at least one politician out there who speaks the truth.  So many times, it just seems like our elected officials have no clue about things.  Thankfully, you are not one of them.  

I am speaking, of course, about the other day when you stated so truthfully that U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is "not qualified to talk on the issue [availability of contraceptives] because she isn't married."

Here, here.

What level of chutzpah must an unmarried woman possess, to think that she can opine on things like female contraception.  Unmarried women, as we all know, just don't understand these things (unlike virile white dudes like you and me).  Such single women are ignorant about their hoohahs and dingy-whitsis.  Only when God has sanctified their union to a man are they ready to be informed how contraception kills babies, thereby destroying the only reason why women exist in the first place.  

Obviously, the ringless Ms Cantwell has not seen the day when her superior husband sits her down and patiently explains the facts of life to her.  And by the way, if she keeps acting like this, what man will ever want her?

Keep up the good work.

Ken

Catholic Church Now Goes After Girl Scouts

First it was women, now it's the girls:

Several Girl Scout troops in Chantilly, Va., have been banned from meeting at a local Catholic church and a neighboring school.

St. Timothy Catholic Church said that scouts won’t be allowed to meet or wear their uniforms on church property. The edict also applies to the adjacent St. Timothy School, which enrolls students from preschool to eighth grade.

According to the Arlington Diocese, the pastor did not believe the National Girl Scouts membership to the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts aligned with the message of the church, stemming from a perceived connection between WAGGGS and Planned Parenthood.

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital said its parent/national organization is not  WAGGGS, but instead Girl Scouts of the USA, which does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.

Naturally, this is happening in Virginia, which is Ground Zero for bashing women.

Virginia Governor REALLY Wants To Be The GOP Vice President

… and that's why he just issued a statement, a few moments ago, in opposition to the bill in Virginia which would require women seeking an abortion to be vaginally raped with a wand undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure if the standard ultrasound procedure is ineffective.  Here's the key portion of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's released statement:

Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.

For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

Mind you, he still thinks women should be required to get the ultrasound, just not the transvaginal intrusive kind.

It’s Like They WANT To Lose

I'm scratching my head about the surge of Santorum in the polls nationally.  Yes, he's the latest not-Romney, and yes, even I admitted that he was the best debater later of the Romney-Gingrich-Santorum trifecta.

But now that he has the lead, Santorum has felt comfortable being… well, Santorum, and pushing the "values" agenda.  He suffers from the same delusion that most ultra-conservatives suffer from: he thinks everybody in the United States believes as he does.  (That's the problem with living in a bubble and surrounding yourself with the same people who hold the same narrow-minded views — you kid yourself into thinking your views are universally held).

But even a political neophyte could surmise that you don't win elections by catering to the people who are going to vote for you anyway!  You need to get the fence-sitters, the moderates, the independents.  And Santorum, with his religious "values" agenda, just isn't reaching them.

Santorum is out there.  I mean, we all knew he was anti-choice on the abortion issue, so let's not act all surprised about that.  But now he is speaking out against pre-natal testing, a routine procedure used to identify potential problems in utero.

Which begs the question: what is he thinking?  Does he — or anyone on his staff — read the polls?  They must, and yet, it doesn't seem to matter.  This has prompted at least one person to speculate:

How badly do the Republicans want to win the White House? I suspect they don't. Nor do I think they are particularly worried about the dire state of the economy and the lingering recession.

What they care about is theocracy, not freedom. They want to score moral points with the Religious Right, more than they want to win votes from the bulk of the voters in the independent center.

Consider that in Virginia the Republicans are pushing a law that defines "personhood" as beginning at conception. Come census time they are going to have to hire gynecologists, not census takers.

Oklahoma Republicans are pushing to grant an "unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges and immunities to other persons, citizens, and residents of the state." If that passes an embryo will have more rights than a gay resident. These measures are meant to make all abortions illegal — a position endorsed by virtually every Republican presidential candidate, including the "libertarian" Ron Paul.

Yet, only 22% of Americans believe abortion should be restricted in all cases. Yes, Americans are divided on abortion, but the divide is only about whether there are some cases where it should be restricted, not whether it should be illegal. Only 27% of Americans want it illegal under all circumstances while 61% say it should be legal under most circumstances. The Republicans are pushing an agenda of a very small minority of the population.

As the numbers of self-identified Republicans and Democrats shrink, more people identify as independents. That means the election of either party depends on that growing center block. But, that block is far more pro-choice than the Republicans, and only slightly less than Democrats. Where 34% of Republicans want abortion banned in all circumstances, only 18% of independents do. The GOP isn't even representing their own members — they are entirely beholden to a tiny minority of religious fanatics, who they call "their base."

Similarly, they are pushing to repeal marriage equality rights for gay couples in New Hampshire. Who are the Republicans representing? It sure isn't the average resident of the state. Only 29% of New Hampshire residents think marriage equality should be repealed. Only 14% said they are more likely to support a candidate who is anti-equality, while 44% said they are more likely to vote against them. Even on this issue, only a minority of Republicans supports the party position — 45%. As for those necessary independent voters, only 29% favor repeal, while 64% oppose the Republican effort.

This sort of divide is apparent at the national level as well. A Gallup poll from last May showed a majority of Americans support marriage equality. This is true even though the more "conservative" regions, the South and Midwest, are included in the average. And, among independents voters, support for marriage equality is higher than the average — 59%. Given that this poll is almost a year old, and that recent state polls show support increasing, it is likely that support among independents is now in the mid 60s.

The agenda of the organized Religious Right, the old Moral Majority, simply doesn't appeal to the majority of voters. It barely has sufficient support with the Republican Party, but this radical fringe manages to hold the party hostage — a similar thing is true about the Democrats as well, though with different special interests.

If the Republicans are at risk of losing the votes of crucial independents, because of their Big Government social agenda, then precisely what is it that they count on to win the White House?

Sadly, the Republicans are not trying to win the soft libertarian middle. They feel they can win simply by NOT BEING Democrats. The Republicans are counting on widespread discontent with Obama to win them the White House. Just as four years ago, the Democrats were swept into power because they weren't George Bush and the Republicans.

The question for the Republicans is whether the disgust voters feel for Obama is less than the disgust they feel for the eventual Republican candidate. That's a toss-up. It is obvious, however, that a Santorum nomination, would probably push independents and libertarian-leaning voters away from the Republican Party. Independents may hold their nose and vote for Obama, while libertarians might abstain or vote third party. If the Libertarian Party has the sense to nominate Gov. Gary Johnson — and they too have a fringe to deal with that will try to scuttle that nomination — they might actually reap vote totals that haven't seen since they ran Ed Clark in 1980.

But, one thing is clear, the agenda of the Republican Party today is focusing heavily on issues that alienate critical Independent voters. This may be intentional, or just a collective stupidity on the part of Republican candidates. Whatever it is, it is not a strategy geared toward winning independent votes to the GOP, and without them "the base" of fundamentalist wackos won't be enough to save the Republicans.

Long-term this strategy is a Republican death wish. These social values are held mainly by older voters, not the young, which means support is literally dying on a daily basis. And, religious fundamentalists are in demographic decline as well. "The base" is a shrinking one, making independents, libertarians, and the young more critical to the Republicans with each passing election.

All I can think of is Cheney talking about "death throes".  Is this what we are seeing?

The pairing of dancers in this ball is disconcerting. #DowntonAbbey

“Do you promise?” The Dowager wins. #DowntonAbbey

Mary and Anna in New York in the 20s? What could possibly go wrong? #DowntonAbbey

Loved the Dowager and Daisy scene #DowntonAbbey

A Schiavo Moment

Chuck Todd thinks we've seen this before, and I agree:

When the Terri Schiavo controversy first turned into a full-blown national story — in March 2005 — no one was sure of its political implications. Even some Democrats feared it was a loser for them. But after congressional Republicans and the Bush White House acted to keep the Schiavo alive, despite being in a vegetative state and despite her husband's wishes that her feeding tube be removed, their move backfired. The American public thought they went too far, and it marked the beginning of the end of GOP control over Congress and the White House. Flash forward almost seven years later, and is history repeating itself? Just like with the Schiavo case, we're unclear how the debate over contraception, women's health, and religious liberty will play out. But after the Obama White House initially bungled its contraception rollout and especially after it released its accommodation compromise, there are warning signs this week that the GOP has taken that issue — and other social ones — too far.

One has to wonder just what Republicans are thinking.  The economy is improving, but there is still a lot of recovery ahead.  There's Obamacare.  There's poverty still.  In other words, Obama isn't invincible.

So why is the GOP trying to start a culture war?  It makes no sense, especially when the issue they are picking alienates women, who are 50% of the voters.  Contraception?  Really?  You are going to make that an issue in an election year?  Didn't we resolve that, like 50 years ago?

And how does that work exactly?  "Let's make it harder for women to get birth control.  That'll make us popular!"  Huh?!?

Matt Bors

P.S.  Hey, Slate — I was way ahead of you.

New Hampshire Legislator”s Contribution To The Contraception Debate

Leave it to my home state of New Hampshire to take a comical controversial topic and make it absurd.  

Enter New Hampshire's Representative Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack).  Rep. Notter sits on the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which heard public testimony yesterday on late-entry House Resolution 29, urging the United States Department of Health and Human Services to rescind its rule requiring health plans to cover preventative services for women such as contraceptives.

What was Ms. Notter's contribution to the discussion?

She told committee members today that health plans shouldn't cover birth control because… wait for it… the pill causes prostate cancer.

 

“As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Bernstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?” Notter asked Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, who was testifying at the hearing.

“In the children that are born from these women?” a confused Manuse asked.

Notter then offered to lend Manuse a copy of the study before telling him that she is against putting chemicals in her body and trying to explain her claim. The end of her explanation was that women take the pill and the chemical is in their body, but the end of her sentence about how it affects men is mostly unintelligible from the video.

*Facepalm*

Fun Fact Of The Day

Number of women testifying at Republican Darryl Issa's congressional investigation into the contraception-coverage-vs-religious-freedom issue: Zero.

[Note: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who sits on Issa's committee, asked a sensible question under the circumstances: "Where are the women? When I look at this panel, I don't see one, single woman representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need coverage for basic preventive health care services."  She was right.]

Romney’s Ad In Michigan

Romney's ad now running in Michigan could have used more vetting.  In the ad, shown below, he talks about growing up in Michigan.

 

A couple of problems with the ad:

(1)  The Chrysler that Mitt is driving was not built in Michigan, or even America.  It was built in Canada.  Chrysler has confirmed this.

(2)  And about that framed photo of Mitt and his dad looking down at what appears to be a car-themed park of some sort…. the one with the Romney voiceover saying "I remember going to the Detroit auto show with my dad".  That photo wasn't taken in Detroit at an auto show.  The thing depicted in that photo is the 1964 World's Fair grounds. In New York. Here is what it looked like from ground level, below the Romneys' lofty perch:

Chrysler pavilion 1964 World's Fair in New York

And what's more, if you look at a map of the 1964 World's Fair, it sure looks like the Romneys were looking down… from a helipad.  

Mr. Average Guy attending a Detroit auto show with his pop?  I don't think so!

Conspiracy Theories and Cognitive Dissonance

On "Fox & Friends" this morning, Brian Kilmeade noted that good economic news matters a great deal when it comes to the president's fortunes, but only "if you believe these numbers."

A minute later, Gretchen Carlson added, "Unemployment has gone down, more jobs have been created. Now, you can argue about how those numbers, some people say they've been fabricated."

"If you believe these numbers"?  The unemployment numbers have been fabricated?

This kind of rhetoric breezes by on Fox News typically, without any fanfare.

When I hear it, I think to myself: "Wait a second.  The monthly unemployment data is compiled by career officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Those numbers are important, as they go into the policy-making decisions of the President, Congress, and many thousands of businesses.  Wouldn't that be a MAJOR scandal — on the scale of Watergate — if those numbers were simply fabricated?"

And indeed it would be a major scandal.  And ALL the networks (especially Fox) would be all over it 24/7.

But they're not.  And why not?  Because there is absolutely no evidence for this theory. It's just thrown out there.

In such a case, I'm inclined to ask: "Are the people at Fox News stupid, or dishonest?"

Alex-Seltz Widen has a third theory:

If it weren’t improper to psychologically analyse strangers, one might think the Fox hosts are displaying a textbook example of cognitive dissonance here, a psychological phenomena in which people who hold a strong belief about something invent (sometimes far fetched) explanations for new evidence that conflicts with their existing views. Obama is bad for the economy, the jobs numbers show the economy is doing better, so there must be something wrong with the jobs numbers. Needless to say, this is hardly the behavior one expects from fair and balanced journalists Fox hosts claim to be.

That might account for some, I suppose.  But — at least where Gretchen Carlson is concerned — I'll go with "stupid".  In any event, it's not journalism.

Rick Santorum Wants My Sex Life To Be “Special”

That's thoughtful of him.

You can watch the whole 45 minute video, or just read the excerpt below, but here's what Rick Santorum said in an interview a few months ago with caffinatedthoughts.com:

One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea…

Wait, what?  Did you just equate contraception use with being a sexual libertine?

It's not okay because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal… but also procreative. 

That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that's not for purposes of procreation, that's not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can't you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it's simply pleasure. And that's certainly a part of it–and it's an important part of it, don't get me wrong–but there's a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special. Again, I know most presidents don't talk about those things, and maybe people don't want us to talk about those things, but I think it's important that you are who you are. I'm not running for preacher. 

I'm not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues.

Oh, okay.  He not only is concerned about the specialness of my sex life, but it is, to him, a matter of "public policy".  Lovely.

And he's the champion of people who think that a mandate requiring health insurance is too invasive of personal liberty.

But pause to really reflect on what Santorum is implying here.  Hundreds of millions of adults have made decisions with regard to contraception use — not only to deter unwanted pregnancies but also to deter STDs.  And now comes Rick who wants to control this behavior because it raises "important public policy issues".

I wish he — and all those like him — would get out of my bed.  And everybody elses' beds.

Ugh. I need a shower.

The Attack On Women Is Getting Obscene

What is it with the right wing and women's va-jay-jays? 

Both on the federal and state level, legislatures — predominantly white men — seem to be insisting that their values govern what women do with their bodies.  We see it in the current controversy involving contraception coverage for women — who do you see speaking out against it?  Men.  White conservative men.

But the state legislature of Virginia takes it to a new level.  

You see, it is unconstitutional to ban abortions outright.  That's the holding of Roe v. Wade.  So the tactic of the conservative (male) rightwing is to make abortions difficult or more displeasing than they already are.  To that end, some states have recently passed laws requring that women seeking an abortion obtain an ultrasound, and be shown the picture (in the hopes that seeing the fetus might make the woman change her mind).  But they soon discovered a problem with this tactic:

The ultrasound requirement may evoke images of the abdominal sonograms standard in most pregnancies, fuzzy black and white pictures conjured by a wand passed across a woman's stomach.

But those ultrasounds are ordinarily done fairly late in pregnancy. In the beginning, particularly the first weeks, an abdominal ultrasound may not be sensitive enough to detect anything.

So how can you guilt women into abandoning an abortion if you can't show them an ultrasound?

I know — let's rape them!

Yup.  That's what the Virginia House of Representatives want to do.  They just passed a bill which will require

a transvaginal ultrasound. In plainspeak, they insert a condom-covered probe into a woman's vagina to obtain an image.

Now, apparently someone in the legislature thought, "Well, suppose a woman doesn't want to have her vagina penetrated by a probe?"  So that person tried to tack on an amendment to the bill — an amendment that allowed women to opt out.

And the House Republicans voted down the amendment, 64-34.

That's right.  So now, if this bill becomes a law (and it is likely to), then all women seeking an abortion in Virginia must, by law, undergo a medically unnecessary procedure in which they are vaginally violated with a probe.  Whether they like it or now.

This may be the first time in history where a legislature actually promotes and legalizes rape.  

****************************

Still doubt there is a concerted GOP attack on women?  Then how about this?

Protecting women from violence and abuse has been an issue of bipartisan cooperation since President Clinton signed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. It was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2000 and again in 2005. Not this year.

On Feb. 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation (S. 1925) reauthorizing VAWA. The bill was sponsored by Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — who is not on the committee — and cosponsored by 34 senators from both parties. Nevertheless, the legislation attracted no GOP support among committee members and passed out of committee on a party-line vote of 10-8. It was, according to Leahy's office, the first time VAWA legislation did not receive bipartisan backing out of committee.

Seriously.  The Republicans are even backing away from the Violence Against Women Act.

This Cartoon Says It All

I was going to write a lengthier post on the subject, particularly as it pertains to the whole contraception/Catholicism controversy, but I'm sure I would never find the time.  And indeed, this graphic makes the point pretty well.

Religious freedom, as protected by the First Amendment, means that each person should be allowed to follow the dictates of their own conscience.  Of course, as with all civil rights, there is a limit.  After all, if the "dictates of one's own conscience" thinks it is moral and just to randomly shoot people as they walk down the street, then we've got a problem.

And the solution goes back to that old axiom: "Your right to swing your arm about wildly ends when your arm comes into contact with my face."

The specific issue at hand is whether Catholic employers can deny contraception coverage to their employees, but that's the narrow version applied to the facts of the controversy.  Stated more generically, the issue is whether or not any employer can deny insurance coverage to his/her employees for procedures and medicines which cut against his/her religious beliefs.

The GOP, taking the losing side on this issue, says "no".  They maintain that you cannot, as a matter of constitutional law, make someone "pay" for something that goes against their moral convictions.

That's an interesting position, and one that I'm not sure the GOP actually wants to take.  By that reasoning, I should be getting a HUGE tax refund because I didn't support the Iraq War.  Same with millions of my other fellow citizens.  To this argument, the GOP would likely say, "Yes, but that is different."  And I would say in response, "How is it different?  And who gets to decide?"

The truth is that we all, in some form or another, "pay" for things we don't want or use.  There are numerous streams of money, fungible and plentiful, coursing through our lives at the most innocent level.  Directly or indirectly, we support things with our purchasing power.  And some of those things may go against the grain of what we believe.  That's the cost of being an American citizen.

But does that mean our religious freedom is being violated?  Are worshipers being told what to believe, or what NOT to believe?  Of course not.  Everyone contributes to society, but one's relationship with God (or Allah or what-have-you) is not being jeopardized.  I mean, wasn't there someone who one said "Pay Caesar what is due Caesar; pay God what is due God"?  Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

RELATED:  You may have guessed this already, but while the Catholic Church doesn't want to pay for contraception for its women employees, where does it stand on Viagra?  Should Viagra be covered, oh, Catholic Church?

Why, yes.

Judge Of The Day

Texas federal Judge Fred Biery has been a key villain in GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s narrative about why federal judges are supposedly out of control.  Gingrich routinely cites a previous decision by Biery holding that the Constitution does not permit a public school district to sponsor a student-led prayer at graduation to justify eliminating courts that displease Gingrich.

In that same case, the parties finally came to a resolution after entering mediation.  A few days ago, Judge Biery signed off on the compromise.  But not without a judicial "fuck you" to those who deserved it.  Read the opinion (PDF).

The Santorum Surge

A new Pew Research Center poll found Santorum and Romney neck-and-neck, with Santorum winning 30 percent of the support among Republican registered voters to Romney's 28 percent — a difference that falls well within the poll's five percentage point margin of error. Separately, Gallup's latest tracking survey of the Republican race found Romney with 32 percent support and Santorum right on his heels with 30 percent.  Santorum also polls neck-and-neck with Romney in Romney's home state of Michigan.

What is to explain this?

As I have written here before, Santorum has been running a great campaign on a shoestring budget.  While everyone was watching the debates to see whether Newt would beat up Mitt (or vice versa), Santorum did a great job of establishing himself as the true conservative (unlike Mitt) who can remain reasonable (unlik Newt).  It has finally paid off, and last week's caucus wins made people realize that he is a viable candidate.

Santorum's problem, of course, is that he is far too conservative to win against Obama.  Whenever he opens his mouth about social issues, he loses independents.  And he's opening his mouth a lot nowadays — on gay marriage, on contraception (are we really debating this issue in 2012?!?).

Romney will be, as I have always said, the GOP nominee.  But Santorum shoul enjoy the next couple of weeks.  It's the closest he'll get to the White House.

GOP Follies Fun Fact

Nate Silver tells us:

There have been 10 separate Republican candidates who have led in at least one national poll at some point in this nomination cycle (counting a few candidates who decided not to run officially). They are, in alphabetical order: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. They may soon be joined by an 11th candidate, Rick Santorum, who is likely to lead in a new Public Policy Polling survey that will be out soon.

The Obligatory Whitney Houston Post

I wasn't a fan.  I didn't have anything against her unquestionable talent or personality; I just wasn't a big fan.

But her passing is sad, especially given the struggles she had throughout life.  One would have hoped for a better ending.  One would have hoped for her to age gracefully and become the Grande Dame of Something.  Sadly, it was not to be, and we all feel diminished by her passing. 

Well, not all of us.

There’s a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston’s death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism: Singer Whitney Houston Dies at 48 | Fox News.

There are almost 5000 comments posted in the thread — these are from the first few pages. Notice that the racist bastards deliberately misspell their slurs or insert random spaces, so they aren’t caught by word filters. And many of the worst comments have numerous “likes” from other commenters.

Click here to read these comments

White House To Cave On The Contraception Thing

It's an election year, and Obama doesn't want a culture war… even if he IS on the winning side of it, and most people support him on it.

The White House will announce some sort of compromise later today.  Wooses.

And by the way, don't expect the "compromise" to satisfy the right.  

UPDATE — per a fact sheet being passed around:

Under the new policy announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works. The policy also ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage but her insurance company will be required to offer contraceptive care free of charge.

Now, watch how that doesn't appease the Catholics.

UPDATE #2 – Okay, maybe I am wrong:

The leader of one Catholic organization and a prominent women's group both expressed initial support for the changes.

"The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed," Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that had fought against the birth control requirement, said in a statement.

But I think the GOP candidates will continue to make hay of it because, well, because it's Obama.

UPDATE #3  Might this backfire against the GOP?  Greg Sargant thinks so:

At his press conference this morning announcing the new shift in contraception policy, Obama said: “I understand that some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue. But it shouldn’t be.”

The irony is that after this announcement, this very well may become a wedge issue — against Republicans.

That’s because anyone who comes out against the proposal Obama outlined today will be asked a simple question: Are you saying that employers should dictate to female employees whether they should or shouldn’t have access to birth control coverage?

If that becomes the question, polls show that the GOP will turn off many voters, especially independents.  

A new poll came out just today illustrating how perilous this [GOP] position may be among Americans overall. It found that a big majority, 61 percent, approve of “requiring employer health plans to cover birth control for women.” Only 34 percent disapproved. Independents approve 58-34; women, 67-29. Republicans, conservatives, and Tea Partyers all oppose it.

And that may become the question.  GOP Rep. Roy Blunt recently introduced a measure that would give employers — any employer — the right to deny women contraceptive coverage.

Great Quotes From The 9th Circuit’s “Prop 8” Opinion

I think Judge Stephen Reinhardt enjoyed himself writing this opinion, given the way he (subtly) sticks it to the Prop 8 supporters:

1. "[M]arriage is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name 'registered domestic partnership' does not."

2. "We are regularly given forms to complete that ask us whether we are 'single' or 'married.' Newspapers run announcements of births, deaths, and marriages. We are excited to see someone ask, 'Will you marry me?', whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see 'Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?'. Groucho Marx's one-liner, 'Marriage is a wonderful institution…but who wants to live in an institution?' would lack its punch if the word 'marriage' were replaced with the alternative phrase. So too with Shakespeare's 'A young man married a man that's marr'd,' Lincoln's 'Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory,' and Sinatra's 'A man doesn't know what happiness is until he's married. By then it's too late.'"

3. "Had Marilyn Monroe's film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie."

4. "In order to explain how rescinding access to the designation of 'marriage' is rationally related to the State's interest in responsible procreation, Proponents would have had to argue that opposite-sex couples were more likely to procreate accidentally or irresponsibly when same-sex couples were allowed access to the designation of 'marriage.' We are aware of no basis on which this argument would even be conceivably plausible."

5. "There is a limited sense in which the extension of the designation 'marriage' to same-sex partnerships might alter the content of the lessons that schools choose to teach. Schools teach about the world as it is; when the world changes, lessons change. A shift in the State's marriage law may therefore affect the content of classroom instruction just as would the election of a new governor, the discovery of a new chemical element, or the adoption of a new law permitting no-fault divorce: students learn about these as empirical facts of the world around them. But to protest the teaching of these facts is little different from protesting their very existence; it is like opposing the election of a particular governor on the ground that students would learn about his holding office."

Some Of The Stupid Laws The New Hampshire GOP Wants To Pass

What's up with my home state?  The GOP-led legislation must be high.  Here's some of the stupid things they've wanted to do:

  1. Make the public school curriculum optional
  2. Prevent police from protecting domestic abuse victims
  3. Allow employers to ban lunch breaks

and my favorite… all new laws relating to individual rights must quote from the Magna Carta.

And that's since January 1 of this year!!

New Horizons

Russian scientists have finally reached Lake Vostok.

That might not sound very interesting until you realize that Lake Vostok is a freshwater lake that has been sealed away for millions of years under two miles of thick Antarctic ice.

Volstok
Clean samples of the water from Lake Vostok, named after the scientific research station located on the ice sheet above it, will not be taken until the next Antarctic summer, in December 2012.  But it might give us a glimpse of what life was like 10-20 million years ago on Earth.  In fact, there may even be life down there (in the form of microbes).

The Controversy That’s Not

Culture wars again?

There seems to be a LOT of misinformation about this latest so-called "controversy" involving the Obama administration and the Catholic Church and birth control.  To hear some people talk about it, you would think that the Obama administration is forcing Catholic institutions to go out and purchase birth control against their will.

Let's be clear: the Obama administration is requiring ALL businesses to provide COMPREHENSIVE medical coverage to their employees.  "Comprehensive medical coverage" includes having no co-pay on contraceptives.  Who is exempt?  Churches.  Who is not exempt?  Religious institutions acting in a secular capacity (a Catholic hospital, a Jesuit university, etc).

Now, the argument goes: the Obama administration is violating the religious liberty of religious organizations by forcing them to provide insurance coverage for something that goes against their tenets.

And it's a specious argument… and here's why.  The "religious liberty" being denied is… wait for it… the right to deny others their religious liberty.  (Read that a couple of times).  After all, nobody is forcing Catholic hospitals to actually provide contraception on demand to its employees.  They just can't deny contraception coverage to their employees who want it.

A Catholic hospital employs (and treats) people of all faiths and backgrounds.  It is non-discriminatory.  Now, all of a sudden, these Catholic institutions want to discriminate (in the name of "religious freedom").

Except that they never complained before.  Most Roman Catholics already agree with the White House in that contraception coverage should be provided for.

A majority of Catholics believe their employers should be required to provide coverage for contraception and birth control, according to a poll released Tuesday from the nonprofit research organization the Public Religion Research Institute.

The poll found that a solid majority of Catholics, 58 percent, say contraception and birth control should be a required, no-cost benefit under their company's healthcare plan.

Support, not surprisingly, is fairly broad among most groups. The only constituency opposed to the coverage in this poll was self-identified white evangelicals. The Public Religion Research Institute released this chart with its survey results:

Secondly, many Catholic institutions already cover contraception in their health care plans. Igor Volsky had a good report on this earlier:

Twenty-eight states already require organizations that offer prescription insurance to cover contraception and since 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees. For instance, a Georgetown University spokesperson told ThinkProgress yesterday that employees "have access to health insurance plans offered and designed by national providers to a national pool. These plans include coverage for birth control."

Similarly, an informal survey conducted by Our Sunday Visitor found that many Catholic colleges have purchased insurance plans that provide contraception benefits.

Now, Georgetown's religious liberty (to the extent that an school has "religion") isn't being violated simply because it allows its employees to have free will and personal liberty when it comes to birth control.  Does it?  Who wants to make that argument?

But that is precisely the (silly) argument being made.  Why now?  It's an election year.  That's the reason, pure and simple.  It has nothing to do with the First Amendment; it's just a way to attack Obama.

Busy, Busy….

Show rehearsals, CLE seminars… it's all too much.

I missed blogging about the Super Bowl.  I missed the Trump endorsement.  I missed all the follow-up to the Komen scandal (that  Handel resigned, as well as she should).  And I missed the Prop 8 upholding, although there isn't much to say about that (it's the SCOTUS that matters, baby).

But I'm back…. sort of.

Twelve Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Groundhog Day

Groundhogday1The movie, not the day.  From Buzzfeed.

1. Bill Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during shooting.

2. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the lead role, but decided against it, saying that Hanks was “too nice.”

3. Tori Amos was considered for the role of Rita.

4. A family of groundhogs was actually raised for the production.

5. One of the groundhog officials is Brian Doyle-Murray, one of Bill Murray’s five brothers.

6. The movie was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois. In Woodstock, there’s a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle.

7. According to an interview with director Harold Ramis, he and Bill Murray argued over the tone of the film. Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical while Ramis wanted it to be more comedic. The two argued throughout the production and have not spoken to each other since.

8. On February 2, 1993 the sun didn’t rise until 7:25am in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This means the film is technically inaccurate – it would still have been dark at 6am.

9. According to director Harold Ramis, most of the times when he tried to explain a scene to Bill Murray, Murray would interrupt and ask, “Just tell me – good Phil or bad Phil?”

10. In the “Jeopardy!” sequence, the second player we see is Jim Scott, a five-time “Jeopardy” Champion who won his fifth game on the October 1, 1990 broadcast. He went on to win the Tournament of Champions contest that season.

11. There are exactly 38 days depicted in the movie either partially or in full.

12. They shot 25 takes of the closing scene when Bill Murray wakes up next Andie MacDowell as they were unsure of the tonality of the scene.

The Tone-Deaf Romney Gaffe

If you haven't seen it yet, here is the interview in which Romney said he's "not concerned with the very poor."

 

As an sidenote, kudos to Soledad for actually hearing Romney say those words and asking him about it.  Good journalists listen, and Soledad is a good journalist.

The Romney camp, as well as Romney himself, seem perplexed by this.  "What's the big deal?" they seem to cry. "He didn't say that he doesn't care about the very poor.  Take what he said in context – he's saying there's a safety net (unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc), and he'll fix any problems if there are any in the safety net."

Yeah, we know what he said.  We know what he said in context.  It's still a problem.

First of all, the comment (even in context) suggests that the very poor are just fine with the safety net.  They're not.  As one TV commentor said, "Romney apparently thinks that the safety net is a hammock; it's not."  

As president, Romney should be concerned with the very poor, even if they have a safety net.  It's no fun being very poor, and the objective of any president is to see that there are as few "very poor" as possible.  It's the moral and responsible thing to do.  The "very poor" don't like being a burden on the rest of society, and the rest of the society (quite frankly) would prefer not to shoulder the burden of the "very poor" if at all possible thankyouverymuch.

Secondly, the comment plays into a narrative that already exists about Romney, i.e., that he is an out-of-touch elitist with an agenda that is heavily stacked to help the better-off within society.  Romney has to know this is the common perception of him, so why would he begin any sentence that has the words "I'm not concerned about the very poor"?  How dumb is that?

Even conservatives are scratching their heads about the sheer stupidity of the comment. The Weekly Standard's John McCormack called the former governor's comment "the most stunningly stupid remark of his campaign."

It's obvious that Romney's statement that he's "not concerned about the very poor" is incredibly tone-deaf. A candidate can say he's "focused" on the middle class without saying he's "not concerned" about the very poor, just as a candidate can say he's "focused" on the economy without saying he's "not concerned" about national security or even less vital issues like education.

But Romney's remark isn't merely tone-deaf, it's also un-conservative. The standard conservative argument is that a conservative economic agenda will help everyone…. Had Mitt Romney picked up his conservatism sooner, perhaps he would know these arguments by heart.

McCormack wasn't alone. Michelle Malkin was dismayed, as was The American Spectator and Rush Limbaugh. One conservative joked that Romney came across as "a really bad Stephen Colbert parody of a Republican," while Jonah Goldberg simply asked, "What is wrong with this guy?"

Good question.

Timing Is Everything

As if Komen isn't in enough trouble, there is a documentary that was due to open this week, called Pink Ribbons, Inc.  Check out the trailer:

 

How stupid is the Komen Foundation?  They must have known this movie is coming out this week, and yet they choose the same week to do something stupid like defund Planned Parenthood.

The Komen Response & The Woman Behind Komen’s Decision

You know, the video is labelled "Straight Talk from Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen", but there's not much straight about it (other than her jawline and Spock-like eyebrows).  Brinker skirts around the issue — curiously never specifically mantioning "Planned Parenthood" by name (one wonders why not, since that's clearly the reason why she made this video yesterday), nor illuminating on why the decision has been made to stop future funding of Planned Parenthood.

 

[Sidenote: Yeah, she's an ambassador.  That's what you get when you donate $175,000 to Republicans like George Bush — you get to become ambassador to Hungary]

She's also lying.  She talks about changes in grant recipients — as if their change in policy affects many of them…. 

“Regrettably, this strategic shift will affect any number of long-standing partners, but we have always done what is right for our organization, for our donors and volunteers.”

… but, as the New York Times reports today, Planned Parenthood is the only grant recipient affected.

Well, if the Ambassador isn't going to give us "straight talk", let's look elsewhere.

[UPDATE: Excellent reporting by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic.  He goes behind the scenes at the Susan G. Koman Foundation.  His big finding?  Accoding to a woman on the Koman Board who resigned in protest, the Koman decision-making process said recent policies were adopted specifically to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  The money quote: "The cart came before the horse in this case… The rule was created to give the board of directors the excuse to stop the funding of Planned Parenthood. It was completely arbitrary. If they hadn't come up with this particular rule, they would have come up with something else in order to separate themselves from Planned Parenthood." Read the whole thing]

According to Komen's spokesperson, the charity's new policy bars grants to organizations that are under such investigation. Specifically, Komen has decided to sever financial ties if a grant applicant or any of its affiliates is "currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud."  And Planned Parenthood is under "investigation" by Congress, although everybody understands that the "investigation" was launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.  In other words, the Planned Parenthood investigation is clearly political.

Komen likes to pretend it is taking the high road here by not sullying its hands with organizations that are "under investigation".  Of course, Komen is perfectly content with accepting millions from an entity under investigation for fraud, like its corporate partner, Bank of America:

  • In New York, Bank of America is being investigated for "fraudulently steered homeowners into overpriced insurance policies."
  • In California and Nevada, Bank of America is under investigation for "foreclosure fraud and other wrongdoing in the mortgage markets, including the packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities by Wall Street players and scams by smaller players offering to help troubled borrower."
  • In Arizona, Bank of America is under investigation for its loan modification practices.
  • And, of course,  the federal government's new mortgage crisis unit will be investigating Bank of America's conduct leading up to the real estate crisis.

BofA_Komen

That said, it's a joke for the Ambassador to say this isn't political…. and here's why. 

Let's talk about Karen Handel.  Who is Karen Handel?  She became Senior Vice President of Komen in April 2011:

WASHINGTON D.C. – April 12, 2011 – Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, announced today that it has appointed Karen Handel to serve as senior vice president of public policy. 

Handel is a well-known and experienced policy maker, having held various positions in government at the local, state and federal level. Most recently, she was the Secretary of State for the state of Georgia, where she had oversight of 400 employees, responsible for overseeing elections, corporations, securities and professional licensing boards. 

In her role at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Handel will be responsible for leading the organization’s federal and state advocacy efforts, including management of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Advocacy Alliance. Handel has been working with Komen as a consultant for advocacy since January and with this appointment now officially joins the staff. She will be based out of Komen’s Washington, D.C. office. 

And what else Handel did before becoming Senior VP of Public Policy at Komen? Oh. She ran for Governor of Georgia.  Hmmm… I wonder what her policies were when she ran.

Unfortunately, her "Handel for Governor" website is no longer around.

Wait, what?

Oh, why thank you, Wayback Machine.  

Here's an excerpt from the Karen Handel for Governor blog (July 15, 2010):

Since my opponents and others continue to misrepresent my views on Life, I want to be abundantly clear about my core beliefs.  I am staunchly and unequivocally pro-life.  I believe in the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life, and I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia.  With recent scientific advances and others on the horizon, our society is increasingly facing new and serious moral and ethical issues. In dealing with these issues, I believe that the sanctity of human life must be the priority and fundamental premise upon which all policies are based.

***

My opponents have recently recycled old attacks against me concerning Fulton County’s funding of some programs through Planned Parenthood.  They are doing so without providing any context and continue to omit several key and important facts.  First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood. During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a “Healthy Babies Initiative.”  The grant was authorized, regulated, administered and distributed through the State of Georgia.  Because of the criteria, regulations and parameters of the grant, Planned Parenthood was the only eligible vendor approved to meet the state criteria.  Additionally, none of the services in any way involved abortions or abortion-related services.  In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws.  Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor.

[Emphasis mine]

So there it is.  Less than two years ago, Komen's new VP for Public Policy ran for governor of Georgia on an anti-abortion platform.  In doing so, she vowed to end grants from the State of Georgia to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening.

Karen Handel didn't win the race for Governor.  But it looks like she got her wish to defund Planned Parenthood anyway.

Skank.

“The Pink Badge Of Cowardice”

Via Tbogg, we come across this sad bit of weak knees coming from the Susan G Koman Foundation:

Susan G Komen For the Cure has announced that it will stop funneling money to Planned Parenthood, ending a years-long partnership between the two organizations that provided mammograms and related services to low income women. But what accounts for the Komen Foundation's sudden change of heart? Surprisingly, it seems that the pressure may not have come from external sources, but from within the Foundation itself.

The Susan G Komen Foundation's official line is that they didn't end their relationship with Planned Parenthood in response to relentless bullying from pro-life groups, but because the family planning organization is currently under investigation by Congress. They have a rule, you see, that bars them from contributing to organizations that are under investigation at the local, state, or federal level.

Interestingly, this brand new rule that suddenly appeared in the books of the Komen Foundation just so happened to coincide with a Congressional investigation launched by a Republican legislator, who himself was pressured by the pro-life group Americans United for Life. And last year's assault on Planned Parenthood also coincided with the addition of a vocally anti-abortion ex-politician to the ranks of Susan G Komen For the Cure.

Karen Handel, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin during her unsuccessful bid for governor of Georgia in 2010, has been the Foundation's Senior Vice President for Public Policy since April 2011. During her gubernatorial candidacy, she ran on an anti-choice platform, vowing that if elected, she'd defund Planned Parenthood. 

You read that right. The Komen Foundation will no longer fund BREAST EXAMS at Planned Parenthood. This foundation that's supposed to be all about breast cancer is doing its part to ensure that low-income women do not have access to the kinds of early detection examinations that could save lives. 

Yeah, there's something seriously askew with the Komen Foundation.  First, they spend tons of money trying to get the intellectual property rights to "for the cure".  Between those lawsuits and spending only 19% of its budget on actual research (with 37% for "education", 5% for treatment, and 12% for screening, along with 27% for overhead, which presumably includes all those address labels and other swag with which they mutsche you all year long), the Komen Foundation is right up there with the World Wildlife Fund and other major-maga-nonprofits that spend only a fraction of their budgets on their stated mission.

Komanpp