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The Romney Rule

Joe Biden will introduce the world to The Buffet Rule’s evil twin, The Romney Rule, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire today.

Biden will coin a new phrase — “the Romney Rule” — to illustrate his case, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the Obama campaign.

“The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do,” Biden will say.

The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.”

This is perfect messaging.

It’s easy to understand, easy to repeat, and it’s directly associated with Romney. It also has the added benefit of being completely true, so the only way to debunk it is to come out against new tax cuts. And we all know that’s not going to happen.

This is why we love Joe Biden.



Mitt Romney has a ‘three-pronged strategy’ to make women not hate him 

Although there is no War on Women (or caterpillars), and that 19-point gender gap is just an invention of the librul media, on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney’s braintrust put the finishing touches on a new “three-pronged strategy” to erase that non-existent gender gap and that non-existent War on Women:

As the Romney campaign shifts to the general election, his aides will reintroduce him to voters, warming up his image by emphasizing his role as a devoted father and husband. Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, has already made several Web videos that feature her reminiscences, along with gauzy family photos; voters are likely to see more of these. Mrs. Romney will also increase her campaign appearances; she has already begun to talk about how women tell her they care deeply about the economy, where the campaign wants to keep its focus.

Ah. So the strategy is (1) shake shake the Etch A Sketch; (2) tell the ladies Mitt can’t possibly hate women because he has a wife and kids (look at the photos!); and (3) send Mrs. Romney out on the campaign trail to explain to little ladies across America what their real issues are.

How’s that strategy working for Mitt so far?

Approximately half a second after rolling out the new strategy, the Romney campaign shot itself in the foot when it had to take an hour to think about whether Mitt supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (At least the Romney campaign didn’t try to argue that asking how Mitt feels about equal pay for women is a gotcha question. Yet.)

Day 2 of Operation Three-Pronged Strategy isn’t looking any better for Mitt. The campaign sent Ann Romney to Fox News to pretend to be outraged that someone dared to point out the indisputable fact that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life.

So how did that go?

In the span of 10 minutes, Ann Romney made such a perfect case for respecting women’s family planning choices, it was like she downloaded the talking points from Planned Parenthood; further proved how out of touch she and her husband are about their wealth and privilege by claiming that she knows “what it’s like to struggle” even if she hasn’t “struggled as much financially as some people have”; and then, in answering the question of whether Mitt sees women as equals, gave us this gem:

Mitt Romney is a person that admires women and listens to them, and I am grateful that he listens to me and listens to what I am telling him as well about what women are facing right now, and he’s listening and he cares.

Wow. He listens to his wife when she talks? As opposed to … what? Telling her to shut her stupid lady mouth? Is she also grateful he doesn’t make her ride with the dog on top of the car in an airtight container? Or sleep in the car elevator? What a woman-lovin’ forward thinker that Mitt is, listening to his wife. With a solid argument like that, of course women will come running back to the Republican Party, begging to be saved from mean ol’ not-listening President Obama.

Maybe Mitt needs to shake shake the Etch A Sketch some more and just stick to the family photos.


White House Plays Defense in ‘War For Women’

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to brush aside the furor over Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s comments about stay-at-home mom Ann Romney and pivot back to policy today.

“I think we can all agree — Democrats and Republicans — that raising children is an extremely difficult job. And that is true for all mothers, as well as fathers,” he said. “But we should also focus on where we disagree.”

Carney’s comments came after first lady Michelle Obama waded into the kerfuffle over Rosen’s remarks that Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life.”

“Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected,” the first lady tweeted after Ann Romney appeared on Fox to rip into Rosen’s comments.

In defending Democrats’ record of fighting for women, Carney pointed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law President Barack Obama signed.

Why did it take President Obama entering office, being sworn into office, to have the Fair Pay Act become law? Because Republicans overwhelmingly opposed it and presumably still do,” he said.

Carney also cited the GOP’s blockage of Obama’s plan to prevent 400,000 teacher layoffs by states — noting that most teachers are women. And he pointed to GOP attempts to cut Head Start, student aid, Medicare and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

“Cuts of this magnitude would require kicking about 700,000 pregnant or post-partum women, infants and children off of WIC and denying another 100,000 from receiving critical foods necessary for healthy child development,” he said.

Under fire for Rosen’s apparent coziness with the White House, Carney said he couldn’t confirm how many times the Democratic strategist has been to the White House, saying he knows three Hilary Rosens personally.

“I have not seen her here very frequently,” he offered.

Rosen also tried to refocus the issue, with an apology of her own today after top Obama campaign officials Jim Messina and David Axelrod, among others, condemned her remarks.

“I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended,” she said in a statement on “Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

Rosen had earlier sought to defuse the controversy by clarifying that she was not attacking stay-at-home mothers but was noting that the financial position many women find themselves in doesn’t allow them to stay at home, unlike the wealthy Romneys.


Ann Romney: ‘Mitt and I have compassion for people that are struggling’

“Look, I know what it’s like to struggle. Maybe I haven’t struggled as much financially as some people have, but I can promise you that I’ve had struggles in my life. And I would love for people to understand that Mitt and I have compassion for people that are struggling, and that’s why we’re running.”

Let me say out the outset that I have compassion for a struggle that I know she’s had—living with Multiple Sclerosis, a monster of a disease. For that struggle, Ms. Romney you have my empathy.

But when you talk about economic struggle? Let’s just be absolutely clear as to what the Romney-Ryan budget would do to women who do know what it’s like to struggle financially. The budget your husband has embraced will shred every bit of support women and their families need through every stage of life.

  • At least $291 billion will disappear from WIC, nutrition assistance, Head Start, child care, job training, Pell Grants, and more programs that support struggling families.
  • $134 billion from SNAP, or food stamps, will mean something like 8.2 billion meals not served, in a single year; food out of the mouths of children and the elderly, a disproportionate number of which are female.
  • $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health services will mean mothers will have a harder time finding medical care for themselves and their children, and for their elderly parents, again which are disproportionately female.
  • 56 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and the Romney-Ryan voucher plan will make them pay more and more each year out of their own pockets, to try to keep their medical care.

If Mitt Romney really has compassion for the people who struggle, for women who struggle, he’ll not push policies that will make their lives demonstrably and horribly worse. There’s not an ounce of compassion in this plan he’s endorsed.

Anti-Abortion Groups on Mitt Romney: Sigh, He’ll Have To Do

On Thursday morning, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the country’s biggest pro-life group, held a press conference in Washington, DC to announce its endorsement of inevitableRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In her statement, NRLC president Carol Tobias blasted the Obama administration’s “federal subsidies for abortion” (not really true) and highlighted the “stark contrast” between Mitt Romney (“our next pro-life president”) and Barack Obama (the “most pro-abortion president” ever). Raimundo Rojas, the group’s Hispanic outreach director, took aim at Obama’s “culture of death” and his “junta”—yes, that’s right: junta—of anti-baby bureaucrats.

The NRLC endorsement came the same day that the Susan B. Anthony List, another anti-abortion rights organization, announced its “proud” support for Romney’s candidacy (after months of openly questioning his pro-life street cred).

When asked about Romney’s long record of inconsistency on abortion rights (read William Saletan’s exhaustive history on the former Massachusetts governor’s political calculations on the issue here), Tobias affirmed that the NRLC was absolutely convinced of Romney’s current convictions, adding that the pro-life movement is “filled with converts,” with Ronald Reagan as a shining example. Whatever distrust the NRLC may still harbor towards Romney stayed well-hidden as the panel played up the organization’s enthusiasm for his campaign and promised to devote the next seven months to “convincing” pro-life voters and grassroots activists that Romney has indeed changed his tune.

As with all endorsements and things political, timing is everything. On Wednesday, Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, all but ensuring that Romney snags the nomination. During the primary slog, the NRLC has been careful not to write off any viable conservative candidate; the group’s leaders admit that they learned their lesson after making the mistake of endorsing Fred Thompson for president in late 2007.

Essentially, anti-abortion activists’ endorsement of Romney is the political equivalent of how Richard Gere felt about the US Navy in An Officer and a Gentleman: they got nowhere else to go.



The Hilary Rosen controversy is absurd

The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee are attacking President Obama over the fact that Dem strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life.”

Romney campaign officials are claiming that an “Obama adviser” has demeaned stay at home moms, and they — along with the Republican National Committee — are also tying Rosen to the Democratic National Committee. The Romney campaign even scheduled a conference call with reporters to keep the story alive today.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren has defended Rosen, claiming that Rosen clearly was just saying that Ms. Romney has not raised a family while working a full time job. But the quote is what it is: Whatever Rosen meant, she shouldn’t have worded it the way she did, and even Obama campaign officials quickly condemned it.

That aside, though, the real question is: Does Rosen work for the Obama campaign or the Democratic National Committee, or not?

The answer is, “not.”

A spokesperson for CNN tells me that contributors are not allowed to function as paid advisers to any campaigns or party committees. The CNN spokesperson emails:

Hilary Rosen, like all CNN contributors, is not a paid advisor to any political party or presidential campaign.

Some on the right are pointing out that Anita Dunn, another official at Hilary Rosen’s firm, SKD Knickerbocker, is an adviser to the DNC. And that’s true. But SKD also confirms that Rosen is not an adviser to the DNC or the Obama campaign. That’s two parties confirming this: CNN, and Rosen’s firm.

Now, presumably some on the right will argue that Rosen may be anunpaid adviser to Obama and/or Dems. But that doesn’t even appear to be the case, and at any rate, anyone being honest about this will tell you that in this town, the category of “unpaid adviser” is borderline meaningless.

Besides, do the Romney people or the RNC really want to lower the bar that far? If so, then I’m sure people could easily dig up examples of “unpaid advisers” to the Romney campaign or the RNC who have said some really ripe stuff. But it would be a shame if things sank that low.



FACT: Big Oil has spent $16 million on attack ads since January



Foster Friess To Lou Dobbs: I Hope Barack Obama’s ‘Teleprompters Are Bulletproof’

Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs interviewedFoster Friess, the businessman who had formerly thrown his support (and money) behind Rick Santorum‘s campaign before moving on to endorseMitt Romney.

Friess said that while Santorum is “very eager to be part of the national dialogue” and continues his commitment to making sure President Obama does not have a second term, he isn’t exactly sure when or how the former candidate will lend his support to Romney, saying only that it will be “sooner rather than later.”

“There’s a lot of things that haven’t been hammered at” where Obama is concerned, Friess continued, “because Rick and Mitt have kind of been going at each other.”


Now that they’ve trained their barrels on President Obama, I’m afraid his, I hope his teleprompters are bulletproof.

“I mean that figuratively,” Friess added as Dobbs agreed that “you definitely should not have said that.”



Karl Rove’s Talking Points on How To Shred Obama & Put Him on the Defensive

[By Karl Rove]

Rick Santorum’s decision Tuesday to suspend his campaign effectively ends the GOP nomination fight. But it doesn’t mark the start of the general election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. That contest has long been under way. Mr. Obama’s speech to the Associated Press last week and two appearances in Florida on Tuesday provide a glimpse of the low road the president and his campaign likely will take.

He will distort beyond recognition his opponent’s arguments. For example, he explained to news executives at the AP that Republicans want to “convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts—especially for the wealthy.” Actually, no one has suggested that.

No honest differences are possible with Mr. Obama. He will impugn the motives of any who disagree with him. As he told the AP, his opponents want to “let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity.” His agenda “isn’t a partisan feeling . . . [it]isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea. It’s patriotism.” To disagree with him is unpatriotic. That’s to be expected from Republicans, whom Mr. Obama says stand for “thinly veiled social Darwinism . . . [that is] antithetical to our entire history.”

Mr. Obama will build entire edifices on top of one fake premise, all dressed up in one big phony assumption. Take the House GOP budget plan. It increases federal outlays from roughly $3.6 trillion this year to nearly $4.9 trillion in 2022. In the AP speech the president called this a “cut” because he wants to increase spending to $5.8 trillion in 2022.

He warned that if the GOP’s “cuts . . . were to be spread out evenly across the budget,” then “Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS” research would be slashed, 10 million college students denied assistance, and “thousands” of researchers and teachers “could lose their jobs.” But Republicans don’t cut across the board. Instead, their focus is on waste, duplication, programs that do not work, and on reform.

As he did Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University, Mr. Obama will attack “these same trickle-down theories” about taxes that almost led to “a second Great Depression.” But if the Bush tax cuts were so evil, why didn’t Mr. Obama repeal them during his first two years, when his party controlled both houses of Congress? Instead, in December 2010 Mr. Obama agreed to extend them for two more years.

To divert attention from his administration’s many failures, Mr. Obama will also offer poll-tested nuggets that pit the many against the few. Take Tuesday’s demands for the so-called “Buffett Rule,” a new 30% tax on anyone making $1 million a year.

He claimed at a California fund raiser last fall that this would “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade.” But Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation projects it will only raise $47 billion in the next 10 years while Mr. Obama’s budget spends $46.9 trillion and adds $9.6 trillion to the debt during that time. The Buffett Rule would cover 17 days of the president’s next decade of deficits.

What Mr. Obama calls a “loophole” is the policy of taxing capital gains and dividends at a lower rate than income. He favors penalizing savings and investment when America needs more of both.

Among Mr. Obama’s more appealing 2008 campaign lines were his pledge not “to pit Red America against Blue America” and his promise to “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

Mr. Obama gave into that temptation the moment he was inaugurated. His harsh attacks, angry misrepresentations and outright falsehoods are light years away from the message of unity and post-partisanship that propelled him into the Oval Office.

Mr. Romney will need to tap into the disappointment and regret that many Americans, even the president’s supporters, feel about Mr. Obama. Yet while setting the record straight about the last three dismal years and Mr. Obama’s attacks is important, it is not enough. Winning candidates for the American presidency offer a positive, optimistic agenda that reassures voters about what they will do once in the White House.

Mr. Romney also should remind Americans of Mr. Obama’s lofty words from his 2008 acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver. There he said, “If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”

Mr. Obama attacked such a strategy then. Lacking any fresh ideas or a record to run on, it’s the strategy he’s adopted now.



Selective outrage: Hilary Rosen vs. Allen West

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was asked at an event Tuesday what percentage of the American legislature he thought were card-carrying Marxists. A daffy question the equally daffy Tea Partyer gladly entertained. “I believe there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party,” he said. “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

Surely, such a preposterous comment would engender unified condemnation from Republicans, especially the leadership. West’s McCarthy-esque allegation against fellow members of Congress should not go unanswered or unchallenged. Joe Scarborough did call him out on his ridiculous accusation. But I thought for sure others in the GOP, folks actually in the leadership, maybe even its candidate for president, would rain down criticism on West’s retro high-top fade.

Instead, I awoke to a deluge of criticism of Democratic Party adviser Hilary Rosen for her comments on Ann Romney.

With respect to economic issues, I think, actually that Mitt Romney’s right that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their family and the like. But he doesn’t connect on that issue, either. What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.

Rosen was not only criticized by Ann Romney, but also by three senior members of the Obama reelection campaign. They all revived the tense working mom versus stay-at-home mom divide. Even Rosen, a single working mother of two great kids, was forced to declare, “I love stay-at-home moms.” But this isn’t the argument she was making.

Let me be upfront. Rosen is a dear friend and doesn’t need me to defend her. She’s doing that just fine on her own. But I would defend her even if I didn’t know her. For she’s being hammered for something she didn’t say.

If you bother to read Rosen’s comments you’d see that her point is that wealthy Ann Romney has been blessed to never have to work outside the home to bring the household additional income to help make ends meet. Rosen wasn’t making a commentary on whether stay-at-home mothers had real jobs. Of course, they do.

What Rosen highlighted was that Ann Romney has never faced the financial strain of holding things together while her paycheck shrinks or she loses her job or the kids need braces and there’s no money in their meager budget to pay for it. How, then, can Ann Romney advise her out-of-touch husband on the specific problems American women face?

It’s a legitimate question since, as Ruth Marcus pointed out yesterday, Mitt has outsourced the job of relating to women to his wife. And I agree 100 percent with Marcus’s pushback on the notion that Ann Romney should be off-limits. “When you enlist your wife for video testimonials, when you repeatedly punt to her on questions about What Women Want,” she wrote, “it seems to me that she is decidedly on-limits.”




PDF From Center for American Progress: Fewer than 1 in 3 children have a stay-at-home parent, compared to more than half a generation ago 



Obama Admin Still Failing To Reach Needy Homeowners


The Hardest Hit Fund, a fund created to support homeowners hit hardest by the recession, has dispersed just 3 percent of its budget since it’s creation in 2010, a new report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program has found. From the New York Times: 

As of the end of 2011, the Hardest Hit Fund had spent $217.4 million out of its $7.6 billion budget, the report found. The program is intended to reach homeowners who are unemployed, or living in areas with high unemployment rates or steeply falling home values.

The Treasury Department estimated that the program would reach 3 to 4 million homeowners, however it has aided fewer than a million at this time.




Chart of the Day

The Kaiser Family Foundation has produced an interactive chart that displays the amount of funds distributed to each state under Obamacare.

You can view the interactive version here. Mouseover each state to see the amount.

The part that immediately jumps out to you is of course Texas, which has recieved $747 million under Obamacare. And we know Texas hates President Obama and hates Obamacare.

You may also notice that no state has gone without funds from Obamacare.



U.S. Indicts 1st Anti-Gay Hate Crime

For the first time in history, the United States has issued an indictment in hate crime case involving a crime against an individual based on their sexual orientation, the Justice Department said Thursday:

A federal grand jury in London, Ky., returned a three-count indictment charging David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, for kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington, and for conspiring with each other and with other unnamed individuals to commit the kidnapping.  The indictment charges the men with committing a hate crime in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal jurisdiction to include certain assaults motivated by someone’s sexual orientation.

The two defendants allegedly kidnapped and assaulted Kevin Pennington on April 4 after having two women trick Pennington into getting into a truck with the defendants. They allegedly drove Pennington to “a secluded area of the Kingdom Come State Park in Kentucky and assaulted him,” according to the feds.




Calif. Court: Managers Don’t Have To Ensure Lunch Breaks

In a case that affects thousands of businesses and millions of workers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers are under no obligation to ensure that workers take legally mandated lunch and rest breaks.

The unanimous opinion came after workers’ attorneys argued that abuses are routine and widespread when companies aren’t required to issue direct orders to take the breaks. They claimed employers take advantage of workers who don’t want to leave colleagues during busy times.

The case was initially filed nine years ago against Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and other eateries, by restaurant workers complaining of missed breaks in violation of California labor law.

But the high court sided with businesses when it ruled that requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable and those decisions should be left to workers.

The opinion written by Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar explained that state law does not compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods, instead saying the employee is at liberty to use the time as they choose.

“The employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed,” Werdegar wrote.

The court’s decision could greatly reduce the numerous class-action lawsuits surrounding the issue that cost companies millions of dollars in legal costs.

“The courts are making it clear that you have to create a system and a procedure that fully allows employees an opportunity to take breaks and meal periods, and if they do that they do not have to be Big Brother and individually monitor each employee to ensure that they’ve taken every bit of their breaks,” said Steve Hirschfeld, founder and CEO of the Employment Law Alliance, an employer-side legal trade group.

Attorneys for workers said low-wage workers such as those at Chili’s and other restaurants face unique issues that dissuade them from requesting meal and rest periods.

“The decision … should have required employers to take affirmative steps to provide meal periods, and not just adopt policies that allow them,” Fernando Flores of the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, said in a statement.

“The (court) previously held that employees who are denied their rest and meal periods face greater risk of work-related accidents — especially low-wage workers who engage in manual labor,” Flores said.

The Brinker decision doesn’t account for the public health and general welfare argument and weakens these standards for millions of low-wage workers across California, he added.

State law has mandated meal and rest breaks for decades. But in 2001, California became one of only a few states that impose a monetary penalty for employers who violate these laws, requiring employers to pay one hour of wages for a missed half-hour meal break. There is no federal law requiring employers to provide such breaks.



New document from special prosecutor: “Zimmerman confronted Martin”

SANFORD — Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin, pursued him, frightened him, confronted him then shot him during a struggle, prosecutors alleged Thursday.

That’s what the probable-cause affidavit filed Thursday by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey reveals. It is the first look at the criminal case that prosecutors plan to mount against Zimmerman.

The account is strikingly similar to the story that Trayvon’s parents, the family’s attorneys and civil-rights leaders have told for weeks — that Trayvon was an innocent victim hunted down and killed because he was black.

Notably absent is Zimmerman’s account. In that version, Zimmerman is the victim. He told police and his family that he had stopped following Trayvon, 17, of Miami Gardens, and was returning to his SUV when the teenager approached him. He said the two exchanged words, Trayvon knocked him to the ground and then began hammering his head against a sidewalk.

During his first court appearance Thursday, Zimmerman said just two words, “Yes, sir,” when asked by Seminole County Judge Mark Herr if he understood that he was charged with second-degree murder.

Herr found the affidavit legally sufficient to establish probable cause and ordered Zimmerman to appear for arraignment — when defendants formally enter a plea — on May 29 before Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler.

Neither Zimmerman nor his attorney asked for bail.

Afterward, defense attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters that now is not the right time for a bond hearing and that he’ll raise the issue once he finds somewhere safe for Zimmerman to live.

For now, Zimmerman is being held without bond in “administrative confinement,” away from other inmates.

Zimmerman wore a faded one-piece jail jumpsuit and was shackled. He appeared unshaven but still had the goatee that appeared in his booking photo, taken late Wednesday, the day of his arrest.

At a news conference in Jacksonville on Wednesday, Corey refused to discuss what new evidence her investigation had turned up or what justified the second-degree-murder charge she filed against him.

Her lead trial attorney in the case, Bernie de la Rionda, in Sanford on Thursday for Zimmerman’s first court appearance, also would not talk about evidence.

But the probable-cause affidavit, prepared by two investigators in her office, spelled out the bare bones of her case.

To Trayvon, it says, Zimmerman was a scary man, following him for some unknown reason. To Zimmerman, Trayvon was someone who was about to commit a crime, “a f—— punk,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit offered little new evidence but did make clear the state’s position on three key points:

•”Zimmerman confronted Martin,” it says, an apparent contradiction of Zimmerman’s version of events.

•The state will argue that the voice heard crying for help in the background of one 911 call is Trayvon’s. According to the affidavit, Trayvon’s mother listened to the recording and identified the voice as her son’s.

•State investigators will rely on the testimony of a friend of Trayvon’s who told them she talked to the teenager on the phone in the lead-up to the shooting and heard the confrontation.

Based on the description, she appears to be the girl described by Martin family attorneys as his girlfriend.

When interviewed by state investigators, “The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn’t know why,” the affidavit said.

Trayvon tried to run home, the affidavit says, but Zimmerman ignored the advice of a police dispatcher and continued pursuing him on foot.

For his part, Zimmerman, 28, of Sanford, appeared Thursday to settle in without complaint at the Seminole County jail for what may be a very long stay.

Although he’d been in the Seminole County jail less than 12 hours, by midmorning Thursday, Zimmerman had already spent about $80 at its commissary, buying such things as a deck of cards, a crossword-puzzle book and lots of snacks, including tortilla chips, white cheddar popcorn, beef sticks, chocolate cookies, root beer barrels and Jolly Ranchers.

O’Mara, a well-regarded Orlando criminal-defense and divorce attorney, described Zimmerman as focused and emotionally stable.

“I can interact with him,” O’Mara told reporters. “He’s in a good place.”

Much about Thursday’s hearing was a far cry from a conventional first appearance, something afforded everyone who has been arrested and jailed in the previous 24 hours.

Seldom does an elected state attorney appear, but Corey did. She is the state attorney in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

Seldom are dozens of reporters and news crews from around the world parked outside.

And seldom do attorneys successfully ask that the court file be sealed. The hearing appeared to be over and the attorneys were leaving the courtroom when O’Mara stopped, turned around and asked Herr to prohibit the release of court records.

He was concerned, O’Mara said, that witness names and contact information would be released, something that happens in every court case.

De la Rionda quickly agreed, and Herr said yes, except for the four-page probable-cause affidavit.



Justice Department To Sue Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Over Civil Rights Abuses

The Justice Department has given up on settling with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaioand is planning to sue the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for systematic civil rights abuses of Hispanic residents, a DOJ official indicated in a terse letter to Arpaio’s lawyer on Wednesday.

“It is clear that DOJ’s concerted effort to attain voluntary compliance by your client has failed,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wrote in a letter to Arpaio lawyer Joseph Popolizio obtained by TPM.

“It is also clear that we should not discuss anything else by telephone because you will not accurately portray those conversations,” Austin wrote. “At this point, it is best to let a court determine the appropriateness of appointing an independent monitor as well as imposing other relief in order to address MCSO’s constitutional and federal statutory violations.”

Arpaio’s office first came under federal scrutiny back in 2008, and DOJ announced in Decemberthat its probe found that Arpaio had “promoted a culture of bias” and that his officers had discriminated against Latinos. DOJ and Arpaio have been in contentious negotiations over the findings for months, but prospects now appear dim for a negotiated settlement.

Austin was writing Wednesday in response to a letter that Popolizio sent to DOJ earlier in the day. Popolizio’s missive “so obviously misstates the course of dealings between the parties that it is not worthy of a point by point refutation,” Austin wrote back. Popolizio’s letter has not been released publicly.

In opposing a federal monitor, Arpaio’s office has said that a monitor “essentially usurps the powers and duties of an elected Sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government.”

DOJ has said that a federal monitor was a non-negotiable part of any agreement. Austin’s letter said the monitor was the first item that came up when the government summarized a proposed agreement to Arpaio’s team on Feb. 6.

“The Proposed Settlement Agreement that we presented to you is entirely consistent with the summary provided to you on February 6 and what you agreed to on February 6,” Austin wrote.

“The Agreement explicitly limits the power of the monitor to the terms of the Agreement; establishes that the monitor shall operate under the supervision and orders of a federal court; and includes specific language ensuring that the monitor will not replace the role and duties of the Sheriff,” he continued.

“Your characterization of the terms of our Agreement is inaccurate and clearly designed to mislead,” Austin wrote. “Considering that the word ‘monitor’ appears throughout the Agreement and you never gave us an opportunity to negotiate the exact language of the Agreement, it is silly for you to pretend that I or any other DOJ employee defined exactly what the duties of the monitor would have at the end of negotiations. Nothing of the kind was ever said and you know it.”



Slap on the Wrist

Goldman Sachs got fined again.

Goldman Sachs agreed on Thursday to pay securities regulators $22 million to settle accusations that it did not have adequate policies in place to stop stock research tips from being passed inappropriately to its biggest clients.

But, I wonder, does the firm even notice the loss of $22 million? Isn’t that like when we drop a penny and decide it’s not even worth the energy to bend down and pick it up? Why do we still have pennies again? And why do we pretend that we can change the behavior of financial behemoths by slapping them with penny fines? I mean, seriously, look at their earnings.

Assailed by critics on all sides, Goldman Sachs did what it does best on Tuesday, smashing estimates for its first-quarter results and setting aside $5.23bn (£3.2bn) to pay its staff.

The bank reported net revenues of $11.89bn and net earnings of $2.74bn for the first quarter which ended on 31 March, 2011.

They are making billions in profit every quarter. And they received a $22 million fine? That’s not even the cost of doing business. That doesn’t even cover their catering bill.





Why Did President Obama Postpone an Anti-Discrimination Order?

I don’t know exactly why the White House decided to not issue an executive order banning discrimination among federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation. Believe it or not, it’s still possible, if you’re a government contractor, to fire someone because they’re part of the LGBT community.

According to The Huffington Post, the openly gay White House Director of Specialty Media, Shin Inouye, said, “While it is not our usual practice to discuss Executive Orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time.”

Again, I don’t know exactly why they decided to postpone the order based on the administration response, but I suspect it was about the election and it was about the idea that the president would rather pass a law addressing this issue than to release an executive order.

Of course, neither excuse comes close to mitigating the problem, or the president’s lack of action here. But yes, presidents often make decisions based on political calculus and strategy — especially on a day when the 2012 general election began in earnest. It’s political reality. Meanwhile, a congressional law would make such a rule more-or-less permanent, while an executive order could be very easily overturned by Future Republican President X. Regarding that, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is winding its way through Congress, though it’s unlikely it would make it through the anti-gay House Republican gauntlet. For reasons beyond comprehension, the Republicans think it’s objectionable to tell a business who it can and can’t hire even if it means rejecting otherwise qualified people just because of whothey are (Ron Paul, inexplicably a favorite among some progressives, could be the loudest purveyor of this twisted idea).

All of that said, and despite the likely excuses, I’m having trouble seeing any harm in the president signing an executive order as a bridge until ENDA can be passed, which could be as soon as January if the Democrats can pull off a big November.

Seriously. How bad could it really have been? Are there any polls showing solid opposition to such an endeavor? Hardly — in fact, just the opposite. A poll of likely 2012 voters from the Center for American Progress showed huge support for such a law. Even Republicans support the law by near-supermajority margins:

Nearly three-fourths of voters (73 percent) support protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination. This support cuts across political party affiliation, with 81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans supporting workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay and transgender people.

It’s a no-brainer.

However, before progressive opponents of the administration start screeching about how this is the worst president ever for the gay community (Dan Choi and others, specifically), it’s important to also note several recent successes.

–The president has voiced his opposition to a Minnesota same-sex marriage ban. An Obama for America official released the following statement to the Metro Weekly newspaper: “While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the President does not support it.”

–Meanwhile, Homeland Security, under President Obama, recently announced “plans to allow same-sex couples to cross the border together rather than separately.”

These announcements are just the latest in a long string of pro-LGBT actions by the administration. All good news, but they also make the executive order announcement even more baffling.

N.R.A.’s Influence Seen in Expansion of Self-Defense Laws

No one had yet heard of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin when a group of Wisconsin Republicans got together last year to discuss expanding a self-defense bill before the State Legislature.

The bill, known as the Castle Doctrine, made it harder to prosecute or sue people who used deadly force against intruders inside their houses. But the Wisconsin legislators, urged on by the National Rifle Association in a series of meetings, wanted it to go further. They shaped an amendment that extended the bill’s protections to include lawns, sidewalks and swimming pools outside the residences, as well as vehicles and places of business.

That expanded bill, passed with little debate by the Legislature and signed in December by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is the newest of more than two dozen so-called Stand Your Ground statutes that have been enacted around the country in recent years. Those laws are now coming under increased scrutiny after Mr. Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, in late February. Similar legislation is pending in several other states, including Alaska, Massachusetts and New York.

Though the laws vary in their specifics and scope, they expand beyond the home the places where a person does not have a duty to retreat when threatened, and they increase protection from criminal prosecution and civil liability. All contain elements of the 2005 Florida statute that made it difficult to immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman, who has said he shot Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.

Critics see the laws as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association, which began gathering on Thursday in St. Louis for its annual meeting, to push back against limits on gun ownership and use. That effort, they say, has been assisted by conservative legislators in states like Wisconsin, and by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has promoted model legislation based on Florida’s law; the council, known as ALEC, is a conservative networking organization made up of legislators, corporations like Walmart, a large retailer of long guns, and interest groups like the rifle association.

The success of the campaign is reflected in the rapid spread of expanded self-defense laws as well as laws that legalize the carrying of concealed weapons. Only one state, Illinois, and the District of Columbia now ban that practice, compared with 19 states in 1981. Bills pending in several states that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, in churches, in bars or at other sites would further weaken restrictions, as would either of two federal bills, now in the Senate, that would require that a permit for carrying a concealed weapon that was granted by any state be honored in all other states.

“Both directly and with cutouts like ALEC, the N.R.A. is slowly and surely and methodically working at the state level to expand the number and kind and category of places where people can carry concealed, loaded weapons and use them with deadly force,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 650 mayors that has not taken a position on the Stand Your Ground laws.

Repeated requests to speak with N.R.A. officials about Wisconsin’s law or Stand Your Ground laws more generally met with no response.

In Wisconsin, as in other states, the passage of an expanded self-defense law was helped by the 2010 elections, which vaulted conservative Republicans into office. In Pennsylvania, for example, a Stand Your Ground law passed the Legislature in 2010 but was vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Introduced again last year, the bill was signed by his Republican successor, Tom Corbett.

In Wisconsin, a narrower version of the legislation had languished and died in previous sessions. But with a Republican governor and Republicans dominating both houses of the Legislature, several state lawmakers said that the success of the bill and the expansion amendment promoted by the N.R.A. seemed assured.

“I think it’s only normal they assumed this could be their year,” said Representative Dean Kaufert, a Republican who introduced the legislation, speaking of the rifle association.

Darren LaSorte, a lobbyist for the rifle association, wanted the legislation, like Florida’s law, to extend protection to any place where a person had a legal right to be, said several Republican lawmakers who met with Mr. LaSorte. But having been successful in getting an earlier bill passed to allow the carrying of concealed weapons, Mr. LaSorte accepted a compromise.

“It was almost a ‘we’ll take what we can get’ kind of mode,” Mr. Kaufert said. In its final form, the law contained language that closely tracked some parts of the Florida bill.




Religious Leaders Slam Ryan For Using Catholic Faith To Justify Cutting Programs That Help The Poor 

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Christian Broadcast Network earlier this week that the House GOP’s budget, which he wrote, was driven by his Catholic faith. “A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,” Ryan said, and Catholic principles are what led him to cut programs for the poor so as to keep people from becoming “dependent on government.”

As ThinkProgress noted Tuesday, Ryan’s budget seems to ignore Catholic social teaching that calls for protecting the poor and improving access to food, jobs, health care, housing, and the social safety net. And now religious leaders are making the same case. The founder ofthe PICO National Network, the largest national coalition of religious congregations, slammed Ryan’s claim of adherence to Catholic teaching as “the height of hypocrisy” in a release circulated Wednesday:

It’s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,” said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. […] “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”

“By these measures,” the release says, “the Ryan budget is a severe failure,” noting that it cutsMedicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and “other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives,” while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Overall, 62 percent of Ryan’s budget cuts come from programs that benefit the poor. “The mission of the Church is to ‘bring good news to the poor’ and to protect the vulnerable, not to justify theimpoverishment of the very young, the very old and the sick in order to enrich the wealthy,” the release says.

This isn’t the first time religious leaders have criticized the House GOP budget. When Ryan released the budget in March, Bishop Gene Robinson called it an “immoral disaster” that “robs the poor,” and Father Thomas Kelly, a constituent of Ryan’s, said he was “outraged”that Ryan defended the budget “on moral grounds.” Last year’s Ryan budget faced similar criticism, as religious leaders blasted it for adhering more closely to the policies of anti-religion, anti-government author Ayn Rand than to the teachings of the Bible.




Most Americans Expect Health Care Ruling To Be Based On Politics, Not Law 

Recently, President Obama raised the ire of conservatives when he claimed the Supreme Court would be practicing judicial activism if they struck down the health care law, despite a long record of Republican presidents railing against so-called activist judges without a similar backlash. If a new survey is any indication, the President is not the only one worried about a politicized Court.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released today found that most Americans expect the Supreme Court to decide the health care law’s constitutionality based on politics, not law. Fully half of Americans expect the Court will rule based on “partisan political views,” while 40 percent expect a ruling based on the legal merits of the law. As the survey notes, this view isn’t just held by supporters of the law:

The public’s perception of the court is closely tied to partisan and ideological leanings. Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.

Just over half of political independents think the court will base its ruling on partisan predispositions. This includes similar numbers of independents who support and oppose the health law.

The Supreme Court has made several decisions over the past few years which completely ignored decades of precedent. This probably explains why earlier surveys have found that fewer Americans view the Court positively than ever before. It is also worth nothing that this is not the first survey which showed Americans were skeptical of how the Court would rule on the health care law.

The Affordable Care Act is supported by nearly 200 years of precedent, which should make this an easy case. During oral arguments, however, the justices seemed more concerned with whether they agreed with the law then whether it is constitutional. One justice in particular parroted several Republican talking points during the arguments.



New Planned Parenthood Ad




The War on Women Voting

Voting rights “evangelist” Faye Anderson says advocates who’ve been protesting new state photo voter ID laws have it all wrong. When voting rights advocates prop up elderly voters who might be disenfranchised because they may not have the correct form of ID, or the necessary documents to obtain proper voting ID, these are the wrong avatars for the campaigns.

“Advocates have done themselves a disservice by bringing up these 80- and 90-year-old voters. Those are not the votes who are disproportionately impacted by voter ID laws,” said Anderson in a phone interview. “As an advocate you want to influence public opinion and you’re not influencing them if you are putting up the faces of 80- and 90-year-old voters.”

Elderly voters losing out on voter participation is a very real thing, as evidenced recently in Wisconsin. But instead, she says advocates should be focused on voters who resemble her: A middle-aged New York transplant living in Philadelphia, who commutes up and down the East Coast, traveling without a driver’s license. Like many New Yorkers, Anderson doesn’t drive so she doesn’t need one. She has a non-driver’s photo identification from New York, and other than that she has a passport. It wasn’t easy getting a New York ID, Anderson told me, and she’s concerned chiefly with women like her who might also have troubles getting the ID they need to vote, especially if they’ve been recently married, divorced or if they’ve moved, all of which could lead to name and address mismatches on Election Day.

The new Pennsylvania photo voter ID law  is “disenfranchising by design to make voters jump through all these hoops,” said Anderson. “It’s unreasonable that women, with all that’s going on in their lives, will then have time to sit down and Google ‘where do I get my birth certificate,’ ‘where do I find my marriage certificate,’ ‘where to find the closest social security office,’ the hours they’re open, how to get there, and once there do they have all the documents they need.”

Anderson was able to do it, but she is a long-time voting rights advocate, and is trained to know the answers to these questions. But there are many women who are ill-served by the new photo voter ID laws. A Brennan Center for Justice survey shows that ten percent of voting-age Americans don’t have ID with both current name and address on it — many of those are women whose last names change with marriages, and whose address might change due to separations, divorces or just trying to get away from an abusive spouse situation.

Rather than simply moan about these problems, though, Anderson decided to link up with some web developers to create the Cost of Freedom online application, which would give voters detailed information on where to find documents like birth and marriage certificates, where those offices are located, and how late they stay open. There are a number of organizations that provide similar maps — the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the National Conference of State Legislaturesto name a few — but Anderson said her application will be more user-friendly because voters can find information based off their zip code — a sort of Yelp! for voting-related locations.

While this application would serve all voters, she’s onto something when talking about how women will be the hardest affected by new voter ID laws. Much has been made about President Obama’s lop-sided 19-point lead over GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney with women voters. This sounds great until you start converting poll results to actual voter turnout. Many of the voter ID and registration laws passed by states over the last 18 months will take such a disproportionate toll on women that there should probably be an asterisk by any stat showing huge women voter margins for any candidate.

Romney might be on the losing side of the “war on women,” as Jamelle Bouie at American Prospect pointed out, but it may not matter if many women get flustered with new voting processes. There are too many reasons for women to get fired up for voting this fall. Given most women broke for Obama in 2008 and seem to be headed to do the same this year, with a lot of help from Republican misogyny, it makes sense that the party on the losing end of favorability would feel incentivized to place laws that would trip up women voters. Note that Republicans picked a fight with the League of Women Voters, among other voter rights groups, in Florida — arguably the most important state in any presidential election —  when it passed a law that would scale back all voter registration activities.

The League of Women Voters have also joined lawsuits against voter ID laws in multiple states including South Carolina and Wisconsin where they were successful in getting a judge to file an injunction against the law, just in time to block it for the recent primary.

When talking about women’s access to voting, and voting their interests, you have to discuss their ability to feed families and how the gutting of welfare impacts that ability. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would like to gut even more of food and housing assistance. The primary beneficiaries of welfare programs are women — with plenty of white women collecting those benefits. Low-income people of color normally vote Democrat, perhaps a reason why Republicans seem less sympathetic about the unlikeliness that low-income citizens will have the kind of ID needed to vote in many states. But rural, poor white women who vote Republican will figure into these voter ID transactions as well.

For some conservatives, though, it doesn’t matter the income level or the race — they just don’t want women voting. Conservative writer John Derbyshire, who was just fired from National Review magazine for a racist op-ed, devoted a whole section in his book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism to making reasons why women shouldn’t vote. In “The Case Against Female Suffrage,” Derbyshire recalls an ancient Athenian play, The Assemblywomen, about women disguised as men who take over a city — “The playwright grasped the essential point,” writes Derebyshire, “Women incline to socialism much more naturally than do men.”

Derbyshire further reasons:

Given that feminization is going to mean socialization, the feminization of our society must be bad news for conservatives. Is feminization in fact happening? Oh yeah.

Conservative writer Matthew Vadum recently chastised Derbyshire in a Tweet, calling the column Derbyshire was fired over “pretty horrific, racist,” and said in comments that he “wouldn’t want to be associated with this article.” But what Vadum has written about voting rights has been pretty horrific, if not racist. His diatribe against low-income citizens in American Thinker, leads with the notion that “Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery.” He hates the Motor Voter law, passed in the 90s that allows people to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license or public benefits, and wrote that the law “opened the door to massive voter fraud.” Throughout the entire article he makes correlations between voter fraud and welfare fraud — both of which are myths of greater fiction than ancient Athenian plays.

But Vadum’s real point isn’t to point out fraud, but rather to show that welfare recipients — the grand majority of whom are women — aren’t deserving of the voting franchise, just as Derbyshire said in more direct language.

Anderson, an African-American woman, has seen this kind of contempt for low-income citizens not only from conservative white men like Derbyshire and Vadum, but also from otherwise privileged women.

“The subtext is that people without ID are irresponsible,” said Anderson. “For some of these middle-class moms, they are thinking ‘This voter ID issue is not about me, it’s about those low-income minorities, those irresponsible women.’”

Anderson tells me she’s even heard this from some black well-off women. But according to the Brennan Center, she reminds me, only 48% of voting-age women have ready access to a birth certificates that reflects their current legal name, and only 66% of voting-age women have proof of citizenship documents reflecting their current name.

“These women may be smug thinking [voter ID] is not about me, but they may be in for a rude awakening if they are part of that 34% of women who do not have official documents with their current name.”

Which is why Anderson is hoping to launch her Cost of Freedom application this year, so that people will know exactly where to go to find whatever document might be needed to make them eligible to vote. She understands that the new voter ID laws are unfair and burdensome, and that it might be part of a larger attack on women’s rights, but for now there’s nothing to do but roll with it and make sure everyone has what they need to get in the booth.

Said Anderson, “We want to minimize the number of voters who give up out of frustration.”



Dear Ann, About that “Choice” 

Hi Ann!

I’ve always said that there is one surefire way to solve any of our problems related to education in this country.  That surefire solution is to solve the failing family economy.  Republicans are for people working multiple jobs, but they are also always for the stay at home parent, and the nuclear family.

You want to solve the problems that face America?  Make it so that every family caring for a child in this country has the ability to stay at home to raise that child.  Make it so that every family who cares for a kid can make the same choice you have made.

If you want to do that, you don’t cut Medicaid.  If you want to do that, you don’t cut funding for public universities.  If you want to do that, you exploit the wealth of the richest country on Earth to make it so that every single family has the option of keeping one them home.

When someone stays home with a child, when someone is there at school to support their work, when someone is at home, waiting for that child to walk through the door, when someone is walking that child to the bus stop, when someone puts on their stern face and argues with the teachers and principals to make it so their kid has chances that are not even remotely the same kinds of chances your kids have had…

When someone is there for a kid, that kid will do measurably better.

It’s this simple:  Every family should be afforded the legal and financial ability to invest their time and love in their own children.

But it doesn’t work that way.  The people in the real world have to pay for their student loans, their transportation (you and your husband would cut mass transportation funds, yes, you are part of that decision making process), they have to pay for clothes to wear to work, food, rent… (did you know that some people don’t own even one house!?)

About 12 years ago, my wife and I made the choice for me to stay home to care for our son.  He was just 1 at the time, and we had no plans to have a second.  We would eventually have a second child, but you know what they say, right?  “The best laid plans of mice.”

When I decided to stay home, my wife was in her 6th or 7th year of teaching, but I was only in  my third.  Needless to say, she was earning more, and that was something we had to be concerned about.

Why on Earth would I take myself out of the workforce to raise a little boy?

My Mother never had a choice about staying home.  She either had to work, or we wouldn’t have anything, period.  After my Mother died, my Father reluctantly took us in.  We had the benefit of social security death benefits.  Without that, we probably would have been raised in Texas or California by my grandmother.  My grandmother would leave her abusive husband and begin to work on her own, buy her own house (it sold in 2000 something for 50k), and still have time to have me and my brother come and stay with her over the Summer.

These were not choices.  These were just things that happened.

So let me just repeat what I said in a comment earlier (with some additional spice for flavor):

I’m a stay at home Dad, and I work 20 hours a week, and I teach and organize two school’s chess clubs, I coach my kids’ sports teams, I clean the house, and I cook the food, and I get the oil changed in the car.  My wife does not need to do any of the housework, because I do it all.  I have never once hired a house cleaner.

Guess what, Ann?

I paid for my own college.  I started working in a restaurant when I was still 14 years old.

I don’t have a Cadillac.  My last 4 cars have been hand me downs from the in laws.  I have never ridden a horse. I have never owned a vacation home.

If only every single family in the US had the ability to make the choice that you made.

Your problem isn’t that you stayed at home.  Your problem is that you don’t understand that it is well within our power to make it so that everyone can have the opportunity to make that choice.

You and your husband are the American Family Wrecking Crew.

2:29 PM PT: Here’s the expected thank you.

I had to leave for work right after I posted this, so I had to miss out on the convo!  Sorry.


NYT Editorial: “The Wages of Ideology” What Scott Walker’s & Romney’s Ideology Means for Women Workers 

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is struggling to fight off a determined effort to replace him in an extraordinary recall election scheduled for June 5. The original reason more than 900,000 Wisconsinites signed petitions to get him out of office was his signature on a bill that stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. But, every few weeks, Mr. Walker provides new grounds for becoming the third American governor to be removed by his own electorate.

The most recent came last week, when he signed the repeal of a 2009 lawallowing the victims of wage discrimination to pursue damages in state court, which is generally easier than filing a federal complaint. The principal reason for the original law was to narrow a significant gap in compensation between men and women. At the time the law was passed, women earned an average of 75 cents for every $1 men earned; by 2010, after the law was passed, the average for women had edged up to about 78 cents.

By closing off this important avenue to state courts to women, Mr. Walker was acceding to the lobbying demands of business groups, including hotel and restaurant trade groups that employ large numbers of women in low-paying jobs and do not wish their wage scale to be challenged in court. (He called it a“gravy train” for trial lawyers.) That’s the kind of thing he’s been doing since he took office in 2011, and it’s an important reason why he was warmly embraced during the Wisconsin presidential primary last month by Mitt Romney, who won that state.

I applaud your governor,” said Mr. Romney, who also called him a “hero” and a “man of courage.” Mr. Romney’s campaign has its own problems with issues of pay equity. On Wednesday morning, his staffcould not answer a simple question about whether Mr. Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first federal law signed by President Obama, in 2009, which makes it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination.

A few hours later, the Romney campaign put out a bland statementsaying he supports pay equity and “is not looking to change current law.” But many elements of the Republican Party are eagerly looking to change the law. If Mr. Romney is elected and a Republican-led Congress presents him with a bill overturning the Ledbetter act, would he sign it, following the path of his hero, Mr. Walker? That question went unanswered, just as the campaign never said whether it supported Mr. Walker’s repeal.

The Romney campaign sent out several statements on Wednesday from Republican women making the misleading claim that women had been disproportionately hurt by Mr. Obama’s economic policies. That concern lacks credibility, considering that several of those women voted against the Ledbetter act, including Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Mr. Romney has also said he wants to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, just as Mr. Walker ended state financing for nine Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin last year. Mr. Romney’s disregard for the welfare and leading concerns of women is costing the presumptive Republican nominee support among women.

He may try to roll back these positions toward the center for the general election this fall, but voters should be skeptical. As Mr. Walker’s actions show, they are at the core of Republican ideology.




The Right’s Racism Problem

National Review has jettisoned another writer for associating himself with racism. Robert Weissberg, an occasional contributor to the magazine’s Phi Beta Cons blog, will no longer contribute, editor Rich Lowry has declared, because he “participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism.” Whoops! This comes hard on the heels of John Derbyshire’s dismissal, also for racially offensive commentary. By the logic of newsmagazine trend-spotting, one more transgressor at National Review will give us a trend. But I’m not sure we really need one more. Ann Coulter was dismissed years ago for following up a column expressing religious intolerance toward Muslims with one making snarky reference to “swarthy males.” A decade before that, William F. Buckley fired the late Joe Sobran on grounds of anti-Semitism. Indeed, National Review has a laudable tradition, going back to its founding, of disassociating itself with racists (even though some of its own early editorial comment about race was fairly reprehensible). So, to some extent, does the right in general. Remember when Sen. Trent Lott made his fatuous comment, in 2002, praising Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Dixiecrat campaign for president? He lost the Republican leadership over that. It wasn’t liberals who demanded he step down; we liberals were only too happy to see such an obviously unacceptable character retain a leadership position in the GOP. He was jettisoned by fellow Republicans, who were extremely sensitive to any accusation that the GOP was racist.

The question is why this should be so frequently necessary. Conservatism isn’t an inherently racist belief system, and most conservatives are no more racist than most liberals are. But it is true that if you’re a racist you’re likely to gravitate toward conservatism, and toward the Republican party, for certain fairly obvious reasons. Its modern resurgence after the 1964 Civil Rights Bill (passed with more Republican support than Democratic, though opposed by that year’s Republican presidential nominee) was fueled by southern white migration from the Democratic party. The Republican party’s small-government philosophy has limited federal interference with discriminatory practices at the state and local level, and with racial bigotry generally. The Republican majority on the Supreme Court will likely soon abolish affirmative action altogether. Charles Murray, who two decades ago published a book arguing that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites, is beloved by conservative commentators (“Arguably the most consequential social scientist alive”—Jonah Goldberg) even as the larger social science community regards Murray as a crackpot. The Republican party’s tax policies favor rich “job creators,” who tend disproportionately to be white, and its opposition to the welfare state—initially to cash transfers, then to non-cash assistance like food stamps, and finally even to unemployment benefits—tends to harm lower-income people, who tend disproportionately to be black. The Republican party’s criminal justice policies have put an appallingly high proportion of black men in jail, often for petty drug offenses. Republicans tend to favor the death penalty, which leads to execution of a disproportionate number of blacks. Southern Republicans struggle to suppress a dewey-eyed sentimentality for the Confederacy, even though their party was founded in opposition to slavery, and even though its greatest leader, Abraham Lincoln, fought a war against Confederate secession. None of these affinities or policies is inherently racist. But taken together, they’re going to be a lot more attractive to racists than the liberal policies of the Democratic party.

These facts are so well known that bringing them up is usually regarded as some sort of cheap shot akin to pointing out that a person with a prosthetic leg walks with a limp. But a one-legged person doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Can the same be said of the GOP?

Dismissing the occasional racist is one way for conservatives to deal with their racism problem. Reconsidering aspects of their ideology that repel African Americans and other minorities and attract allies with toxic views on race would be another. But that won’t happen anytime soon. So expect the occasional purges to continue.


“The bishops’ concept of religious liberty means they would get the liberty to deny ours.”

Anyone wishing or hoping that “culture-war” politics will subside now that the GOP nomination contest, with its serial pandering to cultural warriors, has ended, needs to read the “Statement on Religious Liberty” just released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For a detailed analysis of the statement—particularly its explicit and implicit defiance of federal court decisions rejecting their point of view—you should read Sarah Posner’s take at ReligionDispatches. Another essential commentary is from Catholics For Choice president Jon O’Brien, who focuses on the redefinition of “religious liberty” the Bishops are championing.

I can’t really improve on Posner’s and O’Brien’s take on the substance of the Bishops’ “statement.” But I will note the dangerous rhetorical escalation it represents. It treats the highly indirect impingement (at most) of “conscience rights” by the Obama administration’s contraception coverage mandate as at odds with the fundamental grant of religious liberty made in the First Amendment, and indeed, before the First Amendment, the statements of religious tolerance set out in colonies like Maryland. It embraces the aggressive alliance of conservative evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics formed by Charles Colson and the late Richard John Neuhaus in the 1990s. And it explicitly endorses the recent manifesto by that alliance in the theocon magazine Neuhaus founded, First Things, which conflates physical persecution of Christians in developing countries, the “established secularism” of Europe, and adverse court decisions in the U.S. as part of “the greatest period of persecution in the history of Christianity”(!).

While the Bishops’ statement does acknowledge that religious liberty is “at much greater peril” in countries other than America, this tempering of militancy is rather decisively undercut by a call for a “fortnight of freedom” this summer framed by feasts dedicated to the martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. And then there is this toxic little remark:

In addition to this summer’s observance, we also urge that the Solemnity of Christ the King—a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty—be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.

Resistance to totalitarian incursions? Really?

There is nothing in this statement that reflects the willingness to compromise exhibited by the Catholic charities, health care providers, and educational groups most affected by the contraception coverage mandate, and not even a nod of acknowledgement to the liberty interests of Americans who object to the Bishops’ rejection of anti-discrimination laws, or of Americans (including most Catholics) who don’t share the Bishops’ views on contraception.

This is a fairly open declaration of partisan war, which, as Posner notes, seems timed to coincide with this summer’s quickening general election.

And for what? To give the Bishops the “freedom” of special privileges. As O’Brien sums it up:

The bishops have failed to convince Catholics in the pews to follow their prohibitions on contraception. Now, they want the government to grant them the legal right to require each of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to set aside our own guaranteed freedom from government-sanctioned religious interference in our lives. This is a strange definition of the ‘common good’—a central Catholic belief. The bishops’ concept of religious liberty means they would get the liberty to deny ours.


“If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” – George Monbiot

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