When Gun Nuts Abandon Guns as Their Method of 'Tyrant-Killing'

Liquids in chemistry flasks and beakers
For a while now, I've been arguing that the gun lobby's and Tea Party's interpretation of the Second Amendment amounts to advocating terrorism. There's no small amount of bullying thuggishness in the threat to start shooting "tyrants" if you don't get your way. They would have us believe that the founders intended that constitutionality be tested not by the courts, but by wild-eyed, poorly-informed loons who believe that "unconstitutional" means "something I don't agree with." And that the remedy for an unconstitutional law or act isn't to reverse it in the judiciary, but to start blasting. Luckily, people who feel the need to hide behind piles of guns and ammo aren't exactly paragons of courage, so the threat had remained a threat.

Until now.

New York Times: Two letters that contained threats to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — one addressed to him, the other to a lobbyist who works on his gun control campaign — have tested positive for the deadly poison ricin, the authorities said on Wednesday.

The first letter was opened at a New York City mail center in Lower Manhattan on Friday, the police said. Although staff members at the mail center do not appear to have become ill, several police officers who came into contact with the letter’s contents “indicated some mild symptoms the next day, including diarrhea,” and they are being treated in hospitals, the New York Police Department’s spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said on Wednesday afternoon. “They’re being checked out as a precaution.”

The second letter, which was opened on Sunday in Washington, was addressed to Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group Mr. Bloomberg helps run and finances, officials said. Mr. Glaze opened the letter, an official said. No injuries were reported, Mr. Browne said.

"Both letters were identical in content, bore references to the debate over gun regulation and contained written threats to Mayor Bloomberg," the report tells us.

OK, so mailing poison isn't exactly carrying out the threat to start blasting that the rightwing Yosemite Sams are so fond of making. But the motive is apparently the same. Besides, chemical weapon or projectile weapon -- what's the difference, really? If your intent is to eliminate "tyrants," then one's as good as the other. Revolution is war, after all. And of course, ricin is a much less risky weapon. Mountains of bravery and valor are not required.

It's tempting to blame rightwing media for escalating the rhetoric to the point that wingnuts start seeing justifications for murder, but the truth is that they aren't really necessary to bring this whole pot of crazy to a boil. Elected Republicans are doing a fine job of it, by constantly amping everything up to eleven and making any bills they oppose seem like constitutional crises foretelling the imminent collapse of the United States. We don't need Rush Limbaugh to get all the gullible cowards crapping themselves. At least, not when we have Rand Paul.

But the most amazing part of all this is that the wingnut base has no tolerance nor appetite for the things they routinely threaten to do. If tyrant-killing is the most American of pastimes, then they aren't very American. Whenever anything like this happens, the cry of "false flag!" goes up on conspiracy theorist websites and is echoed in the comment threads of the wingnut blogosphere. Even when one of their own rises up to fight what they see as tyranny, it gets twisted around into yet more evidence of tyranny. They continually call for terrorist acts, but when one actually happens they blame someone else -- in this case, Bloomberg himself.

For his part, the Mayor of New York City is undeterred by this act of terrorism. "The letter obviously, referred to our anti-gun efforts but there's 12,000 people [who] are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts," he said of the incident.

It's pretty clear which side in this fight has all the courage.


[photo by zhouxuan12345678]


Bachmann's Career Dies as it Lived -- Running Scared from Any Hint of Accountability

'African Elephant Running,' a sculpture by Antoine-Louis Barye
During her presidential run, soon-to-be former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann developed a reputation for having a rocky relationship with the press. It wasn't so much the media's fault, as it was Shelly's.

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News (Aug., 2011): CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon says that Marcus Bachmann, the husband of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and two members of her campaign staff pushed him into a golf cart during a campaign stop at the Iowa state fair in Des Moines before Bachmann's victory in Saturday's straw poll.

"She came out, after speaking for just a couple minutes," Lemon said on CNN. "There were other reporters and cameras there. And I asked her very respectful questions: 'How do you think you did in the debate last night?' and 'How do you think you're going to end up in the Ames Straw Poll?' And her two campaign aides started elbowing me."

Lemon continued: "I told them, asked them not to elbow me. And then her husband Marcus started doing the same thing. And then he elbowed me into the cart. And I said, 'You just pushed me into the cart.' And he goes, 'No, you did it yourself.'"

The entire incident struck Lemon as odd, since he was just doing general reporting. "We weren't asking any 'gotcha' questions," he said. The same story covers a similar incident with ABC's Brian Ross, who was "manhandled" by Bachmann security after asking a question about Bachmann's tendency toward migraine headaches.

"I was never closer than 10 or 12 feet to her," Ross said later. "The people around her recognized me and came up and identified themselves as with the staff said they knew who I was. And the blocking was all about me. Other cameraman, other reporters were allowed to get close." See, Ross is scary because he's ABC's investigative reporter.

More recently, Bachmann was almost literally chased around the capitol by CNN's Dana Bash. Bash wasn't trying to get a comment on the FEC probe into Bachmann's presidential finances, but was simply trying to get her to clarify a false statement about Pres. Obama blowing taxpayer money on a lavish lifestyle.

In case you haven't gotten the point yet, Michele Bachmann is not a courageous individual. When the going gets tough, Bachmann gets going -- and by "gets going," I mean "takes off running."

So it's less than surprising that Shelly would dodge her electorate as well. Facing a strong headwind in her reelection bid and a challenger who nearly beat her the last time around, Bachmann did what she always does when faced with a tough fight -- laced up her running shoes.

"This serves to show that even Rep. Bachmann is hearing that Minnesota's 6th is ready for a new, business-oriented approach," her 2012 and 2014 opponent Jim Graves said  "As recent polling indicates, our message is resonating with the people of the 6th District and she recognized that. She must also have recognized that it would be an uphill battle for her going forward. People are eager to be represented by a common-sense business person who understands the economy from the inside out."

It wouldn't surprise me if we later found out that Bachmann quit under pressure from her own party. Romney won her district with 56% in the same cycle that she nearly lost. That district is changing, but it's still pretty red. And a different Republican might be able to win and hold onto it for another one or two terms, maybe -- before the gerrymandering is undone. If there was pressure, it wouldn't be a surprise that she gave in. Demagogues are people who pretend to have courage, not people with actual spines.

Late night talk show hosts will probably throw a wake for Shelly the Walking Punchline and a few teabagger chumps will mourn, but not many others will. If she's remembered at all in history other than as a footnote, it will be as a prime example of a hamhanded demagogue who lied far too easily and who went to great lengths to avoid responsibility for those lies.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Has 'Rebranding' Actually Made the GOP More Tolerant of Racism?

Tea Party sign - 'Obama's plan - white slavery'
After Mitt Romney's loss to Barack Obama in 2012, many in the Republican Party decided it was time to spiff up the Grand Old Party's image. The Republican candidate lost women and minorities, leaving the party with mostly white Christian male voters -- a demographic on the decline as time goes on and no longer numerous enough to swing an election. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commissioned an "autopsy" of the party's losses and followed by announcing a "rebranding" effort to reach out to minority voters. "If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity," he said.

Unfortunately for all involved, that effort never got beyond the conceptual stage. Part of the problem was that the party had let themselves become captive to populist grifters like Sarah Palin. Serious rebranding would mean shutting down her branch of the party, with its exclusionist messaging and its reliance on perpetual white victimhood. So she and others like her pushed back to protect their gravy train. But the bigger problem was the reason GOP voters found Palin so appealing in the first place -- the aforementioned exclusionist messaging and reliance on perpetual white victimhood. You could rebrand to attract minority voters, you could remain unchanged to keep the current batch, but you could not do both. Republican voters believe in Reagan's racist "welfare queen" myth, with minority voters living off welfare at the expense of white workers. They believe in the form of Affirmative Action -- existing largely in their paranoid imaginations -- that promotes disqualified jobseekers and college applicants, while keeping deserving white candidates down in order to maintain some fictional quota. In short, despite the fact that the very wealthy in this country are disproportionately white and male, they believe that white males are the most oppressed people in America.

That's not going to work very well as a minority outreach message. It soon became clear that the GOP would have to change some policies stances to attract new voters -- and they weren't interested in doing that.

In fact, you could argue that the mere call for rebranding only made things worse. Rightwing conservatives are called reactionaries for a reason; they don't come up with changes to policies or the status quo, they react to and resist them. Look up "conservative" some time. When a conservative says they want change, it means they want to change something back. This isn't change at all, but the opposite. It's an undoing of change -- a dismantling of progress. And so, in their contrary and reactionary little hearts, a call to rebrand became a call to dig in. And a call to reach out to minority voters became a call to let their racist flag fly.

The first outbreak to catch the media's attention occurred at the wingnut Mecca of CPAC. A Conservative Political Action Conference panel titled "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?" got noticed for an outbreak of undeniable, incredibly backward, change-undoing racism, as the  discussion was hijacked by actual segregationists who defended slavery. Ironically, these were people who are called racist because they so are racists. To their credit, plenty of people on the right distanced themselves from the racist crew, but the positions of the right belied their outrage. They still portrayed Trayvon Martin as a thug. They still worshipped at the altar of St. Joe Arpaio. They still bought the "welfare queen" myth. Racism had become an integral part of the Republican Party and the CPAC supremacists were different only in that they'd traded in the dog whistle for the bullhorn.

Which brings us to today.

Raw Story: An aide to the re-election campaign of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has resigned from his position over connections to a white supremacist group. According to Mediaite, Cuban-American conservative activist Roan Garcia-Quintana stepped down after days of intense pressure on the campaign.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation league revealed last week that Garcia-Quintana is a longtime director of the Council for Conservative Citizens, an anti-immigration, pro-white group that has taken a stand against “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

In an interview on Friday with South Carolina’s The State, Garcia-Quintana addressed the controversy by saying that he is not anti-black or anti-Asian, but rather pro-Caucasian.

“Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?” Garcia-Quintana said to The State. “Racist is when you hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them.”

It's awfully easy to get away with racism when you define the word incorrectly. Is it racist to "be proud of your own heritage"? I suppose it depends on what you've inherited. But is it racist "to want to keep your own heritage pure"?

Yes. Yes, it is.

And while it's certainly racist to "hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them," that's also not all that racism is. Racism runs the gamut from full-fledged slavery to getting pulled over for "driving while black." Neither is meant as a method of eliminating another race. When your definition of racism is so narrow that only genocidal motives qualify, it's awfully easy to say you're not a racist -- which, of course, is why Garcia-Quintana used that definition and not the more accurate "someone who doesn't like other races" one.

And here's where Garcia-Quintana racism starts to get shared around in the Republican Party:

Over the weekend, the Haley campaign stood by Garcia-Quintana. Campaign spokesperson Tim Pearson erroneously likened the scrutiny of the white supremacist’s record to the IRS investigations of Tea Party “social welfare” groups.

“The IRS thinks conservatives should be targeted for abuse, but Gov. Haley does not,” said Pearson.

They not only actually thought they could save this white supremacist, they thought it was worth doing. In the end, the pressure was too much and they finally cut him loose, but the fact that they didn't cut him loose immediately shows they're way too tolerant of ugly, blatant, about-as-bad-as-it-gets racism in their midst. And the predictable rush to play the victim card is just too much. You really don't say that it's terribly unfair that someone would single out a white supremacist for criticism. You just don't.

In the end, this is what becomes of the rebranding effort -- it gets dumped by the wayside in a return to victimhood. The minority outreach effort is dead.


[photo via Lisa Pampuch]


Coburn's Hostage-Taking Apparently Not Going Well

Storm debris in Moore, OK
It strikes me that someone, somewhere, has to have a survey in the field tracking Sen. Tom Coburn's position following the tornado that struck Moore in his home state. His actions since announcing that he would hold his own constituents hostage to budget cuts suggest that idea has not gone over well. The signs are all there; his fellow austerians in the GOP aren't willing to back him up and he's become increasing defensive about his position. He's been trying to shift blame away from himself, by accusing those who point out that he's playing politics with disaster of "playing disaster politics." It's the same circular reasoning that bigots you to claim victimhood for their bigotry -- i.e., "I'm the victim of intolerance, because you're intolerant of my intolerance!" -- and it doesn't work any better in this circumstance. Pointing out that Coburn wants to hold his own constituents hostage isn't "playing politics," it's having a firm command of the facts.

As I say, that poll being taken out there somewhere has to show Coburn is getting an earful at home, because he's still on the defensive. On an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Sen. Tom tried to defend his position by not defending it.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) voiced frustration on Thursday with the discussion over whether federal aid provided to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, calling it an example of "typical Washington BS."

During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Coburn boasted about his consistency on the issue, saying that he helped ensure that relief provided after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was offset. Pointing to what he characterized as "$200 billion worth of waste, fraud and duplication," he expressed disdain for lawmakers who borrow money to provide disaster aid.

"So it's morally wrong, it's repugnant to me and it's the lamest excuse career politicians can use, and that's why our country is in trouble. That kind of thinking," Coburn said.

Then came the kicker: "But the conservative senator argued that any debate over spending offsets is motivated by politics, saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a $11.6 billion fund it could use to help victims of the Oklahoma tornado. For that reason, Coburn said, it's unlikely that Congress would even need to pass a bill to provide aid to his state."

 "This is all a game and it's a crass political game because I was being asked these questions before we even pulled the dead people out of the rubble," Coburn said. "So it's just typical Washington BS, quite frankly."

Got that? He's a man of super-integrity because he's demanding someone else's tax dollars be stolen to pay for aiding his constituents. But we shouldn't hold him accountable for that position, because it will never happen. He wants to do this horrible thing, but you shouldn't blame him for it, because he probably won't be able to. And his critics are the ones spreading BS.

Coincidentally, I would like to slash Coburn's tires, but I'll never be able to because he lives and works so far away. So anyone who criticizes me for my criminal impulse is just engaging in "typical Washington BS." I'm completely blameless -- not because I've decided not to do this terrible thing, but because I've determined that I probably can't.

For a Republican, I don't think Coburn have a real solid grasp of this whole "personal responsibility" concept. What he does have is a good grip on his constituents, who in turn seem to have a good grip on his throat.

I don't know what that as yet unreleased survey says, but it has to be brutal. He's trying to back out of this so fast he's spinning his wheels and digging in deeper. Couldn't happen to a nicer hostage-taker.


[photo by DVIDSHUB]


Republicans, Disasters, and Their Idea of a 'Real America'

Battered US flag flying over debris
Steve Benen believes we won't be seeing a big disaster relief fight over the tornado disaster in Oklahoma. I hope he's right. The Republican Party's refusal to fund relief after Hurricanne Sandy was shameful at best, anti-American at worst. While Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn quickly decided to hold his constituents hostage to budget cuts, he doesn't have a lot of allies in that effort. By yesterday, he was already forced into damage control mode and the rest of the GOP was taking the opposite position.

Many prominent Republicans sounded downright Democratic yesterday. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who opposed Sandy relief, said, "Finding some way to offset is not the priority. Meeting the known and immediate needs as quickly as possible is the priority." House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) added, "I really don't think disasters of this type should be offset. We have an obligation to help those people. We'll worry about our budgetary items back here, but the aid has to be there."

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said, "I think they should get every penny they need. I've been through this. We can do the political games later on, the important thing is to get them the aid as quickly as they need it and not to make a political issue out of it." Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) added, "[A]t the end of the day my objective here is to make sure the people here get the help they need in a timely fashion."

"Here's hoping we'll see a return to traditional American norms when it comes to post-disaster aid. For generations," Benen writes. "Congress didn't fight over offsets in the wake of a crisis, it simply moved to help American communities in their time of need. That changed after Republicans took control of the House in 2010, but given GOP reactions yesterday, we may be seeing the first signs that the party is rethinking the utility of its posture."

What we need to remember, however, was that Sandy happened right before the election. President Obama got a little bounce for his competent handling of the crisis and New Jersy Governor Chris Christie praised him for his leadership. It wasn't the deciding factor in the election, but it was a deciding factor, with 41% of respondents in a one exit poll saying it was either the "most important factor" in casting their vote or just an "important factor."
If there's one thing we know about Republicans, it's that they're petty. They made up excuses to hold up Sandy relief, citing non-existent pork. James Inhofe, Oklahoma's other senator, said that it was just a bad time to deal with the problem. "There’s always a lot of theater right before Christmas time..." he said. "We shouldn’t be talking about it right before Christmas." Of course, this was after his party held up the bill for two months.

Of course, Sandy was very different from the tornado in Oklahoma. Sandy wiped out Democratic neighborhoods. Oklahoma is another story. The state voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in a complete rout: 66.8% to 33.2%, In the county where the tornadoes hit, Mitt didn't do as well, but he did extremely well nonetheless: 58.3% to 41.7%.

It could simply be that their unwillingness to aid their fellow citizens in a time of crisis was one of the many things for which Republicans have taken a beating in public opinion. In which case, Benen may get his wish and see a return to normalcy for generations. Their experiment in post-disaster stinginess didn't turn out as well as they'd hoped.

But if the reason for the sudden Republican generosity of spirit is the political identity and demographics of the victims, then probably not. Given the way the party has behaved in recent years, that motivation is not something I would put passed them. Republicans have decided that entire regions of the country are less American than others. It's not unusual to hear a conservative rail against "east coast liberals" or "San Franscisco values." In her run with John McCain, Sarah Palin appealed to small towns as the "Real America," suggesting that urban voters weren't sufficiently American for the Republican party.

Can we trust these people not to punish regions they don't like by withholding aid? Until they prove otherwise, I'm going to say it's at least possible that we can't.


[photo by The National Guard]


A Vanishing Opportunity to Turn the Tables on the GOP

Politico called last week a "political gift" for Republicans. The convergence of three controversies had a fading political party drooling. Of course, Benghazi was an entirely made up conspiracy theory, the IRS story may or may not be scandalous but doesn't involve the White House, and seizing phone records from the AP is the sort of thing Republicans can actually get behind in their never-ending War on Terror.

Still, the press went a little nuts with the stories on an otherwise slow news week and Republicans began to believe the hype. Wall-to-wall coverage of these three stories merged into one rat king of story and the nation was transfixed. Completely and utterly transfixed.

Or were we?

CNN: President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation's capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

According to the survey, which was conducted Friday and Saturday, 53% of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing, with 45% saying they disapprove. The president's approval rating was at 51% in CNN's last poll, which was conducted in early April.

So Americans take these issues seriously, but not seriously enough to change their opinion of the president. "The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama's approval rating over the same time period," the report continues. "And Gallup's daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama's approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey's sampling error."

The only polling that shows the President taking even a hint of a beating over this stuff is the right-leaning and historically inaccurate Rasmussen. So of course, that's the one all the wingnuts are running to -- poll trutherism still runs deep on the right. For them, the accuracy of polling is measured by how well the findings repeat what you want to hear. Other polling the right is ignoring shows people are following their "gift" of a scandal bouquet at "at levels below historic averages" -- suggesting the stories aren't as gripping as the sensationalist press and desperate Republicans would like them to be. I'd say the trio was running out of steam, but I doubt it ever had a full head of steam to begin with.

Now would be the time to take these stories away from the GOP and turn their scandal around on them. If you want an example of a political gift, take the story that Republicans edited emails relating to Benghazi and leaked them to the press. This should be a huge scandal for Republicans; they were caught lying to keep their sinking Benghazi controversy afloat, which does double damage. First, they were exposed while trying to frame the administration and the State Department with counterfeit emails, which is bad enough on its own. But second, it proves that Benghazi is BS, which is more damaging to them -- after all, if the story was solid, you wouldn't have to lie to prop it up.

But the administration is not taking advantage of the GOP's tremendous misstep. And I'm at a loss to explain it. If you get the chance to take control of the narrative, then you take control of the narrative. That should be chiseled into a massive stone monument in the White House basement. They can't make these stories go away, but they can outshine them. If the media moths are drawn to the flame of a trio of "scandals" the GOP is hyping, you just build a bigger bonfire right next to it. Republicans just handed them the match. Contrary to what CNN's pollsters think, the GOP has overplayed their hand here -- drastically and potentially catastrophically -- but someone needs to call them on it. The press isn't, the White House should.

The opportunity is quickly fading. Already, this is turning into a scandal for ABC News, who published the false information, instead of for the Republican Party who leaked it. Yes, ABC's Jonathan Karl is a rightwing tool who was more than happy to aid the cause by reporting the party's BS. But it is, in the end, the party's BS -- not ABC's nor Karl's. The fault for the lie is with the liar, those who knowingly repeat the lie are merely henchmen. But if this media scandal narrative goes on for much longer, Republicans will be -- for all intents and purposes -- let off the hook for a deeply dishonest and shameful act of politically-motivated fraud. It may even be criminal, since it's akin to forgery. It is, without a doubt, a moral failing at the very least. It's an act unbefitting a party in this democracy and another example of how far from the principles of honesty and integrity the GOP has wandered.

But as to why the White House isn't running with it? You got me. Maybe they were just riding out last week, afraid the story would be buried by all the hype, and will pick it up today. But that doesn't seem to be happening. Meanwhile, it's just sticking out there -- a big festering obvious boil on the GOP's butt. There has to be some reason why the administration doesn't reach out and give it a swift kick, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what that reason could be.


[cartoon via Truthdig]


Republicans Need to Dig Up Some Better 'Scandals'

Darrelll Issa at Benghazi hearing
Want a scandal? Here's a scandal:

Salon: Try, if you can, to ignore all the lurid coke-and-sex bombshells contained in the three Department of Interior Inspector General reports about the shenanigans at the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS). The program director who snorted speed off a subordinate’s toaster oven, and made her give him a blow job while driving around the neighborhood. The two “MMS Chicks” who were notorious for getting plastered at conventions and having one-night stands with oil industry employees.

Try — and yes, I know it’s hard — try even to ignore the allegation that one program director told a subordinate that if she could score him some coke during the MMS performance appraisal period, he would increase her performance award. What’s the big deal? Who wouldn’t be motivated by such an incentive? And what’s a little drunken sex and coke binging on government time among friends? It happens to the best of us.

The significance of the three reports delivered by the inspector general to Congress on Wednesday lies not in the prurience of some of the indiscretions, but in the symbolism. The Royalty-in-Kind Program of the U.S. Minerals Management Service is where offshore drilling meets the U.S. government. And gosh, is it ever one heck of a mess. You want a toxic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Just read the reports.

You'll happy to know that this isn't happening now, but in the misty, far-flung past of bustling 2008. This was the Bush administration's scandal and it was bad. The MMS was responsible for leasing federal land for oil and natural gas drilling. And it was corrupt nearly beyond belief. An Inspector General found not only ethical breaches, but criminal misconduct in an agency who's mission had changed under the Bush administration from serving the interests of the American people to making as much money as possible for the oil and gas industry. The agency was basically run by lobbyists, practically guaranteeing malfeasance. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the agency was finally eliminated under Interior Department restructuring.

I don't bring this up to try to distract from the current controversies plaguing the White House, but to make a simple point; as salacious and shocking as it was at the time, no one talks about the MMS scandal anymore. Of course, the Bush administration had four colossal scandals that leap immediately to mind: the failure to take terrorism seriously, resulting in 9/11; the lies and hype about WMD that led to the invasion of Iraq; the awful response to Hurricane Katrina; and the use of torture. There were also warrantless wiretaps, blowing the cover of Valerie Plame, Dick Cheney getting hammered and shooting some poor guy in the face, and some I'm either forgetting or skipping over for the sake of brevity. In the scandal-production department, the Bushies were overachievers.

Still, you'd think that sex and drugs would sustain people's attention. But in the end, people were fired, people were found guilty of crimes, and America moved on. What really sank the story was that beyond the orgy atmosphere, the story became stultifyingly dull. The actual scandal was about the way the payments were made for leases and how those payments were abused. MMS was using a program called "royalties-in-kind" (RIK), where instead of paying rent with actual money, companies would pay in oil and gas, which MMS would then sell to raise revenue. This resulted in a circle-jerk of corruption, with the MMS renting storage for all this oil and gas from pipeline companies and tank farms. All very bad for American consumers and taxpayers -- and all very boring.

What the controversies involving the White House today lack is that easily understandable hook. If the MMS scandal had only been about meth and blow jobs, it might have had more of a lasting impact on the American memory. But the core controversy was something not so accessible. If all you talked about was drug parties and sexual misconduct, you'd be practicing journalistic malpractice because -- as bad as those things were -- they were not the source of the big crimes. And eventually the public just lost interest.

This is the problem Republicans face with Benghazi -- except they don't even have sex parties and drugs to work with. The GOP timeline for their scandal is hopelessly convoluted and overly-complicated -- Occam's Razor hacks it to bits. You barely even get started explaining it and people's eyes glaze over. Beyond making no sense, the Republican Benghazi story is boring as all get-out and too complicated to follow. As a result, no one but Republicans care and no one but Republicans believe the Republicans.

The Tea Party/IRS controversy has a different problem -- once you take a close look at it, it's hard to see what the supposed "scandal" actually is. It's turning out that the IRS scrutinized organizations on both the left and the right and, of those, turned down tax-exempt status for none of the Tea Party groups. Only a lefty group was denied. Further, people are more likely to start wondering how in Hell a Tea Party group can be classified as a charity and not political. If anything, it highlights a flaw in the system, where political groups are getting a free ride on the taxpayers' dime (and isn't the Tea Party supposed to be against things like that, anyway?). They'll make hay with this and throw around a bunch of victim cards, but -- like Benghazi -- this "scandal" has been on life support since the day it was born.

Finally, there's the AP phone records scandal. That's the one that's probably the most genuine and that's the one Republicans are the least interested in. The problem here: Republicans wanted leaks chased down and they're big fans of monitoring private communications in the name of national security. The media will talk about this one a lot, because it involves themselves and their interests, but Republicans are mainly on a fishing expedition here -- they're hoping someone screwed up and seized phone records illegally. If they don't find evidence of a crime, they're walking away from this one.

Unless Republicans can manage to scare up a good old-fashioned hookers-and-blow scandal -- and only hookers and blow -- their second terms scandal line-up is looking a little weak. They're hoping for Watergate and all they have are Whitewaters.


[photo via Des Moine Register]


Using the Threat of Violence to Shut Down Debate

Man sticks finger in face of senior woman
You didn't have to be Nostradamus to see it coming, but I'll take credit for it anyway. When Mayors Against Illegal Guns announced they'd be holding rallies in eight states Mother's Day weekend, I wrote, "Expect armed goons to show up to at least one of these, because if there’s anything the gun nuts really lack, it’s class and a nose for good PR." Lo and behold, at a rally in Pennsylvania, said goons showed up.

PhillyBurbs.com: As victims of gun violence spoke about how universal background checks might have saved a loved one’s life, pro-gun supporters jeered and yelled remarks Saturday in Morrisville’s Williamson Park.

Steve Kesselman of Holland raised his voice above the crowd to briefly talk about the loss of his 20-year-old son from a deadly shotgun blast after an argument last year. 

“My son is dead! His mother cannot enjoy him anymore because of gun violence! Universal background checks is all we’re looking for. I have nothing against guns!” Kesselman yelled into the microphone.

“Do you believe in unicorns?!” a pro-gun supporter yelled from the crowd.

"Gun owners from groups such as Concerned Gun Owners of Bucks County, the National Rifle Association and a New Jersey group called the NJ2As gathered at Williamson Park before the marchers arrived," according to the report. "Many wore guns and rifles."

“I think it’s ridiculous the way they’ve been acting. I’m so numb to the idiots out there," Kesselman said of the armed counter-protesters.

I don't want to refer to my own writing on the subject too often, but I've been on a bit of a tear lately, so the info I've for previous posts is the info I have closest at hand. So I'm going to go ahead and refer back to a post from last week, where I argued that things like armed protests should be taken as open threats of violence on par with terrorism:

So you’ve got people who hate government and want to kill tyrants. And these are the same people who see tyranny under every rock. Polling shows that nearly half of all Republican voters think armed revolution "might be necessary" in the near future. A reasonable person wouldn’t be out of line to wonder when all this tyrant-fighting was going to start and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it could be any second now. And when they hear about a terrorist attack with an unknown motive, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if maybe all this tyrant-killing has finally gotten under way.

When people argue that violence, murder, and assassination are legitimate political tools, brandishing firearms is meant to frighten people into silence. It's bullying and, like all bullies, these bullies are cowards. Anyone who shouts in the face of a peaceful grandmother isn't a model of courage. And anyone who heckles a father speaking about death of his son is not a paragon decorum. These people don't want to have a debate. In fact, they're so terrified of the discussion that they'll show up with guns to try to shut it down. These people call themselves "patriots," but they're really just cowardly thugs. Courageous people don't need to hide behind their weapons.

And they're ineffective thugs, at that. They couldn't shut down the rally in Morrisville and they won't stop the growing movement to reduce gun violence, because the issue is way too important. It's not going to get derailed by a bunch of tantrum-throwing toddlers afraid someone's going to take away their binky. That importance was underscored the very next day, with a Mother's Day mass shooting in New Orleans. Nineteen people were injured while attending a parade, when three men opened fire on the crowd. Two of the victims are children.

So wave your guns around and menace old ladies and jeer at grieving fathers all you want, gun nuts. We're not going anywhere. Every time there's a mass shooting or a dead kid, it strengthens our resolve. And if you feel the need to wave your guns around in a crowd of families and children, you're just proving our point. We're pretty convinced you shouldn't be able to do that.

If you want to have a rational discussion about how to deal with gun violence, that's fine. We may not agree on everything and may walk away as divided as we were before, but that's the way it's supposed to work. Democracy's not supposed to be easy or comfortable all the time. But if your idea of "debate" is to stick a gun in someone's face and tell them to shut up, then we don't have a lot to talk about.

You're nothing but a goon and you're part of the problem.


[photo via PhillyBurbs.com]


A Child-Killer Twice as Deadly as Cancer

Teen with pistol
Mediaite's Tommy Christopher believes he's seeing an epidemic of child-related shootings in recent days. He identifies twelve accidental shootings by children -- nine involving toddlers -- in the month of April. And the string of tragedies continues, with news of a three year-old boy shooting and killing himself in Florida with his uncle's 9mm. Although the gun was left carelessly in a backpack, the state had deemed Jeffrey Walker a "responsible gun owner" and granted him a concealed carry permit. The uncle's gun, no doubt carried out of concern for safety, did absolutely nothing to protect his loved ones against a child's curiosity. This Officially Responsible Gun Owner was arrested and charged with culpable negligence for exposing a minor to a firearm -- a felony.

Christopher's list of incidents is horrifying, including a ten-month-old infant shot in the face by a three year-old and a "four year-old who shot and killed his aunt in a room full of adults, including a sheriff’s deputy who was also a school resource officer."

Christopher includes in his report a "disturbing statistic" from a story about a six year-old shot in the chest by her brother:

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, one-third of all households with children younger than 18 have a gun, and more than 40 percent of gun-owning households with children store their guns unlocked.

The fund also reported that 22 percent of children with gun-owning parents handled guns in their homes without their parents’ knowledge.

Which begs the question: is this a sudden epidemic child-related gun violence or is this just the bloody background noise to American life -- a constant string of tragedies that have become so normal here that we don't give it any more thought than car accidents?

It didn't take much digging to get my answer.

USA Today: In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms — three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in the war in Afghanistan, according to [the Children's Defense Fund].

Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We see guns as much of a threat in their life as we used to see bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Judith S. Palfrey, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the co-author of the New England journal report. "If you look at what's actually killing children and disabling children, guns is one of the major things."

This is nothing new. In 2012, Reuters reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics was calling for "strictest possible regulation of gun sales, as well as more education for parents on the dangers of having a gun at home, to prevent deaths of kids and teens." And even if you're an extremely cautious gun owner, locking your guns away in a gun safe or using trigger locks, you're not statistically doing any good. A 2006 study reports, "Parents who locked their guns away and discussed gun safety with their children were as likely to be contradicted as parents who did not take such safety measures."

In other words, it makes no difference how difficult you make it for kids to get a hold of your guns -- there are so many reckless gun owners out there that your neighbor's carelessness probably cancels you out. And the people who think they've taught their children not to handle guns stand a good chance of being wrong. The same report tells us, "Many parents who were living in homes with firearms and who reported that their children had never handled firearms in their homes were contradicted by their children's self-reports."

No, it's not a sudden epidemic. "People tend to only pay attention to gun safety issues after these mass killings but this is happening all the time to our children and it’s totally preventable," says Angela Sauaia, M.D., Ph.D., of the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine and author of a study on children and guns.

This is the wallpaper in American life -- so constant that we don't see it any longer. A blood soaked status quo where children are sacrificed to some twisted version of "liberty" and -- in a demented and cruel irony -- a completely erroneous conception of personal safety. How many of these firearms that resulted in the deaths of children were supposedly there to protect the family?

We do things about childhood cancer. We fight it. But firearms result in more dead kids in America than cancer -- by a 2:1 ratio -- and people tell us we're completely helpless to do anything about it. For these gun worshipping morons, the answer to gun violence is always more guns. But how do you use a gun to protect a toddler from an unsecured gun? Do you shoot the kid to stop her from shooting herself? Unsecured guns are the problem and it's time we dealt with it.

And can we please put the myth of the "responsible gun owner" being the majority to bed? When studies show that American guns are so loosely secured that locking up your own guns is statistically meaningless in protecting your children, we can safely assume that a huge percentage of gun owners do not deal with their firearms responsibly. If responsible gun owners will have to be inconvenienced by gun safety regulations, then it sucks to be you. But frankly, I don't care. Blame the massive percentage of gun owners who are clowns, not the people who want to protect their kids from those clowns. Put the blame where the blame belongs; not with the regulators, but with the irresponsible and incautious dopes who leave firearms where anyone can get at them. If I just described you (and if you're a gun owner, there's a good chance I did), then too bad -- you suck. Take that energy you're using to be so offended and use it to do something about all your stupidly easily accessible firearms.

We have to have priorities. Putting the safety of children above the ability for any moron to have as many guns laying around as they want is responsible prioritizing. If you own firearms and you don't see that, then you're not a responsible gun owner. As we've already established, you suck.


[photo by spaceabstract]


Poll Shows Guns, Immigration 'Top Priorities' for Voters -- Queue the Rightwing Spin

Spinning carnival ride 
It's a poll that sure to get a lot off attention -- and spin -- from the right. A new Gallup poll shows that most voters rate "reducing gun violence" and "reforming immigration" as top priorities. The problem is that this percentage is on the lower end of the scale from economic issues.

Part of the problem is that Gallup gives their analysis of the poll the completely inaccurate title of "Americans Give Guns, Immigration Reform Low Priority." The poll shows that 55% of Americans rate gun violence and 50% rate immigration reform as "top priorities" and 20% and 32% think that the respective issues are of medium priority. It's hard to see how those numbers are bad news for people advocating for either issue. It's just that fewer are rating those issues as priorities over economic issues. People don't think immigration and gun violence are "low priority," as Gallup's headline would make it seem. Majorities think they're high priority. In fact, Gallup specifically asked in they were low priority and the response was overwhelming. Only 13% believe that immigration reform is a low priority, while 17% believe the same about gun violence.

Gallup even admits to comparing specific apples to very broad oranges:

"Creating jobs" and "helping the economy grow" are of course broad and diffuse goals that do not easily translate into specific legislation. And even though there is significant consensus across party lines that these two issues should be given high priority, there are fundamental party disagreements on the broad approach that can be taken to achieve these goals. These disagreements no doubt have kept the Congress and the president from moving forward on these issues -- but to the degree that these elected representatives feel it is their duty to follow the wishes of those they represent, they would renew their focus on efforts to come to consensus on reaching these goals."

The short take to that is that "creating jobs" and "helping the economy grow" are vague notions that always score high. In answering those questions, respondents could have very different approaches in mind. To one person, these could mean another round of economic stimulus; to another, big giant tax cuts for the "job creators." Meanwhile, gun violence and immigration reform are not only more specific agenda items, but suggest very specific legislation being debated in Washington at this very moment in history. In fact, the more vague the question, the more positive the answer across the board. "Creating more jobs" and "helping the economy grow" score higher than more specific policy-related questions like "reducing the deficit" and "improving access to healthcare." The maddeningly vague but oh-so enticing sounding "making government work more efficiently" scores big, despite the fact that it could mean anything from increasing budgets so departments and agencies don't have to cut corners to privatizing everything and turning the nation into a Libertarian Utopia. It means whatever you want it to mean, so of course it's very popular.

But the big takeaway from this poll isn't that people should forget about gun violence and immigration reform, the takeaway is that prioritizing these issues wouldn't be politically expensive. When majorities say that issues are of top priority, you're doing OK. And even people who say an issue is of "medium priority" won't be disappointed to see it addressed -- after all, they do agree that it's a priority. Despite Gallup's poor wording in their headline, their poll shows that majorities would like to see gun violence and immigration reform addressed as a top priority.

As I said, the right will try to spin this to scare politicians away from these two issues -- in fact, they already are. But anyone who looks at the numbers closely will see that the soft-on-crime and anti-immigrant arguments do very poorly here -- which is why they're glomming onto the headline, instead of the actual report.


[photo via KB35]


If the Right Doesn't Like Being Suspected of Terrorism, They Should Stop Talking Like Terrorists

Tea Partier with sign reading, 'We came unarmed (this time)'
I’m not sure how to start this one, but I know where I want to go with it. So let’s just jump right in.

Associated Press: FBI officials said Monday they foiled a terrorist attack being planned in a small western Minnesota town, but they offered no details about the exact targets of the attack _ or the motive of the man accused of having a cache of explosives and weapons in a mobile home.

The FBI said "the lives of several local residents were potentially saved" with the arrest of Buford Rogers, 24, who made his first appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Rogers, of Montevideo, was arrested Friday after authorities searched a mobile home he’s associated with and found Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms, according to a court affidavit.

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports via Twitter that the FBI told him Buford is a "militia type" -- meaning one of those rightwing extremist domestic terrorists we’ve all been assured are imaginary. And that’s enough to trigger a whine from the right. The wingnut blog Jammie Wearing Fool would like to inform you that the real victim here is the Tea Party:

We’re just applying the mainstream media standard for reportage here. C’mon, a guy name Buford with a so-called assault rifle living in a trailer park? Why he has to be a tea party guy, right? He meets every possible stereotype. Of course we have no evidence to support that assertion, but that hasn’t stopped the left from wild speculation any time there’s a terror incident or mass shooting.

Yeah, no evidence of terrorism -- other than the FBI saying they’ve stopped a terrorist attack. How completely irresponsible of the lamestream media to repeat the things they’re told by law enforcement. No one’s actually saying the guy’s Tea Party, they’re saying he’s a rightwing nutjob. Granted, those would seem to be the same thing at first glance -- and most often are -- but it’s possible to be one without being the other. Think vanilla and French vanilla.

But how whiny is it that JWF feels the need to jump right in immediately and proclaim media victimhood? This seems a bit like a hangover from the Boston bombing. When news of that broke, a lot of people -- responsibly, if you ask me -- warned not to jump to conclusions. It could’ve been an Islamic terrorist or could’ve been a rightwing extremist; we didn’t know.

And that was all it took.The rightwing blogosphere went nuts with victim cards. It turned out that acknowledging the very real possibility that the bombing was the work of a rightwinger was verboten by wingnut political correctness. And now they’re getting into niggling and pointless little distinctions; yes, the would-be mass-murderer was likely a rightwing fanatic -- but don’t you dare say he was part of the Tea Party!

Because... Well, I’m not sure about the because. Just because.

Consider how silly this all is. Imagine that this was the first rightwing domestic terrorist ever. Imagine that such an animal had never been seen in the wild before. But imagine the Republican Party and the Tea Party were exactly the same. They’ve been openly hostile to the very idea of government. They’ve been obsessed with guns and the need for the ability to kill members of the police, military, and government (what do you think "fighting tyranny" would actually look like, after all?). And, while talking about the need to kill tyrants, they also accuse everything they don’t agree with of being "tyranny." For chrissakes, curly fluorescent lightbulbs are supposedly tyranny.

So you’ve got people who hate government and want to kill tyrants. And these are the same people who see tyranny under every rock. Polling shows that nearly half of all Republican voters think armed revolution "might be necessary" in the near future. A reasonable person wouldn’t be out of line to wonder when all this tyrant-fighting was going to start and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it could be any second now. And when they hear about a terrorist attack with an unknown motive, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if maybe all this tyrant-killing has finally gotten under way.

In other words; if you don’t want people to assume you’re a terrorist, don’t spend most of your time talking like a goddam terrorist. If you’re spending a lot of time talking about going to war with the American government and murdering and assassinating your fellow Americans, don’t whine when people assume you’re serious. And now that some rightwing nutjob is almost certainly an honest-to-goodness, for-real terrorist, we’ve got the right whining that Buford is not being classified as the correct kind of rightwing nutjob. Maybe it might be a good time to give it a rest, OK? Maybe turn off the victim machine for a bit, because it’s finally blown a logical gasket.

But if being called a terrorist bothers the right so much, maybe using a threat to use deadly violence any second now as a mantra isn’t the best way to approach politics. Maybe the best way to avoid being accused of terrorism is to stop talking like you’re a terrorist.


[photo via HowieInSeattle]


NRA Turns to the Tried and Failed Politics of the Tea Party

In some ways, new NRA president Jim Porter is the best thing to happen to the common sense regulators’ side of the argument. He approaches the issue with the same subtlety and finesse of a brain surgeon with a sledge hammer. He seems to be an all or nothing, slash and burn type, who practices rightwing politics of exclusion. Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says that Porter drags the National Rifle Association even farther "into the extremist camp."

"With Jim Porter, they’ve gone full crazy," he says.
He also represents just about every failed approach to national politics imaginable. At the NRA convention this weekend, he called for a "culture war" -- I guess because rightwing culture wars have gone so swimmingly lately. And yes, he is far outside the mainstream.

Talking Points Memo: Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.

As I’ve pointed out before, calling for the taking up of arms to "fight tyranny" is just a more pleasant-sounding way of endorsing the assassination and murder of your fellow Americans. And "War of northern aggression" means exactly what it seems to mean; a revisionist take that puts the north at fault in the Civil War, completely ignoring and -- even denying -- the role of racism and slavery in launching that war. The exclusionist aim straight at white voters is unmistakable here and it’s the same tactic that’s cost Republicans black voters nearly universally. "Fake president" is an obvious birther reference. At a time when the Republican Party is trying to shed these tendencies, Porter drags them back in. I doubt he’s making many friends over at GOP HQ.

You might remember Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate who ran in 2010. She was another Todd Akin type and what cost her election -- at least in part -- was her endorsement of "Second Amendment remedies" to deal with what she saw as an unresponsive congress and even to remove her election opponent, Harry Reid, from office. In other words, she pretty much endorsed assassinating Harry Reid and any other congress member who’s politics you don’t like. People found this kind of talk a tad bit terrorist-sounding.

And it's nearly indistinguishable from Porter’s rhetoric. I doubt the average person will like it any better coming from him. So we have an NRA president practicing failed rightwing politics and repeating far-right talking points that everyone else finds insane. But keep in mind that the NRA’s purpose here is different from the GOP’s. The Republican Party’s purpose is to get Republicans elected. The NRA’s purpose is to make money for small arms merchants. The NRA made an alliance with the GOP long ago, but that doesn’t mean they work hand in hand. What Porter’s trying to do here is pretty simple -- collect all the white male voters turned off by the GOP’s rebranding effort under the NRA banner. You get all the racists and the homophobes and the Christian supremacists and various and sundry other extremists, then you try to sell them back to the party. A big problem with the GOP rebranding effort has been in trying to win over new voters, while keeping these frootloops in the flock. Porter seems to believe he can turn these people into single-issue voters and use them as leverage to keep the GOP from caving in when the pressure builds.

And so NRA gatherings start to look like Tea Party rallies -- thinly veiled racism and all. It’s a bad strategy, because eventually the Republican Party will realize that pandering to these voters just plain isn’t worth it. After all, the rebranding effort is the first glimmer of a dawning realization that these people are costing more votes than they bring. But in the meantime, the NRA will do what the Tea Party did -- enable completely insane candidates to win primaries, then lose general elections with their frothing nutbaggery.

On the other hand, what else can Porter do? His "culture war" is already being fought and he’s losing it badly. Gun ownership is down, support for gun regulation is high -- all you can really do is buy time while you try to figure out how to turn this around.

The tone of the NRA convention was triumphalist, but the reality -- as made clear by the NRA’s strategy going forward -- is that their "movement" is treading water.


[photo by Gerald Rich]


White House Makes Bad Call on Plan B

Imagine if flu shots at pharmacies became a political football. People should not have easy access to flu vaccinations, because that only encourages risky behavior like riding in elevators or mass transit, going to public places like shopping malls, and having unnecessary contact with children. If we didn’t allow people easy access to flu vaccines, we wouldn’t be "rewarding" people who engage in this sort of risky behavior. With a more cautious population, the spread of influenza would actually decrease and America would be a better and healthier place because of it.

Right about now, you’re thinking that’s just crazy. And you’re right. Easy access to flu vaccines doesn’t encourage behaviors that lead to getting sick. In fact, pharmacy flu shots reduce the number of hospital stays by American children and does the same for people over fifty. The flu shot at the corner pharmacy doesn’t harm society, it helps it. I don’t imagine you’re very surprised. This is all very common sense and entirely predictable. The argument that easy access to flu vaccines leads to unhealthy behavior and an increase in flu cases is absurd on it’s face.

It’s also the logic behind this:

Wonkblog, Washington Post: The Justice Department filed notice late Wednesday that it will challenge a federal court decision requiring the government to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to women of all ages.

The move came hours after the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives to women 15 and older. Previously, Plan B was available to teenagers younger than 17 only with a prescription. Older women had to request it from a pharmacist.

The Obama administration also asked the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York to stay Judge Edward Korman’s early-April ruling, which is set to take effect Sunday.

“We are deeply disappointed that just days after President Obama proclaimed his commitment to women’s reproductive rights, his administration has decided once again to deprive women of their right to obtain emergency contraception without unjustified and burdensome restrictions,” Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup, who represents the defendants, said.

I doubt the Obama administration actually believes that easy access to emergency contraception will automatically lead to fifteen year-old girls suddenly having all kinds of crazy sex, but that is the argument they’re caving in to. Whether because they think the fight will be a distraction or for some other reason, the White House is willing to side with people making an insane and stupid argument against over-the-counter emergency contraception.

And the most obvious conclusion to draw here is that they think the issue is trivial. So a kid here and there gets knocked up before she’s ready and ruins her future. So what? There are plenty of teenagers where they came from. America will be fine... even if these kids are not.

The fact is that there is no scientific reason for keeping emergency contraception from anyone capable of childbearing. Putting age limits and restrictions on Plan B is a political decision, not one based on health science. It serves no purpose other than to mollify nutjobs who promote an argument as stupid as saying that ambulances cause car wrecks, because people know they can drive irresponsibly and get rescued if things go wrong. The White House wants to avoid a fight with these people -- people who desperately need to be fought and defeated -- for reasons that are unclear. What is clear is that they don’t think teenage girls are worth the bother.

If they had just ignored the "problem," threw up their hands, and said, "Looks like the courts settled it. Let’s move on," it seems likely that there would’ve been very little blowback. The people who want to keep emergency contraception away from teenagers are probably not very numerous. A few anti-choice nutjobs who think all birth control is identical to abortion, mixed with perpetually panicked reactionaries who spend their days terrified that someone is having some sort sex somewhere that they should disapprove of. They’re clawing their eyes out every day over some "outrage" or other anyway. Screw ’em. They like freaking out. Why spoil their fun?

And let’s not just gloss over the problem of crisis pregnancies in teenagers. If they can’t get emergency contraception, that’s bad enough. But they also face more roadblocks to abortion than other pregnant women. The result can be tragic. If there’s one thing we know about women seeking abortion, it’s that they do it because they think it’s necessary. They’ll risk their lives to end a pregnancy -- and there’s no rational reason on Earth why they should have to, especially when you can prevent one in the first place.

Flu shots may not be a political football, but emergency contraception is. The smartest, most responsible thing for an administration to do here isn’t to punt, but to refuse to play football at all.


[photo by Marcus Q]