News Roundup for 2/29/12

Rudolph Valentino
Rick Santorum

-Headline of the Day-
"Does Rick Santorum Have a Problem With the Ladies?"

I know it's hard to believe, because he's got all the moves of a white Smoove B, but Rick Santorum may not be connecting with the fairer sex. And by "may not be," I mean "isn't."

You'd think they'd like all that stuff about how they should stay at home and have emotions and have babies and never have birth control or college educations, but they don't. It's a puzzler. According to the report, "A Michigan exit poll showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney garnered support from 43 percent of women voters compared to 38 percent for Santorum. With Romney notching such a narrow victory there, the margin among women is enough to be the difference. A poll taken a week before the Arizona contest showed women picking Romney over Santorum by a 2-to-1 margin."

Rick's plan so far is to talk about his wife and his mom a lot -- I guess to prove that there are women out their who can stomach love him. If that doesn't work, expect campaign ads with soft music and candlelight. "C'mon over here and let me talk some sweet, sweet capital gains tax cuts, bay-bee. Boom chaka wow-wow..." (US News)

-Speaking of Rick-

Santorum cartoon
Click for full strip

Santorum 2012; because a dumber America is possible. (GoComics.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Wall Street Bonus Drop Means Trading Aspen for Discount Cereal."

In which the Wall Street one-percenters complain they don't have enough money. "Paid a lower bonus, [Andrew Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc.] said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex," the report tells us. Sounds awful.

But this is the fun part:

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

Maybe you can cut back on Lear jet polish? Then again, I probably don't understand the stress of having money.(Bloomberg)

-The Rare Bonus Bonus HotD-
"The Five Best Quotes in Bloomberg’s Outrageous Banker Bonuses Story."

In case you just want the good parts. (Gawker)

No End in Sight

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum
Ezra Klein calls last night's primary contest in Michigan a "win that made Romney look weak." In delegate math, a win is a win and Team Romney's probably happy to take it, but I've written before about polls influencing polls. The candidate is losing his electability argument and last night's performance didn't do much to revive it. If people are looking for a candidate who can win, he didn't inspire confidence. His weak win in one race may affect voters in later ones. This morning, much of the punditry are taking the "he didn't lose" point of view, rather than the "Romney won" side. He's not the winner of last night's primaries, he's the survivor. And Romney didn't help himself much on that point in his victory speech, as Klein points out:

...Romney was right in his victory speech. “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough and that’s all that counts,” he said. His advisers might have preferred if he'd omitted that unusually honest look into the dynamics of the campaign. But Romney did win by enough. He remains the frontrunner. He remains strong enough to dissuade any new entrants. Which means the status quo continues. Romney vs. Santorum. The Republican Party will continue to have nowhere else to turn and independent voters will continue to see a side of Romney they don't much like. You can argue that Michigan produced three kinds of winners last night. Romney, who didn't lose. Santorum, who almost won. And the Obama campaign, which gets to sit back and watch this primary go on for that much longer.

And "that much longer" means beyond Super Tuesday. If anyone drops out of the race after then, it'll probably be Ron Paul (or maybe Gingrich -- more on that later), since he probably won't win any states. And it may not be a big Romney night, either. He's heading for a huge landslide in Massachusetts and a sizable win in Vermont (the RealClearPolitics polling average in those states is +48 and +19 respectively), but other candidates are looking at big wins too. Ten states are up that night and RCP has polling averages for six. Of that six, Mitt takes two.

A big prize is Ohio and Santorum is currently the leader there (+8.3). Ohio is seen as a general election bellwether and has a lot of delegates, so it's one of the night's bigger victories. Rick also has Oklahoma pretty much in the bag (+20.5). Tennessee looks confusing, with just two polls with very different results. A PPP poll in the field 2/9 - 2/13 shows a Romney/Santorum tie, but a Vanderbilt University/Tennessean poll taken 2/16 - 2/22 gives Santorum a big 18 point lead. That would be a big spike for Santorum there and, while unusual, it's not direct disagreement. The two were in the field on different dates, so it's entirely possible that they're both accurate.

Right now, Gingrich leads in his home state of Georgia (+9). He's made some noise about winning Texas, which may just be Gringrichian bluster. But if you take him at his word, he won't be bowing out after that Super Tuesday high note. Still, you never know. Santorum owns Texas right now, with Newt a distant second. If he's counting on that big delegate score, he may be headed for disappointment. But it's not until April, so there's conceivably time to turn it around. Either way, Georgia is another big score, having the highest delegate count.

So, all in all, we see that Super Tuesday isn't going to be the end point. CNN's Peter Hamby reports that "the mechanics of the 2012 Republican race are beginning to resemble those of the 2008 Democratic nomination fight, a grind-it-out battle for delegates that could last through well into the spring," i.e., the first April primaries, which includes Texas and my own Wisconsin. Look forward to an attack ad bombardment, cheeseheads -- on top of the recall ad bombardment -- everyone seems to think we're still a swing state, despite the fact that we've probably already swung the direction we always swing.

Republicans grudgingly came around to this realization even before Tuesday night's primary results in Michigan and Arizona.

"It's a muddle," said Jack Lindley, the Republican party chairman in Vermont, one of 10 primary and caucus states that will vote Tuesday. "Mitt Romney will probably pick up the most delegates on Super Tuesday and then it goes on, state by state, drip by drip. It's like water torture."

Sit back and grab some popcorn, because this thing isn't ending any time soon. These guys are going to bloody each other up for a while.



News Roundup for 2/28/12

female college students
Hot, horny coeds

-Headline of the Day-
"Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate."

Craig Bannister of the wingnut CNSNews is outraged to learn that people in college have sex. He found out that a student at a birth control coverage hearing complained about the high cost of contraception. This was terrible.

"Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it’s hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception, [Georgetown law student Sandra] Fluke’s research shows," he writes. Yeah, because the more sex you have, the more birth control pills you have to buy. That's the way it works, right?

Bannister clearly can't be bothered to learn all this lady stuff. But he does come to two conclusions. "1. If these women want to have sex, we shouldn't be forced to pay for it," he writes, "and 2. If these co-eds really are this guy crazy, I should've gone to law school."

You're not seeing the contradiction there, Craig? You want to bang some co-eds and complain about all the money they spend on birth control.

Craig Bannister, ladies and gentlemen, America's stupidest man. (CNSNews)

-Super PAChyderms-

Now have him say something while you drink a glass of water. (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Infographic: The idea of a climate change hoax makes no $)%*@ sense."

Click to embiggen

Any questions? (Grist)

Democrats for Santorum

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney debate
I have a confession to make; in 2004, I engaged in voter mischief. I didn't vote for the candidate I most wanted to win the Wisconsin primary, but rather to extend the primary season. In my case, I didn't vote for a candidate from the other party, but John Edwards. See, the candidate who best fit my worldview was Dennis Kucinich. But, by the time Wisconsin's primary rolled around, it was pretty clear that Kucinich was a lost cause. I would only be casting a protest vote. I wanted it to count for something.

The reason I chose Edwards was a strategic one. I really didn't care much whether it was Edwards or Kerry in the end; both were fine with me, if not ideal (we didn't know what we know now). But I'd noticed that President Bush was dropping in the polls. Edwards and Kerry weren't spending much time attacking each other, but were instead engaged in a contest for the status as the one who thought Bush sucked more. Bush was the one taking the beating in the Democratic primary, not the candidates. Kerry was ahead in the delegate count, so Edwards was the logical choice. Bush didn't win by much in 2004 and I still believe to this day that had that Democratic primary gone on longer, Bush would not have been reelected -- assuming the primary had stayed so Bush-negative. In the end Wisconsin was a close one, but my single, strategically placed vote wasn't enough. Kerry extended his delegate count lead, effectively shortening the nomination process. And you know the tragic end to this story.

I say I was engaging in voter mischief because I didn't vote for the person I thought was best suited for the job. I didn't even vote for the man I thought had the best chance of beating George W. Bush (I thought it was about equal), I voted for the man most likely to keep the Democratic primaries going. It wasn't what the Athenians had in mind when they invented democracy and it probably wasn't what the founders intended either. My vote was based on math. But it was my vote, protected and defended by over two hundred years of heated debate and cold bloodshed, and I felt I could do whatever the hell I wanted with my tiny shred of responsibility in American government. I still do.

Of course, the problem with voter mischief is that it very rarely works. This is because -- unlike in my situation -- it requires you to vote for someone you absolutely do not want to win. Which means someone from the opposing party.

See, in an open primary (where most mischief happens), you can't vote a split ticket. You have to vote for the Republican treasurer and the Republican state senator and so on. That means you have to either sit out down-ticket races or research which person is the least likely to win every single race. The first first option is hard emotion-wise, the second is hard legwork-wise. I suspect that a lot of people go to the polls, fully expecting to cast that one vote, but see the ballot and all the other things on it and decide against it. This makes pulling off a crossover voter mischief campaign very, very difficult. It's a good idea in the abstract, but when the chips are down it looks completely different and people abandon the strategy.

All of which is a lengthy setup to my point; "Operation Hilarity" may work, if only in Michigan. In any case, it's worth a shot.

A little background. Operation Hilarity is a crossover voter campaign started by posters at DailyKos. The idea is to get liberals to vote for Santorum in Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont, and Tennessee -- all states with open primaries or caucuses in the next three weeks. The best case scenario is to rob Romney of the nomination, put Santorum up as the nominee, and watch Obama glide to general election victory. But even a loss or two for Romney would damage him further. Mostly through self-inflicted wounds. Unlike Democrats in 2004, Republican primary candidates aren't aiming most of their fire at the White House. They're shooting at each other. In the meantime, they're also moving farther and farther to the right -- away from the mainstream. We're already seeing Romney's pander to the far right over the auto bailout hurting him in Michigan. At a certain point -- and he may have already reached it -- Mitt's not going to be able to reinvent himself anymore. People simply will not buy it.

So why is Michigan particularly ripe for this kind of voter mischief? For one thing, this race is going to be tight. Polling has been back and forth and the momentum may now be behind Santorum. It's possible that he may win this without any help from crossover voters. But a little push wouldn't hurt, either.

Another reason is anemic Republican voter turnout this primary season. This has the effect of magnifying the relatively small number of people you can usually get to go along with this sort of meddling.

But here's the big one; Michigan's primary is unique:

[Talking Points Memo (emphasis mine):]

Republicans tried to tamp down on crossover voting when they designed the Feb 28 primary, but the peculiarities of the state rules made that effort basically futile. Democrats will allow members of their party to vote in Tuesday’s primary and still participate in the March 5 Democratic caucus, so Democrats can ask for GOP ballots on Tuesday with impunity. Crossover voting is a rich part of the Michigan primary tradition (this Detroit News column explains the tit-for-tat crossover efforts both parties have engaged in over the years pretty well), and so was born Operation Hilarity, the DailyKos-led effort to drive progressive voters to the polls for Santorum and serve up a loss to Romney.

You see what this means, right? Unlike just about everywhere else, Michigan Democrats can cast what is effectively a split ticket. You don't have to give up your Democratic primary vote to cast a Republican one. All that stuff about sitting out down-ticket races or doing a bunch of legwork is out the window. It's practically designed for crossover voting.

Democrats for Santorum? Why not? It's your vote. Make it count any way you see fit.



News Roundup for 2/27/12

Rush Limbaugh
Despised even by Republicans

-Headline of the Day-
"Rush Limbaugh: America’s Least Favorite News Personality."

People like to point out that Rush Limbaugh is the top-rated talk radio host in America. He's on 18 kajillion stations, he beats everyone's ratings, he's a freakin' monster. Here's what they don't like to point out; no one listens to talk radio, so none of that means squat. Rush is probably beaten in every single market by 20 year-old Journey songs. He's not a ratings monster, he's a ratings nobody. That's why they only compare him to other talk radio hosts -- it makes him a big fish in an artificially small pond. Put him out there in the ocean with everyone else and he's a guppy.

So it really shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that America's favorite talk-radio host is America's most hated talk-radio host. According to the report, "A new Harris Poll out today finds that conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh is America’s 'least favorite' news personality, with 46 percent of respondents picking him for the dubious honor. Runners-up Bill O’Reilly and Nancy Grace come in a distant second and third, at 31 percent and 23 percent, respectively." Oh yeah, Bill O'Reilly, too. Another big fish in a shot glass who regularly gets whomped by reruns of Seinfeld, but manages to brag about his ratings anyway. And Nancy Grace? Nice choice. I'm not a big fan of legal shows where everyone is always assumed to be guilty. She's a mean, hatchet-faced devilwoman.

Who are our favorite news personalities? It's those damned, hated lamestream media types; Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, and Brian Williams. None of these people are on Fox -- how could they possibly be so beloved?

But according to Harris, only "one person is in the least liked top three for all three political parties" [Democrat, Republican, and Independent] -- Limbaugh. Even Republicans hate him. (ThinkProgress)

-Oh sure, you laugh now...-

Rick Santorum Comic
Click for full comic

...but tomorrow it'll by in the New York Times. (GoComics.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rep. Issa Concedes His All-Male Anti-Contraception Hearing Was Not ‘My Greatest Success.’"

Democrats are probably still writing him thank you notes for that one. (ThinkProgress)

An Astonishingly Poor Opinion of Women

Transvaginal utrasound transducer
Tell me if this sounds achingly familiar to you.


When a woman in Alabama seeks an abortion procedure, she already has to sign [pdf] that her doctor has performed an ultrasound and that she either viewed the ultrasound image or rejected seeing it. But state Sen. Clay Scofield (R) is pushing SB 12, a bill in the Alabama legislature that would mandate the physician “to perform an ultrasound [pdf], provide verbal explanation of the ultrasound, and display the images to the pregnant woman before performing an abortion.” The physician could also require the woman to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound — “in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced” — if she or he determines it necessary.

A Senate committee voted 4-1 on Friday to approve the measure, and the state Senate is expected to vote on it early this week. Even though studies have proven that viewing an ultrasound does not lead women to not have abortions, the bill’s sponsor says he hopes it will...

After Virginia Republicans were forced to remove the transvaginal ultrasound measure from their pointless bill, Alabama's going to go ahead and give it a shot. Identical bills in two states? Like the so-called "life amendment," his has ALEC written all over it. So much for "local control"; Washington lobbyists now write state laws and local legislative puppets just introduce and vote for them.

But imagine the contempt for women behind these bills. The bill is necessary so "she sees that this is not just a clump of cells as she is told," Scofield said. "She will see the shape of the infant. And hopefully, she will choose to keep the child."

Look, I'm pretty darn sure she already knows what's in there. I know you guys have been trying your damnedest to remove any hint of sex education in your schools, but I really doubt you've been so successful that you've removed all knowledge of the human reproductive cycle from human understanding. Face it, if she didn't already know what the ultrasound was going to show, she wouldn't be seeking an abortion, now would she? The breathtakingly low opinion of women here is completely beyond me. I literally do not understand how someone could have such a poor understanding of female intelligence. I'm pretty sure that Sen. Clay Scofield gets slapped in the face a lot.

And if he doesn't, he should. Maybe that's the problem.

It seems to me that the key to defeating these things is to take them personally. For all their talk about individualism, the right doesn't seem to believe in it. They never see individuals, they always see groups. Big giant crowds of enemies who are all identical; all Muslims are the same, all gays are the same, all liberals are the same, all feminists are the same, all immigrants are the same. And all women seeking abortion are the same -- knocked-up sluts too stupid to understand what pregnancy actually is. If enough women take it personally and tell their stories, the Republicans' stereotype falls apart.

Of course, the stereotype's just the excuse. And that excuse hides the astonishing hypocrisy. While states are suing in court, arguing that government has no right to force you to buy something -- in this case, the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act -- they're forcing women to pay for unnecessary procedures. The idea isn't to make women look at images of a fetus so she'll change her mind, the idea is to bump up the price of an abortion and, hopefully, put it beyond some women's reach. And the transvaginal part? Icing on the cake. You get to scare away the ones who don't want to do it and punish the ones who submit. Win, win. And let's not even get into the big, literally intrusive government aspect of all this.

But seriously, if you're a woman and you're not offended by Clay Scofield's stated opinion of you, then you've got a thicker skin than I have. I would be livid.



News Roundup for 2/24/12

Sexy Girl Scout costume
What Bob Morris sees when he thinks of the Girl Scouts

-Headline of the Day-
"Anti-Girl Scout rep regrets his tone."

Hey, you remember Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris? He's that one guy who didn't like the way the Girl Scouts turn kids into loose sluts who get abortions. Yeah, that guy.

Well, he wants you to know he's very sorry. Except he's not. He's released a statement to reporters which is a confusing mish-mash of conflicting messages. He's sorry for his "tone," but he's totally right about the evil of the Girl Scouts.

Maybe Bob doesn't realize it, but I don't think anyone was upset about his "tone." They were upset about the crazyassed, wingnut, Glenn-Beck conspiracy crap that he defends in his "apology" letter.

Sorry Bob, but I don't think this is going to do the trick. (Maddow Blog)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, ever wonder what someone from another planet would think of Rick Santorum's idea of theology? Let's find out!

Fiore cartoon
Click for animation

He doesn't seem very impressed. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Santorum: Colleges Are ‘Indoctrination Mills’ That Evilly Enlighten The Young."

See, colleges teach people about reality and reality has a liberal bias. (Wonkette)

Reducing the Price of Gas, the Republican Way

Say what you like about George W. Bush, but his policies -- with the aid of Republicans and feckless Democrats who followed him blindly -- managed to bring gas prices down to $1.81 a gallon. We could do it again if you want. Here's how: you just blow a great big smoking hole in the global economy. It's that simple. It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that I don't recommend going this route.

The price of gas, like all things retail, is the product of supply and demand. When demand is high -- i.e., a good or recovering economy -- the price is high. But when demand is low -- i.e., a Bush-style global economic meltdown -- the price of gas is low. It's not just consumers at the pump that drive the demand for oil, but consumers everywhere in the retail chain. Those Fritos don't climb up on the shelf all on their own, you know. When you start buying more of pretty much anything, you're increasing demand for oil. Goods travel.

It's hard to argue that rising gas prices are a good thing, but they are a good sign. And that's a difficult argument to make. Which probably explains why President Obama didn't make it when he was speaking about energy yesterday.

But the truth is that, even if we could somehow sustain a static, unchanging economy where the needle on the demand meter never so much as quivered, the price of gas would never go down. Ever. It would only rise. Again, it's supply and demand. Supply is shrinking. If you doubt that, consider the XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. We're now so desperate for oil that we'll literally squeeze it out of rocks. This isn't the sort of thing you do when there's plenty of the stuff lying around. The Oil Age is winding down, whether we want it to or not.

All of which makes what the president calls an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy production seem pretty sensible. We're kicking the oil habit, whether we like it or not. "Anybody who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or just isn’t telling you the truth," Obama told a crowd at the University of Miami. I'd like to see "all-of-the-above" with even less emphasis on drilling, but you take what you can get.

Needless to say, this isn't very popular with Republicans. It deals with reality and they hate that.

Gas prices did not figure prominently in the Republican debate on Wednesday in Arizona, where the candidates trained most of their fire on one another. But Republicans in Congress criticized Mr. Obama for not opening more federal land to exploration, and for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The president would like everyone to forget that gas prices have doubled over the past three years while he consistently blocked and slowed the production of American-made energy,” a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Brendan Buck, said in a statement.

Any environmentalist will tell you this just isn't true, as a Wall Street Journal graphic illustrates:

If Barack Obama has "consistently blocked and slowed the production of American-made energy," he's been hopelessly incompetent in his secret plan to halt oil production. And, with all that new production, the price of gas continues to rise -- you could double it and it'd still rise. We can't produce enough to make a dent and the rest of the world is running out.

No, there's only one way to bring gas prices down significantly. The Republican way -- through a global recession. I'm not a fan of that option.



Santorum Contracepts Logic

We start the day's festivities off with a chorus of boos. At last night's GOP debate in Arizona, moderator John King read a question, submitted online, to the candidates. "Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?" King asked, to a round of boos.

It seems like an obvious question. The GOP has been working overtime to make headlines with it, so why would the audience boo? Were they booing contraception? Or was it that someone would bring it up? John Aravosis has what's the best explanation I've read so far:

So then why did the GOP debate audience last night boo CNN for asking a question about birth control? The reaction suggested the crowd felt it was a "gotcha" topic. But how could it be? It's the GOP that made this a huge topic of debate the past few weeks. Or is the audience embarrassed by the issue, because they're losing badly on it in recent polls (even Catholics agree with President Obama over their own bishops)?

Well, if you're too embarrassed to be asked about social issues, then don't put them at the top of your agenda. I'd have liked to have seen John King fight back a little on that one.  He should have asked the candidates if they think it's fair to ask about birth control, then tripped them up with their own statements over the past two weeks about President Obama's contraceptive insurance plan.

I think he's right -- the whole thing has turned into a PR fiasco and Republican voters would rather forget it ever happened.

And if the audience wanted to put the BC fiasco behind them, so did most of the candidates. Gingrich dodged the question entirely. "If we're going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion," Gingrich said. "It is not the Republicans."

Leave it to Newt to dust off an old and debunked lie. Media Matters has reported that "Obama and other opponents said the bill posed a threat to abortion rights and was unnecessary because, they said, Illinois law already prohibited the conduct supposedly addressed by the bill."

In other words, if a doctor kills a baby that's murder. Shockingly, murder is illegal in Illinois. Gingrich is just plain wrong. No babies were harmed in the making of his little nutjob talking point.

For his part, Romney kind of waffled. He put the debate in terms of religious freedom -- as if the ability to force employees to adhere to your religious beliefs amounted to some sort of towering beacon of liberty. This is the party line though and Mitt had it well-rehearsed. He did gloss over the fact that his "Romneycare" includes the same requirement.

Ron Paul, just as wrongly but perhaps less hypocritically, made it a "big government" issue. The more government becomes involved in things, the more these kind of issues will come up, he argued. That's pretty much true, but it's hardly an argument for restricting people's access to birth control. It's an argument for avoiding tough decisions.

But it was Rick Santorum who took the issue head on and, in doing so, exposed the cognitive dissonance he suffers on the issue. In the context of an earlier statement that he would talk about what "no president has talked about before -- the dangers of contraception," Rick had this to say:

What we're seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all -- a host of other things when children have children.


Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it's so much harder to succeed economically? It's five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax -- we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything's not going to be fine.

So, what Rick is saying is that kids are using contraception and that's bad. They go out, have sex, and the contraception fails. But as I pointed out last night, the Guttmacher Institute released a study -- just days ago -- showing that teen pregnancy has fallen to its lowest level in thirty years. Further, Guttmacher credits contraception for those numbers. Kids aren't have more babies because of contraception, the opposite is true. Just as any sane person should expect.

And that thing about kids being born out of wedlock? That means exactly what it means: people aren't getting married. It doesn't mean that kids are being raised in single-parent homes, it means that Mom and Dad never saw the need to tie the knot. This used to be called "common law marriage" and at one time it was the most common form of family in many states and territories. Now, it's some sort of crisis. One that Rick needs to solve by warning America of "the dangers of contraception." Because not using contraception will lower the birth rate and get people to start marrying again. Apparently, it'll also reduce drug use among teens. Not sure why, but that's Rick's argument.

See, it's right about here that I question Santorum's ability to reason. This makes absolutely no sense at all. What little data he cites doesn't back him up in any way. Is he lying or just stupid? It doesn't really make much difference. Either way he's wrong.



News Roundup for 2/21/12

Roger Ailes
Such a kind, gentle, thoughtful soul

-Headline of the Day-
"Top Five Roger Ailes Quotes From The Fox Effect."

OK, so The Fox Effect is a new book out by Media Matter's David Brock. And in it, David shows that Fox News president Roger Ailes is awful. I mean just terrible. Without further ado, here are the quotes:

Ailes used homophobic slurs to describe George H.W. Bush’s clothing: “‘You can’t wear a short-sleeve shirt—you’ll look like a fucking faggot.” [The Fox Effect, p. 32]

Ailes explaining race before the Federal Election Commission: “When Republicans see Willie Horton they see a criminal, and when Democrats see Willie Horton they see a black.” [The Fox Effect, p. 34]

As Richard Nixon campaign consultant, Ailes advised that a racist should be given a question at a town hall: “As long as we’ve got this extra spot open. A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn’t that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, ‘Alwright mac, what about these niggers?’” [The Fox Effect, p.24]

Roger Ailes explaining his concerns about social justice to rabbis: “Of course social justice means different things to different audiences, however it has been used in situations leading to fascism, socialism, and communism as well.” [The Fox Effect, p. 147]

Ailes to The Washington Post in 1972: “If you come out and say that a guy’s a commie, fag bastard, the public turns you off, not him.” [The Fox Effect, p. 144]

Ain't he a gem? (ThinkProgress)

-Rick on the 'theology' of environmentalism-

Santorum cartoon

I mean, after all, it's not like we have to live on it, right? (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"'Community' Returns March 15."

I'd rather that say "right freakin' now," but March is better than never. (ThinkProgress)

As Science is Politicized, One Scientist Thinks Politically

As shocking revelations go, it wasn't much of one; leaked documents showed that a rightwing thinktank had a detailed PR strategy to get everyone to believe that global warming is a hoax. Among other things, the Heartland Institute would produce "modules for Grades 7-9 on environmental impact," with the goal of teaching the controversy, not the science.

"The scientific debate remains open," one memo reads. "Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field."

It's a strategy pioneered by creationists, which really ought to tell you all you need to know about its educational and scientific value. At first, the climate deniers claimed that the documents were forgeries. But then environmental scientist and writer Peter Gleick came out as the leaker and put that lie to bed. Gleick says he first received a document in the mail from an anonymous source, then requested more documents from Heartland using a fake name. He got them.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts -- often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated -- to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

This is obviously the worst thing ever!

Of course, informed readers will remember the ginned up "Climategate," where hackers illegally broke into servers at the University of East Anglia, and stole a bunch of emails -- emails they then released them piecemeal and out of context. Science writer PZ Myers does.

I don't get it. First there was Climategate, in which hackers illegally broke into a server at the University of East Anglia and stole a pile of emails from climate researchers. The denialists seemed to be fine with that, and quote-mined the heck out of the documents to find damning statements, lying and claiming that they showed that the scientists faked their data (they did no such thing, of course). All the sturm and drang at that time was over the contents of the emails, not the illegal method of their acquisition.

Now the shoe is on the other foot...

But then he gets perplexed. "And [here's] Peter Gleick beating himself up for exposing the Heartland Institute's mendacity," he writes. "I really don't get that. He's a scientist. Scientists gather data to make informed decisions. Gleick got the data the Heartland Institute tried to hide. You can't on one hand condemn Gleick for asking for the information and getting it handed to him, while praising hackers for breaking into a server and illegally taking data."

I'm surprised that Meyers doesn't see what's happening here. Gleick's goal in "beating himself up" isn't to confess to some perceived professional lapse -- although that's exactly how he casts it -- but to verify the authenticity of the documents. The documents are unquestionably real and we know that because Peter Gleick just confessed to what the right are hyperbolically and hypocritically referring to as "theft." He's put his personal and professional reputation on the line -- or, at least, he seems to have. In truth, he did what any good investigative journalist might have done. There is no actual ethical breach here and Gleick knows it.

Peter Gleick has a PR strategy of his own. Turnabout is, after all, fair play.



News Roundup for 2/20/12

Chuck Wright
Not the world's best sheriff

-Headline of the Day-
"Deputy accidentally shoots woman in concealed weapons class."

South Carolina's Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright thinks every lady should carry a gun, because his cops suck. No, really. After an attempted rape in his jurisdiction last year, Wright said, "Our form of justice is not making it. Carry a concealed weapon. That’ll fix it."

"Liberals call me and tell me the chain-gang form of justice isn’t working," he went on. "Well, let me inform you, your form of justice isn’t working either."

Yeah, about that. According to the report, "A South Carolina sheriff who has called for women to be armed isn’t backing down after one of his deputies accidentally shot a female student during a concealed handgun class."

Now, maybe it's just my tremendous good fortune, but I've never been shot by a cop. Seems to me that the way things operate in my little corner of the universe is working out just fine, while Chuck's way of doing things is a little bit of a failure.

"At a press conference over the weekend, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright explained that Deputy Skip Smith should have checked to make sure that Crystal Smith’s .22 caliber pistol was unloaded," the report goes on. He was showing her how hold the gun properly, when it went off, shooting her through the arm and into her side. I'm guessing Skip's got a weird definition of the word "properly."

At least Sheriff Chuck's right about one thing; his cops suck. (Raw Story, with video)

-Separation of church, state, and you-

Santorum cartoon

"And you guys better not try anything gay, either!" (McClatchy)

-Bonus HotD-
"Wall Street Abandons Republicans -- Now Supports Higher Taxes on the Wealthy."

Those with occupations on Wall Street join Occupy Wall Street. At this rate, Republicans will officially be out of friends by July. (Huffington Post)


News Roundup for 2/17/12

Rick Santorum
You probably don't want to know what's rolling around in this guy's head

-Headline of the Day-
"Santorum On Firestorm Over Friess: 'This Is Just Crap.'"

Rick Santorum's Sugar Daddy Foster Friess got himself in a little trouble when he told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that back in his day, women used to use aspirin as birth control. "The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly," he said. This didn't go over real well. Even if you cut him just a buttload of slack, you've really got to admit that going on cable news to tell dirty jokes probably isn't the smartest thing ever. Offensive dirty jokes... Well, that's just going in the wrong direction entirely.

But Rick isn't going to sit back while his piggy bank good buddy gets well-deserved criticism from the media. No sirree Bob. He's fighting back the only way a good conservative knows how -- by playing the living shit out of the victim card. He told the wingnut National Review that he's "not going to put up with it."

"You know, [reporters] sit there and they say nothing, while for 20 years [President Obama] sits in a church with a guy who is a racist," Santorum says. "And somehow or another Foster Friess is now who I am? This is just crap."

Wait, what? Jeremiah Wright was a racist? I don't remember that. I remember a guy saying a lot of things that conservatives didn't like much, but racism?

So I did what good bloggers do; I checked. Turns out that the charge of racism comes from a wingnut chain email. Yeah, one of those. It said that only black people were allowed to attend Trinity Church of Christ. That's about as true as the other claim in the email that Barack Obama's middle name is "Mohammed." It also has some great birther stuff in it -- "secret Muslim" crap that makes no sense at all in connection with attending a Christian Church. It's just typical frothing, fringe-looney BS.

And this just popped into Rick's head? You've got to wonder what other lunatic items are rattling around in there. (Talking Points Memo)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, you've probably heard about this contraception thingy. It's all very complicated and adult, but some Bishops are here to explain it. Yay!

Click for animation

Remember, no one's a better expert on birth control than some celibate guy who can't even get married. (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Another Romney 'Victory' Could Become Hollow."

You remember how Mitt Romney won Iowa -- and then he didn't and Rick Santorum won?

Now it's looking like Mittens won Maine -- and then he didn't and Ron Paul won. It's still all up in the air, but it really could turn out that way.

Remember, Republican election officials can't find their own asses with both hands, a flashlight, a map, and a GPS -- but we need voter ID because screwed up elections are your fault. (Political Animal)

With Foreclosure Settlement, Scott Walker Ignores the Lessons of History

Foreclosed home
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a smart editorial on Gov. Scott Walker's suddenly unbalanced budget. It requires a little background, but I think I can catch you up to speed pretty quickly.

In 2001, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson was picked by the Bush administration to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Wisconsin governors are elected on presidential off-years, which meant that Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum would serve the rest of Thompson's term. This did not go well. It was a period marked mostly by short-sightedness and poor decision-making, which included this:

In July 2002, then-Gov. Scott McCallum signed a budget-repair bill into law that used $825 million in settlement money from the big tobacco companies to balance a gaping hole in the state budget. That was on top of another $450 million in tobacco money used for the same purpose the summer before.

McCallum and the Legislature balanced the budget all right -- for a few months -- but at a high cost to good government.

"Dumb and dumber," we wrote at the time. "Think about winning the lottery and spending every nickel in the first year."

McCallum and Republicans argued that this was actually a responsible use of the money, which was originally to be paid out over a number of years. Tobacco companies might go out of business, they argued, and we'd only get a fraction of the payout. So they found investors to buy the payments -- for a fraction of the payout. A lot of people, including myself, found this a brainless argument. After all, if there really was any danger of the payments evaporating, you wouldn't be able to find anyone to buy them. They obviously weren't concerned about the tap shutting off, they were concerned about getting enough money right that instant, in order to cover their butts and solve a problem caused by their own lousy accounting.

Further, the money wasn't meant to plug up holes in the budget caused by blue-skying tax revenues. It was meant to help limit costs to the state caused by tobacco use. Anti-smoking efforts, treatment of illnesses, etc. McCallum and the legislature were using the people's money to paper over their own mess. Scott McCallum was a governor for a whopping two years, the voters rejecting him the first chance they got.

Which brings us to today -- we've ridden this train before and we know where it stops.

A decision last week by Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to use $25.6 million of Wisconsin's share of another legal settlement -- this time with the big banks over foreclosure fraud -- to plug another budget hole has a familiar ring to it.

The state will receive about $141 million in money pried loose from the banks to help cities and people who fell victim to fraud and sketchy underwriting. Of that $141 million, the state gets control of $31.6 million. And of that $31.6 million, Walker and Van Hollen are proposing to use most of it as a one-time budget fix.

"Just like communities and individuals have been affected, the foreclosure crisis has had an effect on the state of Wisconsin, in terms of unemployment," Walker said. "This will offset that damage done to the state of Wisconsin."

Not a boondoggle on the scale of McCallum's tobacco settlement fiasco, but it's not hard to see the similarities here. Scott Walker, Hero of the Budget Battle, hasn't balanced the budget at all. Instead, he used the lousy "cut taxes and increase revenue" math to project tax revenues. Needless to say, this is hopelessly unrealistic and the budget is now where anyone who actually believes in math would expect it to be.

But if Walker's money grab is less substantial than McCallum's, it may be more consequential. Wisconsin under Walker has some of the worst job creation numbers in the country -- anemic in a good month, negative in bad ones. Mortgage relief would create jobs. It's absolutely unquestionable. When consumers have money, people get hired. And it would also take the burden off cities. Milwaukee alone has "4,800 vacant and abandoned properties that would cost about $48 million to tear down." Keep in mind, even razing vacant homes creates jobs, while bringing property values higher.

Meanwhile, how many jobs will be created by plugging a budget hole caused by Reaganaut, blue-sky economic optimism? Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of none -- although Walker and Republicans obviously hope it'll help them keep theirs. Here's hoping that, after all is said and done, there's one more similarity between McCallum and Walker -- that neither served a full term.



News Roundup for 2/16/12

Mitt Romney
About to unleash a shitstorm of biblical proportions

-Headline of the Day-
"Multiple New Polls Find Santorum Leading in Michigan."

One of the things that kind of freaks me out about Mitt Romney is that he seems to be from pretty much everywhere. He's from Mexico and Massachusetts and France and Utah and Rhode Island and, of course, Michigan. So what this means is that Mittens has a lot of "home states" to defend and, in the case of Michigan, that's not going very well.

According to the report, "Rick Santorum currently holds a solid lead in the upcoming Michigan primary according to four recent polls of the state. In the polls, the Santorum lead over Mitt Romney ranges from 3-10 points."

This is not good. Losing Michigan would be a huge embarrassment for Romney and some people are saying it's something he may not be able to recover from.

But the primary is not today. And that means that Romney's going to pull out his not-so secret weapon -- money in denominations you've never even heard of before. He's going to buy ads upon ads and ads about ads and ads announcing ads. Michiganders are in for an unprecedented fountain of bullshit.

In the end, I think Mittens probably will win Michigan, because it's not the most difficult job in the world to convince people that Santorum sucks -- especially if you put a big bazillion dollar bow on the argument. Still, Rick's getting a lot of money now too, so he just might be able to pull this off.

Regardless, if I were in Michigan, I'd board up my teevee. It's gonna be awful. (Firedoglake)

-The stuff that really matters-

She totally looks like she's going to vote GOP, doesn't she? (Truthdig)

-Bonus HotD-
"Our prediction: Obama will win re-election with 303 electoral votes to the GOP nominee’s 235."

Yahoo News predicts a solid Obama win, using a model they claim is historically 88% accurate.

I like those odds. (Yahoo! News)

Contraception Fight Shows a Desperate GOP

Republicans have a little bit of a problem. It's often the case that what's good for America is bad for Republicans and the economy is not an exception to this rule.


Weekly jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 11, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since March 2008, when the U.S. was in the early stages of a recession. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch estimated claims would total 368,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 361,000 from 358,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, fell by a smaller 1,750 to 365,250, keeping it near a four-year low.

"In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly," explains Steve Benen. "We've now dropped below 370,000 for two consecutive weeks, and three of the last five weeks." He also helpfully supplies a chart of what this drop looks like:

So much for the "failed stimulus" line. It wasn't big enough to turn things around quickly, but it was big enough to turn things around. Betting against America turned out to be a lousy wager and now Republicans are taking a bath.

This goes a long way toward explaining why Republicans are waging a war on contraception right now -- they literally have nothing else to talk about. But a piece in the New York Times explains another reason; while polling shows the issue is a loser, Republicans are gambling that it'll be important enough to the base to get them to the polls. Low turnout in most of the GOP primaries shows a voter block exceptionally unenthused about Republican candidates. If they don't turn out, Obama wins in a walk.

Conservative evangelical groups, even though most do not oppose contraception on theological grounds, have taken up the cause with equal force [to Catholic Bishops]. Their leaders argue that a government mandate forcing any religious group to act against its beliefs is a threat to all religions. Major evangelical groups that openly opposed Mr. Obama and his health care plan in the past see this as a new affront and a new opportunity for attack.

The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thousands of churches in 40 denominations, “will be working vigorously” against the mandate, said Galen Carey, the association’s vice president for government relations — lending substance to the statement last week by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Baptist minister, that “we are all Catholics now.”

Evangelical leaders say they would be outraged by the mandate in any case, but many also believe that it will bring them political gains. [Ralph] Reed, the conservative strategist, said that even if a majority of Americans expressed general support for requiring contraceptive coverage — and even if, as he believes, the economy remained the primary issue — getting conservative and religious voters more fired up could make a difference.

"Among key voter groups in key battleground states, this issue in combination with others is not going to be helpful to Obama," Reed told the Times. Personally, I think he's radically overstating his case -- most of the people who'd vote against this issue wouldn't vote for Obama anyway. Republicans won't get more voters with this and they need more voters.

I think what this shows is Republican panic over good economic news and low primary turnout. This was supposed to be a gimme and it's all going horribly, horribly wrong. Obama's leading every GOP candidate and the entirely unelectable Rick Santorum is leading the barely electable Mitt Romney. This could turn into a bloodbath. Something -- anything -- must be done to turn this all around.

I don't think this is going to do it. The numbers just aren't there.



News Roundup for 2/15/12

Not Scott Walker's friend

-Headline of the Day-
"Wisconsin Gov. Walker seeks 2 more weeks to review signatures on recall petitions."

The roundup is back! Yay!

And we kick off the festivities with a fun story about embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his struggles with math.

OK, so here's the deal: Scott Walker sucks, right? So a bunch of people got together to kick him out of office and got a million signatures to put him up for a recall election (full disclosure: I'm one of that bunch). That's about twice as many as the law requires. You with me so far here?

Scooter doesn't want to be recalled. So he's filed suit in court to get more time to review all these crazy signatures.

"The time needed to search for duplicates, as well as to provide a factual basis for objections to more than 100,000 signatures, cannot be met within the existing time limits," Walker said in his filing.

100,000 vs half a million. You see the problem here, right? He's pretty much doomed on that count. He would need to throw out more than half a million signatures -- better than 5 times the amount he's contesting -- to stop the recall election.

What Scooter's hoping to do is delay the recall another two weeks. Why? Because of a loophole that allows him unlimited fundraising until the recall. He actually has no hope at all of stopping the recall election from happening -- his 100,000 "objectionable" signatures just aren't even close to enough. He just wants more time to rake in big out-of-state money, while complaining that he's the victim of big out-of-state money.

And here I thought Republicans were against frivolous lawsuits. (Associated Press)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, want a surefire way to fight terrorism? Then you need...

Mark Fiore cartoon
Click for animation

We used to do this with cruise missiles and that worked out just great. This will be even better. Technology marches on! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Who's Going to Die on 'Community.'"

According to the report, "Joel McHale's confirmed that, whenever Community comes back, 'someone you've seen a lot' will die in the show."

My carefully considered response: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Unless it's Starburns. He's a good character, but he doesn't do much. I could handle that.

Sorry Starburns. Moral Orel was great and all, but TV is a harsh business. (ThinkProgress)


Tucker Carlson v. Journalism

Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson has an "exposé" out about Media Matters for America. Or at least that's what the wingnuts are calling it. I'd always thought that "exposé" wasn't a synonym for "stuff everyone already knows." What we learn is that Media Matters is on a crusade to discredit Fox News. This stunning revelation comes after MM's founder David Brock told Politico that his group was waging a "war on Fox" back in March of last year. So big news; Tucker's investigation discovered that Media Matters is waging a war on Fox.

I feel strangely unrocked by this revelation.

This seems to be an ongoing thing for Carlson's Daily Caller and today we learn that Media Matters had considered hiring investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox personalities and executives. The right may see this as shocking, but the rest of us will recognize it as investigative journalism. And, of course, yesterday Tucker reported that David Brock is kind of a weird guy -- which (assuming it's even true) means he investigated Brock's personal life. As always, it's only OK when conservatives do it.

We also learn that Media Matters is often in contact with the Obama administration. This is apparently terrible. Imagine if the Bush administration had hired talent from Fox News. I'm sure Tucker would be shocked -- if he had any memory at all.

But my favorite shocking revelation is that Media Matters makes a habit of working with lefty journalists like the Washington Post's Greg Sargent or Huffington Post's Sam Stein. They just call them up and tell them things and then these journalists often go and report it. I'll let Jonathan Chait handle this one:

This is... really dumb. Obtaining information from biased sources is an activity known in the journalism profession as “reporting.” The job of a journalist is to process the information and to decide if it checks out, if it’s worth publishing, if it means what the source says it means, and so on. (I have no memory of ever communicating with anybody from Media Matters, but it’s possible I have.)

Now, it’s a good story if the Daily Caller can show that Media Matters got reporters to publish stories that weren’t true, or were slanted to its perspective. But the Daily Caller doesn’t show that.

In fact, Carlson's big "exposé" doesn't actually expose anything. We learn that Media Matters doesn't like Fox News very much, that they practice journalism, and that they engage in advocacy by giving journalists leads and contacting government officials. What I didn't already know I'd assumed. This is a big pile of nothing.

Here's the problem that Carlson and the rest of the right has with Media Matters for America and David Brock -- they accurately report on rightwing media. They post the things they say, verbatim and in context. And, since rightwing media has a bad habit of lying, fear-mongering, and hate-mongering, this doesn't work out very well for them. Media Matters must be discredited. So a scandal must be found or, lacking the existence of any scandalous activity, cooked up.

Tucker Carlson decided to cook. Too bad he's such a lousy chef.



GOP Incoherent on Abortion, Contraception

House Republicans
I'm pro-choice, without apology or qualification. If you're expecting some emotionally wrenching story about how I came to be pro-choice -- some tragedy involving a woman I cared for, maybe -- you're going to be disappointed. I don't have one. My position is based on a rational understanding of history and human nature -- when abortion isn't legal, women die. It's pretty straightforward. Laws restricting abortion risk creating public health crises. Want to end abortion? Fine with me. Figure out a way to make it unnecessary and women won't seek them. Outlawing abortion doesn't end it, it just makes it more dangerous. As long as the term "crisis pregnancy" exists, abortion will be necessary and no legislative action can possibly end it.

The most perplexing part of this whole debate is that so many of the people who oppose abortion seem to go out of their way to make it more necessary. They want to slash funding for anti-poverty programs and make it harder for people to collect unemployment benefits -- both measures that increase the demand for abortion services. But perhaps least rational of all, many oppose contraception and sex education. I'm constantly amazed at how people can house two obviously contradictory ideas in the same skull. Amazed, but a lot less than impressed.

I'm not sure what the exact opposite of reasoning is, but it's what these people do. And it's what these people are doing now.

[Associated Press:]

Republicans vowed Wednesday to reverse President Barack Obama's new policy on birth control, lambasting the rule that religious schools and hospitals must provide contraceptive coverage for their employees as an "unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country."

The White House pushed back in the face of a political firestorm, arguing that Obama was sensitive to the objections and looking for a way to allay the concerns. Democratic women lawmakers put up a united front in defending the administration.

"Women's health care should not depend on who the boss is," said Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Apparently, "religious freedom" mean the freedom to force employees who don't follow your religion abide by its rules. What's next, the "freedom" to fire nurses who don't attend Mass?

But beyond the ridiculous argument that you can be forced to follow the edicts of your employer's religion (never mind dragging that into further absurdity by calling it "religious freedom") lies an even less rational position -- being against abortion and expanded birth control coverage.

One position clearly contradicts the other. I quite honestly don't understand how you can take those two positions without expecting that people will think you sound like a moron. It's like saying, "Yeah, I hate house fires with every fiber of my being -- but fire hydrants are such an eyesore... Let's get rid of those." Just because you want both doesn't mean you can have both. The light is on or off, the window is either opened or closed. Make up your damned mind.

Not all Republicans are so incoherent. "I think this week’s outrage over the Komen decision should be a warning to the Republican party about how quickly there was a mass outrage over further and further attacks on general women’s health," says Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for Choice. "You could see the same backlash on attacks on contraception."

Man, you hope so. You really do. Someone has to be sane here and, as usual, it's up to the pro-woman people to do the heavy lifting.



Rick Santorum Elected Mayor of Ghost Town

A ghost town
There are two ways to look at Rick Santorum's winning streak last night and both of them are mostly correct. The first take is that the results were mathematically meaningless. His rivals are very busy making that point today. The winner of none of the contests last night is guaranteed delegates at the convention. Colorado and Minnesota are nonbinding straw polls by tradition and Missouri's primary will award no delegates because of the incompetence of that state's party. In this take, Rick Santorum is the triumphant winner of a big pile of nothing. In delegate math, it's an excuse to drop confetti on a candidate and nothing more.

The other take is that this is hugely important. Not surprisingly, Team Santorum's taking this line, along with many in the media. Polls influence polls and this is just as true of election results. Choosing a candidate a rational decision-making process (in the best case) and when polls start moving one way, you begin to rethink your position, in much the same way that you might take all your friends' advice. When everyone has a different opinion from your own, it's not unreasonable to rethink your position -- or change it. Santorum's big win last night will have the "polls influence polls" effect and he'll become the latest legit Not-Romney (sorry Newt). Rick wins zero delegates and all of the positive headlines. In all, I'd say he got the best deal last night. Easily and by a long shot.

But missing in all the analysis is that familiar GOP trend -- low turnout. Turnout in last night's races was anemic, bordering on pathetic. Low turnout isn't surprising for what are essentially beauty contests of no real electoral value, but there's low and then there's low.

In a piece summing up the contests last night, Ed Kilgore had this to say (emphasis mine):

...Santorum did not win a single delegate last night (MO was a completely symbolic affair unconnected to the caucus next month in which delegates are selected, which is why nobody but Ricky bothered to campaign there; CO and MN, like Iowa, have multi-stage delegate selection systems in which last night’s results were technically just a “straw poll”). Only about 65,000 votes were cast in CO; 50,000 in Minnesota; and in the one primary, 250,000 in MO. That’s compared to over 1.6 million in Florida.

You could further argue that caucuses -- being the awful, awful idea that they are -- guarantee low turnout. But the first caucus in the nation, Iowa, had a turnout of 122,255 voters. Then things started to go downhill. The next most recent caucuses in Nevada saw an even worse turnout that last night's -- 32,930 Nevadans bothered with it. And those 1.6 million Florida votes cited by Kilgore? That's a 14% decrease from the previous GOP presidential primary in 2008.

None of those numbers foretell good things in the GOP's future. And it gets still worse; Nate Silver sees a race that bears a "resemblance to something like the 1984 Democratic contest or the 1976 Republican race. There was a favorite in each of those contests -- Walter Mondale in 1984 and Gerald Ford in 1976 -- and they were ahead in the delegate count more or less from start to finish."

"But both contests progressed through all 50 states and were not that far from going to the convention," he continues. "A few more missteps for Mr. Mondale or Mr. Ford, and the outcome might have been different."

In other words, we may be in for a long, drawn-out fight. Things did not go well for Mr. Mondale and Mr. Ford. And a large chunk of Republican voters, already less than enthused about their choices, are headed for a deep and guaranteed disappointment. What do you think that'll do for general election turnout?

So yeah, last night was a big night for Rick Santorum. But it was an even bigger night for Barack Obama.



News Roundup for 2/7/12

Paul Ryan looks sad
Because it worked so well the last time

-Headline of the Day-
"Are Republicans About To Commit Medicare Suicide?"

Spoiler Alert: Yes.

After getting beat up in public opinion over their Medicare-bashing plan last year, House Republicans are back and they want to end Medicare. According to the report, "The backlash [against the Ryan Plan] was ugly. But Republicans seem to have forgotten how poisonous that vote really was, and remains... because they’re poised to do it again. This time they’re signaling they’ll move ahead, with a modified plan -- one that, though less radical, would still fundamentally remake and roll back one of the country’s most popular and enduring safety net programs."

See, the problem is that Republican primary voters are prize chumps. I mean they must hold some sort of chumpishness record. Not only did the GOP manage to convince them that getting rid of Medicare was a good idea, they managed to get them excited about it. It really just replaces Medicare it with a voucher scheme that introduces a pointless middle-man and is guaranteed to drive up costs, but that doesn't matter. Rush Limbaugh said it was great and that's all it takes for these rubes to bend over and drop their pants.

So now the primary voters want to get screwed. They expect it. And, if someone doesn't offer to stick them in the shorts with this scheme, they're just not going to vote for them. "That creates a dilemma," the report tells us, "Vote against the platform and face a primary. Vote for it, and face constituent backlash."

Democrats have a response to all this:

GOP Medicare horror movie poster

Nice corner you've painted yourselves into, guys. (Talking Points Memo)

-Led by example-

Occupy DC political cartoon
Click to embiggen


-Bonus HotD-
"Failed Republican Windbag Karen Handel Self-Aborts From Komen."

It's hard to understand how someone can be such a consistent failure and still be alive. (Wonkette)

GOP: T-Shirts -- Not Unlimited and Secret Corporate Cash -- are Destroying Democracy

Obama t-shirt
Two stories provide an excellent example of what's wrong with our system of campaign finance. The first is an example of one of the almost daily Republican freakouts over nonexistent scandals. The second demonstrates the scandalous state of our campaign finance system -- and how that's just fine.

First example first:

[Wall Street Journal:]

At a New York fund-raising event Tuesday called "Runway to Win," President Barack Obama's re-election campaign plans to begin selling campaign-themed tote bags, T-shirts and accessories designed by more than two dozen famous designers.

Attendees can purchase a tote bag designed by Derek Lam for $75. A collectible makeup bag created by Richard Blanch with nail polish in Red-y To Win Red, Victory White and Bo Blue is going for $40. And a silk scarf featuring Mr. Obama's likeness by Thakoon Panichgul is $95. Profits from the sales will go to Mr. Obama's campaign chest.

Republicans contend the sale might violate campaign-finance rules. The gear will sell for a fraction of the price the designers' merchandise typically fetches at department stores. Republicans say that suggests they relied on corporate resources to keep costs low, which could amount to illegal campaign contributions. On Mr. Lam's website, handbags range in price from $340 to $1,890. The three scarves offered on Mr. Thakoon's website go for $325 apiece.

Of course, when it comes to what Republicans say the gear is really worth, they're dishonestly comparing apples to oranges. Yes, a leather bag can go for as much as $1,890, but we're talking cheap tote bags here. According to the report, "the designers didn't spend much time on the items, which are also cheap to make. Out are leather straps and linen shirts, more typical of their designer goods. In are canvas bags and cotton T-shirts."

But imagine that; a $75 dollar fundraising item is the worst thing ever. Meanwhile:


...Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President—along with "nonprofits" that also aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding—have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.

With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.

Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.

Some on the right (and the left, for that matter) are accusing the president of hypocrisy, but that's the very worst they can do. We now live in a world where a $75 tote bag raises eyebrows, but millions in in-kind donations from secret donors with unknown agendas is just fine.

And think about that -- which donor level is closer to what you might give? What the GOP is arguing here is that you're a corrupting influence with your fancy forty dollar designer lipstick pack, while the millions from shadowy Super PACs are just freedom of speech and democracy in action. You're the problem, you designer t-shirt-wearing elitist. That big money spigot from polluters, Wall Street grifters, and various and sundry other less than trustworthy souls is totally above reproach. Perfectly legal. Nothing to get worked up over.

Let's be extremely clear here; the Republican's imaginary tote bag scandal is just one more step in their obvious plan to criminalize democracy. Add it to voter ID laws and laws designed to break unions (which are in turn designed to break union members' power). Every bit of electoral power you have is under attack, while the very, very wealthy are given free rein to do whatever the hell they want. More power to the wealthy, less power for you. Every time. Don't be surprised if, some time in the future, you're required to take a drug test before you're allowed to vote. After all, you're the problem because you can't be trusted.

It's hard to make the moral case for Team Obama's move here. But it's easy to argue that it was necessary. Look at it this way; if you say you're a peace-loving nation that doesn't want war, but you're invaded anyway, it hardly makes you a hypocrite when you start shooting back.

"The President opposed the Citizens United decision," reads the Obama campaign's press release. "He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action -- by constitutional amendment, if necessary -- to place reasonable limits on all such spending... But this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands."

Hypocrisy doesn't come from fighting back. Hypocrisy comes from accepting the status quo as the new normal. If Obama has won when the smoke finally clears, we're going to have to remind him that it's time to disarm and radically reform campaign finance. Because it'll be all to easy to forget about dealing with Citizens United and accept this new, corrupt way of winning elections.