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EPA: US needs $300B in sewer, water work, NY needs $29.7B in water; fed funding sought


A federal study shows municipalities nationwide need more than $300 billion worth of essential upgrades to long overlooked water and sewer systems over the next 20 years.

The need is acute in Northeastern states with older systems like New York, which needs $29.7 billion worth of improvements, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday. But he said that price is a “just a drop in the bucket” compared to the higher cost of continuing to upgrade parts of sewer and water systems when emergencies strike. He is pushing a bill that would counter planned funding cuts in the federal transportation bill now being negotiated in Washington.

EPA found that the nation’s 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit, non-community water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027,” stated the federal Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, which is updated every four years.

The National Association of Counties’ 2008 report estimated the need for water and sewer upgrades at $300 billion to $450 billion nationwide and the federal stimulus project provided just a fraction of that as the recession reduced local governments’ revenues.

This is a very serious concern,” said Carolyn Berndt of the National League of Cities. “Many communities have a long-term plan to replace all their underground water infrastructure, but even if they do a couple percentages of pipes a year, it’s still going to take over 100 years for some of them to replace it all.”

She said local governments have been paying more than 95 percent of the cost of water and sewer upgrades since the 1990s as federal aid has declined. Schumer said federal aid covered 75 percent of local costs in the 1980s and 1970s.

It’s a huge undertaking,” Berndt said. “Some of these pipes are 100 years old. That’s why they continue to see water main breaks.”

The group supports Schumer’s effort, which comes as Congress works to cut spending.





Nokia cutting 4,000 jobs, moving phone production to Asia


Is following in Apple’s footsteps always a good business model? Nokia has announced they’re moving all assembly of cellphones from Europe to Asia by year’s end in order to be closer to their suppliers. The hope is that the move will enable Nokia to introduce innovations into the marketplace more quickly and “ultimately be more competitive.”
The Finnish company, which cut nearly 10,000 jobs last year, will pare down an additional 4,000 jobs in order to stay aggressive in the smartphone sector. Nokia has seen its dominance of 40 percent global market share in 2008 slip to 30 percent last year as Android and iPhone sales continue to rise. To compete with those smart phones, the Espoo-based Nokia, which employs 130,000 people, recently partnered with Microsoft and launched its new Windows Phone 7 this past October.

It’s another story of manufacturing moving from West to East, but whether it has a happy ending remains uncertain. Apple has been under scrutiny recently for the treatment of workers at its giant manufacturing plants in China.




Outback Steakhouse Is Pushing Florida To Lower Its Minimum Wage For Servers To $2.13 





Largest Catholic University in US covers birth control prescriptions


The largest Catholic university in the nation has admitted to providing contraception coverage as part of its health care benefit package, further undermining the GOP’s claims that Obama’s regulation requiring insurers and employers to offer reproductive health benefits represents and “unprecedented” war against religion. The rule — which exempts houses of worship and nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of faith from providing contraception coverage — mirrors existing requirements in six states.

The employee health insurance plans include a prescription contraceptive benefit, in compliance with state and federal law,” DePaul University spokesperson Robin Florzak confirmed to ThinkProgress. “An optional insurance plan that covers such benefits is available to students, also due to previously established state and federal requirements.” The University notes, however, that it is disappointed with the Obama regulation and hopes to engage in an “effective national conversation on the appropriate conscience protections in our pluralistic country.” Other Catholic colleges and hospitals, including Georgetown and the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, have also admitted to offering birth control benefits.

DePaul’s home state of Illinois is one of 28 to have adopted a contraception coverage requirement. Eight of those states provide no opt-out clause for religious institutions and the administration’s new rule would expand conscience protections to those parts of the country.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that a majority of Americans, including a majority of Catholics, support a contraception coverage requirement.





Over 600 Physicians, including 70 Catholics, Speak Out in Favor of HHS Contraception Ruling 

Doctors for America:




Gov. Scott Walker aide pleads guilty in secret criminal investigation. Details here

Darlene Wink, formerly an aide to Scott Walker in the Milwaukee County executive’s office, pled guilty to two misdemeanors resulting from work she did organizing fundraisers for Walker’s gubernatorial campaign while on the county clock. Wink will cooperate with investigators in the ongoing John Doe probe under her plea deal. Her sentencing will take place on May 15, with a maximum of six months in jail and $2,000 in fines.


The ABC News-Univision game change


The talks between Disney and Univision have set media tongues wagging in anticipation of a new 24-hour news network that would compete with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, and would likely have major ramifications for the cable news industry and for the national political discourse.

At the political level, an ABC News-Univision venture would mark the first 24-hour news network marketed toward English-speaking Hispanics, giving that rapidly growing demographic greater influence in the national discussion.

At the industry level, the new channel would upset the current cable news order, threatening to steal ratings and revenue from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.

No channel is likely to feel the pinch so much as Time Warner’s CNN, which has struggled to keep abreast of MSNBC in the ratings race.

“This would go head-to-head with CNN,” a person with knowledge of the talks told the New York Times yesterday.

Should the two companies reach a deal, it may even force CNN to renew its own talks with CBS on a deal to combine news resources. Those talks, which had been going on sporadically for over a decade, resurfaced in May 2010.

“While such conversations have occurred over the last decade, the current news-business climate, plummeting CNN ratings, ever-shrinking evening-news audiences, and major layoffs at ABC make a deal more logical than ever before,” New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman reported at the time.

But the talks stalled (once again) and later that year CBS president and CEO Les Moonves acknowledged that the deal “doesn’t look good.”

“We tried ten years ago and we tried last year, it’s just been a difficult thing,” Moonves said. “It’s hard to make a joint venture with a division of the company.”

The Disney-Univision talks could stall as well, but there is reason to believe that this deal is far more promising.

Whereas both CNN and CBS were looking to stop losses, ABC and Univision are looking to capitalize on growth. CBS was eager to get out of the news business and CNN was “desperate to do something that [would] keep supporting its ever-diminishing business prospects,” Michael Wolff observed at the time, arguing that both organizations were “ruined artifacts of a former age.”

Univision, by contrast, belongs to the future, serving a U.S. Hispanic population that is set to double within the next forty years. And in addition to owning ABC News, Disney owns ESPN, a cash cow that generates roughly half the value of Disney’s media holdings, according to industry estimates.




Why CNN Suspended Liberal Roland Martin For Offensive Comments But Not Conservative Dana Loesch


Roland Martin has been suspended from CNN after tweeting that, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.” He then insisted that, rather than making a joke about violence against men who are attracted to men, he really just hates soccer: “@DrMChatelain @notjustsexuality well that shows how ignorant you are. I rip on soccer all of the time. Learn to pay attention!”

It’s the second time in a month that CNN commentators have come under fire for controversial comments: Dana Loesch recently cheered reports of members of the United States Marine Corps urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans and suggested that had she been present, she would have joined in. But while Martin apologized and will experience an indefinite suspension, CNN and Loesch refused to apologize for her remarks, and she’s remained on the air.

The clear difference between the two cases? A sense that CNN’s audience was offended. GLAAD, which keeps a careful eye on defamation against gays and lesbians in the media,moved quickly to call for Martin’s dismissal and to track the network’s response to the incident. CNN got the message that its own constituents were upset, and that it would suffer consequences — or at least a lot of annoyance — if it failed to act.

Loesch’s comments on the other hand, offended human rights advocates and decent people everywhere. But that’s not the same as running afoul of an organization with a well-established plan to respond to these kinds of events and a well-worn path to media outlets who would cover and amplify their response. While Loesch’s comments were reprehensible, there was also no organized group who was likely or able to hold CNN accountable for her words, and for continuing to let her appear on-air without penalty.

Taken together, the way CNN handled Martin’s and Loesch’s comments makes it look like CNN has no consistent internal values, and no internal standard for how to respond when it commenters express sentiments that are an anathema to those values. I’m glad to know, per CNN’s statement, that “Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated.” But why should it take several days of consideration for CNN to arrive at that conclusion? If the network’s truly committed to the proposition that violence against gay people is no joking matter, that’s something it should know in advance, and CNN should have a personnel policy in place to determine what the appropriate penalty is when someone violates their standards. Similarly, whether Loesch’s comments violate CNN’s internal values shouldn’t be something that’s determined by the level of outrage outside the network’s headquarters.





Why Do Liberals Support Drone Strikes?

Oliver Willis:

There is a little bit of garment-rending in progress about a new Washington Post poll that shows liberals strongly supporting the government’s program of using drones to take out terrorist targets. I don’t quite understand the confusion.

When it comes to taking out terrorists not on U.S. soil we have three options:

1. Let them go free
2. Use drones, incurring collateral damage
3. Put troops on the ground, putting soldiers at risk along with incurring collateral damage

The option of using international cooperation to round up these guys — the preferable option — is simply not viable in Pakistan, where much of this activity is taking place. As the Bin Laden operation showed us, terrorists are able to operate within a stone’s throw of Pakistan’s government without them lifting a finger to stop it. Their government is an impediment.

So, faced with those three options, we’ve opted for the drones. They are not perfect by a long stretch, but after over a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the least bloody option that kills terrorists.

I’m not surprised that even among liberals, this is a strategy that meets with approval.

The numbers go down slightly if the target is a U.S. citizen, but again most of us view an American working with Al Qaeda on foreign soil as just another agent of that organization.

(It’s worth pointing out that the usually deceptive Glenn Greenwald writes about drone strikes saying, “Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds.” I don’t deny that innocent people have been killed by drone strikes, but Greenwald writes it like these people are intentional targets. They aren’t. Those of us who support the drone strikes shouldn’t pretend as if they are clean weapons, but those opposed should be honest as well.)

I totally understand the dangers in giving the president the sole power to designate terrorist targets. I’m not comfortable with that much power residing in the executive office. I would trust Barack Obama with that power, but not George Bush, so I don’t trust any president with it.

But I think the view of many who have these positions opposed to drone strikes and the like take a dispassionate view of this conflict that most don’t have. While we shouldn’t let emotion cloud things, we also can’t discount the unique toll of Al Qaeda-based terrorism on America’s psyche.

People want to get these guys, and it appears as if these drones are one of the best ways to get the job done, regardless of who the president is.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I still support closing the prisons in Guantanamo Bay and have found the sniveling opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to closure to be disgusting. My guess is the death of Bin Laden and kill/capture of other Al Qaeda have made people less anxious about the war on terror and that’s why Gitmo closure isn’t the sticking point it once was. Still, we should close it.





ABC News: Obama’s first 2012 TV blitz: 5,000 ads in 6 days 

President Obama’s re-election campaign ran more than 5,000 TV ads in six days last month, its first major advertizing blitz of the 2012 cycle, according to a new report by the Wesleyan Media Project.

The on-air offensive, which touted Obama’s “unprecedented” record on ethics reform and investments in the green energy economy, targeted 25 media markets in six swing states: Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The buy cost an estimated $1.4 million through Jan. 25, Wesleyan found.

“Advertising market placement is like a tell, and it is clear that the Obama campaign views these battleground states as most important at this stage of the game,” said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

The Obama campaign explained the placement last month as an attempt to rebut attacks on the president by pro-Republican super PACs over the same airwaves.

Americans for Prosperity, mentioned specifically in the Obama ad, said last month it planned to spend an estimated $6 million on TV ads attacking Obama in the same states.

The Wesleyan Media Project says the Karl Rove-backed group Crossroads GPS and the American Petroleum Institute were also active in those markets, running hundreds of ads combined in several months.

Americans for Prosperity aired 2292 total spots in 26 markets during those same dates, while the American Petroleum Institute aired 78 of their 1495 in 15 markets during the same dates, Wesleyan reported.

“I can’t remember a time when so many groups were so involved in general election advertising so early,” noted Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

“Outside groups are spending more money per ad than candidates, which makes examining the balance of actual ads voters are seeing very crucial when attempting to tease out their influence,” she added.

The top three cities that saw the Obama ad most were Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Green Bay, Wis., where it aired a combined 933 times.

The 30-second spot also ran more than 200 times in Madison, Wis., Detroit, Cleveland, and Roanoke, Va.




No, it is NOT hypocritical for Obama to take SuperPAC money

Mother Jones:

President Obama has publicly condemned the Citizens United decision and has publicly opposed the role of Super PACs in campaign finance. Recently, though, he signed off on a plan to actively support Priorities USA Action, a leading Democratic Super PAC that’s had trouble raising as much money as its Republican counterparts. “We’re not going to fight  this fight with one hand tied behind our back,” explained Obama’s  campaign manager. “With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.”

Is this hypocritical of Obama? For the thousandth time, no, no, no. The playing field is the playing field, and once a public policy has been legally put in place you’d be a sap not to play by the same rules as everyone else. If you oppose the mortgage interest deducation as a matter of policy, you still have every right to take the deduction as long as the rest of the country keeps it in place. If you’re a Republican governor who objects to the stimulus bill, you’d be actively irresponsible not to take your share of the money once it’s there. If you oppose earmarks, you still have an obligation to your district to take them as long as they exist.

This trope needs to go away. Seriously. Just deep six it. We should never hear this nonsense again.




White House gives Mitt Romney a social issues death hug

Greg Sargent:

It’s interesting that the White House rolled this one out just after Mitt Romney’s drubbing in three contests yesterday — one that was largely driven by Romney’s inability to connect with social conservatives.

At the press briefing just now, White House press secretary Jay Carney twice highlighted the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported a contraception policy that was very similar to the one Obama has now adpoted, to much criticism.

Romney has been attacking Obama over the issue, and Carney was asked to respond.

The former governor of Massachusetts is an odd messenger on this, given that the services that this rule would provide for women around the country are the same as those that are provided in Massachusetts, and were provided when he was governor, including contraception,” Carney said.

It’s ironic that Mitt Romney is criticizing the president for pursuing a policy that’s virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts,” Carney added.

A reporter asked Carney whether this meant the White House agrees with Rick Santorum on the issue. This was intended as a joke, but it’s actually pretty meaningful, and goes to the heart of what the White House is accomplishing here.

By pointing out the similarities between Obama and Romney on contraception, the White House is in effect giving Romney a social issues death hug. Carney, inentionally or not, is encouraging a dynamic that could further damage Romney in the GOP nomination process: The better Santorum does, the more social issues will come to dominate. And the more Romney has to move to the right on them, in a campaign he had bet would be all about the economy, and at a time when Romney had hoped to be moderating his image in preparation for the general election.

This social issues death hug is similar to the health care death hug that the White House gave Romney some time ago by pointing out the similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare. But in some ways social issues could be more problematic.

As Ronald Brownstein noted today, the three contests Romney lost to Santorum last night contain ominous signs for him, because social conservatives dominate in all of them. And in all three of them, the number who came out to vote for Romney dropped sharply from four years ago. So Romney’s struggles to make headway with social conservatives will continue.

Even if Romney is still the favorite for the nomination, the more the debate shifts towards social issues, the worse it could get for his overall chances. With the economy improving, and with the controversies over contraception and Proposition 8 flaring up, that may be what’s happening, to Romney’s detriment.

It’s a dynamic the White House seems happy to encourage in whatever way it can.




The New York Times:

Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge….
Please note that this is an “escalating political fight” even though polls show that clear majorities of Americans — and Catholics — support birth control coverage. The leadership of the Catholic Church is peeved, but rank-and-file Catholics aren’t. So why is this a firestorm?
It’s a firestorm, I think, because the American political elite teems with high-profile right-wing Catholics — among them converts such as Newt Gingrich, Robert Bork, Sam Brownback, Laura Ingraham, Lawrence Kudlow, and Ramesh Ponnuru. There’s been a concerted effort in recent years to win influential wingers over to the Catholic Church (Father John McCloskey, a prime mover in this effort, was described in a 2002 Slate article as “The Catholic Church’s K Street lobbyist”); the effort seems to be the political equivalent of Scientology’s focus on converting famous entertainers.
When you combine all these wingnut Catholic converts with birth Catholics who are prominent right-wingers (William Bennett, Scalia/Thomas/Roberts), you get a Catholic-winger noise machine that can convey the sense within the Beltway that Catholics believe a certain thing when, in fact, only prominent right-wing Catholic pols and pundits believe it in great numbers.

This is a great mechanism for fooling easily spooked non-right-wing Catholics such as Cokie Roberts and E.J. Dionne — both of whom have engaged in fretful hand-wringing about the terrible political misjudgment President Obama has allegedly made. Well, it really does looks like a terrible decision — if the only Catholics you encounter regularly are your Georgetown cocktail party pals.




Birth Control and the ‘Obama Independents’

Ta-Nahisi Coates:

Sarah Kliff parses the numbers on birth control, insurance, religion and the illusive independents:

And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all. Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.

Those two demographics are important here for a key reason: they were crucial to Obama’s victory in 2008. Third Way crunched the numbers earlier this month and found that the “Obama Independents” — the swing group that proved crucial to his 2008 victory — are, as Ryan Lizza put it, “disproportionately young, female and secular…”

These voters have tended to be difficult for abortion rights supporters to engage on reproductive health issues like abortion. Research from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which I wrote about last weekend, found a significant “intensity gap” there, with abortion rights supporters much less likely to see it as a crucial voting issue than their anti-abortion counterparts.

But when the conversation moves away from abortion to contraceptives – as it has this week – the intensity gap flips: A much larger segment of voters are willing to penalize a legislator who votes to defund family planning. That became apparent in polling that Democratic firm Lake Research Partners did earlier this year, which found that 40 percent of voters would be less likely to support a member of Congress who votes to defund family-planning programs. Just 22 percent would be more likely to support such a lawmaker.

Two things:

1.) I think it really helps to separate Obama independents–disproportionately “young, female and secular”–from the broad nebulous “Independent voters” that we are all so fond of invoking. Everyone claims to appealing to “independents.” I think that has more to do with connotations and branding (independent=”thinks for self”) than the actual make-up of a candidates support.

  1. The difference numbers for Catholics and White evangelicals are really interesting. It’s almost as if the issue for Republicans, isn’t so much a hard pitch to Catholics, as it is a hard pitch to white Evangelicals, with the hope of clipping off some conservative Catholics along the way.




Keep Going John Boehner!

Bob Cesca:

Here’s Speaker of the House John Boehner speaking out against the Obama Administration’s requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays.

If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” Boehner said. “This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand.”

The Speaker said the House would take matters into its own hands with committee hearings and legislative action to push back if the administration declines to act.

In the days ahead, the House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately, through regular order and the appropriate legislative channels,” Boehner said. He called on the Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, to take steps against the rule and “consider all possible options.”

Yes! Do it!

Please, take time out of congress’s busy schedule to legislate reproductive healthcare. Please, display to the nation that the culture war is more important to you than jobs or the economy. Demonstrate to America that nothing will get you moving like the tyranny of contraception.

Whatever action the House of Boehner takes, it will never become law. They’re just flailing. And I encourage them to keep going! Show America your ass.




Barack Obama’s brilliant play on birth control

The People’s View:

[…] Barack Obama is a transformative president who has far-reaching policy triumphs and who has never been afraid to take the political risk to do the right thing. But he is also the man whose political acumen has Republicans scared. Even post the GOP electoral gains of 2010, President Obama wrapped the Republicans in their own petard, so to speak, and won policy as well as political victories over the GOP on the debt ceiling fight, on instituting and extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, and even on some parts of his jobs agenda.
Here comes another one: birth control. The beltway media thinks that it’s a public relations disaster for the Administration for applying the law as it has been over more than a decade (only difference being under the Affordable Care Act, it is now freeand trying to protect the religious freedom of employees of religion-affiliated civil institutions from the religious dicta of their employers. Catholic bishops (who are at odds with the majority of American Catholics) are demanding for their Church-run (but non-church) public civil institutions the ability to shirk laws every other employer has to abide by. But as Rachel Maddow said last night, there is another way to look at this: {VIDEO}

Contraceptives are, as Rachel points out, far more a women’s issue than a Catholic/religious issue. 99% of sexually experienced women have used contraceptives, and 98% of Catholic sexually experienced women have, too. Thanks to this universal use of birth control, we just found out today that teen pregnancy and abortion rates are at a record low. The Republican position would raise the barrier to women for obtaining birth control, and women are not likely to stand by and let that happen. Women’s health care defenders are not limited to the Democratic party, either.

“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,” Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for Choice, told me Wednesday.“You could see the same backlash on attacks on contraception.”
Ferguson calls the Republican rhetoric on contraception “crossing the line” — taking the discussion away from choice issues (where Republicans can find some broader, if still national minority constituency) and into the realm of the fringy extreme.
“For the last number of years, we in the pro-choice community in general — and we specifically as Republicans — have been saying as this pandering to a sort of social conservative faction of voters continues, you’re going to see the line pushed further and further and further,” she said. “And we’re now crossing the line from discussion of when we should regulate abortion to when we should now regulate legal doctor-prescribed medications like birth control, which is woven in the fabric of society as an acceptable medication.”

These are Republican, pro-choice women finally standing up to their own party’s destructive agenda to sacrifice women’s health priorities at the alter of a sick notion that, as my friend rootless_e pointed out on Twitter, women employed by religiously-affiliated civil institutions are chattel for their employers. Just as nearly every woman in America, these women are drawing a line against the GOP attack on a basic health care need for women: birth control.

Americans are rightly protective of our freedom of (and from) religion. But we keenly understand that such freedom applies to individuals, and not to the claimed ability of Churches to ignore the law in the public, civil institutions they run that take money just as well from non-Catholics and people who have no interest in the religion. Media Matters reports on a new poll out today showing exactly that: strong majorities of Americans supporting the requirement that employer provided insurance plans include birth control as preventive care. In fact, American Catholics, in sound rejection of the position of the Church, agree even more strongly.

Support among women is more than likely even higher. I suspect the politically astute Obama was well aware of these statistics before his administration took the right decision. The President and his team also know:

  • Not only does he have a majority support from Americans and American Catholics in general on this issue, even Republicans don’t speak with one voice on this, as we have seen above. In fact, the GOP kerfuffle will only reflect on the extremism of the current GOP, as opposed to the Republican party of even a decade ago, when a bunch of Republican senators cosponsored a bill to establish parity for contraceptives in health plans and provided no exemptions for religiously affiliated civil institutions.
  • Mitt Romney’s protestations on this only exposes his flip-flopping history. As late as 2005, Romney required health plans in Massachusetts to do the same thing.
  • Even in the reddest of the red states, attacks on women’s health and body parts and attempts by a collusion of states and churches to practice medicine on women have failed, and failed spectacularly. And wouldn’t you know it, a big part of that spectacular failure was… the fact that these “personhood” amendments would likely outlaw birth control.
  • The Catholic Church can cause a media frenzy, and the Republican candidates can exploit this nontroversy for their internal “who’s more into a 12th century Europe” contest, but (a) this is not the issue that will decide the election and (b) it will only bring more women to vote for Obama.

Plainly put, you don’t screw with birth control, even if you are the Catholic Church.

Yet, what are the headlines you see today in the beltway media? It’s all about how the GOP is smelling blood and has found an issue they can pick a fight with the Obama administration on in an election year. Do you really think that the President was unaware that the GOP would try to exploit this? I don’t think so. In fact, one could intelligently deduce that the strategy of announcing this rule and once the Republicans started screaming, of letting them ratchet it up is precisely in order to expose the modern day Republican party as the instigators of “personhood” for fertilized eggs and opponents of birth control.

Remember how the President won the other battles I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The first step was always – to the impatient whining of many – to expose the extremism of the GOP. The first step was always to lay their extreme philosophies bare in front of the American people while being open to reasonable compromise that in no way sacrifices the most important principles for the president (in this case, protecting women’s access to health care). The President has followed the same method on every one of these fights: let the GOP scream, take up the mantle of reasonable-ness, and expose the GOP for who they are: reactionary social radicals who cannot be trusted. He hands them enough rope and then puts them in a corner.

And what do you think the President is doing now? You see Obama surrogates talking about being open about ‘resolving’ this with a reasonable compromise, but not once backing off their commitment to protecting women’s access to birth control. In the mean time, the Republican field of candidates and the extremist members of Congress are openly going after women’s health care. This is textbook Obama:the GOP is now being handed rope while the President takes up the role of the only adult in the room. The Republicans are too busy boxing themselves into a corner against women’s health to notice what is going on underneath the media headlines in the real American mainstream.
From the inception of the Obama presidency – no, the Obama candidacy – the Republican party has continuously made the same mistake. In their hatred of President Obama – driven in equal parts by his policies and his skin color – and in their zeal to pander to the extremists in their own midst, they have forgotten that there is a real America outside of the bubble that they call the modern GOP. That there are real people in that real America who want their government to do its job so they can get and do their jobs. That those people care about health care for themselves, their parents, their husbands, their wives, their brothers, their sisters, their sons, their daughters.
President Obama has not forgotten that fact. President Obama knows who he’s fighting for. And President Obama is brilliant once again on showing the American people the ugly truth about extremist Republican party.





Pro-Choice GOP Warns Party That Contraception Fight Will Be A Disaster 


Pro-choice Republicans are begging their party to drop this fight over contraception before it’s too late. Turning to a discussion about access to birth control will be nothing short of a disaster, they say.

The new and unexpected war over contraception may not end up as only a battle between the White House and the Republican party. It could end up as a fight between the GOP and itself. As we saw during the 2011’s push to defund Planned Parenthood — when some Republican Senators rebuked their colleagues in the House for attacking the organization — Republicans on Capitol Hill do not speakwith one voice on matters of women’s health. Now, as Speaker John Boehner seemingly prepares to turn the House GOP’s attention to contraception, pro-choice Republicans are warning that the GOP may become the next Komen For The Cure.

“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,” Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for choice, told me Wednesday. “You could see the same backlash on attacks on contraception.”

Ferguson calls the Republican rhetoric on contraception “crossing the line” — taking the discussion away from choice issues (where Republicans can find some broader, if still national minority constituency) and into the realm of the fringy extreme.

“For the last number of years, we in the pro-choice community in general — and we specifically as Republicans — have been saying as this pandering to a sort of social conservative faction of voters continues, you’re going to see the line pushed further and further and further,” she said. “And we’re now crossing the line from discussion of when we should regulate abortion to when we should now regulate legal doctor-prescribed medications like birth control, which is woven in the fabric of society as an acceptable medication.”

She pointed to widely-reported polling showing that a majority of Americans — and a majority of Catholics — support the White House policy and urged her party to take a step back before it’s too late.

A high-profile debate over contraception will only serve to alienate voters and deny Republicans the White House in the fall, Ferguson suggested.

“There’s a big leap between people who vote at a Republican caucus and the majority that will vote in a general election,” she said. “I think pigeon-holing the party as against women’s health in general not only hurts the party, but it hurts our key candidates.”




Wonkette: Democratic Senator Mocks Crazies With ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’ Amendment 




CPAC Won’t Renounce White Nationalist


The American Conservative Union is standing by its decision to permit a panel at CPAC that includes a leading white nationalist figure, Peter Brimelow.

“CPAC is proud to have more than 150 sponsors and exhibitors this year,” said spokeswoman Kristy Campbell in an email. “This panel was not organized by the ACU, and specific questions on the event, content or speakers should be directed to the sponsoring organization. Cosponsors and affiliated events do not necessarily represent the opinions of the American Conservative Union.”

The group’s Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off tomorrow with a host of important figures on the right, including presidential candidates and current legislators — and with a lineup that tends to define the limits of the conservative movement. In the past, skirmishes over the inclusion of gay conservatives have been central, but this year’s hottest debate appears to be over race.

Brimelow is the founder of, named after Virginia Dare, the first child born to English settlers in America. He’s set to speak at a CPAC event called “The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the pursuit of diversity is weakening the American Identity.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Brimelow as a “White Nationalist” and his website as a hate site. Brimelow advocates against immigration and multiculturalism, which he has written “risks making America an alien nation.”

His website publishes the work of white supremacist authors like Kevin MacDonald and Jared Taylor, a proponent of so-called “racial realism.”




Frank Rich on the National Circus: Mr. ‘Inevitable’ Pummeled Again

Where are we now?
We are just where we have been. The Republican party does not have a candidate for president. The deck keeps being reshuffled, and different jokers keep popping up to the top. But the 75 percent of the party that does not want Mitt can’t and won’t coalesce over any of the alternatives. Nor will it warm up to the guy it keeps being told is the “inevitable” front-runner. The lack of GOP enthusiasm for its own field can be seen in its turnout — down again last night, as it was in Romney’s Florida victory.

Romney was on a roll. He got crushed. Where does Romney stand now? Were we all overrating the importance of political momentum?

Momentum hasn’t worked for Romney or Gingrich, and probably won’t work for Santorum, either. But the bigger story here is how devastating this loss was for Romney. Yes, these pseudo-primaries were “meaningless.” Yes, Romney still has more money, more organization, and more delegates (of the few awarded thus far). But a Washington Post/ABC News poll released just before these contests found that by a margin of more than two to one, Americans say that the more they learn about Mitt, the less they like him, and last night added further proof. The standard interpretation of Mitt’s triple defeat on cable news (regardless of network) is that “conservatives rejected Romney.” But who exactly isn’t rejecting Romney? He couldn’t even fill up his headquarters when speaking last night in Denver. And then he gave a talk that reminded anyone who was watching how hollow and fake a candidate he is. He mixed stilted punch lines from his tired anti-Obama script with a bit of hilariously tone-deaf populist posturing — claiming that his father, a fabulously successful auto executive, began his career as some sort of nail-spitting blue-collar carpenter. Hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at these performances. Americans of all stripes seem to abhor Mitt the way nature abhors a vacuum.
But doesn’t the GOP Establishment still like Mitt? And won’t it keep propping him up?
They are certainly trying to. It was a revealing moment that on CNN last night — at the late hour of 11:20 ET — one of its “expert” talking heads, the former Bush administration flack Ari Fleischer, flatly reassured his credulous fellow panelists that his sources “on the ground” authoritatively told him that Romney would win Colorado. That was the desperate, out-of-touch voice of the GOP Establishment speaking — and again engaging both in denial and wishful thinking. Not long after Fleischer’s pronouncement, Mitt lost to Santorum by 5 percent — despite a serious Romney campaign effort in the state and despite having won Colorado in a landslide over McCain four years ago. Fleischer’s Dewey-Beats-Truman prediction was another example of the GOP Establishment being clueless about what’s happening “on the ground” in its own party or in America. Similarly, another pillar of that Establishment, Peggy Noonan, dismissed Mitt last week as merely an inept stand-in for Jeb Bush — who isn’t running — and yet still predicted, illogically, that Obama would lose in the fall. What you see with the GOP Establishment is a bunch of chickens that sense the sky is falling and are running around with their heads cut off.
Does this new Santorum surge mean the religious right isn’t dead, after all?
Time for America to start Googling “Santorum” again! If his surge marks a last stand of the much-diminished religious right, the timing could not be more in conflict with American culture right now, from the new victories for same-sex marriage in California and Washington state to the Super Bowl, which was watched by nearly as many Americans as voted in the last presidential election, few or none of whom protested Madonna’s homoerotic halftime spectacle. If the GOP wants to run in 2012 by vilifying gay families — or opposing heterosexual contraception — the Democrats are even luckier than it seems.
And finally, whither Newt?
Newt’s ego and hatred for Romney will be the gifts that will keep on giving (to Obama) — at least as long as Sheldon Adelson keeps giving him (and/or his unofficial PAC) big checks. Newt has nothing to gain by dropping out. Given his Georgia roots and uninhibited playing of the race card, he may actually fare better in some quarters of the GOP primary electorate in the South than Romney. This race is so askew from its predicted narrative that anything can happen — another Gingrich comeback, or, we can always pray, maybe an independent run by Donald Trump, who could turn on Mitt as quickly as he turns on any celebrity apprentice.




Ezra Klein — The GOP’s new push to defang the CFPB

Republicans couldn’t stop President Obama from installing Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But they hope they can rein the bureau in by passing legislation. The House GOP is now moving forward with bills that would remove the CFPB director from overseeing the Federal Deposit Insurance Company and allow Congress to directly control its funding every year. The bills are DOA in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But the GOP’s new bills provide a clear guide to what is likely to happen to the CFPB if Republicans take full control of Congress and/or the White House.

Even before the Cordray appointment, Republicans objected to the basic structure of the CFPB, which Sen. Richard Shelby described as having “unfettered power over the American people” under the authority of an “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat.” Under the new bills from Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.), Cordray would be removed from his new seat on the board of the FDIC, and the bureau would be subject to the regular appropriations process under the Treasury Department — handing the purse strings over to Congress. Under Dodd-Frank, which created the bureau, the CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve, which isn’t subject to congressional appropriations. There’s also a bill to ensure that information collected by the bureau is subject to attorney-client privilege.

At a Wednesday hearing in the House Financial Services Committee, the American Bankers Association — which criticized the recess appointment of Cordray — had ample praise for the GOP legislation. “There needs to be an effective check and balance on the Bureau’s authority,” said Michael Hunter, the ABA’s chief operating officer, according to his prepared remarks. “On funding of the Bureau, we believe that the Bureau should be accountable to Congress to show how it is using its resources.” Hunter also argued that consumer protection was not integral to the FDIC’s mission to support a safe, sound the banking industry. “There is no question that consumer protection policies could be created that act in conflict with safety and soundness,” Hunter said.

Supporters of the CFPB believe the bills are an attempt by Republicans to weaken and defund the CFPB under the guise of reform and good governance. In the last budget, for example, Republicans pushed for big cuts to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — two other agencies that are critical to Dodd-Frank — and they’d likely to do the same with the CFPB if Congress were given funding oversight, says Michael Greenberger, a former CFTC official and law professor at the University of Maryland.

Congressional Democrats share similar concerns. “Chairman Johnson has said repeatedly that he is not interested in making structural changes to the Consumer Bureau that would weaken critical new protections that American consumers deserve,” says Sean Oblack, a spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, chair of the Senate Banking Committee. (He added, however, that Johnson planned to work with Republicans to make sure information shared with the CFPB “is subject to same privilege-waiver protections” as with other bank regulators.)

In fact, House Republicans passed a bill last summer to restructure the agency, changing the directorship from a single official to a five-member board and creating a new Congressional review process to oversee the CFPB’s newly issued regulations. The bill never went anywhere with the Senate, and the new legislation isn’t likely to either. But having been rolled on Cordray, Republicans are taking up new ways to continue pushing back and lay down a marker should the 2012 elections go in their direction.

Ron Paul plays this music video at all his appearances. Really.

Note the lyrics about “the Bilderberg Group.”




Today’s Dilemma for Conservatives

Kevin Drum:

This cracks me up:

Florida’s poor can use food stamps to buy staples like milk, vegetables, fruits and meat. But they can also use them to buy sweets like cakes, cookies and Jell-O and snack foods like chips, something a state senator [Ronda Storms] wants stopped.

….[Her] bill would also require the state to launch a culturally sensitive campaign to educate people about the benefits of a nutritious diet. Supporters say it would help recipients follow healthy eating habits and prevent taxpayer funds from being used to purchase luxury foods like bakery cakes when they can whip up a cheaper box mix.

What a dilemma. On the one hand, this bill promotes the exact same nanny-state behavior that Republicans howl about when Michelle Obama or Michael Bloomberg starts nattering on about salt consumption or fatty foods. On the other hand, it punishes welfare recipients, something that’s always good for a round of applause from right-wing audiences. What’s a conscientious conservative to do?



A Staggering Drop in Support for Mitt Romney 

JM Ashby:

There were early signs that Mitt Romney would lose the Minnesota and Missouri primaries last night, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted he wouldn’t win a single county in either state.

You can view the Minnesota results here.



You can view the Missouri results here.

As ThinkProgress points out, the reason for this epic fail by Team Romney is an abysmal drop in voter support for Mitt Romney between 2008 and 2012.

Abysmal may not even be a strong enough word. The drop in support is simply staggering.

Romney won Colorado with 60 percent of the vote four years ago, and its demographics favored the candidate, but this year, Romney won just 34.9 percent of the vote, coming 6 points shy of Santorum. In Minnesota, which Romney won with 41 percent of the vote in 2008, he won just 16.9 percent last night — coming in third behind Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). And in Missouri, Romney was down slightly, from 29 percent in 2008 to 25.3 percent last night. […]

In some places, Romney’s collapse was even more stunning. As the New York Times’ Nate Silver noted, “Romney’s stronger areas in [Colorado] were associated with turnout declines of about 20 percent. But turnout was steady or slightly up in places where Rick Santorum did well.” For instance, in Pueblo County, where turnout was actually up, Romney took just 27 percent of the vote — a huge drop from the 62 percent he won in 2008. And in the Denver suburbs, which Romney won, he was still way down from 2008. In Douglas County, Romney went from 72 percent in 2008 to 46 percent; in Arapaho County, he went from 66 percent to 45 percent; and in Jeffferson County, he went from 65 percent to 39 percent.

Like Bob, I still believe Romney is going to be the Republican nominee for president regardless, but I’m also beginning to think he’s going to be a weaker nominee than any of us had anticipated.

It’s probable that conservative voter enthusiasm and general support for Romney will harden after he becomes the nominee and President Obama is the one and only target, however the drop in support for Romney has been so staggering even a modest increase in solidarity won’t be enough to fill the chasm.

This should not be taken for granted or be seen as a justification for complacency. The 2012 election may be between Barack Obama and “Meh Romney,” but the stakes are far too high to sit comfortably.




Another Bain exec revealed as man behind corporate donor to pro-Romney super PAC 

Center for Public Integrity:

A mysterious corporate donor to an outside spending group supporting Mitt Romney’s campaign for president isn’t a corporation at all, but a former executive of Romney’s old employer, Bain & Co., and his wife, according to records.

Super PAC “Restore Our Future” reported a $250,000 donation from a firm called Glenbrook LLC on its disclosure report released Jan. 31. On Tuesday, the group amended its filing, dropping Glenbrook and replacing it with the names Jesse and Melinda Rogers.

Both are listed as having made $125,000 contributions. Jesse Rogers works in “investment management” at Altamont Capital Management. Melinda Rogers’ occupation is listed as “homemaker.”

Rogers is a former executive of Bain & Co., the management consulting firm that Romney helmed during the early 1990s. Rogers worked for 16 years at Bain where he founded and led the firm’s private equity group until 2000.
Between 2004 and 2011, Rogers and his wife donated $88,000 to Romney’s presidential campaigns and state and federal level political action committees, according to records. During the past year, Rogers also gave $28,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $2,500 to failed GOP presidential candidate former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rogers also contributed the legal maximum of $2,500 to Romney’s presidential campaign last year, as did Melinda and their daughter Jennifer.

Neither Rogers nor a representative of Restore Our Future could immediately be reached for comment.

If this story has a familiar ring to it, that’s because it’s happened before.

In August, Ed Conard, a former managing director at Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded in 1984 along with two other Bain & Co. executives, ‘fessed up to being the face behind a $1 million corporate donation from a group called W. Spann LLC — which incorporated in Delaware and disbanded before the contribution came to light.

Restore Our Future later adjusted their reports to include Conard’s name.

Super PACs were made possible by federal court decisions in 2010 that allowed independent groups to accept unlimited corporate and union contributions and spend the money on advertising that supports or opposes a candidate.

Restore Our Future was created last year to help boost Romney’s electoral prospects. It is run by several of Romney’s former aides, including Carl Forti, Romney’s 2008 political director; Larry McCarthy, a member of Romney’s 2008 media team; and Charles Spies, Romney’s chief financial officer and counsel in 2008.

Through the end of 2011, the super PAC reported raising more than $30 million — more than any other super PAC or Republican candidate committee. To date, it’s also reported spending more than $18 million, mostly on negative ads targeting Newt Gingrich.




Rep. Lamar Smith (R TEX), Top Border Security Hawk, Invested In Border Monitoring Tech Company Before Gov. Grant 

Republic Report:

Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is among the few members of Congress who have not embraced or cosponsored the STOCK Act, a measure to curb insider trading by lawmakers and some federal officials. Smith’s hesitance to back the legislation may relate to his own history of investment. According to records reviewed by Republic Report, Smith, who oversees border security issues as a member of an influential subcommittee, purchased stock in a company that deals with U.S.-Mexico border security shortly before the same corporation won a lucrative government contract.

In July of 2010, Smith, along with his colleagues on the Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing about increased use of drones along the Mexico border. Michael Kostelnik, the Assistant Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, explained that Predator drones equipped with Flir Systems sensors have helped catch some drug smuggling immigrants. Soon after the hearing, President Obama approved $600 million in new funding for border security equipment, with large portions of the money earmarked for increased monitoring systems, like drones.

Three months after the hearing, Smith began purchasing stock in Flir Systems Inc, the company that specializes in sensor equipment used at the border:

In January, only a month after Smith’s last disclosed purchase of Flir Systems stock, the company won a $101 million grant from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for mobile surveillance devices. Smith’s colleagues on the border subcommittee subsequently called for an intensified border plan that includes heavy spending on drones and other sensor equipment.

Congressman Smith, however, contends that his investments are made solely by a third party. A representative from his office e-mailed Republic Report: “Congressman Smith’s securities are held in an account managed by Bank of America MerrillLynch Wealth Management. Congressman Smith and his wife have no control over stock transactions.”

It’s not the first time Smith’s financial transactions have gained notice. In 1999, the Dallas Morning News reported that Smith was among a handful of legislators who invested in stock using campaign funds. According to an analysis of his disclosures at the time, Smith’s returns ranged from at least 6 to 7 percent.

A Washington Post investigation posted yesterday, part of a broader look at how lawmakers use their position in office to enrich themselves, reveals that Smith earmarked $950,000 worth of road improvements near his own home in suburban San Antonio.

Politicians constantly face accusations that their blind trusts aren’t really blind. In the Presidential race, Mitt Romney claimed that his investments are in a blind, third party trust. ABC News later reported that Romney may have a hand in his own investments.

While the STOCK Act makes it way through Congress, it is difficult to predict if reforms will truly curb politicians from benefitting financially from public office. Senators last week blocked a proposal from Senator Sherrod Brown that would have mandated either divestment from companies that stand to benefit from policymaking or for lawmakers to place their wealth under the management of independent, third party investment funds.




Rep. Eric Cantor Blocked Mortgage Crisis Fix While Owning A Financial Stake In Foreclosure Businesses 

Republic Report:

Will the House of Representatives strengthen the Stock Act, legislation to curb lawmakers and government officials from profitting from their position in government? In the Senate, a strong amendment offered by Senator Sherrod Brown to force members of Congress to either divest from companies that stand to benefit from policymaking or dump their investments into a blind trust was defeated.

Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) is managing the House version of the Stock Act. Since it appears unlikely that Cantor will attach Brown’s meaningful amendment, Cantor’s own history of legislating on issues that affect his bank account deserves a renewed look.

Throughout 2009, Cantor helped lead opposition to mortgage cramdown — a no-cost measure to help borrowers negotiate lower interest rates and avoid foreclosure. While Cantor marshaled opposition to these policies, he did not disclose that both his own wealth and his wife’s were connected to the mortgage industry:

– Cantor invested in several mortgage banks, and owned a portion of a Cantor-family run mortgage company. According to Cantor’s 2009 personal financedisclosure, Cantor owned up to a $500,000 share of a mortgage company called TrustMor run by his brother.

–- While Cantor blocked a fix to the foreclosure crisis, his wife Diane Cantor served as the managing director of a bank with a high foreclosure rate. Diane Cantor at the time worked as a managing director to New York Private Bank & Trust, a major mortgage bank and TARP recipient. SNL Financial later reported that Cantor’s bank was among the top three banks in the mortgage business “with the the greatest percentage of family loans in the foreclosure process.”

In 2009, Eric Cantor also owned a portion of a family debt collection law firm. According to his personal finance disclosure, Cantor owned up to a $100,000 stake in Cantor & Cantor, the debt collection law firm run by his family.

Diana Cantor now works at an investment firm called Alternative Investment Management.




Koch Brothers buy $700K in ads in desperate effort to save Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 




Enjoy the payroll tax break now – congressional Republicans are poised to kill it in 3 weeks 

Steve Benen:

Senators were warned yesterday that if they let the payroll tax break expire at the end of the month, the burgeoning economic recovery will take a “very sharp” hit.

Congressional Republicans may very well let it happen anyway.

After a bitter fight in December, GOP leaders accepted a two-month extension of the payroll cut, giving policymakers a new deadline — Feb. 29, three weeks from today — to agree to a year-long deal. As of mid-January, the prospects for an agreement looked pretty good, in large part because Republicans didn’t want to be on the hook for a middle-class tax increase in an election year.

Striking an acceptable deal, however, is proving to be far more difficult than even some of the key officials expected.

Members of the payroll conference committee fought to a draw in their fourth public meeting Tuesday, making no progress toward finding a way to pay for a payroll tax holiday and dimming the prospects that a deal can be struck by the month’s end.

A Senate Democratic offer on unemployment insurance issues is in the works, and Members said they want to pick up the pace of the talks. But — barring a major breakthrough in the next few days, Members acknowledged — the latest high-stakes negotiation in a year of botched cross-party talks will go the way of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction: abject failure.

“I was very discouraged after today’s session,” conferee Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “We may be facing what Congress has faced every step of the way — in the super committee, on the debt ceiling.”

In each of the previous fights, a bipartisan agreement proved to be impossible because Republican lawmakers were unwilling to make concessions as part of a larger compromise.

At issue is a package with a price tag of nearly $200 billion, which would include a payroll tax cut for the rest of the year, an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, and the Medicare “doc fix” on physician reimbursements. As is always the case, the fight between Democrats and Republicans is over how best to pay for the bill.

In private, House Republican conferees want to limit the negotiations over how to pay for the extenders to measures that have already passed at least one of the two Houses of Congress. This wipes measures like higher taxes on wealthy Americans, and war savings off the table, while preserving partisan GOP-backed payfors, including freezing federal worker pay, and increasing Medicare costs for some beneficiaries.

“The ‘outside of scope of conference’ argument they’re trying to make is silly,” says one Dem aide briefed on the discussions. “They can’t say out of one side of their mouths that Dems don’t have any proposals and then consider any we provide outside scope of conference. [Sen. Bob] Casey offered a 1% surcharge on millionaires and Dems offered to pay for [the Medicare doc fix] using [savings from winding down overseas military operations].”

There’s also, of course, a political element to all of this. A New York Times editorial argued that “extending the tax break would represent a victory for President Obama, who has been championing it. That remains intolerable to many Republicans.” Senate Democratic leaders argued along similar lines yesterday, accusing the GOP of trying to derail the recovery on purpose.

One angle to keep an eye on is the leverage Democrats believe they have in this fight. Republicans generally concede they’re playing a losing hand — Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said yesterday his party “can’t win the argument” — which makes it much tougher for the GOP to execute their traditional negotiating strategy (“give us everything we want or else”).

Dems, in other words, are less likely to accept a bad deal and more likely to wait until the last minute, precisely because they saw Republicans cave under similar circumstances in December.




Ron Paul Set to Speak to ‘Sovereign Citizens’—Just As FBI Issues Warning About Them 

Crooks and Liars:

We’ve been writing here at C&L about the danger to law-enforcement officers (not to mention civil society) posed by the far-right “sovereign citizens” movement for some time. So naturally we were pleased to see the FBI weighed in on the subject this week:

Anti-government extremists opposed to taxes and regulations pose a growing threat to local law enforcement officers in the United States, the FBI warned on Monday.

These extremists, sometimes known as “sovereign citizens,” believe they can live outside any type of government authority, FBI agents said at a news conference.

The extremists may refuse to pay taxes, defy government environmental regulations and believe the United States went bankrupt by going off the gold standard.

Routine encounters with police can turn violent “at the drop of a hat,” said Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director in the FBI’s counter-terrorism division.

“We thought it was important to increase the visibility of the threat with state and local law enforcement,” he said.

And as it so happens, there’s going to be a big gathering of “sovereign citizens” coming up soon in Irvine, California, calling itself the Freedom Law Conference, and devoted to teaching you how to free yourself from the tyranny of the federal government:

This 4-day event includes an in-depth class on Avoiding and Defeating IRS Criminal Charges, two keynote banquet speakers, 14 of the most exciting Freedom speakers in the country, and a seminar on Stopping Mortgage Fraud.

Oh, and look who they have lined up to be their keynote speaker:

Yep, the same guy who’s out there collecting all those votes for the Republican nomination—not to mention also being the new darling of a clutch of extremely confused (or are they just pseudo-?) progressives.

And in case there was any confusion about the political orientation of the gathering, they announce up front that this is a Patriot Movement event:

Here at Freedom Law School we want to connect Patriots. If you want to attend, but are worried about the cost of a room, no worries! Freedom Law School will get you in contact with other Patriots attending so you can work out splitting the cost of a room.

And yes — as you can see from pieces like this, Freedom Law School and its scam-artist founder, Peymon Mottahedeh, are very much “sovereign citizenship” promoters.

Among the people Paul will be sharing the stage with is Floyd Banister, an ex-FBI agent who now makes a very profitable living on the Patriot chicken-dinner circuit.

Banister says that he investigated radical tax protesters’ claims about the IRS for two years. He concluded they were right, and told his IRS supervisors so. He was placed on leave, then resigned in 1999 to “comply with my oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.”

The following year, he and Bob Schulz, founder of a leading anti-government Patriot tax-protest group known as the We the People, hand delivered grievances signed by supporters to federal officials in Washington stating that the 16th Amendment that allowed a federal income tax was illegally ratified, and that no law or regulation requires most citizens to pay income taxes or have taxes withheld.

Banister was indicted in 2004 in California for preparing false income tax returns and conspiring to defraud the federal government stemming from his work on behalf of a businessman client. The client went to prison, but Banister was acquitted.

Yep, that’s pretty much par for the course for the suckers who sign on to this crap and then try to make it happen.

I also love this quote from Bannister:

“There’s definitely a propaganda campaign out there to make us look like a problem to law enforcement,” he told his audience at a Patriot conference last year.

Yeah, who knows where people in law enforcement would get that idea? I’m sure it couldn’t come from the trail of slain cops and threats to cops and plots to kill cops popping up all over the countryside.




Analysis: President Obama is outpacing his 2008 record of pulling in small donations





Fired up, ready to go — Democrats gain the enthusiasm edge




Obama surges past general election rivals in swing state of Virginia




The approval rate for Congress hits an all time low of 10%




Mitt Romney is struggling with his base and independents alike




Polls: Republican voters not thrilled about voting next November




Politico: Poll: Most back Obama’s drone use 




Kasich would lose a do-over in Ohio by twenty 





Proposition 8 might not be headed to the Supreme Court. Here’s why 

Now that a Ninth Circuit panel has ruled that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, it seems inevitable that the ruling on Proposition 8 will eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court. But whether the Supreme Court agrees to hear it is another story.

At this point, proponents of Prop 8 have fourteen days to decide whether to petition for a rehearing. If granted, an eleven-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit will hear the case, which could take another six months to a year. If the initiative’s supporters choose to go straight to the Supreme Court, four of the nine justices would have to vote in favor of hearing the case for it to be taken up.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who wrote the majority opinion for the 2-1 ruling, determined that the initiative violated the EqualProtection clause of the 14th Amendment because it “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

The panel also declined to rule on the broader question of whether any ban on gay marriage would be unconstitutional, which could have had implications in other states, “because California had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of ‘marriage,’ and Proposition 8’s only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents.”

“This unique and strictly limited effect of Proposition 8 allows us to address the amendment’s constitutionality on narrow grounds,” Reinhardt wrote.

Several California law professors speculated to TPM that this “narrow” focus of the ruling could mean that the Supreme Court willdecline to hear the case, since the ruling is so limited to California.

Professor Jane Schacter at Stanford Law School told TPM that “the big question” is whether or not the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case, and though at this point it’s “guesswork,” the narrowness of the opinion makes it less likely that they will. “It’s much more grounded in the specifics of the California ruling,” she said. For one thing, Schacter said, the Ninth Circuit’s opinion emphasizes that the right of same-sex couples to marry had been first granted, then eliminated. For another, unlike most other states, California already essentially granted all of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, just under a different name than “marriage.” This means that Prop 8 was simply about the designation of same-sex unions as “marriages.”

“Those two things are somewhat peculiar to California,” Schacter said, meaning that the opinion doesn’t necessarily provide the basis for a nationally recognized right for same-sex couples to marry. “Because of that, the Supreme Court may feel the stakes are limited, and it’s not as necessary for them to get involved,” she said.

On the other hand, because this case is very high-profile and California is an influential state that “tends to set trends,” the Supreme Court “may decide to take it,” Schacter added.

And should the Court decide to take it, there is reason to believe that the language of the opinion will hold particular appeal to one specific Justice. “This decision was written by Judge Reinhardt more or less for Justice Kennedy,” Schacter said.

Kennedy wrote the majority opinions for Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark 2003 case that recognized an individual’s right to privacy by overturning a ban on sodomy in Texas, and Romer v. Evans, a 1996 case that found it was unconstitutional for Colorado to have a constitutional amendment, passed by voter referendum, that prevents the government from passing laws to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

The Prop 8 decision is “saying to Justice Kennedy, ‘we’ve written the kind of incremental, limited decision, moving the ball forward” on gay rights “that you’ve written in the past, without writing an opinion that nationalizes same-sex marriage.” The “narrow character of it may have special appeal to Justice Kennedy,” who is often the swing vote on the court, Schacter said.

Lecturer in Residence Joan Heifetz Hollinger at Berkeley Law School similarly demurred that “no one knows for sure” what the proponents of Prop 8 will do after Tuesday’s loss, and that she herself has been a “total agnostic” in terms of predicting how this case will go.

“I think it will depend on their guess and their estimate of what will happen if they appeal to the Supreme Court,” Hollinger said, and “if they do that, the U.S. Supreme Court does not have to agree to hear this case, because the way in which the panel crafted it is narrowly focused on California, and on the consequences of Proposition 8 for California.”

Specifically, Hollinger said, gays and lesbians already enjoyed the right to marry and the “rights and attributes” of marriage, and by passing Prop 8 the people of California simply said “sorry, you cannot use the ‘M’ word.”

“[The Ninth Circuit] did not issue a much broader decision, which might have said something like, there’s a fundamental right to marry under the federal Constitution, which no state can take away,” she added.

“Because of the California focus, it’s not at all clear that the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear an appeal. There’s no competing opinion from another federal court of appeals” that the Supreme Court would have to reconcile with the Ninth Circuit’s, and “the likelihood of having a competing opinion is low, at least for the short term,” because there is currently no other federal litigation on the same-sex marriage question.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, who represented the American Foundation for Equal Rights and the two same-sex couples challenging Prop 8, agreed that the narrow focus of the opinion might convince the Supreme Court to pass on this case. “The grounds for the opinion, I think, do make it somewhat less likely that the Supreme Court willtake it,” said Boies, because it “just applies to California,” which has a number of characteristics that are different from other states, “including that citizens of California were clearly entitled to marriage equality and then that right was taken away.”

“The Court might not want to try to take this issue on on those facts, and might want to wait for a case on a more general issue that the court here did not have to face,” Boies said. But, he later added, “the reasoning of the case is reasoning that would clearly support a national right to marriage equality.”

Olson agreed that the Court might not be able to resist, especially since parts of the opinion can be more broadly applied. He cited page 77 of the opinion, in which Reinhardt writes that “Proposition 8 operates with no apparent purpose but to impost on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships, by taking away from them the official designation of ‘marriage,’ with its societally recognized status.”

“That language resoundingly reflect the arguments that we were making that this is discrimination that takes away a fundamental right and takes away equal protection,” Olson said. “In that sense, it’s a very broad and significant and resounding opinion.”





NYT: SUCCESS! Biggest NYC hotels agree to long-term contract w/ hotel workers



Scott Walker supporters won’t be able to stop recall by challenging petitions 




The GOP’s war on religion (or ‘two can play that game’)


So to hear Republicans speak, President Barack Obama is waging a “war on religion” because of regulations requiring religious-affiliated hospitals to cover contraception for their employees. While the vast majority of denominations are cool with that, the Catholic bishops are throwing a hissy fit. You see, they are opposed to birth control because it encourages sex, and sex is only for procreation.

Now most Catholics laugh at that nonsense, considering that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use birth control. Yet that hasn’t stopped the out-of-touch bishops from pressing ahead, and it certainly hasn’t stopped opportunistic Republicans from rallying to their defense, because, you see, opposing the bishops on this issue means a war on religion!

Wow. Got it. Problem is, under those standards, Republicans are waging quite the jihad of their own!

Unemployment benefits:

On Monday, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to focus on the economic security of workers at year’s end.

“When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families,” Blaire wrote. “Therefore, I strongly urge you and your colleagues to find effective ways to assure continuing Unemployment Insurance and Emergency Unemployment Compensation to protect jobless workers and their families.”

Republicans refused, shots fired!

Immigration reform:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies and supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform and push “enforcement only” policies, shots fired!

Drivers licenses for immigrants:

The Catholic Church has been a staunch opponent of the movement to repeal the law that allows undocumented immigrants to earn New Mexico drivers licenses.

Allen Sanchez, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed his speech from a similar rally in September.

I have a message,” Sanchez told the crowd. “Governor, Jesus was an immigrant!”

Republicans demagogue on the issue, shots fired!

Iraq War:

The capture of Saddam Hussein may help bring peace to Iraq, but it does not change the fact that “the war was useless, and served no purpose,” a top Vatican official said […]

The cardinal said he hopes Saddam’s capture “contributes to peace and the reconstruction of Iraq. But it would be illusory to think that it will repair the damage caused by that great defeat for humanity which war always represents.”

Republicans CAUSED this war, shots fired!

Death penalty:

The Catholic bishops in the United States have been calling for an end to the use of the death penalty for more than twenty-five years.

Surely, Republicans will fight to prevent their taxpayer dollars from paying for executions, right? No? Shots fired!

Fact is, on all these issues, as well as poverty relief, the DREAM Act, and many others, Republicans are severely at odds with the Catholic Church. Yet there is no talk about a Republican war on religion. Why? Because that notion is idiotic.

Oh, and because Fox News and a bunch of Republican presidential pretenders aren’t opportunistically fanning the flames.




Catholic cardinal withdraws apology for covering up sex abuse | The Raw Story

St. John Chrysostom, once said ”The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

Here’s proof that he was right.

In an interview this week with Connecticut Magazine, Cardinal Edward Egan, withdrew his 2002 apology for the Church’shandling of the sex-abuse scandal, which was once read in all New York parishes.

A decade after that letter, the former archbishop of New York, and former bishop of Bridgeport, now describes the handling of the priest-abuse crisis under his watch as “incredibly good.” He said of the letter, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

“I never had one of these sex abuse cases.” he said, before adding pompously, “If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I’d be happy to know who he is.” He also claimed that the Church had no obligation to report abuse to the civil authorities.

These are lies, strutting around with pride.

The Church is required to report abuse, according to laws on the books since the 1970s.

Bishop Egan ran a diocese that was notoriously dangerous for children. Contrary to his claim, during his twelve-year enthronement at Bridgeport, Egan repeatedly failed to investigate priests where there were obvious signs of abuse, according to The Hartford Courant. His diocese had to settle the cases and awarded victims some $12-15 million in damages.

Here is just one incredible case of negligence. According to the Hartford Courant, in 1990, Egan received a memo about ”adeveloping pattern of accusations” that Rev. Charles Carr of Norwalk had fondled young boys. Egan kept Carr working for another five years, only suspending him after a lawsuit was filed, and then in 1999 making him a chaplain at Danbury’s hospital.

How about another? The Connecticut post also reported that early in his reign, dozens of people came forward to accuse Rev.Raymond Pcolka of Greenwich of sexual abuse and violence against children. Egan claimed that the accusers were never “proved” to be telling the truth. Well, Egan never even bothered to interview them and kept Pcolka in ministry.

And, speaking as a Catholic, who lived in the New York Archdiocese under Cardinal Egan’s reign, I can say Egan did punish some priests. But not child-abusers. He swiftly punished and evicted those Catholic priests that said the Traditional Latin Mass (later liberalized by Pope Benedict XVI), if he thought they didn’t pay him sufficient deference.

In short: Egan coddled child-abusers, and persecuted decent priests during his ignominious reign as a Prince of the Church. His entire interview reeks of a narcissism and self-regard that is so palpable it makes your eyes water.

Again, speaking as a Catholic, God is merciful with those who repent and do penance.

It is time for Egan to repent before his victims and before God.

Otherwise, he’ll end up as pavement.




 AttackWatch: Mitt Romney has a new stance on religious liberty. We debunk it

[Please see original for links.]

Yesterday morning, Mitt Romney’s campaign unveiled a new petition asking supporters to “stand for religious liberty.” Here’s the opening line: “The Obama administration is at it again. They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”

Their “proof”? The administration’s recent decision, as part of the Affordable Care Act, to require that insurers provide contraception coverage for women who choose it without a co-pay or deductible.

The “attack on liberty” claim comes from the provision that requires most employers that employ and serve people of many faiths to be included in the new law, including religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities. But the petition doesn’t take the time to explain that the reasoning behind this is that women of all faiths are employed by these organizations and should have equal access to contraception. Or that churches who primarily employ and serve members of their own faith will be exempt, which you can read more about on our Contraception and Faith page.

Even more interesting is that as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney supported a contraception law just like it.

At the time, he didn’t think it infringed on religious liberty one bit. Yes, Mitt Romney’s flip-flopped and now has a new stance. Shocking, we know. The thing is, this time it could have a big impact on women’s health. We need to make sure everyone hears about Mitt’s change of opinion, and we’re counting on you to spread the word.

Here are the facts on Mitt’s record as governor and the new national law:

  1. Before Mitt was governor, Massachusetts passed a mandate just like the new national contraception lawIn 2002, Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift signed a law required insurers to cover contraception, excluding church or church-owned organizations, but including non-profit religious institutions that served the public, like schools and hospitals. From the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, “Gov. Jane M. Swift has signed into law legislation that requires insurers to cover the cost of contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. Pro-choice advocates had pushed the bill for years. The law exempts health insurance contracts purchased by churches or church-controlled organizations.”
  2. As governor, Mitt upheld it in his historic health care reformWhen Mitt Romney passed health care reform in Massachusetts, coverage was mandated to include “reproductive and sexual health care” and prescription drugs, which included contraceptives.”
  3. Both laws covered all FDA-approved contraception, including Plan BPlan B, one of the biggest issues in Mitt’s current petition, was actually covered in the Massachusetts health care law he upheld.
  4. As governor, Mitt spoke out in support of Plan B in certain casesBack in 2005, Romney reversed a ruling that would HAve allowed hospitals to opt out of providing Plan B to rape victims if “they objected on moral or religious grounds.”He even weighed in himself, saying “My personal view, in my heart of hearts, is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraception or emergency contraception information.”
  5. Today, Massachusetts is one of 28 states that already passed laws to require insurers to cover contraception“28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices; These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.”
  6. 98% of Catholic women have used birth control, and 77% support covering itA recent study from the Guttmacher institute found that 98% of Catholic women have used contraception, virtually the same as the rest of the population, of which 99% have. And when asked, 78% of Catholic women are behind providing it without a co-pay or deductible.

Take Mitt’s newfound stance on the contraception law, and add to it his reversal to take a hardline stand against stem cell research. Then add his switch from being proudly pro-choice to so anti-choice that he said he would have supported a Personhood amendment for Massachusetts, just like the failed attempt to pass an amendment in Mississippi that would have classified zygotes as people and rendered common forms of birth control like the pill—and abortion even in cases of rape and incest—illegal.

What you get is Mitt’s real stance on women and religious liberty: He’ll say pretty much anything to get elected. And this petition is just the latest case.





Court to decide if SeaWorld whales are illegal ‘slaves’ | The Raw Story

A California federal court is to decide for the first time in US history whether amusement park animals are protected by the same constitutional rights as humans.

The issue arises from a lawsuit filed by rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a San Diego court on behalf of five orcas named Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises.

The whales perform water acrobatics at the SeaWorld amusement parks in San Diego and in Orlando, Florida.

PETA argues that continuing the whales’ “employment” at SeaWorld violates the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits slavery.

District Judge Jeffrey Miller heard arguments in the complaint Monday and reviewed the response from SeaWorld, which asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. His ruling is expected to come later.

The suit, filed in October 2011, asked that the court declare that the orcas are “held in slavery and/or involuntary servitude by defendants in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

“It’s a new frontier in civil rights,” said Jeff Kerr, PETA general counsel, who described the hearing as a “historic day.”

“Slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender or ethnicity,” he argued. “Coercion, degradation and subjugation characterize slavery and these orcas have endured all three.”

The complaint says the five killer whales are represented by their “friends” at PETA, which include three former killer whale trainers, a marine biologist and the founder of an organization that seeks to protect orcas.





Studies: Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From Venus

The Atlantic:

[…] The contest for power between Democrats and Republicans pits two antithetical value systems against each other; two conflicting concepts of freedom, liberty, fairness, right, and wrong; two mutually exclusive notions of the state, the individual, and the collective good.

A wide range of academic scholarship exploring political belief-formation reveals that those who identify themselves as politically conservative,for example, exhibit distinctive values underpinning their world view and their orientation towards political competition.

Conservatives, argues researcher Philip Tetlock of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, are less tolerant of compromise; see the world in “us” versus “them” terms; are more willing to use force to gain an advantage; are “more prone to rely on simple (good vs. bad) evaluative rules in interpreting policy issues;” 1 are “motivated to punish violators of social norms (e.g., deviations from traditional norms of sexuality or responsible behavior) and to deter free riders.” 2

Some of these conservative values can be discerned in public opinion data.

In one September 2010 survey question, The Pew Research Center asked voters, “If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a bigger government providing more services?” White Republican men chose a smaller government by a 92-7 margin and white Republican women made the same choice by an 82-12 margin. Conversely, white Democratic men chose bigger government by a 53-35 margin and white Democratic women by 56-33. This is an ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats of 57 points among white men and 49 points among white women. 3 […]

Carney’s team describes conservatism “as an ideological belief system that is significantly (but not completely) related to motivational concerns having to do with the psychological management of uncertainty and fear. . . Similarly, concerns with fear and threat may be linked to the second core dimension of conservatism, endorsement of inequality.” 21 (emphasis added)

Working along parallel lines, Harvard professor of psychology James Sidanius and colleagues have developed a measure of what they describe “social dominance orientation,” or, in academic shorthand, SDO. Sidanius and his associates use a 16 question survey to place respondents on a scale of high to low SDO. Those high in SDO gave favorable responses to the first eight statements and negative responses to questions nine through sixteen: 22

1. Some groups of people are just more worthy than others

2. In getting what your group wants, it is sometimes necessary to use force against other groups

3. It’s OK if some groups have more of a chance in life than others

4. To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on other groups

5. If certain groups of people stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems

6. It’s probably a good thing that certain groups are at the top and other groups are at the bottom.

7. Inferior groups should stay in their place

8. Sometimes other groups must be kept in their place

9. It would be good if all groups could be equal

10. Group equality should be our ideal

11. All groups should be given an equal chance in life

12. We should do what we can to equalize conditions for different groups

13. We should increase social equality

14. We would have fewer problems if we treated different groups more equally.

15. We should strive to make incomes more equal

16. No one group should dominate in society

Sidanius et al. found that SDO is higher among whites than among African Americans; is negatively related to empathy, openness, and agreeableness; and is positively linked to aggressivity, vindictiveness, coldness, tough-mindedness, and to a belief that “the world is a zero-sum game.” In addition, those ranking high on a SDO scale “will use others to get ahead . . . they believe that harming people is legitimate, are observably disagreeable, cold, and vindictive, are low in benevolence, and do not hesitate to humiliate others. Their dog-eat-dog mentality leads them to support economic competition and war over social welfare programs . . . people high in SDO tend to be callous, confident, and cruel.” 23

In a separate set of studies, published in the paper “Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes,” Sidanius and colleagues found that “Republican political party preference correlated positively and significantly with SDO in six out of six samples.”24

While Carney, Jost, Sidanius, et al. describe conservatives in pejorative terms, the University of Virginia’s Jon Haidt and Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California, contend that liberal scholars may be restricting their definition of morality by failing to acknowledge values and principles important to conservatives.

Haidt and Graham submit that conservatives are concerned not only with the welfare and rights of the individual, but also with the institutions of family, patriotism, loyalty to one’s group, and recognition of the legitimacy of hierarchy and order as beneficial to the larger society. As a result, according to Haidt and Graham, conservatives will sometimes take what they see as moral stands — attacking abortion and divorce as undermining the family — that liberals may well see as immoral impositions on the autonomy of individuals, especially women.

Haidt and his colleagues, in their paper “Liberals and Conservatives Rely on Different Sets of Moral Foundations,” graphed five “moralities” — (a) harm/care (strong empathy for those that are suffering and care for the most vulnerable); (b) fairness/reciprocity (life liberty and justice for all); (c) ingroup/loyalty (tribalism, patriotism, nationalism); (d) authority/respect (mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates); and (e) purity/sanctity (related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble) — to show how liberals give priority to only to the first two, harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, while conservatives give roughly equal weight to all five. 25






Take action: we need YOUR voice on contraceptive coverage!




If you want the media to hear your demand to stop the HATE language aimed at this President, speak out NOW. ENOUGH!





Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” ~~Garrison Keillor


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This contraception issue is, like everyone else has said, a tempest in a teapot. From my recollection, suits have been dismissed on this very topic a few times already. I ran across this story from the NYTimes that talked about a lawsuit brought by Catholic charities on this very topic in 2007:

“Their complaint was rejected by all three levels of New York state courts: the state Supreme Court, at the trial level; the Appellate Division; and in a unanimous opinion last October, the New York Court of Appeals. That court ruled on the basis of a 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which barred most religion-based exemptions from laws that are neutral, generally applicable and that do not single out religion for special burdens.

In opposing the appeal, Catholic Charities v. Dinallo, No. 06-1550, New York argued that the organizations were not being placed in the position of approving birth control, any more than any other employer that provides health coverage is deemed to express “approval of every medication or treatment used by the employees.” The California Supreme Court has also rejected a challenge by Catholic Charities to that state’s similar law.”


I’m still pissed it was even brought up in an election year. I want this tempest in a teapot dealt with YESTERDAY. TAMP THIS THE FUCK DOWN NOW. It’s given the right a shot in the arm. And yes, it’s more optics and narrative than policy. Now they get to play the “he attacks faith” card (meaning of course, only their faith) and squeeze it for all its worth. It was like a gift. An unforced error.

My only hope is that it wins over women. Patty Murray put it well that this is about contraception and that attacks against women are always veiled as something else.


As has been stated, this policy was never challenged by the Bush Admin and is the law of the land in 28 states. Also the GOP is a lynch mob against Eric Holder for Fast and Furious…yet that program too was started under Bush.

Only with a black man in the WH who is a Dem, are these now outrageous travesties.

The MSM is orgasmic over finally having something exploitative to beat Obama over the head with yet most Americans would agree that the religion of an employer should not dictate what medicines or treatments their insurance covers.

This is a bogus, already decided issue yet I agree, it needs to be put to rest ASAP because the enemies of women’s rights (The GOP) are using it to rally their party.

KQµårk 死神

That rally will not be enough especially when Romney still wins. I mean Romneycare even covers abortions. They are so stuck with the worse candidate ever.

KQµårk 死神

I think Frum put it well. The Repugs may win a short term PR battle but their overreach will lose the war.

Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)

No, Marco Rubio’s Religious Freedom Restoration bill provides for one conscientious exemption only: contraception and sterilization. Which means it will be very hard if not impossible to persuade the target audience that this debate is not in fact about contraception. Everybody quite sure that’s a wise debate to have?


In a related note, the meth lab of democracy in Phoenix is (besides proposing yet another campus gun bill and besides Bible classes) proposing a bill on “religious discrimination” to prevent teachers at colleges from being fired for their faith.

Of course, they’re so stupid they again don’t see how this could work against them should an atheist or Muslim be targeted by these very same people.

They gave a bogus example of an Evangelical Creationist or some such thing without any evidence.

It must be a scary world with so many imaginary threats lurking out there.


We know all of that, but the admin, being full aware of who they are dealing with by now, should have anticipated how this would be exploited and should have rolled it out better saying exactly all that to neutralize this in the first place.

Quite frankly, ironically, the more Obama can mention he’s doing what Bush did in humdrum cases like this, makes them talk about Bush if they want to still go after it. It could have been turned into a win-win.

Now, someone needs to get out there and explain all of this. The “damage control” for this nontroversy has been flatfooted. They were blindsided, and shouldn’t have been.


Cher, great line-up again today! Nice mix of topics.

RE: Drones…It doesn’t surprise me that drone strikes are popular with people across every political classification. They are cheap, simple, they are nearly guilt-free being piloted by joy stick from hundreds of miles away, involve very little danger to our personell, effective, and convenient. Everything that killing another person should be all about.


And in that you’ve nailed why most on the left recoil at drones.

Special teams on the ground, face-to-face with the enemy commando style can still accidentally kill civilian innocents, but at least they did it the hard way.

Wait, what?

I do think there’s something that unsettles us about the depersonalized joystickness of it, but given the alternatives…

I dunno. I hate hate hate hate hate the civilian deaths, but damn have we come a long way from carpet bombing and napalm. As such, drones still get my thumbs up.

KQµårk 死神

The fact that technology results in allot less dreadful civilian casualties is a positive development.

I get the other side too where drone warfare is antiseptic but compared to warfare in the 1800’s carpet bombings at 40,000 ft was pretty antiseptic for those on board as well. Of course the only difference was the personnel doing the bomber were at more danger but with stealth technology that danger is minimal.


KQ, I agree with you about technology. I don’t think B-2 carpet bombings to take out cities and factories is the same as going after one dude in a mountain range somewhere, or in a village. I don’t expect very many people to support me in my view on this, but I think that executions should involve some level of….involvement. It is entirely too neat, clean, and hands-free to use drones as a routine way to just take someone out.

We do it because we can, and no one can stop us. Not because its right. Even if the end result is the death of a bad person. The slippery slope on this is too slippery for my tastes.

KQµårk 死神

It’s OK if we disagree. We all have to live with our own moral stances.

I don’t see killing a bunch more civilians in a factory or the Ho Chi Minh trail with indiscriminate bombing as being a better alternative to say killing the guy who runs the factory or sets up the caravan for the Ho Chi Minh trail with much less civilian casualties.


Actually here you make a point more than future admins using this technology, the precedent I’m more worried about is should a rival nation ever catch up with us.

Now, I don’t put much stock in the Iranian and North Korean drone programs, but just think about if they, or Syria could take out their “terrorists” across borders as we do with near impunity.

Then more of us might feel differently.


Khirad, that is a really good point. I hadn’t thought of that. We have set a precedent after all.


Khirad I think you first sentence captures my feelings on this. LOL. It should be hard. It should be a tough decision. It should involve coordination with the state we are dropping munitions into.

Right now the President says that he exercises great restraint in how and when he uses these drones. I believe him. How about the next one? And the next President? Technology by that point will be so good we’ll be able fly a drone up someone’s asshole and blow them up with no civilian casualties.

That makes me really really nervous.


The problem here to is when it is across a border like Pakistan, where we’d be naïve to believe we didn’t have some special forces, but the blowback as bad as it is from Pakistan for drones, would be worse should they detain our soldiers. Sure we did it for OBL when we could have tried a drone, but those were extra-special circumstances that I think the commanders don’t want to risk all the time.

I get the ethical points. I get why people don’t like drones. But as amoral as it may be, there’s just practical cost-benefit analysis too.

If anything, I’d like to see them used more carefully and sparingly, if that were possible. I do think that we’re using them more regularly, and it’s especially the ones not under the military that give me pause.


Hey Cher. I’m really pleased that DePaul University is, as the largest Catholic University, providing contraception options in their health care. As a Chicagoan, it makes me proud.

I am reminded of the strength (I am not affiliated with organized religion) of Notre Dame University in asking the new President Obama to address abortion on their stage. It was simply amazing–and too soon forgotten. Your clip helped me remember. The University was very brave in front of campus protests and showed that they value discussions and sharing thoughts over denial of opposing views.

And our President, wow, what a brave speech to give.


I agree with that Oliver Willis piece, “Why Liberals Support Drones.” Given the other options: do nothing or invade, I’d say the drones are by far the best choice. I was glad to read recently that the US military is finally giving up the “we must have enough soldiers to fight on two fronts” program and reorganizing into a more guerilla type of readiness, using fewer boots on the ground but more “special” ones.

The drones fit in with this new, more nimble and far less invasive mentality. For decades, we’ve built up this astronomically expensive, cumbersome army, that lumbers around and does the old “shock and awe” act, which serves two significant purposes: it makes more folks hate us (creating more terrorists) and keeps the military-industrial complex thriving. It’s time to develop a lean, mean fighting machine and spend those extra trillions on our own infrastructure and social safety nets.