Monthly Archives: March 2012

THIS Is Why The Supreme Court Is Reluctant To Broadcast The Arguments

Because some douchebag might come along and manipulate them for political gain, misprepresenting what actually happened in court.  Like this ad from the RNC:

 

 As it turns out, the RNC's new ad is about as honest as the RNC's attacks on the health care law itself.

A Republican Party web-based advertisement uses altered audio from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments to attack President Barack Obama's health-care law. […]

A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version…. Recordings of the court proceedings reviewed by Bloomberg News reveal that the audio has been edited. While Verrilli paused once to drink water during the opening moments of his presentation, he stopped talking for only a few seconds before continuing with his argument. In the RNC ad, he pauses for about 20 seconds, seeming to lose his train of thought.

Emphasis mine.

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court scholar and an influential attorney who has argued 24 cases before the high court, called the RNC's ad "the single most classless and misleading thing I've ever seen related to the Court." He added, "It is as if the RNC decided to take an incredibly serious and successful argument that has the chance to produce a pathbreaking legal victory for a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, drag it through the mud, and vomit on it."

The Republican Distrust Of Science

A new study by Gordon Gauchat takes a look at public trust in science and finds that it's unchanged over the past few decades for most groups. The one exception is conservatives, whose trust in science has plummeted:

But here's the remarkable thing from the study not seen in the graph above: the more educated a conservative is, the less he trusts science.  Specifically:

…conservatives with high school degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees all experienced greater distrust in science over time and these declines are statistically significant. In addition, a comparison of predicted probabilities indicates that conservatives with college degrees decline more quickly than those with only a high school degree. These results are quite profound, because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives.

Why is that?  Is it because of the politicization of, well, everything, and the adherence to certain constituencies and special interests that create a bubble that excludes scientific reality?  Perhaps.  And perhaps it is because of the authoritarian nature of the "New Right".  Chris Moony, author of The Republican War on Science, has some thoughts.

So What If The Mandate Fails

If the Supreme Court decides it doesn't like the individual mandate, what happens to the rest of Obamacare?  The Supreme Court can go three ways:

(1) If the mandate falls, the rest of the law stands.

The outcome: The narrowest ruling the Supreme Court could issue would be one where the individual mandate falls by itself but leaves the rest of the law intact. Americans would no longer be required to purchase health insurance – but health insurance plans would still be required to accept all customers. A bevy of insurance reforms, things like barring insurance companies to to charge sick customers significantly more than healthy ones, would remain intact.

The impact: Insurance premiums would increase, as sicker Americans would be more likely to purchase coverage than those who don’t foresee significant health care costs. Various health care economists have estimated that the cost of health insurance, in the individual market, could increase anywhere between 2 to 40 percent without a mandate. The breadth of the insurance expansion would be significantly reduced by as much as 24 million. Congress could pass a variety of policies to patch the hole, but it’s hard to see Republicans voting to fix “Obamacare.”

The backer: Neither the Obama administration nor the law’s opponents wants to see this outcome. The Supreme Court actually had to appoint an outside lawyer, H. Bartow Farr III, to make this argument to them. Farr does have some precedent on its side: When a district court in Virginia ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional, it did so without striking down any other parts of the health reform law.

(2) The mandate takes down the Affordable Care Act’s insurance reforms.

The outcome: The Supreme Court could find that, if they strike the mandate, the rest of the health reform law’s insurance expansion unravels. Insurance becomes too expensive without the mandate, they could find, and increasing coverage to 32 million Americans becomes unworkable. In this scenario, the Court would strike down the health reform law’s requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants, allowing them – as they do now – to reject sicker Americans who would cost more to cover.

The impact: Health reform’s insurance expansion gets pared back significantly, but not totally wiped out. If the expansion of Medicaid up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, for example, survives unscathed, that would be expected to bring coverage to 16 million more Americans. Insurance subsidies, if also left standing, may do some leg work to make insurance more affordable. This outcome would likely be the worst for the sickest Americans, who could still face very expensive premiums.

The backer: This is the argument that the Department of Justice will present this morning. “The minimum coverage provision is essential to ensuring that the Act’s guaranteed-issue and community-rating reforms advance Congress’s goals,” the administration argued in its brief to the Supreme Court. Without it, those provisions would create an adverse selection cascade…because healthy individuals would defer obtaining insurance until they needed health care leaving an insurance pool skewed toward the unhealthy.”

(3) If the individual mandate falls, so does the entire Affordable Care Act

The outcome: When Congress wrote the Affordable Care Act, it left out one crucial provision: A severability clause. Quite often, legislators include a boilerplate language specifying that, even if a small portion of it is determined unconstitutional, the bulk of it still stands. But the Affordable Care Act doesn’t have that clause, leading the law’s opponents to argue that, if the mandate falls, so does the entire 905-page bill.

The impact: Overturning the entire law would, unsurprisingly, have the most wide-reaching effect. It would eliminate the private insurance expansion, the Medicaid expansion and a slew of Medicare payment reforms. Some of those changes have already begun taking effect, changing the way doctors get paid. If those got repealed by the Supreme Court, and the financial incentives to do medicine differently were taken away, those changes could get rolled back.

The backer: The 26 states opposing the law will make this argument in front of the Supreme Court this morning. While many constitutional scholars think that such a ruling is unlikely, because of its sweeping nature, the opponents also have precedent on their side: The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the entire health reform law in its ruling, because it lacked a severability clause.

 

Bloody Zimmerman

The story from Zimmerman was that Trayvon gave him a broken nose, then got on top of him and pounded the back of his head against the pavement.

You would think Zimmerman, being taken into the police station that night in the footage below, would be a bit more bloody:

 

ALSO this….

 

What’s Being Argued Today — A Summary for Layman

At the heart of health care reform lies the individual mandate, which makes it so that individuals must purchase health insurance or else face a fine assessed by the government.

The question before the Court will be whether Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause to require that individuals purchase health insurance.

The Commerce Clause states that “the Congress shall have power…to regulate commerce” among the states and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper” to execute that power. The ACA requires that individuals obtain “minimum coverage” or else pay a fine each year that they fail to obtain sufficient coverage.

Challengers have asserted that this mandate unquestionably violates the Commerce Clause. They contend that being forced to participate in interstate commerce is fundamentally different from having your voluntary participation regulated. They further argue that the government’s attempt to blur the line is intentionally misleading and that the Court should draw a clear line between regulating commerce and forcing someone to engage in commerce so that the government can then regulate it.

The government asserts that everyone, by default, will engage in commerce in the area of health care at some point in their lives, whether they are insured or not. The government contends that the power to regulate in the area of health care naturally follows from that inevitable participation because it merely regulates how an individual participates, not whether they do.

Opponents of the law argue that if the Court upholds this mandate then there is nothing stopping the government from mandating that we purchase cars from GM or buy broccoli every month, as these two are actions that fall under interstate commerce and theoretically everyone uses some form of transportation and everyone eats. The challengers contend that the government has never been allowed to force someone into commerce and that allowing it would effectively wipe out any limitations on federal power that the Commerce Clause may still impose.

The government counters by saying that everyone participates in the health care market and that because health care is such a massive part of our economy (roughly 16% of GDP), the ability to regulate how the commercial market functions is necessarily covered by the Commerce Clause.

Courts below have split 3-1 in favor of upholding the individual mandate, including several opinions by conservative judges. However, the outcome of the individual mandate question at the Supreme Court level is anyone’s guess. The decision will likely be determined by which plurality of Justices can win the horse-trading game and convince a waffling judge or two to sign onto their opinion. Whichever way the Court comes down, expect the opinions to be complicated, nuanced, and narrowly written – bright line rules will be hard to come by with such a divisive and politically contested issue.

UPDATE:  This tweet from ScotusBlog a few seconds ago:

Paul Clement gave the best argument I've ever heard. No real hard questions from the right. Mandate is in trouble.

UPDATE #2:  Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog provides an update covering Verrilli’s presentation:

The good news for Verrilli, the government, and the supporters of the mandate is that the four liberal Justices asked relatively few questions, and the questions were largely friendly.  The bad news is that there is no apparent fifth vote in support of the constitutionality of the law.

When the Solicitor General argued that the mandate does not require people to purchase health care, but instead merely regulates when and how they will pay for that care, Justice Kennedy seemed skeptical, asking whether Congress’s power to regulate commerce allows it to create commerce to then regulate.  Other conservative Justices – Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia and Alito – also seemed skeptical of the government’s arguments, focusing on whether there is a limiting principle. They wanted the government to explain whether Congress can force individuals to buy things other than health insurance, including cars and broccoli, or whether the government can require that individuals exercise. It will be interesting to see whether the Justices’ questions for the health care challengers reveal anything different about their inclinations.

Latest On The Trayvon Martin Killing

George Zimmerman has told police that Trayvon Martin decked him with a punch then jumped on top of the neighborhood watch volunteer and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, the Orlando Senitnel reports, quoting unidentified police sources.

This will be used to lend some sort of vindication to Zimmerman by those on the right.

Except for a couple of things.

One, it isn't credible.  Maybe Trayvon Martin decked Zimmerman with a punch, but slamming his head into a sidewalk several times?  That's a gross exaggeration, at minimum.  A head "slamming" into a sidewalk would result in a concussion and severe bleeding.  According to the police report, Zimmerman only suffered a few lacerations on the back of his head.

And if it was merely that Zimmerman was losing the fight, that still (under Florida law) does not give him the right to use deadly force to defend himself.

Supreme Court Starts Hearing Arguments in the “Obamacare” Case

Is the Affordable Care Act consitutional?  The lower courts are divided, and today the Supreme Court beings three days of oral arguments on the matter.  Somewhat oddly, the most controversial part of the legislation — the individual mandate which requires everyone to purchase health insurance (or pay a fine if they don't) — is only slotted for 90 minutes of argument.

Other have weighed in — there's some good short pieces at The New York Times today.  

I'm of the opinion that the Court should and will let the legislation stand, but those who disagree with me are just as convinced that the Court will come down the other way.

But what do people who KNOW the Court think?  This:

A new survey of former Supreme Court clerks and attorneys that have argued before the court shows a minority of those polled think that the law will be struck down. The clerks break down along their current makeup of the court — "12 clerked for the 'left' block of the Court (Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor), 21 clerked for the 'right' block of the Court (Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas), and 10 clerked for Justice Kennedy," according to a release from survey sponsors American Action Network and the Blue Dog Research Forum. The survey was conducted by Purple Strategies. 

The survey asked the 66 legal experts, "On a scale of zero to 100, what do you believe is the probability that the SCOTUS majority will find the individual mandate unconstitutional?" Combined together, the experts said there was only a 35 percent chance that would happen. If the court would be to find the individual mandate portion of the law unconstitutional, only 27 percent of the experts said that it wouldn't be either totally or partially severable, with the balance of the majority saying it would be one of the two. 

"The only way to strike down the individual mandate would be to overrule decades of precedent going back to the New Deal," one of the respondants wrote in response to questions. "That'd be a welcome step, in my view, but it's one that the Court simply won't take. Justice Scalia gave stare decisis effect to these precedents in the medical-marijuana case (Gonzales v. Raich), and even Justice Thomas's concurrence in U.S. v. Lopez indicated reluctance to wipe the Commerce Clause slate completely clean.”

That's encouraging.

UPDATE:  Scotusblog is blogging the arguments.

How’s Susan Komen Foundation Doing? — A Look Back

After their public relations debacle back in February, when Komen attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, things looked really bleak for the womens cancer foundation.  But it eventually tried to amend its wrongdoing, the story fell off the front page, and the nation's attention went elsewhere.

So has the Komen Foundation recovered?  Hardly, according to the Washington Post:

Fallout from the Planned Parenthood controversy continues at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, with several executives at headquarters and affiliates departing, questions arising about fundraising ability, and structural changes underway to give affiliates more influence, officials said Wednesday.

The chief executives of the Greater New York and Oregon affiliates, among the most outspoken in their criticism of Komen’s unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, are leaving. Three officials at the Dallas headquarters have left or announced their resignations, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the breast cancer charity’s ability to raise money after the public relations fiasco. The New York affiliate postponed two events, including its annual awards gala, “because we were not certain about our ability to fundraise in the near term,” spokesman Vern Calhoun said Wednesday.

Ladies, maybe it is time for a makeover.

Etch-a-Sketch Pt. II

In the post below (yesterday), I suggested buying stock in Etch-a-Sketch.

WELL….. the stock price for Ohio Art (makers of Etch-a-Sketch) has doubled — up 212% today.

You didn't listen to me, did you?

UPDATE:  Triples!

Etch-a-Sketch

Should buy stock in them.  I don't think "Etch-a-Sketch" as a political metaphor for Romney is going away soon.

UPDATE:  Wow!  That was quick!  The faux pas was only this morning, and already the DNC has an ad out.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, the faux pas by the Romney spokesman is contained in the ad):

 

Titanica

One hundredth anniversary approaches and National Geographic has a nice story and pictures of what the sunken vessel looks like today, including never-before-seen photo composites of the ship as a whole.. like this look at the bow:

07-bow-starboard-profile-670

I particularly liked this shot of the Turkish bath (as it is today, and as it was then):

20-first-class-turkish-bath-tiles-670
21-olympic-arabeque-spa-670

Conspiracy Theorists Are Going To Love This

Two stories:

First, this one about one of the Obama girls going on spring break with her class to Oaxaca Mexico.  Initial press reports about it on the Internet were "scrubbed".

An AFP report that President Barack Obama’s 13-year-old daughter, Malia, is spending spring break in Oaxaca, Mexico appears to have been completely scrubbed from the Internet news sites that first reported it. Pictures have appeared in Mexican magazine Quién.com allegedly showing Malia visiting Oaxaca.

AFP, the French news agency, first reported around mid-day Monday that Malia Obama was vacationing in Mexico with 12 friends under the protection of 25 Secret Service agents and a number of local police officers.

Second, this one, which happened an hour ago:

A strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, shaking central and southern parts of the country, collapsing a pedestrian bridge and swaying buildings in Mexico City. Plaster fell from ceilings and windows broke in the center of the capital, but the president said there were no immediate reports of major damage.

The initial quake near the borders of Oaxaca and Guerrero states was followed by a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock that also was felt in the capital.

Oaxaca.  Hmmmmm.  First the first daughter goes there, THEN there's an earthquake.  COINCIDENCE??????

(And by the way, she's okay)

P.S. The "scrubbing" of the Malia Obama story isn't a big mystery.  Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, confirmed to Politico's Dylan Byers that the White House that it asked news agencies to remove the story:

From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.

They Won’t Give Up

The War On Women continues at the state level, with various bills floating around designed to prevent women from having contraception, or having an abortion, or having protection from wife-beaters.  It really is unprecedented.

This one in particular caught my eye:

A new bill moving through the Tennessee House of Representatives would require the state to publish the names of each doctor who performs an abortion and detailed statistics about the woman having the procedure, which opponents worry will spur anti-abortion violence in the state.

The Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesboro), mandates that the Tennessee Department of Health make detailed demographic information about every woman who has an abortion available to the public, including her age, race, county, marital status, education level, number of children, the location of the procedure and how many times she has been pregnant. Each report would also have to include the name of the doctor who performed the procedure.

Call it the Paint-A-Target-On-A-Doctor Bill. It will make doctors and women vulnerable to attacks, especially considering the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, by an anti-abortion activist in 2009.

The Florida Self-Defense Law Is Seriously Warped

In considering the Tryvon Martin case (where a black teenager armed with Skittles and iced tea was shot by a much bigger white guy on a "neighborhood watch", who later claimed "self-defense"), this timeline explainer from Mother Jones is indispensable if you want to understand the case and the context for these laws.  It is seriously messed up.  This is one example of how the law works:

Many readers have asked whether, given the 911 recordings, a case against Zimmerman would be easier than most homicides in which "self-defense" is cited by a defendant. In Florida, the answer probably is no: The courts' interpretation of the stand-your-ground law has been extremely broad—so broad that, to win an acquittal, a defendant doesn't even have to prove self-defense, only argue for it, while to win a conviction the prosecution has to prove that self-defense was impossible.

Numerous cases have set the precedent in Florida, with the courts arguing that the law "does not require defendant to prove self-defense to any standard measuring assurance of truth, exigency, near certainty, or even mere probability; defendant's only burden is to offer facts from which his resort to force could have been reasonable." When a defendant claims self-defense, "the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense." In other words the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt never shifts from the prosecution, so it's surprisingly easy to evade prosecution by claiming self-defense.

This has led to some stunning verdicts in the state. In Tallahassee in 2008, two rival gangs engaged in a neighborhood shootout, and a 15-year-old African American male was killed in the crossfire. The three defendants all either were acquitted or had their cases dismissed, because the defense successfully argued they were defending themselves under the "stand your ground" law. The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, was beside himself. "Basically this law has put us in the posture that our citizens can go out into the streets and have a gun fight and the dead person is buried and the survivor of the gun fight is immune from prosecution," he said at the time.

Wow.  All you have to do is claim self-defense?  Even if it makes no sense?

An Anthem For Trayvon

 

The good news coming out today is that the case against Zimmerman is going to a Florida Grand Jury… AND that the United States Civil Rights Division is looking into the matter.

I understand the anger that Zimmerman wasn't arrested on the spot, and that his preposterous story of self-defense (that he was attacked by a black kid armed with… Skittles?) was taken as gospel by the Florida police.  But it really looks like the guy's days are numbered, and there will be justice for Trayvon.

Patience.

UPDATE:  By the way, this story is getting a lot of coverage by the national media.  Well, most of it.  The folks at Think Progress helpfully added up how many segments the cable networks have so far devoted to the circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death.

CNN: 41
MSNBC: 13
Fox: 1

(1). One. Oooonnnnnne. To be clear. Again: 1.

The Latest Stupid Kerfuffle

Robert DeNiro at Obama fundraiser last night: "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?"

A joke, right?  Not a side-splitter, but obviously a joke.

Newt Gingrich feigns outrage and demands an apology from Obama:

“What DeNiro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country,” he said. “If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is utterly and terribly unacceptable as what Robert DeNiro said.”

Okay.  Somebody tell me please why the statement is "utterly and terribly unacceptable"?  According to Gingrich, DeNiro's comment "sows racial division".  Um…. how?  No, seriously.  How? 

I mean, if you really want to break down DeNiro's quip and take it seriously, this country obviously is ready for a white first lady, seeing as how we've had one for 232 out of the past 235 years.  So, you know…

This statement would have gone unnoticed, had Newt not started jumping up and down about it.  (Psssst.  Guess who is playing the race card…..)

And why exactly should Obama apologize?  You really want to start playing the "I'm-reponsible-for-what-my-friends-say" game, Newt?  Because one of your biggest supporters, Rush Limbaugh, has made some controversial statements lately. 

UPDATE: Oh Jesus Christ, c’mon: “Per @CarrieNBCNews, FLOTUS spokeswoman Olivie Alair says Robert DeNiro’s joke last night about a white first lady is ‘inappropriate.’”

What You Need To Know About The Death Of Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.

Here is what everyone should know about the case:

1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]

2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.”[Sun Sentinel]

4. Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]

5. Martin weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250 pounds. [Orlando SentinelWDBO]

6. Martin’s English teacher described him as “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel]

7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times]

8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post]

9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. [Miami Herald]

10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald]

11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]

12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]

13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired.“Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]

14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010 when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times]

15. The police did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. A law enforcement expert told ABC that Zimmerman sounds intoxicated on the 911 tapes. Drug and alcohol testing is “standard procedure in most homicide investigations.” [ABC News]

The Martin case had been turned over to the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office. Martin’s family has asked for the FBI to investigate.

This story isn't going away.

More Dispatches From The War On Women

The Republican establishment has seemed more concerned with de-humanizing women than it does with winning the fall election. After Virginia passed its modified ultrasound requirement for abortion access, Republican-controlled state governments in Arizona and Pennsylvania put forward a set of absurd invasions of privacy that smack of the same big-government tyranny that they claim to be so aggressively opposed to.

In Arizona, a bill working its way through the state legislature would require women to prove to their employerthat they were taking contraceptives for the purpose of treating a medical condition if they want insurance to cover the cost, potentially allowing the employer to fire women who take birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans are pushing a measure that would require doctors to perform an ultrasound, provide two copies of the image, and play and describe the fetus' heartbeat in detail before a woman can have an abortion.

While the furor over mandated trans-vaginal ultrasounds led the Virginia bill to specify that the requirement was only for the less invasive "jelly on the belly" ultrasound, the Pennsylvania bill does not make such a specification. This is notable because in the early stages of pregnancy a trans-vaginal ultrasound is required to obtain an image. Despite opening the door for state-mandated rape, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, explained why the requirement isn't that big of a deal: "You just have to close your eyes."

Rutgers Verdict

In late September 2010, many – myself included – were disturbed by the story coming out of Rutgers University regarding a gay freshman named Tyler Clementi who committed suicide (jumping off the George Washington bridge) after he learned his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had used a hidden webcam to secretly film Clementi engaging in homosexual behavior.

I explored the case a little bit here.

The verdict is coming in.  There are 15 counts. It seems like Ravi is being found guilty of all the invasion of privacy counts, and guilty of invading Clementi’s privacy in order to intimidate him due to Clementi’s sexual orientation.

More importantly, he's being found guilty on the bias intimidation counts (to convict Ravi of bias intimidation, Judge Glenn Berman said jurors will have to decide Ravi singled out Clementi because he was gay).  That's the "hate crime" aspect of this, and carries the stiffest penalty (ten years).

Ravi has also been found guilty of witness tampering and evidence tampering (trying to get rid of the video and coaching potential witnesses when the police started asking questions).

Personally, based on what I wrote before, I think Ravi might have gotten screwed on the hate crime aspect.

UPDATE:  Full verdicts below the fold….

New Hampshire Makes Up Facts About Women’s Health

Across the nation, lawmakers are debating several different anti-abortion bills seeking to make it more difficult for women to have an abortion. One tactic is “informed consent” measures that require women to be given information before an abortion — even if they do not want that information or getting it would violate medical guidelines.

Now, the New Hampshire House has passed a bill that, along with mandating a 24-hour waiting period, requires doctors to give women “informational materials” before an abortion that aren’t even accurate, including that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. Here’s the text of the bill:

It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant.

In fact, for each year that a woman’s first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent. The theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer builds upon this undisputed foundation.

The problem is that a direct link between abortion and breast cancer is not only disputed, it has also been rejected by multiple health organizations. The National Institutes of Health,American Cancer Society, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are a few of the groups who say no such link has been scientifically proven. Even the Susan G. Komen Foundation denies there is a link.

So now, doctors in New Hampshire are forced by law to LIE to women seeking abortion, which brings in all kinds of First Amendment problems, as well as moral problems under the Hippocratic Oath.

The Obama Campaign Film

You've heard about it, here it is.  Narrated by Tom Hanks.

It serves as a nice contrast to the media buys coming out of the GOP race. While Republicans strive to outdo themselves in portraying the current and future apocalypse, this piece projects a calm, quiet assurance that things are getting better. It was almost a relief to watch after all the amped-up noise we’ve been seeing in the Republican primary. If the theme of the current election is sanity versus insanity, the Obama campaign is clearly staking its claim as the defenders of reason.

 

Will Amendment One Lose?

It might:

Elon, N.C. – A new Elon University Poll released today shows that a majority of North Carolinians oppose Amendment One, a constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, North Carolina primary ballot that bans relationship recognitions and threatens protections for the state’s unmarried couples.

The nonpartisan poll revealed that 54.2% of North Carolinians surveyed either oppose or strongly oppose “an amendment to the constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.” Only 37.8% polled were in any way supportive of Amendment One. The poll also illustrates a dramatic increase in the category of “strong opposition” to this type of amendment from only one year ago, with 34% now voicing strong opposition versus 21.8% in February 2011.

Overall opposition to Amendment One increased even further when North Carolinians polled were asked whether they opposed an amendment to the North Carolina constitution “that would prevent civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.” Nearly 57% of North Carolinians (56.9%) polled opposed or strongly opposed an amendment on that basis.

“The Elon University poll is a clear sign that North Carolina is AGAINST Amendment One,” said Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for Protect All NC Families, the coalition effort to defeat Amendment One. “The more people learn about this poorly-written amendment and its unintended consequences, the more they realize it will harm our children, their families, unmarried women, and seniors.”

The Elon poll did not inquire about Amendment One support or opposition based on unintended harms to all unmarried couples in North Carolina, including a permanent ban on domestic partner benefits for public employees, as well as how it could negatively affect enforcement of domestic violence laws, child custody agreements and end-of-life directives. A recent state panel tasked with explaining Amendment One to voters found that there is significant debate among legal experts about how the amendment might impact various legal protections for public and private employee benefits as well as other harms. The panel ultimately concluded that the state’s court system would need to determine Amendment One’s lasting consequences.

“While the Elon Poll does not touch on the vast array of known and potential harms of this type of overreaching legislation—harms that were a reality in other states—it does mirror the momentum we’ve seen in our work on the ground throughout the state,” said Kennedy. The more North Carolinians know about Amendment One, the more support for it plummets.”

UPDATE — President Obama comes out against Amendment One:

President Barack Obama today came out against the proposed constitutional amendment on North Carolina's May 8th ballot banning same sex marriages and civil unions, weighing into a fight in a key battleground state.

His campaign issued a statement saying the amendment was discriminatory.

“While the president does not  weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” said Cameron French, his North Carolina campaign spokesman.

“That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.”  

 

Obama Smacks Down Rutherford Hayes, And Hayes Is All Like “Nuh-UH”

Here’s what Obama had to say about Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States (1877–1881), via Politico:

“One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone: ‘It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?’” Obama said. “That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore.”

“He’s looking backwards, he’s not looking forward. He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something,” Obama said. “The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers.”

Factcheckers, to the rescue!

So we called up the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, where Nan Card, the curator of manuscripts, was plenty willing to correct Obama's ignorance of White House history. Just as soon as she finished chuckling. 

"I've heard that before, and no one ever knows where it came from," Card said of Hayes's alleged phone remark, "but people just keep repeating it and repeating it, so it's out there."

Wait, so Hayes didn't even say the quote that Obama is mocking him for? "No, no," Card confirmed.

She then read aloud a newspaper article from June 29, 1877, which describes Hayes's delight upon first experiencing the magic of the telephone. The Providence Journal story reported that as Hayes listened on the phone, "a gradually increasing smile wreathe[d] his lips and wonder shone in his eyes more and more.” Hayes took the phone from his ear, "looked at it a moment in surprise and remarked, 'That is wonderful.'"

Obama.  Fact-challenged.  We can't let him run this country.  (Just kidding)

Republicans Not Crazy About Protecting Some Women From Violence

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed overwhelmingly in 1994, and was renewed easily in 2000 and 2005. But it suddenly became a partisan issue last month, when every Republican on the Judiciary Committee opposed it, and it passed in a 10 to 8 vote.

The act, estimated to have dramatically reduced domestic violence, funds a broad range of training programs and aid for victims. It expired last year, and Sen. Chuck Schumer argued that letting it lapse longer will hamper progress that has been made.

"Before it passed and I was the House sponsor in 1994, women would routinely show up at police stations, bloody and beaten, and the police officers, not having any training or any ability to do anything, would say it's a domestic dispute, go home and solve it," Schumer said. "It needs to be renewed. It's been very successful."

What were the objections from the Republicans with the new VAWA bill?  Well, Democrats had added language that would extend protections to undocumented immigrants and LGBT victims of domestic violence, as well as allowing native American authorities to prosecute some non-native offenders.

Apparently, Republicans apparently think that violence against women immigrants, Indians, and lesbians is okay.  Or rather, it appeals to their base.

It's an election year, and for some reason, Republicans really think they can win by enacting legislation that hurts women, and barring legislation that helps woman.  Poll after poll tells them they are barking up the wrong tree, yet they keep it up.

Do they have a death wish?

You Know It’s A Strange Election Year When Kristen Chenowith Gets Involved

From Broadway Buzz:

Kristin Chenoweth Defends GCB from Newt Gingrich Attacks: ‘Don’t Talk About My Show!’

Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth’s new TV series GCB may be all about “characters and fun,” according to the Broadway vet, but Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich isn’t so sure. After the ABC series, which is about conniving church ladies in Texas, first aired on March 4, Gingrich spoke out against the comedy's subject matter, labeling the show “anti-Christian bigotry,” as reported by New York Daily News. Broadway.com recently caught up with Chenoweth to find out her thoughts on the GCB controversy.

Chenoweth was shocked by Gingrich’s comments, considering the actress is a Christian herself. “I was like, 'No, Newt, don’t talk about my show!'” Chenoweth told Broadway.com. “I would never do anything that would make fun of my own religion! I don’t think [GCB] does that.”

GCB, which is based on Kim Gatlin’s novel Good Christian Bitches, revolves around a group of churchgoing Dallas women who love fashion, plastic surgery and God. Chenoweth stars as scheming ringleader Carlene Cockburn, a flashy millionaire who delivers dialogue like “cleavage helps your cross hang straight."

The Gingrich controversy hasn’t been all bad news for GCB. “Our ratings went up [for the second episode],” Chenoweth said with a laugh. GCB airs Sunday nights on ABC. 

Oops

A news crew in Germany went to the zoo to report about a rare earless bunny that was captivating the crowds and on its way to becoming a little earless celebrity.

But the cameraman accidentally stepped on it and killed it.

Journalism 101: you're not supposed to become part of the story.

The Right Wing Continues To Vet Obama As If He Hasn’t Been President For 3 Years

Let's see…

So last week the bid deal-i-o was that Obama, when he was a Harvard Law student in the 1990's, said something positive about Harvard Law's first tenured black professor, Derrick Bell.  This means that Obama is a radical Muslim who wants to put white people in concentration camps (and the first few years of normalcy under the Obama Administration was just a ruse to lull us crackers into a false sense of security).

And now, the diligent right-o-sphere has uncovered another bombshell.  It's from an interview Obama gave in 1990 to the (Boston) Daily Herald.  Here's the graphic from one of the websites hawking this:

That's right.  Obama said, in the interview:

“There’s certainly racism here. There are certain burdens that are placed, more emotionally at this point than concretely,” Obama said.

“Professors may treat black students differently, sometimes by being, sort of, more dismissive, sometimes by being more, sort of, careful because they think, you know, they think that somehow we can’t cope in the classroom,” he said.

Obama sees the inner cities as the front lines of racism.

“It’s critical at this stage for people who want to see genuine change to focus locally. And it is crucial that we figure out how to rebuild the core of leadership and institutions in these communities,” he said.

For five years before law school, Obama took on that task in Chicago. As the director of a program that tried to bring South Side churches, unions and block associations together on projects, Obama was not trying to solve local problems, he said. Instead he sought to construct something more lasting — a forum for the community, “I’m interested in organizations, not movements, because movements dissipate and organizations don’t,” Obama said.

America suffered when the movements of the 1960s dissipated, he said. Those movements succeeded in raising doubts about harmful traditions of sexism and racism, but failed to offer a viable alternative.

“Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we’re going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous,” Obama said.

OMG!  He hates white people!!  Or…. something….

But seriously, what does the right think this will DO to Obama?  He's saying that he wants American to be less mean-spirited and more generous?  This is a BAD thing?  How does this hurt him in the upcoming election?

Olive Garden Is Great

A guest post by Mitt Romney:

Let me tell you, this place is great. Is this where you folks normally eat? Only when you're broke, that's right. Heh.

Ann and I sat in a booth near the kitchen. There was a fireplace, a real old-fashioned hearth, in the corner, and a nice vase on the ledge. I love décor; napkins are great. The ice water was just the right temperature.

At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken alfredo, and I was feeling a little rebellious so I ordered the chicken alfredo pizza. I love chicken—I love grilled chicken, I love broiled chicken, I love chicken scampi! Poultry is great. I told Ann, I said, "Did you know chickens came from dinosaurs?" And Ann just kind of shrugged. I said, "I'm being serious, Ann, not just a few of them, but olive them." Aha. Alright, okay.

The pizza comes with Italian cheeses, alfredo sauce, and scallions. I told our server—Maria, I think her name was—I said, "Margaret, hold the Italian cheeses, alfredo sauce, and scallions." Then I took my fork and removed the chicken from the pizza and discarded it, and then I cut the flatbread into manageable portions, and I trimmed the edges off the crust, and consumed them. Forks are my favorite utensil. I also like butter knives.

I've got to tell you, Ann and I went to a place in Tuscany last fall that was just like this. Well I shouldn't say it was exactly like this. That one was was on a veranda overlooking the Mediterranean and bordered on two sides by an actual olive garden. The servers were dressed in authentic Renaissance attire, and the food was prepared fresh by a 13th-generation Italian chef whose great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather sold olive oil to Michelangelo's grandson until they had a falling-out. I don't quite remember the full story; something about a goat. They had a fireplace too but this one was real, not electric, and burned only lumber that had been salvaged from Phoenician wrecks. The wood gave off a faint scent of mahogany mixed with sturgeon; I love logs. You should have seen the bill—we almost went baroque! Aha, okay, ahem.

I told Ann, I said, I don't usually eat fast food, but this is pretty good. Ann didn't think I should say that.

 

Failures In Moral Equivalence

Shorter Slate columnist Katie Roiphe in "It's Not Just Rush"

Although I can't find examples that back up this premise of mine, liberals today do as much slut-slamming as Rush Limbaugh has done.   Also, Mary McCarthy and Virginia Woolf were slut-slammed in their day, and a book written in the 1950s insinuated that some college girls are sluts.  So there.

At The Pump

Can we get one thing straight?

The Republican candidates are hoping to make it Obama's fault that gas prices are on the rise.  It's ridiculous.  Gas prices are on the rise because of the unsettled Middle East.  And while Obama hasn't resolved the Middle East conflicts, nobody has in… well, centuries.

The other thing the GOp candidates say is that gas prices are high because Obama doesn't like to drill.

Nice argument, except for two things: (1)  there are more domestic oil rigs pumping oil now (under Obama) than at any time in previous American history and (2) the gas prices are going up nonetheless.

Here's the chart that tells it all:

Drilling_gas_prices_chart1

What’s Up With The Polls?

They are all over the place.  

This week began when a national Washington Post/ABC poll (conducted March 7-10) revealed that President Obama's approval rating had dropped from 50% to 46% — and it cited rising gas prices as the culprit.

Then a New York Times/CBS survey (conducted March 7-11) found the president's job rating declined to 41%, which seemed to cement this narrative: Despite more positive economic news and the bruising GOP primary campaign, something was happening to Obama's numbers.

But yesterday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll (conducted March 8-11) showed that Obama's approval rating was 50% — the same as last week's NBC/WSJ poll (Feb. 29-March 3).

Then came a Bloomberg poll (March 8-11) showing the president's approval at 48%, as well as him tied against Mitt Romney, 47%-47%.

And now fresh off the presses is a brand-new Pew poll (March 7-11) that has Obama's approval rating at 50% and with him leading Romney by 12 points, 54%-42%.

TPM shows the weird trends in the Obama v Romney category:

Too Soon?

I think this is a little TOO politically correct:

The Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center bookstore has removed bobblehead dolls of Lincoln-assassin John Wilkes Booth clutching a pistol, The (Hanover) Evening Sun reports.

The newspaper says the figurines were pulled this weekend after a reporter began making inquiries about them.

The Sun, quoting an email from the Gettysburg Foundation, says its president, Joanne Hanley, and Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby both supported the move.

About 250Booth bobbleheads were manufactured four months ago as a gag gift for Civil War enthusiasts, according to Matt Powers, of the Kansas City-based by Bobblehead, LLC..

He tells the newspaper that the company has made over a million bobbleheads — including one of Osama bin Laden — but has never had one pulled before.

The Evening Sun's Tim Prudente quotes prominent Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer as saying he thought the figurine was in bad taste.

"It's like selling Lee Harvey Oswald stuffed dolls at the Kennedy Center," he says.

 

Was Last Night’s Primaries A Game Changer?

Like most people, I'm waiting for things to get to the next stage in the GOP primaries.  Right now, we're stuck with the same scenario — Romney ahead but unable to close the deal, Santorum splitting the conservative vote with Gingrich, and Ron Paul diddling around.

Even Super Tuesday didn't move the dial much.

Last night's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi may have represented a slight movement, albeit 2.0 on the Richter scale.  It may mean the beginning of the end for Gingrich.  He needed to take at least one of those Southern states, he got none.  Although, it was close.

But if he can give up, and give his conservative creds entirely to Santorum, then Santorum might have an actrual shot (at the convention) to beat out Romney.  MIGHT.

So that's the only significance of last night.

Sarah Palin Wants To Debate Obama

In response to the Obama ad featuring Sarah Palin, Sarah responded via her Facebook page:

Exhibit A in these diversionary tactics is an absurd new attack ad President Obama has released taking my comments out of context. I’m not running for any office, but I’m more than happy to accept the dubious honor of being Barack Obama’s “enemy of the week” if that includes the opportunity to debate him on the issues Americans are actually concerned about. (Remember when I said you don’t need a title to make a difference?)

Palin debate Obama?

That would be soooooo awesome.

Dispatches From The War On Women

State legislatures are busy debating another round of anti-choice legislation (after passing a record number of anti-abortion measures in 2011). But this year, women are speaking up more loudly.

 

To push back against the Republican-backed proposals, Democrats have proposed satirical bills mocking extreme measures bestowing personhood on a zygote and requiring women to have ultrasounds before abortion procedures.

And constituents have voiced their opposition, rallying against cuts to funding for women’s health care, ultrasound bills, and personhood measures. And the protests are spreading.

In Georgia, hundreds protested on Monday against two anti-abortion bills approved by the state Senate. One would prevent state employees’ health care plans from covering abortion, and the other exempts religious health care providers from having to cover birth control:

Demonstrators held signs saying “Trust Georgia women” and “My body is not a political playground” as they walked around the Gold Dome. They chanted “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate.”

I don’t think that a few men in this state have the right to take away the rights of women,” said Suzanne Ault, 48, of Atlanta. “It’s not their call to make, the health and life of a woman.”

The Georgia House is now considering both bills.

And in Wisconsin, demonstrators rallied today against a push on the last day of the state’s legislative session to pass several anti-woman bills. The measures would prevent private insurance plans from covering abortion, add barriers for women seeking abortions, and end a program to provide information to teenagers about avoiding unintended pregnancies.

Obama Capitalizes On The Palin Attack

This is a great ad, coming simultaneously with the airing of Game Change.

 

Palin has responded by linking to Breitbart.com, which says that the ad was "heavily edited".

And it's true, what Palin said WAS heavily edited.  It had to be, because the ad is short and her segment on Fox News was several minutes.  But was she misquoted or taken out of context?  NOPE.  In fact, the money quote in the ad — the one in which she invokes the Civil War — is actually more damning (in terms of the claims the Obama campaign says Palin is making) in full than in the edited version. Here’s the transcript:

He is bringing us back to days, you can hearken back to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth that here in America, yes we are equal, and we all have equal opportunities, not based on the color of your skin, you have equal opportunity to work hard and to succeed and to embrace God-given opportunities to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed. Now, it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand the gravity of that mistake that took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin. Why are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward with that understanding that as our charters of liberty spell out for us, we are all created equally?

Utah Goes Back To The Victorian Era

Utah's legislature gave final passage this week with a Senate vote of 19-10 to an abstinence-only sex-ed bill that forbids discussion of homosexuality even if the student asks, FOX13 reports:

After the new bill goes into effect, the teaching of sex education in Utah classrooms has to be about not having sex before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Teachers cannot advocate the use of contraceptives anymore and they cannot talk about homosexuality, even if asked by a student.

HB 363 would also allow any Utah school to opt out of sex education and would ban students from talking to their teachers about pre-marital sex.

“My problem is that we’re having essentially complete strangers teaching our children, who frankly we don’t know who they are and exactly what they’re teaching, with the most sensitive issues that do belong in the home,” said one Republican Senator during Tuesday’s floor debate.

Opponents of the bill, most of them Senate Democrats, say HB 363 is out of touch with reality.

Out of touch with reality?  Yes, a bit.  

The current statute allows Utah schools to teach abstinence-based or abstinence-only curriculum. Parents can opt-in their son or daughter for sex education classes. But with the new bill, this option is no longer.

It's unclear whether or not the Utah (Republican) governor will sign or veto the bill.

This Might Be The Stupidest Thing Sarah Palin Has Said (And That’s Saying Something!)

Background: Sean Hannity is talking to Sarah Palin about Professor Derrick Bell (a former law professor of mine).  Bell, who died last year, is in the news because of a video that surfaced showing Obama speaking highly of him.  Conservatives are trying to now paint Bell as some sort of — I don't know — marxist Black Panther boogeyman.

Anyway, so Sarah was talking about this, and used the occasion to attack President Obama, apparently suggesting America’s first black president wants to return to the days “before the Civil War”:

Now, it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand that that gravity, that mistake, took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin.

Watch it:

 

She says that Obama wants to take us to pre-civil war days when people were in "different income classes".

Yeah…. we called that "slavery" back then.

Stop Kony (or Why The Internet Is Awesome)

This video was posted on Tuesday.  Despite being half an hour long, it has been viewed 50 million times.  It's time for you to watch it.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, there has been some criticism of Invisible Children, although it doesn't amount to much in my view (no charitable organization is perfect).  Some of the criticisms are silly (yes, the Ugandan government is corrupt; the film doesn't claim otherwise).

But the problem depicted in the film is accurate.  You can read the Invisible Children's response to some of these criticisms here.

If nothing, the film should serve as an introduction to the problems facing the Ugandan region.  And what you can do about it.

The Solar Flare Disruption

The huge solar flare that ignited from the Sun earlier this week is hitting Earth now, and may cause disruptions to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems (GPS) and power grids.  

Also, the northern lights might be more visible.  Cool.

 

The Terrible Obama Video That Haunts Him

Just before he died last week, media provocateur Andrew Breitbart teased his readers and followers by saying that he had "never-before-shown" video of Barack Obama during his college days.

The right wing, teased into a tizzy by Breitbart, went full into speculation mode.  Was it Barry Osama bin Obama doing drugs with Bill Ayers?  Could he have been making sweet love with Saul Alinsky?  What was it?

No.  It turns out that it is a video showing Barack Obama, speaking at a small rally in support of Professor Derrick Bell, a black constitutional law professor, who was seeking to get Harvard to tenure more minority and women law professors.  It was 1990, and Obama was in law school at the time (the first black president of the Harvard Review), not college.

Ooooooh.  Radical stuff.

The video was relased yesterday by Buzzfeed, scooping Breitbart.  Breitbart's people then claimed that the released video was "selectively edited".

Finally, a REAL news organization, the one that actually SHOT the video in 1990, stepped in.  A little thing called PBS Frontline:

The web is abuzz today about video of a speech Barack Obama gave in 1990 (some reports have incorrectly identified the speech as occurring in 1991) at Harvard Law School defending the actions of Professor Derrick Bell. Bell, the law school’s first tenured black professor, had protested Harvard’s failure to offer tenure to women of color as law school professors. Online publisher Andrew Breitbart, who died last week, had said he possessed the speech and hinted that he would release it, arguing that it provided evidence that Obama has long held radical political beliefs.

Today, the website BuzzFeed published a clip of the speech along with an article explaining some past and current context for Obama’s remarks. The website claimed the clip was “not previously available online.” The editors at Breitbart.com responded that the video on Buzzfeed had been “selectively edited” and said that they would release the full footage tonight on Fox News.

But there’s nothing new about the clip or Obama’s role in the controversy at Harvard Law School. In 2008, as a part of our quadrennial election special The Choice 2008,  FRONTLINE ran the same footage of the speech as a part of an exploration of Obama’s time at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1991. It’s been online at our site and on YouTube since then.

So apparently Breitbart's "exclusive" video of Obama back in 1990, has been around — even online! — since 2008.  Great scoop, morons at Breitbart.

And by the way, what the video shows of Obama is positive.  He's articulate and engaging (yes, without teleprompters!).  Here is the video:

 

Scandalous.  Obama calling for diversity at Harvard Law.

The larger "unedited" video (at the PBS link above) shows the full news piece, but Obama isn't in any of it (except briefly in one crowd shot).

Somehow not shamed by their utter failure, the right is now trying to paint Professor Derrick Bell, now deceased, as some kind of radical.  He wasn't.  I knew him.  He taught at NYU law school when I was there, one year after this video was shot.  He was smart.  He was affible.  He cared about equality and justice.  Now, to many on the right, a black man who cares about equality and justice IS a "radical".  But to most normal people, Obama's loose affiliation with Bell is not a scar at all.  

But watch and laugh as Sean Haniity and Michelle "Twitchy" Malkin try to hype this up:

 

Epic fail.

End of The World Starts Tomorrow

Here's why:

A strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival on Thursday could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, U.S. space weather experts said.

The storm, a big cloud of charged particles flung from the Sun at about 4.5 million miles per hour (7.2 million km per hour), was spawned by a pair of solar flares, scientists said.

This is probably the strongest such event in nearly six years, and is likely more intense than a similar storm in late January, said Joseph Kunches, a space weather specialist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read the whole thing.

 

43 Boycott Rush

Rush isn't talking about Fluke or his lame "apology" on his radio show anymore, and the flames seem to have died down, but the toll continues to grow.  According to Think Progress' running count, 34 43 companies have now yanked or foresworn ads on the show. No one seems to know how many sponsors Rush has left (LifeLock and Lear Capital have announced they are sticking with the show), but the names on the "no go" list include some pretty big corporate titans, including Sears, AOL, Capitol One, JC Penney, and Netflix.

Stupor Tuesday

So Mitt Romney squeaked out 6 of 10 states in a not-so-super Tuesday last night, which isn't saying much since one of those states was his home state of Massachusetts, another of those states is neighboring Vermont, and another of those states was one where Rich Santorum and Newt Gingrich weren't even on the ballot (Virginia).  What can be said of the other 3 states Romney won?  Well, he never cleared 40% in any of them, except Idaho.

That's not very front-runnery.

Of course, the big states that all eyes were on were Ohio and Tennessee (it was pretty much understood that Gingrich would take Georgia, and he did quite easily).  Santorum beat Romney by 9 points in Tennessee, and Romney beat Santorum by less than 1 point in Ohio.

So what's the takeaway from last night?

Well, it NOT that this still reimains a close contest (although it is).  It's this: the incredibly low turnout throughout the country.  This isn't like the Obama-Clinton contest of 2008; this is like a race to the bottom that even Republicans can't stand.  Romney's unpopularity simply isn't going away; yet, Republicans can't find anyone to replace him.

How low was the turnout?  Consider this: Obama got more votes in Ohio than Romney.  That's surprising because in an uncontested race (Obama is virtually uncontested as the Democratic nominee), most people don't even bother to vote.   True, they may have turned out for local and down-ticket contests, but then again, so would have Republicans.

Except Republicans didn't.  They are discouraged this year.  That's the takeaway.

Other Super Tuesday news:

* Dennis Kucinich has lost his seat in Congress. The man is everybody's favorite hard-core lefty, almost impossible to dislike, and with a political career that sometimes defied belief.  He was a vegan ventriloquist whose policy positions included legalizing drugs and lowering the drinking age, and he had a hot babe for a wife.  He lost the Democratic nomination for the seat last night in part because of congressional redistricting.  He lost to a female veteran, Marcy Kaptur.

*  In the same district, Joe the Plumber won the nomination for the GOP.  Kaptur is expected to kick his ass.

And Netflix Makes Thirty

Moments ago, Netflix emailed a statement to the tech website Boing Boing indicating that the company will ensure that its ads never appear on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show again:

Spotted your tweets and wanted to let you know that Netflix has not purchased and does not purchase advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show. We do buy network radio advertising and have confirmed that two Netflix spots were picked up in error as part of local news breaks during the Rush Limbaugh show. We have instructed our advertising agency to make sure that this error will not happen again.

According to a ThinkProgress count, Netflix is now the 30th company to issue a public statement expressing its intention to pull ads from the Rush Limbaugh radio show as a result of his derogatory, sexist, and insulting attacks on Sandra Fluke.

 

Super Tuesday

Here's the thing: it's not going to be over when today is over.

This is, of course, good, since the longer this goes on the more "underwater" each candidate becomes.  "Underwater" means that their UNapproval ratings are higher than their approval ratings.  And yes, all four GOP candidates are underwater:

More Americans hold negative than positive views of Romney by a 10-point margin, Rick Santorum by 8 points, Ron Paul by 9 points and Newt Gingrich by a whopping 33 points.

Full Circle

Wow.  Saint Vincent's Hospital in Connecticut, a Catholic medical center, is withdrawing its advertising from Rush Limbaugh, according to the hospital's Twitter feed.

Remember, this all started because Catholic insitutions were upset and having to "pay for" contraception coverage.  Apparently, Rush stunk up his side so badly that even his allies are distancing themselves.

Quote Of The Day

“How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people that I care about in my life, and that’s where my values are and that’s where my riches are.”

– Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, on why she doesn't consider herself wealthy

Um… okay.  Well, when we talk about income inequality and the tax code… oh, never mind.