BAGHDAD — The Iranian ambassador in Baghdad said the recent release of two Iranians from Iraqi custody is not an indication of any impending deal to free three Americans held by Tehran on spying charges. Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi told The Associated Press the fate of the Americans, who have been held since July, is in the hands of the Iranian judiciary and has no connection to the release of two Iranians earlier this month. “There were no deals,” Qomi said. “They (Americans) are in the custody of the judiciary system.” The detained Americans – Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 – were arrested along the Iraqi border. Iran has accused them of espionage, but their families say the three were hiking in northern Iraq’s mountainous Kurdish region and if they strayed into Iran, it was unintentional. In a goodwill gesture by Iran, their mothers were allowed to visit them earlier in May – for the first time since they were taken into Iranian custody. The visit, along with the release by Baghdad of two Iranians held for years in U.S. and later Iraqi custody, raised the possibility of a behind-the-scenes swap for the Americans’ freedom. The option came into focus especially after Iranian leaders suggested a link between the American trio and a number of Iranians held by the U.S. who Tehran would like to see released. During an interview with The AP at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad late Sunday, Qomi discussed the case of the three Americans. “The families came and visited them,” he said. “The judiciary system has a fair position on this matter. We hope that their issue will be solved.” The Americans’ detention comes at an increasingly tense period between Iran and the West, concerned over Iran’s refusal to stop its controversial uranium enrichment that the U.S. and its allies fear masks a push to make nuclear weapons. The U.N. is weighing a new set of sanctions against Iran over the program, which Tehran maintains is only peaceful. The U.S. has also often accused Tehran of meddling in Iraq, particularly by financing Shiite militias that frequently attacked American troops here. But Qomi said the U.S. has not offered proof of Iranian interference. He said Tehran wants to see Iraq remain stable, so that American troops can go home under the Obama administration timetable. An unstable Iraq would give “an excuse to the forces that occupied Iraq to stay,” he said, referring to American soldiers. He added that it would also make Iraq a “base for terrorism.” Reconstruction work is still going on at the embassy after an April bombing outside the mission’s gates. Iraq has been three months without a new government following the inconclusive March parliamentary elections in which the Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance narrowly beat a bloc headed by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Both sides failed to get a majority to govern alone, setting off weeks of frantic negotiations with other political groups to form the next government. Iran, which like Iraq is predominantly Shiite, is believed to have heavily supported a union of al-Maliki’s State of Law and the traditionally Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance. That alliance is only four seats short of the needed majority but arguments over who should be its pick for prime minister has raised doubts about its viability. Qomi said the political wrangling was Iraq’s “internal matter” but that Iran would like to see the next Iraqi government include all groups that did well in the elections, including prominent Sunni figures on Iraqiya’s list, led by secular Shiite Ayad Allawi. Meanwhile, six people were killed and about two dozen were wounded in separate attacks in Iraq, police and hospital officials said Monday. Among the dead was a prominent local leader of anti-insurgent Sunni forces known as Awakening Councils who was shot in Baghdad. A policeman in Baghdad and another in the northern city of Kirkuk were also killed by roadside bombs. An Iraqi soldier in the northern city of Mosul died from wounds sustained in a car bomb blast, while gunmen killed two policemen in a drive-by shooting at a checkpoint in the city. Iraq also announced the arrest of two alleged al-Qaida militants. A spokesman for Baghdad operations command, Qassim al-Moussawi, identified one of them as Abbas Nejim Abdullah al-Jawari, who was detained April 16 in western Baghdad and suspected in attacks against embassies and hotels. The second was Mohammed Nouri Mutar Yaseen, described as the head of a Baghdad hit squad and arrested May 1. Al-Moussawi said he was involved in attacks against government ministries, embassies and hotels but did not provide specifics. A string of April bombings targeting mostly embassies, including Iran’s, killed at least 42 people and in January, attacks on hotels in Baghdad left 37 dead. __ Associated Press Writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.
Archive for May, 2010.
Sarah Ferguson’s caught-on- tape bribery scandal this past week prompted one of my friends to say “if that had been me I would have considered killing myself”, yet the Duchess of York is scheduled to appear on Oprah tomorrow to explain her side of the story and there are rumors that Donald Trump wants to recruit her for Celebrity Apprentice and she may move to the States permanently. So it goes. This latest tabloid scandal for the Duchess of York provides a great Rorschach test for how people feel about this kind of fallen celebrity. The sympathetic find Sarah Ferguson misunderstood, abandoned, exploited, her own worst enemy and flawed in a rather charming way. These are people who use the word charming because it sounds British and would probably curtsey if they met her. The outraged find her vulgar, reckless and cynically cavalier about selling her influence to finance a lifestyle she feels entitled to. These are people who don’t feel sorry for Lindsay Lohan either. Another way to put it is some people watch the incriminating video and think she’s crying in front of the pile of money on the coffee table because she’s actually ashamed of how low she has sunk while others think she can’t freaking believe she just scored this much cash. A friend who has met Ferguson several times reports “Basically she’s a very nice person, she came to my house for dinner in London once and spent an hour upstairs with my two little girls making up these wonderful bedtime stories - they were entranced….she’s got this really maternal, cosy girl side you can’t help but like.” She adds, however, “We’re surprised when the royals act badly but just because someone is born with or marries a title doesn’t make them aristocratic or genteel or honorable.” She put it another way, “Sarah drives home the folly of expecting someone in her position to act differently - being a royal may classify you but it doesn’t give you class.” She also confirms suspicions here and abroad from those close to the situation that despite Sarah’s protestations that Andrew was unaware of her selling influence to him may not be completely accurate but a story she will probably stick to. The British tabloids have a tradition of running these kind of stings - a sort of Punk’d for Royals that exposes people who present themselves as superior to others and are revealed to be not only ‘just like us’ but often worse. There is a wicked delight in seeing the mighty exposed as cravenly human and this particular scandal really delivered. If you didn’t like Sarah Ferguson before, this story was the mother lode for exposing her as a shallow show-off who is all about the perks and the bucks. This is the special talent of the celebrity press and that is when they confirm our collective hopes that people who seem to have it all really don’t, and people whom we never really trust or like indeed meet our worst expectations and fall from grace. But then we pick them up again. Chastened, participating in the public apologies (see Tiger Woods and Jessie James) and seeking our collective forgiveness and understanding, they step down one more sad rung on the downward ladder of fame. Any publicity becomes good publicity. They compete with other C and D listers on reality shows that continue to provide recognition, no matter how tattered and cheap. They will talk to everybody and anybody and repeat their humiliating stories to anyone who asks as long as it’s in the warm glow of studio lighting and there is any kind of lens in the room. The thought of retreating from the public eye or finding salvation, say, in helping others, is rarely chosen, rather, having been branded by the glare of bad publicity, the Celebrity Fallen become ours forever. So we’re sort of stuck with Sarah Ferguson now. She got caught peddling her influence and integrity, diminished as it was, and now seems to be selling the rest. Stay tuned. More on Tiger Woods
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Nancy Doyle Palmer: Sarah Ferguson: The Next Sale
The frustration and anxiety of Americans about the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico grows by the day. Those whose livelihood is tied to the Gulf — or who live in the wetlands of Louisiana, and communities along the coast — are justifiable demanding the deployment of war-time levels of personnel and equipment to stop the dark, deadly oil that is invading from the sea. In times of national crisis, Americans look to the President to lead — and to deliver. That’s why President Obama was absolutely correct to make it crystal clear that he is personally responsible to deal with the oil spill crisis — and has told his Administration to spare no effort to stop the leak, oversee the cleanup, and assure that BP completely compensates the massive number of victims. Increasingly sharp criticism has been leveled at the President because BP has so far been unable to stop the leak. The problem, of course, is that most of the critics have few suggestions about what the Administration might do that it isn’t doing. And it is down right remarkable that the critics, include Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who less that two years ago were joining Republican oil industry “expert” Sarah Palin in the juvenile Republican convention chant “Drill Baby Drill!” “Drill Baby Drill!” was not just intended to promote more offshore oil drilling. It was intended to mock Democratic concerns for the environmental impact of offshore drilling. It was intended to dismiss their opposition to drilling as stupid, “tree-hugging,” anti-growth, “elite” concerns. It was intended to mock those who feared that offshore drilling would despoil our natural resources. It was intended to label them — in the words of the late Republican Vice-President Spiro Agnew — as “effete, nattering nabobs of negativism” — part of the “chablis and brie” set that is completely disconnected from the lives of ordinary Americans who drink beer, work hard and get their hands dirty producing the products and the food we need in our everyday lives. Of course things haven’t turned out that way. The victims of the BP oil disaster are the shrimpers and the oystermen — the people who own the mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops — the folks who drive their pickup trucks to a job in the tourist industry along the Mississippi coast. The real victims are the fathers who want to take their sons hunting in the Louisiana wetlands the way their father took them. And the real beneficiaries of the Bush-Cheney-Republican energy policy have not been ordinary Americans — they are the giant oil companies that have become economic behemoths by encouraging the world’s addiction to oil and preventing the development of energy alternatives that would end our dependence. The fact is that while Big Oil has been polluting the Gulf with what now appears to be 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil — or more — each day since April, it has been polluting our politics with millions of dollars in campaign contributions for decades. In the last three and a half years, the oil industry has given over $35 million dollars to the Republicans. Big Oil paid for “drill baby drill” just as surely as United Airlines paid for the naming rights of the United Center in Chicago. There are two underlying causes for this disaster: First and foremost is our failure to invest in development of clean, renewable energy sources to replace hydrocarbons that are rapidly running out and are increasingly expensive and dangerous to recover. For decades it has been obvious that this was a critical national — worldwide — necessity. We have failed to do so for one reason: the enormous political power of big oil. The big oil companies own huge oil reserves that appreciate in value every time the price of oil rises. The scarcer oil gets, the more valuable those reserves become. They have every reason to promote the world’s addiction to oil and to ransom the remaining supplies of hydrocarbon-based energy at higher and higher prices. The interest of the private players in the energy market are simply different than the interest of ordinary Americans. It is up to the government to act to assure that our society develops cheap, clean abundant alternatives to fossil fuels. Left to their own devices, the big energy companies ain’t gonna do it. The Republicans — who are virtually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the big oil companies — are doing everything they can to block clean energy legislation that redirects our national energy policy down a road to renewables — that puts the United States in the forefront of creating a new generation of clean energy jobs — and that ends our political and military dependence on foreign oil. Just last Friday, America crossed the one trillion dollar mark in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that happened primarily because our dependence on oil from the Middle East. Even the attack by Al Qaeda. that spawned our involvement in Afghanistan had its roots in our involvement in Saudi Arabia that resulted entirely from U.S. dependence on foreign oil. And of course, every dollar we spend on oil and gasoline goes to support many of the world’s regimes that are most committed to doing America harm. Second, the BP oil spill resulted from the outrageously cozy “non-regulatory” attitude of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS). That’s the outfit that was the subject of the Inspector General’s report that found MMS employees literally sleeping and doing drugs with the oil company executives they were suppose to regulate. There is no doubt that MMS should have been overhauled more rapidly when the Democratic Administration took office. But the “non-regulatory” culture that allowed many oil companies to write their own inspection reports was enshrined by the Bush Adminstration’s culture of “private industry knows best.” And it was easy for the so-called regulators to justify giving environmental waivers to BP for the Deepwater Horizon well since Congress had mandated that applications for drilling permits must be acted on within thirty days - never enough time for a serious environmental review. Right now it appears that at least some oil will leak from the Deepwater Horizon well until August, when a relief well is completed and can permanently close off the blowout. But the Canadian Government requires that when oil companies drill in the environmentally sensitive Canadian Artic, a relief well must be drilled at the same time as the original well. If that were required in the Gulf, the spill would have ended shortly after the original blowout over a month ago. The oil industry would argue that that would impose an enormous cost burden for deep water drilling. But all you need is one disaster to generate massively more cost than that of the relief well. BP’s liability could rise to be hundreds of billions of dollars and it should be forced to pay every penny even if it were ultimately to mean bankruptcy. Of course oil flacks like Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma would argue that imposing additional costs and exposing oil companies to uncapped liability would “discourage” this kind of drilling. Precisely. We need to require polluters to base their economic decisions on the actual costs of their activities to everyone - including the ones they normally try to externalize to the rest of us. The oil companies - like Wall Street - want to privatize the profits and socialize the risks. And those risks turned out to be massive. As the New York Times reported on Monday, “The failure of the most recent effort - known as a top kill….. has underlined the gaps in knowledge and science about the spill and its potential remedies.” No matter, the upsides were so great that absent rigorous regulation, BP was perfectly willing to ignore them. After all Big Oil and Wall Street both planned to take all of the upsides for themselves and lay the downsides off to the taxpayers. And that is exactly what they will do every time if they are not subject both to tough, continuous regulatory oversight and to uncapped economic liability if their risky bets go south. Their Republican enablers have done everything in their power to prevent both tough regulation and uncapped economic liability for Big Oil. It turns out that — in practice — the Republican convention chant, “drill baby drill” really meant “spill baby spill.” Many rank and file Republicans may not have intended it that way, but that’s exactly the way it turned out. Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com . More on Gas & Oil
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Robert Creamer: The Oil Spill and the Republicans
Dating a woman in Los Angeles can be an expensive proposition. But must it be one? Don’t all the greatest religious and spiritual masters tell us that true happiness comes from within? Does genuine dating success require that a man spend over a hundred dollars on his date? Is not a man more than a wallet and some testosterone? Do I ask too many questions? I decided on a dating expense experiment never before attempted (or at least admitted) in the course of human dating history: I decided I was going to have a wonderful first date, and spend less than twenty dollars doing so. That’s right, less than twenty bucks on a date in Los Angeles. Okay, I know. I can hear women throughout the city exclaiming, “Cheapskate! Loser! No way!” Hey, they poked fun at Columbus, but he showed them. He found a way of impressing women without having to spend a fortune — simply by discovering a continent. Surely my date will admire my thriftiness, my resourcefulness, my imagination and creativity. I’ll discover a continent of inexpensive fun. And so, armed with twenty big ones in cold hard cash, I strode confidently and determinedly into the one place where I knew I’d get great value for my money - the 99 Cent Only Store at the corner of Fairfax and Sixth, in Los Angeles. The store with not one, but two mottoes: “Shop Us First! The Smart Shoppers Do!” and “Nothing Over 99 Cents Ever!” I felt at home. I looked for the “Cheap Daters Welcome Here!” sign, but apparently it was being repaired. Flash forward to the date. I arrive at Sarah’s place wearing my playful Looney Tunes tie (a $9.99 value!), with a gift for her - an official Olympics Souvenir Program. A collector’s item! It originally sold for $12.95, but I got it for, yes, 99 cents. Oh, sure, it was for the 1984 Olympics, but that makes it a 20th anniversary collector’s item. Nor did I forget her cat, who I surprise with a Whiskas four-pack of Chicken and Seafood. Before we get in the car, I take out a big canister of 21 Pieces of Jumbo Colored Chalk, and right there on the sidewalk I create a multi-colored heart with Sarah + Mark inside. I bet her wealthy boyfriends never did that! So far, so good! We drive to the beach. (Free scenery!), where the heat is no problem because I’m thoughtful enough to bring along Pinnacle Drinking Water, 6 for 99 cents, with sports cap. We sit there munching on Granny Goose’s 13 oz. Size of tortilla chips and Sun Maid six-pack of raisins. I even immortalize our fun with my new 35mm “Famous Name” 99 cent camera containing 99 cent color print film. By my count, we had only gone through nine of my twenty dollars of purchases, when Sarah said, “Okay, what’s going on?” I said, “What do you mean?”, all innocent-like. She mentions my tie, the chalk, the cat food, and goes in my bag and pulled out the remaining purchases, including Sesame Street Chocolate Chip Cookies, Krazy Glue, a solar-powered calculator, Famous Publishers Books, and Matchbox “Around the World” Cars. “Are you losing it, Mark? What is all this?” I told her of my experiment and my plans later on for the Krazy Glue and the cars. And it’s not that she told me that this was to be our first and last date, but I inferred it from the lack of response to my subsequent twelve phone calls. I’m sure Sarah told all her friends. And they told their friends, and so on. Because whenever I’m out in public, I get the strangest looks from women. As though they’re thinking, “So you’re the loser who took Sarah on the 99 Cent Only Store date.” I still believe that true happiness comes from within. But I realize now that on the journey of romance, thrift and creativity will take you only so far - for the rest of the trip, you’ll need MasterCard.
LOS ANGELES — Movie audiences are showing more appetite for Shrek than for sex over Memorial Day weekend. DreamWorks Animation’s sequel “Shrek Forever After” remained the No. 1 movie for a second weekend with $43.3 million from Friday to Sunday. The film raised its domestic total to $133.1 million. That easily topped the Warner Bros. sequel “Sex and the City 2,” which was No. 2 with a $32.1 million debut that came in far below the $56.8 million opening weekend of its predecessor two years ago. Along with a $14.2 million haul in its first day Thursday, “Sex and the City 2″ has brought in $46.3 million. Debuting at No. 3 with $30.2 million was Disney’s action tale “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” Even with bad reviews and a running time of nearly two and a half hours for “Sex and the City 2,” many in Hollywood had expected the sequel to open at No. 1. But the fourth “Shrek” installment, itself opening far below the previous sequels, held up strongly in its second weekend. Family crowds continued to pack theaters for what is billed as the final big-screen tale featuring voice stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas. Women made up 90 percent of the audience for “Sex and the City 2,” which reunites the stars of the HBO series – Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon – for an adventure in Abu Dhabi. Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., estimated that “Sex and the City 2″ will have taken in about $53 million in its first five days once Memorial Day receipts are counted. While that would be less than the three-day opening weekend for the first movie, the sequel still could match the $152.6 million domestic total of “Sex and the City” if it holds up well in subsequent weekends, Fellman said. “The numbers are the numbers, but it’s a little unfair to go in the direction of trouble in River City until we have an opportunity to see how we leg it out,” Fellman said. “We might end up getting there. It’s just a different pattern than the first one.” DreamWorks is hoping for a lengthy shelf life on “Shrek Forever After,” a fourth installment in the franchise that had critics wondering if audiences finally were growing tired of the big green ogre. “We always knew with the fourth entry in particular that we were in some kind of unprecedented territory,” said Anne Globe, head of marketing at DreamWorks. “There was really no game plan to follow.” The box office for “Shrek Forever After” slipped 39 percent from its opening weekend, compared with a 56 percent drop in the second weekend for the third “Shrek” flick. The modest results for “Prince of Persia” leave the movie’s franchise potential in doubt. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose movies include the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” series, was aiming for similar franchise treatment on “Prince of Persia.” Set in ancient times, the movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a king’s adopted son accused of treachery and murder, who obtains a magic dagger that can turn back time. More on Sex and the City
‘Shrek’ Beats ‘Sex’ AND ‘Persia’
MODESTO, Calif. — A district attorney has cleared a California university of intentionally destroying documents about an upcoming speech by Sarah Palin. The Stanislaus County District Attorney also found no evidence of wrongdoing by students who obtained part of Palin’s contract. The former vice presidential candidate is scheduled to give a paid speech June 25 at the California State University, Stanislaus. It is not known how much Palin will be compensated. Campus president Hamid Shirvani had suggested that the contract was stolen from a recycling bin inside the office of a vice president. Two students had claimed they found the documents in a campus dumpster. Investigators say the two students declined to assist in the probe. ___ Information from: The Modesto Bee, http://www.modbee.com More on Sarah Palin
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Palin Stanislaus Speech: Calif. DA Finds No Crime Around Palin Contract
Palin’s sisterly speechifying is part of a larger conservative move to woo women by appropriating feminist language. Just as consumer culture tries to sell “Girls Gone Wild”-style sexism as “empowerment,” conservatives are trying to sell anti-women policies shrouded in pro-women rhetoric. More on Sarah Palin
Jessica Valenti: Sarah Palin’s Fake Feminism
Over the last several days the reviews for Sex and the City 2 have been rolling in, and not surprisingly they have been scathing with a side of mean. I stopped reading them when I saw the word “leathery” describe the women’s skin. I actually think that people really get off on beating up on this film, and I can’t decide whether it’s because a gay man has made a pretty gay film that is for women, or because the film is for and about women that’s going to make a ton of money and no one gives a shit if a single straight guy goes and sees it. But I am not in the haters camp. I actually really liked the film. I’m not going to tell you that it is not over the top. It is and then some. At times it borders on camp. But then so does Glee and I love that too. I knew what I was getting into so I went along with the ride. I write on this blog a lot about how I want to see real women onscreen. Now I’m not going to pretend the four rich white women in NY whose shoe and clothing budgets could feed a small country have anything to do with my everyday life. They don’t. I don’t even like the clothes (which felt too much this time) and I couldn’t walk even two steps in any of those shoes. But that’s missing the point. Underneath those frocks each woman is a composite of the real women in this country and the issues that we all deal with in our everyday lives. Like Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) who worked her way up the legal ladder who has a new boss who literally puts his hand in her face and silences her when she is speaking in a meeting and thinks it’s ok. Like Charlotte (Kristin Davis) who spent the entire series pining for a family and that family has turned out to be a nightmare of non stop crying. Like Samantha (Kim Cattrall) doing everything she can to stave off aging. And like Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is trying to figure out how to navigate marriage — and not having kids — in a world where having kids is just the norm. I have to say I was very nervous about the whole middle east part of the movie from the trailer. I just didn’t get it. But what writer/director Michael Patrick King does is plop these four liberated women in the supposed “new” middle east, and what they discover very quickly is that there is nothing new about it when it comes to women. The storyline in the middle east is mostly Samantha’s and it shows how a woman who has embraced her sexuality and freedom in the west is shamed for wanting that same liberation in the middle east. Samantha actually gets detained for kissing a hot Danish businessman on the beach and while she is humiliated and loses her business opportunity all the while suffering from hot flashes in 90 degree heat, we see no consequences for the man she was kissing. The movie brought to mind some issues I have been thinking about lately. Why is it that gay men have become the purveyors of women’s stories? Is there something more comfortable about a gay man telling women’s stories than women doing it ourselves? Is it easier for Hollywood executives to write the check to a man for an obscene amount of money that they would never do for a woman? It made me think about Mamma Mia , a movie written and directed by women. That movie has made over a half a billion worldwide. We know there are tons of Abba songs out there, yet no noise about a sequel. Just makes me wonder. When watching Sex and the City 2 I thought that a woman would never have made this movie. She could never get away with it. It’s not only a female fantasy, but it’s a gay male fantasy of women — that we all wear couture and three inch heels to take out the garbage. Because it is a movie it has lost some of the bite of the series and I also think that the series benefited from having women’s voices as part of the writing. They kept it grounded in some semblance of reality. But this movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up. You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on fandango.com look at the film as a “great escape.” But while it is an escapist movie, it is one that occasionally has some zingers about how women are treated in our culture. I can’t seriously complain at a movie that could introduce a new group of people to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” which the ladies belted out in a karaoke bar in Abu Dhabi. Bring on the versace t-shirts. Originally posted on Women & Hollywood
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Melissa Silverstein: Sex and the City 2
Billionaire Meg Whitman has expanded that double-digit lead I first reported a week ago that she had over Steve Poizner in their hard-fought battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in California. But my forecast about her spending in trying to hold on to a primary she and her people said they’d had in the bag for months is looking off. I said she would spend $85 million. But it turns out that she had already spent well over $80 million as of May 19th. Now, with a heavy burst of TV advertising and mailers being sent all over the state, it looks like she will spend around $90 million in the Republican primary. Whitman is slamming conservative Steve Poizner as a closet liberal. Since she had vowed to spend $150 million total for the primary and the general election — assuming she made it to the general election — it is very safe to say that she is way off her plan with $90 million in spending to try to secure a primary victory. Does all this spending and advertising backfire at a certain point? Absolutely. Not that she is out of the woods in the primary, mind you. Poizner is going to spend more of his money. And to the extent that he unmuddies the waters on illegal immigration (Whitman has distorted both her position and Poizner’s), making it clear that he supports the Arizona law and she does not, counters the effective advertising casting him as a “closet liberal,” and throws in a surprise here and there, the primary is still in play. That’s why she rolled out Newt Gingrich this week as another famous right-wing endorser, joining Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner to take on Barack Obama in 2012, who came up with the idea for Whitman to run for governor in the first place. Whitman is using Cheney and Gingrich in robocalls to Republican voters. Romney is in a TV ad with Condi Rice, one of the architects of the Iraq War, and a business lobbyist who runs something called the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. So much for the notion of Whitman being a centrist. Her campaign’s evident concern is well justified because there is always, let’s say, the Whitman mistake factor. We saw it again Friday, when she falsely claimed in an interview with Politico that she doesn’t have a border fence in her advertising. She does. In fact, it’s in a TV ad that I am told she demanded and helped write herself. That’s the curious 60-second spot in which she speaks defensively to camera about how tough politics is. It’s also in her voluminous mailers featuring Prop 187 champion Pete Wilson, the former governor who chairs her campaign. Whitman made the claim twice in the interview, and had to be corrected by the designated flak catcher of the campaign, press secretary Sarah Pompei. Whitman also falsely claimed that Poizner hadn’t been to the border till four weeks ago. You can see that border fence she repeatedly claimed isn’t in any of her advertising right here, in this ad which she narrates throughout herself. Whitman repeatedly false claimed that there are no border fences in her advertising. Here’s a border fence. Incidentally, Whitman also falsely claimed on Friday that she has always been against offshore oil drilling. I’ve written about this several times before. Whitman actually supported offshore oil drilling until she put out her ballyhooed policy booklet just two months ago. But this lack of veracity should be no surprise with regard to this former Goldman Sachs board member who had to resign in the wake of her inside trading. Whitman, who has flip-flopped on the issues repeatedly in this campaign, and couldn’t say how often she’d even bothered to vote, lied in her very first TV ad about how long she’s lived in California. She said she’d lived here for 30 years. (Something which she had also been saying in her stump speeches.) But as I revealed here on the Huffington Post, when she became national co-chair of the Republican presidential campaign in 2008, she said she’d lived in California for less than 20 years. Exactly how long has Whitman lived in the state whose governorship she is trying to purchase? She won’t say. Meanwhile, a new survey by Public Policy Polling has Jerry Brown with a big lead over Whitman and Poizner in the California governor’s race, 48-36 over Whitman and 48-32 over Poizner. Both Whitman and Poizner have massive deficits in favorable vs. unfavorable ratings. Brown has barely spent a dime. The Democratic candidate for governor of California who effectively won the June primary by clearing the Democratic field last fall, has nearly $21 million in his campaign warchest. Brown raised close to $7 million in the last two months. He spent about a quarter of a million during that period while the two Republicans vying for the opportunity, as it were, to run against him spent tens of millions of dollars attacking each other and establishing their right-wing bona fides. And some major issues are turning very much Brown’s way. As you might suppose, the Gulf oil disaster — now the biggest oil spill in American history, eclipsing even the infamous Exxon Valdez — has more than reversed a previously growing trend of acceptance of energy production and economic development at all costs. The new Gallup Poll shows a big reversal in national attitudes since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform on April 20th. Between March and today, with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill intervening, Americans’ preferences for prioritizing between environmental protection and energy production have shifted from a somewhat pro-energy production at all costs stance to an even stronger pro-environment stance. Now, the majority favor environmental protection, by 55% to 39% — the second-largest percentage (behind the 58% in 2007) favoring the environment in the 10-year history of the question. Democrats had already put more emphasis on environmental protection than on energy production in March, but that position has gained strength among Democrats today. Independents’ views have flipped from a majority pro-energy stance in March to a majority pro-environment one today. In contrast, Republicans’ opinions have not changed since the oil spill occurred; they continue to prioritize energy production over environmental protection by a 2-to-1 margin. Note that the shift is entirely amongst independents and Democrats. The Republican Party continues to hug the far right rail on the “Drill, baby, drill” issue. What does this mean, incidentally, in the California governor’s race? Well, it explains why Whitman lied on Friday about supposedly always opposing offshore oil drilling. Jerry Brown has been a consistent, decades-long opponent of new offshore oil drilling. He fought to create the California Coastal Commission, a unique governmental body that balances legitimate economic development needs with the imperative to protect the globally unique resource that is California’s coast. In contrast, both Republicans vying for the party nomination to attempt to succeed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have backed new offshore oil drilling moves. Whitman was a staunch backer of new offshore oil drilling as national co-chair of the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008, her only major role in public affairs prior to starting her run for the governorship. She fully supported Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s famed chant: “Drill, baby, drill!” Whitman also backed offshore oil drilling in her gubernatorial campaign, citing the wonders of new drilling technology. More recently, though, she says she is against it. Whitman and Poizner both want to do away with California’s landmark climate change program, a signature achievement of the Schwarzenegger years. (Whitman had said that she wanted a one-year suspension; more recently, she’s said she wants to do away with it altogether.) In contrast, Brown has aggressively defended the program in court as attorney general. Americans’ shift toward a more pro-environment point of view is also evident in a separate trade-off question, which pits environmental protection against economic growth. After the oil spill, the balance of opinion tips toward the environment by seven points, 50% to 43%. Just over two months ago, Americans favored economic growth by a 15-point margin, 53% to 38%. Whitman herself isn’t the only one in her campaign with a veracity problem. It extends to her top handlers. Political hired guns can say the darned things, can’t they? Evidently counting on the amnesia, or perhaps just lack of knowledge, of California reporters. Whitman’s chief strategist Mike Murphy, during the course early in the week of his latest attempt to spin his client’s inevitability in the hard-fought Republican gubernatorial primary, came up with a real howler. “Everyone’s kind of tired of the Sacramento political system that Jerry Brown is kind of the alpha male dog of,” he opined. That would be, naturally, why Whitman is herself surrounded by a large retinue of consultants and lobbyists, one supposes, and even features a Sacramento lobbyist in her TV and radio advertising. Or why the Whitman campaign used Sacramento insiders to try and clear the Republican primary field for her. Or why the Whitman campaign pushed — unsuccessfully, as it happens — to use the Sacramento-based Chamber of Commerce as its vehicle for anti-Brown attack TV advertising, violating the law for non-profit organizations. Or why Attorney General Brown himself, far from being a Sacramento insider, runs the state Department of Justice out of his Oakland office and spends very little time in the capital. Or why Brown is a famous maverick of many years’ standing, having been a registered independent himself as the mayor of gritty Oakland. But, ironic as all that is, the real irony concerns Murphy himself. No one in recent memory in California politics fused the political consultant and lobbyist roles as much as Murphy himself did after Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected. In other words, to quote himself, Murphy set out to make himself “the alpha male dog” of the “Sacramento political system.” On the day of Schwarzenegger’s inauguration in November 2003, Murphy swiftly moved to make himself the principal influence peddler in Sacramento. He swiftly set up an office of his D.C. Navigators lobbying and consulting firm in Sacramento, and created a web site which screamed access to Schwarzenegger. Murphy was so aggressive in marketing his access to Schwarzenegger that it created a major embarrassment for the governor within months, with the web site having to be dramatically altered. But the behavior continued, and I had to reveal that Murphy was using Schwarzenegger’s image as a logo on all his proposals to prospective corporate clients. As someone with no experience in public affairs prior to being talked into running for governor by her business mentor, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, Whitman is totally dependent on a coterie of lobbyists and consultants which Murphy personifies. She even features a lobbyist in her TV and radio advertising. There’s a great deal here, and I’ll get to it if Whitman does survive the Republican primary. Speaking of which, Poizner, has some new advertising in the form of first a radio ad and now a TV ad again featuring California conservative icon Congressman Tom McClintock. In the TV ad, which is being added to McClintock’s statewide rotation and which you can watch here, McClintock talks up the “key difference” between Poizner and Whitman on illegal immigration, notably the Arizona law, and says its time for “a governor from the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” Poizner started sliding back in the polls when he took a very effective McClintock ad vouching for his conservative bona fides off the air as Whitman was slamming him as “Just another Sacramento liberal politician.” Can McClintock turn things back again for Poizner with all those conservative Republican base voters likely to participate in what may be a low turnout primary? We’ll see. You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes … www.newwestnotes.com. More on John McCain
So Joe McGinnis ( The Selling of the President ; Fatal Vision ; Going to Extremes ) has moved next door to Sarah Palin (”You betcha!”; “In what respect, Charlie?”; “All of them.”). And Palin’s first, instinctive, most characteristic response has been to leeringly imply the author’s temptation to pedophilia, to send hubby over to act ( in McGinnis’ words ) “increasingly hostile,” and then to complain as though she is being ill-used. Note, as we still (somewhat exhaustedly) say, the irony: Palin, who shleps her children from coast to coast to display them to her slavering public like what’s-his-name in The Dead Zone brandishing a toddler as a human shield, is suddenly protective of their privacy. Palin, who quit the only job she’d ever had that might have given her credibility as a national political figure, in order to dance the Tea Party hootchie-cootchie on saloon tables and trade association daises across the land (for money), is now bitching about her privacy. Palin, a good Christian woman whose religious tenets literally include the admonition to “love thy neighbor,” sends hubby over to crack his knuckles menacingly. All of this, plus radio frother Mark Levin announcing McGinnis’s email address, prompting 5,000 of Sarah’s Sheeple to swamp the author’s account–it’s all great/appalling theater, yes. But what’s really striking is not the hypocrisy. People like Sarah Palin live in hypocrisy like a fish lives in water; it’s the essential element of their survival, without which life itself is unimaginable. No, the really noteworthy thing is (as we also exhaustedly say) the stupidity, stupid. Anyone who has read a minimum number of spy novels or seen a basic survey course’s syllabus of thrillers knows that you can do one of two things when you realize your office has been bugged, your transmissions are being monitored, or your computer has been hacked. You can tear out the bugs and cease the transmissions. This will, of course, inform your adversary that you’re wise to his snooping, prompting him, presumably, to quit. And that’s how the Palins have responded–by suggesting that somehow they’re being spied upon and revealing to the “spy” that they know what, supposedly, he is up to. It’s the obvious, emotional, impulsive, and childish way to react, and it may have been too much to expect Palin, who like all cult figures alternates between preening grandiosity and indignant claims of victimization, to do otherwise. But there’s a better way, and it doesn’t take a tactical genius to realize it. You leave the bugs and mics in place and exploit the situation for your own advantage. You–and this may be a step too sophisticated for McGinnis’s neighbors– pretend that all is well . You then proceed to spread disinformation, deceit, lies, mis-directions, and all manner of false “intel,” knowing full well that they’re listening and taking it seriously at the other end. That’s what Sarah Palin should have done, if she had been a sharp operator instead of a knee-jerk demagogue. She’d not only have hand-delivered a plate of cookies to McGinnis herself, she’d have graciously welcomed him to the neighborhood and wished him good luck in his journalistic endeavors. And then she’d have made sure he witnessed what she wanted him to witness: Sarah, not as avaricious provincial ignoramus-grifter, but as caring mom. Tod, not as snow-machining bodyguard who once joined a club dedicated to Alaska’s secession from the union, but as super dad. The kids as happy, courteous little ladies and gentlemen. The dog (assuming there is one) as well-trained and fluent in three languages. The garden as a model of horticultural accomplishment and embodying a deep, deep love of “the land.” And everyone, God bless us, everyone skilled in the baking of cookies. That, and all the rest of the phony-baloney bullshit you want someone to see who’s writing a book about you. But we are talking, here, about the same woman who didn’t have the wit to tell Katie Couric, “What newspapers and magazines do I read? Oh, fuck, Katie, I read the New York Times and the local Alaska papers, okay?” So instead McGinnis gets, and we get to watch, Sarah the Nasty. “By being here, I have learned things,” McGinnis told the Washington Post. “And I’ve gotten an insight into her character, into her ability to incite hatred, that before I only knew about in the abstract.” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Joe. Cross-posted at What HE Said More on Sarah Palin
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Ellis Weiner: The Stupidity of Sarah Palin, Part 32,459
The 2010 election is starting to have the bad omens of a well-made horror film if you are sitting in Senator John Cornyn’s spot as head of the NRSC. He has had a spectacularly bad run, with no apparent ability to control the teabaggers. Big John was looking like a guy with a pretty good poker hand last year. Lets take a look at how he’s played his cards: Florida: Cornyn and the NRSC endorse Governor Charlie Crist only to see the preferred candidate overtaken in the polls by teabagger Marco Rubio. Worse, Crist leaves the party and runs against Rubio, taking a ton of money Cornyn helped raise with him. Utah: Cornyn and the NRSC endorse Senator Bob Bennett only to see a group of angry teabaggers throw him off the ballot. Kentucky: Cornyn and the NRSC endorse Trey Grayson over teabagger Rand Paul. Paul then proceeds to win the nomination by a landslide. Connecticut: Despite the well-positioned Congressman Rob Simmons, the party machinery in the state pushes him aside and nominates a teabagging, self-funding version of PT Barnum. New York: Facing an incumbent, appointed, somewhat unknown Democratic Senator who is below 50 percent in approval, Cornyn still couldn’t persuade former Gov. George Pataki –or anyone else of significance for that matter–to take her on. Washington: Failing to attract a fresh face, Cornyn and the NSRC have thrown themselves all over damaged goods Dino Rossi. He is still facing the Palin-endorsed teabagger favorite, Clint Didier. Nevada: Cornyn threw his support behind Sue “Chicken Barter” Lowden only to see her turn her campaign into a national laughing stock. She’s now tanking in the polls as teabagger Sharon Angle gains momentum. From the big mouth of Big John himself: “A good candidate can make all the difference in the world. … I have some ideas,” he said. Fail.
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John Cornyn’s epic fail at the NRSC
In the past week, two distinct messages were delivered to Arizonans. One came from Gov. Jan Brewer in the form of a singing sock-puppet on YouTube. The other came from Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who announced that President Obama will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border and ask Congress for $500 million in funding for border security. From the Associated Press: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat who has prosecuted rings of drug and immigrant smugglers, said the planned deployment was a good first step, but believes that the president’s plan should evolve to include more troops and more authority for the soldiers. A day later, Goddard also unveiled plans for a new border-crime prosecution team funded by the $94 million settlement he secured in February from Western Union. That historic agreement helped cut the pipeline of cash to criminal cartels. Goddard’s team will be targeting the cartels’ smuggling operations that send drugs, weapons and people across Arizona’s border with Mexico. Meanwhile, Gov. Jan Brewer is focused on her website project with Sarah Palin, no doubt working on their next YouTube comedy. There are some serious problems in our state, so maybe Gov. Brewer should heed her own words: “No one in Arizona is laughing.” More on Arizona Politics
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Luis Heredia: In Arizona, Goddard takes action while Brewer makes sock-puppet videos
Sarah Palin’s new Wasilla next door neighbor , Joe McGinniss, is firing back at the ex-governor and media outlets for suggesting he’s a stalker. According to McGinniss who has a new book titled “Sarah Palin’s Year of Living Dangerously” in the works, it’s the famous Alaska family that’s guilty of stalking him. In an interview with the New York Times’s David Carr on Friday, McGinniss spoke about his new (and temporary) life living a 14-foot tall fence away from Palin. “I am not taking video or photos and I found two people in my yard who were walking over trying to take a picture over the fence and I told them that they had to leave, so in a way, I am serving as a king of a buffer.” Mr. McGinniss said that he had planned on moving to either Wasilla or Anchorage this summer to finish reporting for his book when a friend of a friend told him the house was available. He said the house, which the Palin’s had previously rented and renovated but never occupied, was a bargain at $1,500 a month with a lake side views. McGinniss also said he had received “thousands of angry emails and a few death threats” after Palin took to her Facebook page to post a picture of his rented pad along with a message questioning the author’s intentions. McGinniss told the Times that he had hoped to have a cordial relationship with the Palins. Now however, it seems that is going to be unlikely. “I had hoped for a mutual respect and benign neglect, but on Monday, Todd,” Ms. Palin’s husband, “came over to introduce himself and I told him who I was and he sort of freaked out,” he said. For anyone wondering if the Palins might decide to pack up and move altogether to avoid the presence of McGinniss, the possibility appears to remain on the table. In an interview with the Daily Caller, the ex-Governor’s brother, Chuck Heath Jr., wouldn’t rule out a Palin family relocation — perhaps even to Washington, DC should the Tea Party favorite decide to run for president in 2012. Asked if his sister might decide to leave Alaska entirely - say, by running for president in 2012 - Heath is noncommittal. “Nobody knows her plans except for Sarah,” he said. “That’s the $64,000 question that everybody, everywhere we’ve gone has asked us. And like we say, in total honesty, we have no idea.
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Sarah Palin’s So-Called Stalker Joe McGinniss Accuses Palins Of Stalking Him
A SATC Premiere “2″ Die For … While my invite must have been lost in the mail (thanks, Carrie!), I didn’t miss a beat watching the red carpet roll-out for the premiere of Sex and the City 2 . I got comfy and mixed up a batch of my Showstoppers cocktails, from my new book, The Stylish Girls Guide to Fabulous Cocktails , and tuned in my ustream so not to miss a second of the SATC2 fashion parade. There they were resplendent each one, Kristen Davis (”Charlotte”) in a hot pink vintage strapless gown, Cynthia Nixon (”Miranda”) sophisticated in black, Kim Cattrall (”Samantha”), the sexy siren in a old Hollywood style gold gown, and of course, Sarah Jessica Parker (”Carrie”), glowing in a soft lemon yellow asymmetrical Valentino, which she twirled around for all to see. Personally, my stylist and I selected orange and pink leopard print silk pjs and my sparkly peacock blue slippers. I did refrain from wearing my silver metallic tunic as I lent it to Liza for the evening instead! I was quite resplendent, too. I whipped up a big bowl of hummus and pita chips, ode to Samantha’s youthful quest, and I watched the red carpet fashion extravaganza we’ve been anticipating all year! One of my stylish friends was at the premiere and after party and she called this morning: “It was a Moroccan-themed atmosphere with exotic lanterns and rose petals sprinkled on the floor and lots of beautiful people everywhere,” she gushed. “The throngs of fans were kept at bay, while the white tent outside Lincoln Center was an oasis of Middle Eastern magic.” How fun … Having heard that, I’m even more in the mood to party and counting the seconds until the girls arrive tomorrow night for our own premiere. To kick it up a notch, I’m picking up some festive paper lanterns to hang about. I’ve downloaded the soundtrack (can’t wait to hear the original Single Girl, Ms. Liza!), and am ready to mix another batch of Showstopers and get glam. Who needs Hollywood (or NYC!) for a great night on the town?! There’s still plenty of time to plan your own fete, so check out my last blog here on The Huffington Post, or visit my website for everything you need to know. Carrie on my wayward girlfriends … It’s 2 die for! THE SHOWSTOPPER From The Stylish Girl’s Guide to Fabulous Cocktails 2 cups of ice 8 ounces St.-Germain liquer 8 ounces tangerine juice 4 ounces Absolut Citron vodka Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed 1 bottle of champagne, chilled In a small pitcher filled with ice, mix together St.-Germain, tangerine juice, vodka and lime juice. Mix well. Strain about 1-1/2 ounces to fill the bottom third of each of 4 champagne flutes. Top with champagne and serve.
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Colleen Mullaney: SATC2 Premiere: Fashion Fabulous!
Professor Peter Erlinder, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, was arrested early today in Rwanda on charges of “genocide ideology.” He had traveled to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on May 23, to join the defense team of Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Erlinder is reportedly being interrogated at the Rwandan Police Force’s Kacyiru headquarters. Since his arrival in Kigali, the state-sponsored Rwandan media has been highly critical of Erlinder. The Rwandan Parliament adopted the “Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology” (Genocide Ideology Law), on July 23, 2008. It defines genocide ideology broadly, requires no link to any genocidal act, and can be used to include a wide range of legitimate forms of expression, prohibiting speech protected by international conventions such as the Genocide Convention of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966. Sarah Erlinder, an attorney in Arizona said, “My father has made a career defending unpopular people and unpopular speech–and is now being held because of his zealous representation and his analysis of an historical narrative that the Kagame regime considers inconvenient. We can help defend his rights now by drawing U.S. government and media attention to his situation and holding the Rwandan government accountable for his well-being.” “Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of Umuhoza. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted. The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by his membership and his courageous advocacy,” said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild. Before leaving for Brussels and then Kigali, Professor Erlinder notified the U.S. State Department, his Minnesota Congressional Representative Betty McCullom, Representative Keith Ellison, and Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Professor Erlinder is a professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law. He is a frequent litigator and consultant, often pro bono, in cases involving the death penalty, civil rights, claims of government and police misconduct, and criminal defense of political activists. He is also a frequent news commentator. Erlinder was president of the National Lawyers Guild from 1993-1997, and is a current board member of the NLG Foundation. He has been a defense attorney at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 2003.
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Heidi Boghosian: American Lawyer Wrongly Arrested in Rwanda
A feminist friend from my old days in academia forwarded me Chris Brogan’s ” Women in the Workplace ” blog post as soon as she read it. All she wrote: “Wasn’t sure what to make of this.” Indeed. What to make of several hundred words by a social media celebrity who purports to understand “what women want” (I swear, thems his words) and to defend our “choice” (again, from the horse’s mouth) not to advance into leadership roles. Thanks, Chris, that’s just the choice we’ve been hankering for. The big news here seems to be that not all working women share the same goal. Although the same truism applies to men, it’s hard to imagine anyone considering that newsworthy. Does anyone worry that men are being oppressed into taking unwanted leadership opportunities, as Brogan implies women are? Why does this matter, and why have I been roused back into the feminist arena? (”Just when I thought I was out . . . they pull me back in.”) Because unless we start doing some clear and present thinking about what feminism means in the 21st century, Sarah Palin will hijack the word and annex the movement into the Tea Party. It’s a very old, very familiar protectionist narrative (women need protecting, don’t they?) that’s operating here: a perverse logic that jettisons women’s ambitions in the name of protecting her choice to lack ambition. Can you imagine a coach giving this pep talk to a locker room of men in football uniforms? “Not everyone wants to win, or can win. It’s your choice if you want to win the Super Bowl.” To ask “what women want” is really to aim to control what women will want. To be surprised that different women want different things bespeaks the persistence of a basic patriarchal impulse: to essentialize all women into a single, predictable, controllable Woman. To call out as noteworthy that not all women aspire to the corner office becomes the kernel of justification to revert to discriminatory workplace practices (why bother developing and promoting her?) and low expectations for our daughters. “Honey, you don’t have to be a doctor. You can be a nurse.” “Honey, you don’t have to be an executive. You can be a secretary.” “Honey, you don’t have to be president. You can be First Lady.” At end, Brogan reveals the not-so-hidden agenda with his closing line: “And men, what do you see around you [original emphasis] as this environment supposedly shifts?” That italics says it all: what women want or don’t want only matters as far as it affects men. The fewer women aiming for the top, in fact, the more room there for the boys.
When Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced his vice presidential running mate in the summer of 2008, his choice was greeted with equal servings of curiosity and enthusiasm. Movement conservatives saw the selection as a game-changer: the little-known vice presidential nominee brought youth, charisma, and energy to the Republican ticket and would give McCain a much-needed boost in the presidential election. For its part, the Obama campaign scrambled to assess how the choice would affect its standing in the polls. But everyone–media outlets, politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike–all asked the same question: Who is Sarah Palin? The initial curiosity quickly turned into skepticism about Palin’s qualifications. Her thin political resume collapsed under the pressure of intense media scrutiny. And perhaps with good reason: she had served only as a city councilor, then mayor, of a small city in Alaska, and then as Governor of the state, for fewer than two years, by the time she had been nominated for the vice presidency. The consequences of a vote for McCain were not lost on voters. Had McCain won the presidential election and later suffered an illness that prevented him from fulfilling his duties as president, the former Governor from Alaska with no demonstrable proficiency in public policy and even less experience in foreign affairs would have become president. McCain’s choice of Palin points to one of the biggest problems in American presidential politics today: the vice presidential pick rests on the shoulders of one person and no one else. The vice president takes office–and accepts the vast power it confers upon its occupant–not at the invitation of the people but instead on the whim of a presidential candidate. There is nothing resembling any measure of popular input or consent in the vice presidential choice because it is the exclusive prerogative of each party’s presidential nominee. The regrettable result is to distort the incentives for picking vice presidents. Rather than selecting a vice presidential nominee who is prepared to assume the presidency, a presidential nominee is more likely to pick a running mate for politically expedient purposes of ticket balancing. This current practice threatens to leave the United States with a novice on deck, one who may be unqualified to competently discharge the increasingly important duties of the vice presidency. Worse still, the vice president may be ill-equipped to lead the nation in the event of presidential disability or vacancy. This has not always been a problem. For most of American history, vice presidents have been consigned to a largely ceremonial role devoid of any real involvement in the functioning of government and the elaboration of national policy. So, perhaps understandably, the vice presidency has long been an easy target for critics, with many questioning the relevance of the office and others viewing it with pity and derisory humor. For instance, John Adams, the nation’s first vice president, felt powerless and often ignored in his office. He referred to the vice presidency as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” One hundred and fifty years later, little seemed to have changed when Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s understudy, John Nance Garner, remarked that accepting the vice presidential nomination was “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made.” In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy commented that his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, had “the worst job in Washington.” When Johnson later succeeded to the presidency, he could not help but follow Kennedy’s example of casting shame on the vice presidency. And as recently as the 2004 presidential election, Senator John McCain conveyed a similar lack of enthusiasm, likening the vice presidential nomination to being “fed scraps.” But not anymore. No longer is the vice president a mere minion wielding only negligible influence upon the organs of government. The vice presidency now holds prime ministerial dominion in America, commands transnational authority and has, in modern times, been an almost-certain springboard to the presidency. In light of the revolutionary transformation of the vice presidency, the office can no longer defensibly remain the choice of the presidential nominee alone. The United States must democratize the vice presidency with some form of popular consent. There are many ways to do this. One way is to conduct separate vice presidential primaries, either before, during, or after the presidential primaries. Another option is to allow the party membership to elect the vice presidential nominee at the presidential nominating convention. Still another alternative to bestow upon the vice president the personal mandate that is currently lacking would be to subject the nominee to congressional confirmation, much like Cabinet secretaries must now be confirmed by the Senate. One could also imagine a national vice presidential election conducted on the same day as the presidential election. These are only a few suggestions meant to begin a broader conversation about how to enhance the democratic bona fides of the vice presidency. For it is shocking that the voice of the American electorate is silent on who should manage the power of the vice presidency. And it is even more shocking that it is instead the victorious presidential nominee–and he alone–who decides who will be the nation’s second-in-command. In a liberal democracy, it is wrong that a choice of such colossal import turns on the caprice of one individual. The existing method of vice presidential selection is therefore perilous, to say the least. Not only does the vice presidential nominee lack the popular legitimacy that can come only from the freely given consent of voters, but nothing prevents a presidential nominee from choosing a running mate on the basis of politics and optics rather than competence and leadership. Surely the American people deserve better. The public trust commands no less. More on Barack Obama
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Richard Albert: President Palin?
Latest news from South Carolina on Nikkigate: Columbia, SC (WLTX) - FITSNews.com blogger Will Folks has released his cell phone records in an attempt to prove that he had a relationship with Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Folks gave WLTX almost 1,000 pages of phone records. The calls were made from several phones he uses, and were recorded in 2007, 2009, and 2010. They show the outgoing and incoming phone numbers. … There is a phone number that comes up which News19 called, and the voicemail said it was Nikki Haley. That same phone number is associated with her several times online. Most of the calls in Will Folks’s records with that phone number range from 1 to 5 minutes. There are several over an hour, and a couple that are longer than 150 minutes. Folks notes on his blog how a large quantity of the calls took place at night: But what’s raising eyebrows across the state isn’t necessarily the number of phone calls (although more than 700 calls seems like an awfully high number given Haley’s recent claim that she “barely knew” Folks), it is the time – and the length – of dozens of late night calls. This does not prove that an affair took place, nor does it contradict Haley’s categorical denial. One could say that it is rather disturbing to find a married woman carrying on at midnight with a single male whom, at the time, was not a colleague. Folks left Governor Mark Sanford’s office in 2005. While first saying she would address the matter in next week’s debate, the Haley campaign certainly isn’t helping itself with this strategy: “On this issue, with this tactic going on, I will not spend anytime, energy or focus on it whatsoever, it’s not worth my time of the people of this state or the campaign, I will not give it time whatsoever,” Haley said. She has, however, bought time for “pro-family,” “grace of god” political ads featuring Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney joined Sarah Palin by putting his character judging skills on the line for Haley, saying “I stand four square by Nikki Haley.” Anonymous witnesses are beginning to trickle in. There is a compromising photograph rumored as well, apparently snapped by a private investigator several years ago. Again, someone is lying. While the Democrats probably don’t stand much of chance picking up this statehouse seat, it is certainly interesting to watch national Republicans attach their names to what could turn out to be a ticking time bomb. The brutal South Carolina 2012 primary politics are in the mix, and who sits in the Governors chair will matter in determining who becomes the Republican nominee. Notably quiet: Jim DeMint. Stay tuned, Sarah. You too, Mitt.
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SC-GOV: Haley strategy: let time bomb tick.
According to a new CBS News poll 70 percent of Americans disapprove of how BP has handled the oil gush, compared with 45 percent who disapprove of how Obama has handled it. This could change in the days or weeks ahead if the spill continues to worsen and the White House looks and acts powerless. The poll also points out a danger for Obama: Only 35 percent approve of his words and deeds so far during the crisis. He seems too willing to defer to BP executives, even as Bad Petroleum Ltd. tries to shift blame to Transocean Ltd., the rig operator, which is trying to put blame on Halliburton, which made the cement casings. But it’s not just the oil gush. Most Americans continue to be livid at Wall Street executives and traders — for which they blame an economic crisis that’s cost many their jobs, savings, and homes — a crisis that’s still costing taxpayers a bundle even as the bankers are back to collecting huge compensation packages. Yet the President continues to consult and socialize with many of them. Inexplicably, the White House won’t go along with proposals by several Democratic senators to cap the size of the biggest banks (the only way to ensure they’ll never be too big to fail and their political power is contained), to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (except in its weaker “Volcker rule” form), or to force the biggest banks to do their derivative trading without the artificial support of tax-payer insured commercial deposits. Most people are also furious that executives at Massey Energy failed to use mandated safety equipment and procedures that might have saved the lives of 29 miners. Where were the regulators? What does the Administration plan to do to the company or its executives? Most Americans upset that the top guns at Anthem, WellPoint, and other health insurers are still hiking insurance rates. Why are these health insurers still immune from the antitrust laws? How can the Administration not blow the whistle on their current attempts blunt regulations that would cap their premiums? Many are angry that the executives of credit card companies still charging outlandish rates on overcharges that are still hard to compute. What happened to the new rules that were supposed to stop this? Most Americans who know about it are bothered that the managers of hedge funds and private-equity funds (the 25 richest of whom took $1 billion each last year) are taxed at only 15 percent because of a loophole in the tax laws that the Senate continues to protect. You get my drift. Yet the President is treating these corporate and financial executives the way he treats Senate Republicans. At most, he respectfully disagrees. Respectful disagreement is virtuous in a democratic society, but so is appropriate indignation. Indignation signals to the public that social responsibilities have been breached, and thereby lends credence and authority to all those who are working toward them. Franklin D. Roosevelt had no hesitancy blaming the “economic royalists” — the rich bankers and executives who stood in the way of the New Deal. Moreover, without indignation, the President opens himself up to libertarian critics such as Rand Paul, who oppose almost all government regulation (”What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP”), as well as right-wing opportunists who claim the President is pulling his punches because he receives campaign donations from oil companies. Here’s Sarah Palin, of all people: “The oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now — I don’t know why the question isn’t asked by the mainstream media and by others if there’s any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration [and] President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” It’s also important for the President to connect the dots — providing Americans a clear narrative for why government is so critically important. Corporations are organized to maximize profits, not to achieve public goals such as environmental protection, financial trust, safety, and so on. Since Ronald Reagan first opined that government was the problem rather than the solution, right-wing Republicans have blasted all forms of regulation. Now we see the consequences of years of regulatory neglect. The President has an opportunity now to express appropriate indignation and to assert the importance of reasonable regulation. He should waste no time doing so. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org More on Barack Obama
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Robert Reich: How Conservatives Made the Case for Increased Regulations
It’s about time somebody made a documentary about the so-called ” Real America ” ever since Sarah Palin consecrated it as the foundation of her failed vice-presidential bid. Naturally, the ” lamestream media ” has left it to Mrs. Palin define this nation within nation. Like all things Palin, it’s an evolving and contradictory process, the latest of which is in Christmas-cracker joke form: “you’re a redneck if you’ve ever had dinner on a ping pong table,” she told a crowd of NRA-ers. These one-liners are surely written by others, but she can claim some personal experience. Her would-be son-in-law and unlikely antagonist of The Palins soap opera, Levi Johnston, who once proudly declared ” I’m a f—in’ redneck” before he sold-out and became a PlayGirl pinup and Kathy Griffin -approved gay icon. Palin’s grip of the “Real America” has been rightfully challenged by director Julien Nitzberg and producer Johnny Knoxville in their just-released documentary, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia . Their almost anthropological study of redneck culture is done through a portrait of it at it’s most extreme, crystallized into the form of the White family, local celebrities of Boone County, WV, and descendents of D. Ray White, a murdered tap-dancer who was commemorated in the cult PBS documentary Talking Feet . The first scenes suggest a comedy, a where-are-they-now reality show starring former guests of Jerry Springer . Sitting on couches and wondered over by lap-dogs, the Whites rank their favorite drugs, over shake their prescription bottles in front of the camera and take a toke of a joint. Grandma has a birthday party where gramps gets pantsied as the cake and candles are presented. One boasts of violent brawls with ex-lovers where mom hid the weapon and cleaned up the blood. But, by now the tone has shifted to something more serious. It feels less of a Jersey Shore gross-out and more akin to the second season of The Wire , a moving and ultimately ambivalent portrait of working class whites whose culture and community is rooted in an economic reality that has long since expired. The ambivalence is manifold. Pain is inflicted sharply in every direction: sisters have died in car collisions, children with gun accidents. We see a baby taken out of the arms of her mother, perhaps never to return, as she turns around snorts a line of something or other still in the hospital bed. She enters rehab and stays clean for a while, how long for we don’t know yet. The youngest children can’t get work because their parents have ruined their reputation, their last name is the ultimate stigma. It is also deserved, they openly boast about robbing and stealing, bullying and even stabbing. Some have moved away and begun to rebuild, but most have stayed tightly together. The townsfolk revile them as a pest, but also encourage them to take on roles as the local source of amusement and intrigue, egging-on bad behavior and eccentric tap-dancing for an evening entertainment. At first the world of the Whites seems something far away, foreign, so much so that much of the dialogue comes with subtitles. Yet, when one takes a step backs from the alien aesthetics, another story emerges that sits firmly within a tradition of independent films such as Happiness , Magnolia , and American Beauty . These latter films take on intimate family lives of affluent whites in ordered suburbs but reveal the same pathologies of dysfunction, addiction and abuse. If anything, the Whites are simply honest and upfront about whom they are, whereas the suburban America is camera shy, relying upon Alan Ball, Paul Anderson, and Todd Solondz as their interlocutors. It may well be true that there are two (and more) Americas, that different communities have been dealt different cards. Yet, although one family may be sitting at a ping-pong table and the other at a polished oak dinning table, Nitzberg shows us that common nexus of neurosis underlies the emotional space the group around that table share. My hope is that people watch this film and pose questions that go beyond red states and blue states, outlaws and conformists, and instead address common, if unattractive, behaviors that make all of America a real, and not imaginary, America. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is available for download at Amazon.com and opens in selected theaters on June 25. More on Sarah Palin
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Rupert Russell: Review: The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
It’s been a few days since the Palins learned Joe McGinniss moved in next door. Love thy neighbor as thyself, then build a fence. “Fences make good neighbors,” promised her Facebook blog. Not sure at which of the five colleges Palin studied Robert Frost’s Mending , but I think she missed the point. Perhaps it was the, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” part. Within a few hours Sarah had launched a “Joe The Stalker/Pervert” campaign. Glenn Beck called for a boycott of Random House publishing, and Random House held their ground. The Paliban swarmed with comments of “stalker”, “reload”, “let’s burn it to the ground”, and “get ‘em, Todd”. The following morning the Palins super-sized their fence. The “waterin’ hole” must be defended. Joe the Neighbor should have told Todd he was writing a book about Russia and heard he could research from his porch. He didn’t. But why the outrage now? The home Joe McGinniss is renting used to be an Oxford House from 2005 until 2008. The tenants were men recently released from prison who were recovering addicts. What? No fence to protect sexy Sarah in her tank top? Dear God! Who was lurking in that house watching her children play? The Palins themselves rented the home McGinnis is staying in for six months in 2009, but weren’t interested in purchasing it. They didn’t want to spend the money. Last October they were “done with the house”. During the election, the Secret Service guarded the Palin home from the backyard now occupied by Mr. McGinnis. Here’s a hint, Sarah - if you want to dictate who lives in the house, you should have probably bought it first. It’s predictable Palin. Sarah has a habit of shooting down hill. One of my daughter’s friends has a black eye from shooting down hill while bear hunting. It’s not just a proverbial lesson, it’s a literal one. Last week, she attended a funeral with her youngest daughter. I called her daughter a “human shield”. Sarah validated my metaphor with her attack on Joe McGinnis. She evoked provocative images of herself, then accuses a respected journalist of “peering” at her young daughter. “I’m hot ! He’s a pervert !” Ask David Letterman how accusations of pedophilia work out . Initially, Dave looked like he’d gone too far with his tasteless joke. But her strike back about having to protect her fourteen year old daughter from David Letterman? No one was buying her manufactured outrage. She quit a three weeks later. This week, the New York Times quoted Todd Palin, “What goes around comes around”. I’m looking forward to Joe McGinniss’s book. More on Sarah Palin
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Shannyn Moore: Sarah Palin Takes Up Fencing.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is suspending proposed exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says in a report to be delivered to the White House on Thursday that he will not consider applications for permits to drill in the Arctic until 2011. Shell Oil is poised to begin exploratory drilling this summer on leases as far as 140 miles offshore. An administration official familiar with the plan said Salazar wants to allow further study of proposed drilling technology and oil spill response capabilities in Arctic waters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public. Salazar has said he wants to take a cautious approach in the Arctic. President Barack Obama ordered Salazar to conduct a review of the nation’s offshore oil drilling safety after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month. In March, Obama and Salazar canceled a planned 2011 lease sale in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, where oil development was proposed by the Bush administration. They canceled four scheduled lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas and said no additional leases would be offered there until more scientific data are collected. An administration official said Salazar believes that fisheries, tourism and environmental values in Bristol Bay make the area inappropriate for oil and gas drilling. Shell, which has leases in both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, had sought to begin drilling five exploratory wells in those areas this summer. Salazar’s announcement means those wells will not be considered until 2011. Salazar also is directing the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct an independent evaluation of oil spill risks and spill response capabilities in the state. Shell Oil, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has the backing of Alaska’s political leaders. With few exceptions, they support offshore drilling, a stance articulated by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president. About 90 percent of Alaska’s general fund revenue comes from the petroleum industry. State leaders look to offshore oil to provide jobs and keep the trans-Alaska pipeline from running dry. More on Gulf Oil Spill
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New Arctic Drilling Suspended: No New Permits Until 2011
The Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University recently conferred upon Glenn Beck an honorary doctorate in the humanities. It’s official: Beck is now a doctor of philosophy. Liberty University’s honoring of Beck is fitting because he has clearly established himself as Fox News’s resident “historian,” with his area of expertise being American civilization, with emphases on the early republic, Progressivism, and the New Deal. Glenn Beck, Ph.D. makes about $1 million a month, earning him the distinction of being the highest paid “historian” in the world. Beck has emerged as the most influential promoter of the Jonah Goldberg/Amity Shlaes contention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal were unmitigated “calamities” for the country. Almost nightly, Beck tells his several million viewers that FDR, Woodrow Wilson, and other “progressives” (even TR) were engaged in a long-term project to strip Americans of their freedom and impose some kind of totalitarian state. Historians whose specialty is the early 20th Century probably could never have dreamt that a TV and radio personality could convince so many ordinary Americans that laws that ensure the safety of meat and drugs, minimum wages, expanding voting rights, etc. undermined their “freedom.” Beck, Goldberg, Shlaes and others seem to be pursuing a long-term project of their own to misinform their rather gullible audiences into believing that anytime a government imposes limits on the ability of private business (especially giant corporations) to exploit the country’s land and labor it is an attack on individual “liberty.” It’s the identical argument that the representatives of corporate trusts deployed at the turn of the last century when they demanded the “freedom” to do anything they wished. In the wake of the Wall Street financial meltdown and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe, both brought to us by the less than benevolent actions of unrestrained corporate power, Beck’s views are not only stupid and false, but dangerous. But one of Dr. Beck’s main pet peeves is his belief that the “founders” intended the United States to be a Christian nation and the idea of a “wall of separation” between church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberal elites. It’s not that Beck is wrong about the ambiguity of the personal beliefs on the subject by the founders, but he and others like him are monumentally wrong by overstating the relevance of the intent of 18th Century views on the thought and practices of 20th and 21st Century America. Gordon S. Wood, in a June 2006 edition of The New York Review of Books , writes: “We can’t solve our current disputes over religion by looking back to the actual historical circumstances of the Founding; those circumstances are too complex, too confusing, and too biased toward Protestant Christianity to be used in courts today, and most of them are remote from or antagonistic to the particular needs of the twenty-first century. We do not, and cannot, base American constitutional jurisprudence on the historical reality of the Founding. . . . What Founders’ intent should we choose to emphasize? That of the deistic Jefferson and Madison? Or that of the churchgoing Washington and Adams, with their sympathies for religion? Or that of the countless numbers of evangelical Protestants who captured control of the culture to an extent most of the Founding elite never anticipated?” In the modern era the Supreme Court had little choice but to build on the idea of a “wall” between church and state, not because the learned men at the dawn of the Enlightenment had expressed their own contradictory views on the subject, but because of the social pressures and prerogatives of the contemporary period the Justices themselves were living through. The United States Constitution is a “living document” no matter how often Beck and others repeat the lie that it isn’t. Beck, in all his disquisitions about the founders’ intent and the church/state divide, never mentions the social and political context of 18th Century America that informs his interpretation. He never engages his esteemed colleagues among academic historians preferring instead to dismiss the whole profession as part of the liberal-Democratic-progressive elite that is trying to impose its godless agenda. And this brings me to the most fascinating aspect of Glenn Beck: Beck as Historian. To explain his novel historical theories to his viewers Beck assumes the affect of a university professor. When Beck sports a tweed-like blazer and rests his spectacles on the tip of his nose, eyes peering over his glasses, he’s impersonating the archetype of a professor that is widely familiar in the culture from movies and TV (if not from actual colleges and universities). Even in an era of erasable markers and PowerPoint he uses a chalkboard for heuristic purposes. The semiotician in me sees the chalkboard as far more than a mere stage prop. Given that Fox News has access to the most sophisticated and blaring computer graphics to drive home its political points, Beck’s use of the chalkboard is remarkably low-tech (even inside a very high-tech television studio). He’s the only TV personality who uses one. The chalkboard signifies scholarship and learning. His studio is transformed into a classroom and his audience becomes a class full of eager students. Beck becomes a professor - specifically, a history professor. Covered in chalk dust and ruffling through his lecture notes, Beck exudes a certain power that derives from the teacher/student relationship that is timeless even though he and his producers are deploying this demeanor as nothing more than a pseudo-educational propaganda tool. Writing in Time magazine recently, Beck’s ideological soul mate, Sarah Palin , praised him for exactly this type of professorial playacting. I suppose historians should be flattered that even Fox News recognizes the symbolic influence of our profession. In The Use and Abuse of History , Frederick Nietzsche famously identified three kinds of history: the monumental , the antiquarian , and the critical . Beck does a little bit of each, but he is truly a practitioner of the monumental variety. “Monumental history lives by false analogy,” Nietzsche writes, “it entices the brave to rashness, and the enthusiastic to fanaticism by its tempting comparisons. Imagine this history in the hands - and the head - of a gifted egoist or an inspired scoundrel; kingdoms would be overthrown, princes murdered, war and revolution let loose, and the number of ‘effects in themselves’ - in other works, effects without sufficient cause - increased.” (p. 16) The wide dissemination of Beck’s views wouldn’t matter much if the United States were in better shape today. But the status quo that is emerging cannot help but create a highly volatile electorate for years to come. Class lines are hardening, mobility is stifled, unemployment will remain near double digits for many years, there is a sea of angry voters who are susceptible to jingoistic appeals and conspiracy theories (like the ones Beck promotes). The ongoing fiscal crisis at the local, state, and federal levels has led to the heartless rollback of public institutions at exactly the time when they are needed the most. And it is in this dreary context where Beck each night on television twists the meaning of the terms “empathy,” “progress,” and “social justice” into buzzwords deployed by those who want to turn the United States into a Nazi/Communist/Socialist/Totalitarian State. No wonder he has become the Joan D’Arc of the Tea Party movement. It’s fascinating that in an era where far-right ideologues like David Horowitz and affiliated organizations like “Accuracy in Academia” constantly scream about how terrible academia is and how “tenured radicals” have usurped the once noble purpose of the university still drift toward creating a fake scholarly environment for their propaganda. Like the recent Texas School Board purging textbooks of ideological impurities, and Jonah Goldberg writing a “book” with all the trappings of footnotes and sources, or Liberty University conferring an honorary doctorate on Beck, Beck’s shtick is a backhanded nod to the relevance of history as a discipline and to historians not only as educators, but also as the keepers of the nation’s myths. We historians have more power in the culture than we often give ourselves credit for. More on Glenn Beck
Last week, I called on the White House to go on the offensive against Republicans who are desperate to paint their failures as his. Yet, here were are again with this stuff: The president said he asked the Republican senators to help him on energy and climate change issues and on a comprehensive immigration plan that would toughen border enforcement, crack down further on employers of illegal immigrants and provide a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants long established here. “You’ve got to meet me on solving the problem long-term. It’s not enough just to talk about the National Guard down at the border,” Mr. Obama said he told the lawmakers. “You don’t even have to meet me halfway. I’ll bring most Democrats on these issues. I’m just looking for 8 or 10 of you.” (Sigh) All right, let me try and make this as plain as I can: There is an election afoot. Elections are about choices. Elections have consequences. The choice is not going to be between who was trying to help and who was not playing nice. There was never any “meeting halfway” and there definitely will not be any more this year. Therefore, no more “party of no” complaints. No more “they aren’t helping” pabulum. The Republican Party is insane. That entire party is a corrupt, crazy, nutcase, extremist fringe group. The Republican Party is not Dick Lugar. The Republican Party is Sarah Palin. Michelle Bachmann. Rick Perry. Steve King. Rand Paul. Sue Lowden. John Ensign. Mark Sanford. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Sean “I love Tim McVeigh” Hannity. These people must never be allowed to get anywhere near the control panel of government again. NEVER. There is an election afoot. They must be fought, and fought HARD. Making light of the parties’ differences over just about every issue and of his nearly dashed hopes for a post-partisan era, the president said he told the Republicans, “The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership.” Good. There’s nothing holding you back then.
The best defense
I don’t usually come here to shamelessly hawk my goods . . . okay maybe I do. Still, I want to take this opportunity to draw your Huff Po attention towards what I believe to be an excellent hour of television airing Thursday night at 9PM on ABC called Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon: An American Cinematheque Tribute . I’ve been honored to work as a writer on these American Cinematheque Tributes for years alongside my friend Paul Flattery, one of the show’s Executive Producers, as they have increasingly become that perfect combination of a loving tribute and a hilarious roast. This year’s show — airing for the first time on a major network — is an entertaining salute to Matt Damon, an fine actor, screenwriter, philanthropist and as it turns out, one funny bastard. Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon: An American Cinematheque Tribute begins with sometimes Damon nemesis Jimmy Kimmel discovering the upsetting fact that he is in fact not hosting a tribute to Matt Dillon, but rather one Matt Damon. Kimmel then asks this timeless and hilarious question: “What can you say about Matt Damon that hasn’t already been said about Brendan Fraser?” From there, it’s noting but love and laughs from the star-studded likes of Robin Williams, Clint Eastwood (who KILLED), Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, Charlize Theron, former faux flame Sarah Silverman, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck and last but not even close to least, Matt Damon, who gave every bit as good as he got. There are also taped bits here you won’t want to miss from George Clooney, Ben Stiller and someone named Bill Clinton. So do yourself a favor, America, and tune in. I promise you this: Hollywood Salutes Matt Damon: An American Cinematheque Tribute is even more laughs than Green Zone , and only half as long. More on George Clooney
After rivalling Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) for the prize of most protracted exploration of a campaign, two-time gubernatorial loser Dino Rossi finally made the call–he will challenge Democratic Senator Patty Murray this fall: Former state senator and two-time GOP gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi ended months of speculation this morning, announcing by video that he will run against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in this fall’s elections. Rossi, who has been neck-and-neck with Murray in some polls, had long hinted at a possible run. Speculation intensified this week as anonymous reports from his camp predicted his entry within the next few days. Rossi announced Tuesday afternoon on his Facebook page that friends and supporters should “Be sure to check www.dinorossi.com tomorrow at 7 a.m. for an important update.” A five-minute video was posted on that site this morning in which Rossi explains his decision to run. Rossi sets up another in a series of contests between potentially well-funded establishment candidates (Rossi had been heavily recruited by DC Republicans, including the NRSC) and the GOP insurgency best exemplified by the teabaggers. Just listen to what one tea party leader in the Evergreen State had to say about Rossi: “Rossi is too establishment to get the tea partiers all fired up,” said (Lawrence) Hutt, a paralegal from Wauna. “He’s not going to fan the flames of any tea partiers I know.” So which candidate holds the heart of Washington state teabaggers? That, it seems, might be the saving grace for Rossi. That support might well be dispersed among multiple candidates. There are at least two candidates angling for the mantle of “authentic conservative values” guy. One, Clint Didier, has already been endorsed by Sarah Palin (who, as LA Times blogger Johanna Neuman noted, is having a really lousy week ). The other is self-funding businessman Paul Akers, whose campaign rationale is based entirely on being a political outsider. Didier, for one, made it clear immediately that he will not stand down now that Rossi has finally decided to crap, rather than get off the pot: “He is part of the Republican establishment - all you have to do is look at those he surrounds himself with. I don’t believe he’s the conservative people think he is. If people want more of the same, the McCain or Bush type of governing, then they can support Dino. If they want the change they missed the last time, then they can support me.” Rossi won’t just face internecine fire. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire fired off a pre-emptive strike yesterday, blasting Rossi to reporters as an empty suit who has accomplished little in his career. The Washington primary is scheduled to be held on August 17th. Public polls on the race have focused on the general election, and generally show Murray with a modest lead over Rossi.
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WA-Sen: Rossi Makes It Official
In the nation’s only primary yesterday, Sarah Palin’s candidate lost in an upset, highlighting the fractures in the Republican party in this one party state. It wasn’t even close, with state Rep. Raul Labrador winning 47-38 . As the Statesman reports it , the establishment lost. In a rebuke to the Republican establishment, state Rep. Raul Labrador defeated Vaughn Ward in western Idaho’s 1st Congressional District and punched his ticket to face incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick in November. “My friends, the key to our renewal is liberty,” Labrador told a cheering crowd at GOP headquarters in Garden City shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. “The answer to Obamaism is liberty.” Ward, a Marine reservist and a first-time candidate, had a 6-to-1 money edge and the backing of the Idaho and national GOP hierarchy. Ward was a commanding presence on TV, while Labrador ran only a smattering of radio spots in the final two weeks. Both are from Eagle. Labrador told the Idaho Statesman that the secret to his win was his consistent conservative message: “I didn’t just say it. I’ve always acted the same way.” Despite Palin’s endorsement of Ward, Labrador was the teabaggers’ choice, as is obvious given his quotes, above. Ward’s series of missteps–lifting whole sections of other Republicans’ talking points for his Web site, falsely claiming endorsements from Idaho officeholders, plagiarizing from Obama–sealed his fate. Unfortunately for the incumbent, Dem Walt Minnick, because his best chance of holding on to his seat was the mistake-prone Ward, who was unlikely to generate the kind of enthusiasm Labrador can garner. The best a Dem can hope for in this state is low Republican turnout.
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ID-01: Labrador upset
The only thing more blatant than the fraud and corruption that is killing our country is our current leaders’ unwillingness to stop it. Now, as we are faced with the unspeakable damage from both the Gulf oil spill and the financial crisis, our leaders still insist that the best people to deal with the aftermath are the very people who caused it in the first place. Imagine how silly this reasoning would sound if we decided to let the spouses of murder victims be in charge of the crime scene. After all, they know the area the best and are very familiar with the victim. By our current leaders’ reasoning , these criteria alone would make this the best person to do a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrator to justice. This kind of bizarre ignorance of incentives is now displayed by our current President, who often appears to think that government works best when it is subservient to Corporations under even the most dubious circumstances. So far, it seems like the only entrenched power that our President is interested in fighting was the Democratic Party machine that wanted him to wait his turn back in the primaries. This from a man that so many hoped would be an antidote to the horrendous Corporatist reign of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Nowhere is this attitude more on display than in the Gulf right now. Perhaps operating under the fear of that “if you try to actually fix something, you own it politically,” our government continues to abdicate its responsibilities in the ongoing disaster. Instead, it prefers to blindly trust the Corporation that is largely responsibility for the problem in the first place, regardless of the fact that the Corporation has a history of safety mishaps and makes “covering-up” the basic tenet of its overall marketing plan . Meanwhile, the Corporation prevents tankers from cleaning up , scientists and engineers from researching, journalists from reporting and Americans from witnessing , all while the oil spill pumps into the gulf at an alarming rate for what could potentially be another 30 years before running dry. I’m not sure what is more a sign of the times - having a Democratic White House claim that they couldn’t possible infringe on the rights of a private Corporation that is destroying public water and land while a Republican Senator rightly demands a Government takeover , or Sarah Palin and Robert Gibbs having a flame war over who is more on the take from said Corporation (the answer - both ). This dynamic is not new to those who have been following the Government’s response to a financial crisis that continues to let the Banksters ruin our economy while they line their pockets. Our current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner , the one who handed billions of tax dollars to a Corporation now under federal fraud investigation, is spearheading the government’s fiscal response and financial “reform” efforts even though he may eventually be charged as well. Meanwhile, Larry Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, has responded to the financial thievery by fighting against real derivative reform , which isn’t surprising considering he was a chief architect of the dangerous system that tanked our economy in the first place. Of course, Larry also made millions off of the very derivatives he helped legalize. That just leaves us to rely on the “independent” Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, who seems more interested in using his endless money-printing hose to try to delay the pain (and blame) of the fire that he helped start until after he’s long gone . So while real regulators and proven advocates of the People like William Black and Eliot Spitzer are relegated to the sidelines, we are left with a paltry $8 million dollar ” investigation ” by Phil Angelides. So who should step into the void? That’s right, the very Corporations who caused the collapse are now running the cleanup effort . As bad as government can be (and, as we know in New York, it can be very bad ), our leaders are trying to tell us that Corporations have your interests at heart as much as government does. But Corporations do not work for the general public, nor are they set up that way - they work for money. As grim as all this may sound, let’s not forget that corrupt politicians, bankers and yes, even media figures are nothing new. However, a vast, unstoppable flow of the truth brought on by amazing advances in technology, and a country that still counts each person’s vote equally, allows its citizens the right to speak freely and decide how and where to spend its non-taxed money — is a stiff antidote to this age-old problem. I believe we are already well on our way to righting this ship. Recent primaries point to a deep rumbling in the sleeping giant for a shared value that offends us all deeply regardless of political affiliation — the basic issue of fairness and its obvious betrayal by our previous and current Government. More on Eliot Spitzer
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Dylan Ratigan: Mr. President Defend America
“When it is said that nothing, including a nuclear strike, is off the table on Iran, are those who say it not also threatening genocide?” - Rep. Ron Paul, May 22, 2007 “I don’t think you take [nuclear weapons] off the table.” - Rand Paul on Iran, The O’Reilly Factor , May 19, 2010 “Rand Paul believes in a strong national defense, opposes closing Guantanamo Bay, and believes that Iran is a serious threat….” - Text of Rand Paul campaign ad , March 2010 (removed from YouTube “by the user” in the last 72 hours) In September 2008, an estimated 10,000 liberty-minded individuals crowded into the Target Center in Minneapolis, just a few miles away from the Republican National Convention. They had staged a sort of alternative convention, a “Rally for the Republic,” hailing presidential candidate Ron Paul, the longtime Republican congressman from Texas, who had been excoriated by his party so badly that they had refused to let him onto the floor of the convention hall without an escort and had prevented many of his delegates from announcing their votes out loud during the Sept. 3 roll call nomination. Paul supporters, who had swelled in numbers and had once raised $6 million in small donations for him in one day , were dismissed as nut-jobs and ” Paultards ” by mainstream Republicans. His views - especially against the ongoing military operations abroad - were sneered at and dismissed as too fringe for the RNC platform. Meanwhile, ” momma grizzly ” Sarah Palin was crowned queen of the ball, sashaying through a convention speech with a lust for the Global War on Terror matched that night only by Rudy “9/11″ Giuliani himself. How things have changed - sort of. Today, Paul’s son Rand is one step closer to becoming a U.S. senator, giving him a platform exceeding that of his libertarian father’s on Capitol Hill. This development should be a major boon for antiwar activists and civil libertarians who have long relied on the elder Paul and his “revolution” as a reasonable voice for non-intervention. It is especially poignant as the military will have no less than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan by the 2010 election, and growing signs indicate that there may be more than 50,000 soldiers in Iraq beyond the imposed withdrawal deadline of August. Congress - which has ignored the issue of war for months - will no doubt soon be called on to act, if not directly on policy, on the budget (which has already exceeded $1.3 trillion since 2001). But after months of a grueling primary, it is not yet clear where the younger Paul’s savvy campaigning ends and his true ideological impulses begin, particularly on national security and foreign policy. No one is entirely sure how to reconcile his more blistering critiques of the war during his father’s campaign with his more hawkish pronouncements - particularly on Iran as ” a dangerous threat to the Middle East ” and against closing the Guantanamo Bay prison - during his own campaign. “All and all I think it is a positive improvement to keep electing more and more pro-liberty candidates, but those who trumpet Rand as a real liberty candidate might be disappointed when he actually gets in office,” offers Tarrin Lupo, who publishes the LCL Report Web site . He joins other libertarians in their skepticism of Paul’s embrace of the Tea Party movement, including his courting of Sarah Palin’s endorsement several months ago. “At a time when libertarian ideas are becoming discussed more in the mainstream, the last thing we need is to become identified with another right-wing conservative with stances so anti-freedom,” shares writer Christine Smith , who ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 2008. But Paul’s identification with the Tea Party movement is unabashed and certainly justified, at least politically . First, the Ron Paul Revolution, AKA the liberty movement, AKA Campaign for Liberty , was identifying itself with the Boston Tea Party years before it became a haven for disaffected Republicans in the wake the Democratic takeover of Washington. In a way, the Paul libertarians see these neo-patriots as finally coming over to their way of thinking, not the other way around. But more importantly, Paul knew he needed the extraordinary momentum and muscle (not to mention contributions) of the Tea Party to win the closed Kentucky Republican primary (only those registered as Republicans as of Jan. 1 were able to vote in the May 18 contest). He guessed early on that some 75 percent of the current Tea Party movement did not support his father during the 2008 Republican primary. So he’s careful to call himself not a libertarian, but a “constitutional conservative.” His frank acknowledgment that his campaign courted - and happily received - Sarah Palin’s endorsement like a blessing from on high indicates how important it is he identify with her faction, despite their differences on war and civil liberties. This was especially true given that he was running against the establishment Republican, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who had the approbation of not only Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell, but also heavyweights like Dick Cheney and plainly nervous national neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, all poised to condemn Rand for his “neo-isolationist” pedigree. Indeed, Grayson and his surrogates went on the attack early last fall, leading to some surprisingly hawkish responses from Paul. “Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution,” Paul said in a Nov. 19 release . “These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe, and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.” It cannot be stressed enough how far this rhetoric diverges from the liberty movement’s sustained view of the Global War on Terror. Just the mention of “foreign terrorists” - when Paul should know by now that the majority of prisoners at Gitmo today have not been charged with any crime, much less convicted - smacks of gratuitous right-wing demagoguery. Not to mention that the tribunals have been criticized by a growing line of respected military lawyers - not just “kooky” libertarians and the ACLU - on ethical, moral, and constitutional grounds. And the Supreme Court ruled two years ago that “foreign terrorists” being held on American soil do have some rights - i ncluding habeas corpus , the right to question their detention in court. Not surprisingly, Paul’s comments and the tone of his muscular campaign ads are right in line with the Tea Party, and nowhere was this more evident than at the big Tea Party confabs earlier this year, including the National Tea Party Convention in Tennessee, where Palin brought down the roof when she said terrorists don’t deserve constitutional rights and mocked President Obama: “We need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.” In fact, if the Campaign for Liberty hadn’t bussed in all those college libertarians into the Tea Party-friendly Conservative Political Action Conference ( CPAC ) in February, Ron Paul might have lost the straw poll, and he certainly wouldn’t have gotten the applause he did when he said during his own address that fighting wars “so carelessly” and telling the rest of the world what to do are “neoconservatism, but not true conservatism.” The only “national security” this crowd wanted to talk about otherwise was the stuff Liz Cheney was dishing out : thanking the CIA for waterboarding, criticizing Obama for not waterboarding enough, and insisting the administration wants to “bring terrorists into the United States.” Referring to the response of regular CPAC-goers to her group’s antiwar stance at the three-day event, Tracey Harmon of the libertarian Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) , said, “I’ve been called unpatriotic.” It makes sense that Rand Paul would want to avoid a similar response in Kentucky, whose Republicans hail from a Jacksonian conservative, proud military tradition. But Paul’s refusal to outright repudiate or neutralize the overheated rhetoric, while indulging in it himself when it comes to right-wing hobgoblins like Iran and Guantanamo Bay, has set off some alarms. More recently, he publicly chose sides with Israel on the politically explosive issue of Middle East peace. This seems so oddly forced and out of place that it might only be explained as more pandering to the right wing: “I would never vote to place trade restrictions on Israel, and I would filibuster any attempts to place sanctions on Israel or tariffs on any Israeli goods. “The issue of Palestine is incredibly difficult and complex. The entire world wishes for peace in the region, but any arrangement or treaty must come from Israel, when she is ready and when her conditions have been met. “I strongly object to the arrogant approach of Obama administration, itself a continuation of the failures of past U.S. administrations, as they push Israel to make security concessions behind thinly veiled threats. “Only Israel can decide what is in her security interest, not America and certainly not the United Nations. Friends do not coerce friends to trade land for peace, or to give up the vital security interests of their people.” It all sounds too much like the last administration for some of his early supporters to bear. Here’s a comment from cfountain72 on a Rand Paul-related post I put up on the A ntiwar.com blog May 19: As someone who did make some small contributions to Rand’s campaign, I am torn as to what the man really stands for. Is he indeed a non-interventionist like his father, and making some calculated moves to focus attention on areas of agreement to garner broader Tea Party support? Or perhaps ‘being his own man’ means (unlike his father) that he regards American intervention a necessity after all? While, in any case, I think he’ll be a better Senator than his November opponent, I certainly wouldn’t continue to send donations to out-of-state candidates that hew to the neo-clown mold. I pray Rand deosn’t (sic) fall into that trap. In his favor, Paul has said repeatedly that he would cut away at the bloated military- industrial complex, including the federal procurement system, which fosters an insider racket in which behemoths like Halliburton send battalions of lobbyists and consultants to Capitol Hill each year to mold and drive defense policy and budgets. The companies are then rewarded billions in defense contracts each year, despite, as in the case of Halliburton, numerous accusations of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer funds. Like his father, Rand doesn’t believe ” we have to have troops in 130 countries and 750 bases .” He says there should have been a “declaration of war” for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. While he says he would not have voted in favor of such a declaration for Iraq, he would have for Afghanistan, because “I felt that we were attacked, and we were attacked by people [on 9/11] who were organizing and plotting against us in Afghanistan.” But Rand doesn’t talk much about the current counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan, other than to say he “has questions” and there must be a “debate” on the course of our national security interests in Afghanistan moving forward. Daniel McCarthy, a Campaign for Liberty scribe and senior editor at The American Conservativ e , hardly a nest of hawks, nonetheless cautions against a libertarian backlash against Rand solely on the basis of his primary campaign rhetoric: Rand is able to communicate with the quite large segment of the GOP that is not anti-interventionist, but that is anti-nation-building - the segment of the GOP that could have become dominant in the 1990s but that went dormant after 9/11. I think Rand himself is halfway between his father’s views and those of the semi-non-interventionist Right of the 1990s. … It’s hard to say how he will vote as a senator if he wins in November - but the fact that he has made any criticisms at all of America’s ongoing wars and has said he would not have voted for the Iraq War already distinguishes him from all the other GOP senators. I think the odds are that he’ll be better than his colleagues: if he wanted to be perfectly safe and unobjectionable to GOP voters, he would never have said anything critical about U.S. foreign policy. No group of voters ever gets 100 percent of what it wants from any political candidate. The question is, if you can get 80 or 90 percent, should you try to achieve that? If not, you aren’t in politics. For my part, speaking personally and not for TAC or anyone else, I’m willing to give Rand Paul a chance. He won’t vote the way I want on every issue, but he’ll counter-balance some of the more ideologically imperialist forces in Washington. There’s a pressing need for that. Interestingly, the biggest howl to come out about Rand Paul’s national security positions in the wake of his stunning 25-point win last Tuesday - aside from spirited discussions on libertarian Facebook pages and assorted blogs - were from neoconservatives who still view Paul as a threat, despite his steroidal pro-military campaign ads and his special new friends like Palin (whose own foreign policy gurus include the likes of Bill Kristol and Randy Scheunemann). “Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky Republican primary is obviously a depressing event for those who support strong national defense and rational conservative politics. In another year, such a victory would be a prelude to a Republican defeat in the general election,” wrote conservative pundit David Frum last week . Through gritted teeth, Kristol said the GOP was a “big tent” that could allow an energizing candidate like Rand Paul into it - but not before he took a few swipes, including one at papa Paul. “Paul ran a good campaign,” Kristol told David Weigel at the Washington Post . “He did a good job of being less like his dad - seeming less ‘out there’ - so if you were a normal Kentucky voter you thought you were voting for a Sarah Palin-like, anti-Washington figure, not someone who bought into the whole Ron Paul agenda.” Comments like this could easily be dismissed as the bitter last throes of the Borg-like neoconservative takeover of the Republican Party post-9/11. Kristol and his pals did their best to thwart both Ron and Rand Paul, so far to no avail. But the fact that Rand Paul has identified so sharply with the Tea Party movement, stating unequivocally that he shares a ” kinship ” with Sarah Palin and that she is qualified to be commander in chief, naturally raises questions for those so dedicated to changing the course of our current foreign policy. Everyone is talking today about Paul’s position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I argue that the ongoing military operations of 2001 and 2003 are much more critical to the present and future health of this country. We’re not only talking budgets here - billions a year on defense, homeland security, and related federal expenses - but also the wars’ larger impact on the economy, our relationship to the world, the creeping government overreach on the homefront, the tens of thousands of veterans coming home injured and ill and requiring lifetime care and benefits, the burden on our communities and families, and the vulnerability we have felt since 9/11 that never seems to go away. Questioning where Rand Paul stands on all this is not suggesting we throw out the “constitutional conservative” with the bathwater. While writer Daniel Larison insists that Paul “is a refreshing exception to the conventional Republican attitudes on national security and war that predominate in the Tea Party,” others would argue that his full embrace of the Tea Party (as evidenced in his victory speech ) has effectively muddied the waters. Will his non-interventionist impulses prevail, or will the Tea Party demand certain reciprocities for its help in winning the seat? In a body of 100 polarized members, will he ever be allowed to forge alliances with senators like Democrat Russ Feingold when it comes to defending liberty against warrantless wiretapping and more aggressive military action abroad - or will he be expected to lock arms with Republican hawks and anointed Tea Party leaders when such critical votes arise? Kentuckians deserve to know, as do all of Rand’s outside donors, who contributed 77 percent of his campaign treasury. If the waters are muddy, it is his responsibility to clear them up before November. Originally posted at Antiwar.com More on Tax Day Tea Parties
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Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: Rand Paul Drinks Tea, Turns Into Hawk?
On September 3rd, 2008 Medea Benjamin and I stood trembling at the side of the stage at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, waiting to speak out during Sarah Palin’s convention speech on behalf of peace and the environment. When Sarah Palin intoned her infamous “Drill Baby Drill” slogan, we were horrified by the stamping of feet and the hollering of the crowd. I think we were more frightened by that chant than by the seven Secret Service agents surrounding us. Today, Monday May 24, joined by dozens of activists from 8 Texas cities and 7 states, we exposed the Naked Truth of Drill Baby Drill. We exposed ourselves to bring attention to the devastation caused by the greed of British Petroleum and our nation’s addiction to oil. We are horrified that Congress has maintained a $75 million cap on BP’s liability when the cost of the cleanup is already estimated at $16 Billion. I was amazed that with a few days notice, Texans and others came pouring from all directions to join the protest. There were passionate shrimpers, fisherwomen, businesswomen, and members of the clergy among others. Their fury was inspiring. Each has shed tears at how this disaster will be affecting their lives, the lives of their children and their communities. All agreed that we can’t leave the solution to the government, that we–the people–must step forward to demand not only a total cleanup, but a real commitment and investments in a clean energy system that respects the lives of the workers and the planet we all share. More on Sarah Palin
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Jodie Evans: Let’s Get Crude (VIDEO)
Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Halley (R-SC) has categorically denied the affair between herself and Governor Mark Sanford’s former spokesman and conservative blogger Will Folks: “I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage,” Haley responded in a statement, following up with an appearance on a Columbia radio station. “This claim against me is categorically and totally false.” Sarah Palin has come to her defense: “Well, whaddya know? South Carolina’s conservative candidate, Nikki Haley, recently zipped to the front of the line in her state’s race for governor; and lo and behold, now accusations of an affair surface,” Palin wrote. “Nikki categorically denies the accusation that was spewed out there by a political blogger who has the gall to throw the stone, but then quickly duck and hide and proclaim he would not comment further on the issue. Quite convenient.” Well, whaddya know, Will Folks is now saying he has emails, text messages, and voice mails to prove it: “As far as what comes out and when it comes out, I’m going to leave that to the advice of my attorneys. But I’ll tell you what, at some point, everything comes out,” he told News Channel 7 by phone Tuesday morning. Folks goes on to say that he has kept the Haley campaign full informed of his intentions to announce the affair on his website and that he still supports her candidacy. In addition, Folks’ website released a statement today that states: Make no mistake, the credibility of this website will be defended – and the veracity of our claim will be documented. That statement goes on to implicate Republican Congressman Gresham Barrett in the matter, alleging that it was his campaign that learned of the affair and approached a South Carolina reporter about it. The Columbia Free Times confirms it has been working on the story for several weeks and that it had contacted Folks about it. Somebody is lying. Stay tuned, Sarah. Update: Folks’ blog stated , in a statement partly titled “Haleygate” that it has taken care to lawyer up awaiting a libel suit. None has been announced from Haley so far. Nor has she asked for a retraction of the allegation.
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SC-GOV: Haley denies affair, blogger says he has proof
Life after 24 — the addictive action thriller which first aired less than 2 months after 9/11 and went out with style and integrity Monday night — will be challenging. But take heart. There’s another fictional Jack every bit as stoic and heroic as 24 ’s Jack Bauer. And perhaps in a valedictory nod to the Fox TV series, Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel 61 Hours counts down each hour while disaster looms for the bitter-cold South Dakota town he’s passing through. The two Jacks have much in common. Both are loners. Both are master strategists. Both can perform comic-book-level feats of strength and endurance without the benefit of superpowers. Both can function brilliantly under great physical and emotional pain. Both are honorable men who do terrible things, but only to bad people who deserve it. Neither smiles much, let alone laughs. And both are babe magnets, though neither can make a love connection last beyond the crisis at hand. But Reacher fascinates more because his isolation isn’t metaphorical. He has no home, no family, no ongoing relationships, no cell phone and no possessions. He buys a new set of generic clothes every few days, and earns pocket money via odd jobs as he randomly drifts from place to place, encountering more troubles than Job and more liaisons than Ricky Nelson’s Travelin’ Man . A key character in 61 is a South Dakota snowstorm so pervasive and beautiful it makes the landscape of Fargo seem like a vacation at the Equator. It’s so bitter-cold the characters risk frostbite every time they step outside. The 6′5″ Reacher — a stranger to these climes who has to borrow a coat — must save the small town of Bolton from the clutches of the 4′11″drug-dealing, murderous Plato, as sadistic a villain as anyone 24 has served up. The book departs from earlier tomes in the series in that there’s little violence and no sex. Instead, we get writerly detail about the wintry landscape, the minutiae of various weapons and the chessboard strategies of the players, including an unnamed Russian gangster every bit as diabolical as Plato. We also learn that Reacher — who has always seemed virtually impervious to fear — was born as scared as the rest of us. But by a self-described “act of will” at age 4, he managed to turned fear and guilt into aggression. Now he says things like, “I’m not afraid of death, death’s afraid of me.” A true rogue before Sarah Palin ruined that word, Reacher doesn’t go through channels. He made a veg out of an unethical General, but Amanda, his brilliant, beautiful romantic interest says, “That guy deserved to be in a coma. Maybe forever.” Without giving anything away, it’s safe to say that the ending is less formulaic than in earlier Reacher tales, and it leaves us craving the next chapter. Which, fortunately for Reacher and Bauer junkies alike, will arrive in the Fall. Some say 24 has charted the course of Americans’ fears since 2001. Its early seasons made Islamic terrorists the bad guys and condoned torture via the ” ticking clock ” theory. More recently, there’s been a wider variety of villains, more negotiating and some Middle Eastern good guys. And while torture is still very much on the table, there’s at least an argument about it. In any case, it’s worth noting that on the same day 24 said goodbye, the Obama administration ended the usage of the post-9/11 phrase “War on Terror” in favor of the less bellicose but rather awkward “Overseas Contingency Operation.” Despite these nuances, The Right is till trying to use 24 to its political advantage. Chuck DeVore, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat, has a new Web video stating that Jack Bauer would support him for Senate. Attempts to reach Reacher for his nod were reportedly unsuccessful. For those who argue that shows like 24 and books like 61 Hours foster real-life violence, consider this: also on Monday the FBI reported that crime in America — including violent crime — has declined in each of the past three years, despite the worst economy in generations. Rumor has it there’ll be a 24 movie, but maybe a better idea would be to put Bauer and Reacher in the same flick and call it The Two Jacks . Jack Nicholson , are you listening? More on Barack Obama
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Michael Sigman: Jonesing on 24? Try 61 Hours
Examining the way we frame our attitudes towards and our responses to racism, Rebecca Gilman’s “Spinning Into Butter,” directed by Gregory Cohen for the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, lends wonderful shades to what, for some, is a black and white issue. The production’s overall tone is thoughtful and unsettling because it confirms that racism is more pervasive than we might care to admit. Challenging, thought provoking, and revelatory, it looks at racism from many angles, some obvious, some surprisingly not. The story’s set in the present, at the imaginary Belmont College in Vermont. The fact that it’s contemporary doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t exist, it’s just that it’s not so much an issue on a primarily Caucasian campus. Until now, that is. The play opens, somewhat humorously, as an example of cookie cuttered ethnic labels. Student Patrick Chibas (Tito Ortiz) has to provide a templated description of his ethnicity for a scholarship application. Hispanic? No. Latino? No. He’s Nuyorican but there’s no box to check off for that. He settles for Hispanic and, though he got the scholarship, his belief that he had to compromise his identity had dire consequences for Dean Sarah Daniels (Rebecca Cherkoss). That incident sets the tone for the rest of the play. When one of the school’s few African-American students, Simon Brick (not shown on stage) becomes the victim of a hate crime, the all-white administration, Ross Collins (Christopher Brennan), Catherine Kenney (Jane Nunn) and Burton Strauss (Kevin Michael Moran), resort to a business-as-usual reaction: a pointless public forum to yammer on about the issue. Sarah, seemingly liberal, cosmopolitan, and compassionate, has to redefine her own thoughts on racism and its her resolution that gives the production a compelling edge which reminds us the best way to deal with the issue is to honestly examine one’s own feelings, thoughts, and motivations. Gilman has a good sense of the backslapping and clueless thought processes that administer the education of the nation’s youth. Though her characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, their true, unexamined selves are visible just below the surface of their liberal college veneer. Avoiding stereotypes, Cohen gets nuanced and nicely balanced performances from his cast. At the same time enlightened and culpable, Cherkoss draws upon a full range of emotions to portray do-gooder Sarah’s spiraling situation. Brennan is amusing as her ex-lover and, when her chips are down, as someone to talk to. Nunn is formidable as an I-am-what-I-am political lackey while Moran lends private school arrogance and not a little unexpected contrition to the proceedings. Sean Gray’s depiction of a book-lined dean’s office continues to amaze with what can be done on that narrow stage, though it’s humorous to note that two of the large volumes Sarah was packing into boxes were from the tweenage “Twilight” series. Performances are 8pm, Fri. & Sat, 2pm, Sun. The show runs until June 26. Tickets are $12-22. The Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St. For more info call 494-1014 or visit www.lbplayhouse.org.
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James Scarborough: "Spinning Into Butter," Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre
The long-awaited Sex and the City sequel was filled with laughter as Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) reunited for their first vacation since Carrie’s ill-fated Mexican Honeymoon two-years earlier. The film opens up with a monologue by Carrie as she reflects on how she met her three best girlfriends in the days of Studio 54 - B.C. (Before Carrie). It was both charming and humorous. There’s a wedding scene where Liza Minelli makes a cameo appearance and both officiates the ceremony and sings Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” One can’t help but hum along. Where the sequel differs from the original, is 3 out of 4 women are now married. Their lives have become realistic and stressful. Carrie’s glamorous life has become humdrum with her husband, Big (Chris Noth) wanting to stay home and watch TV. She yearns for the life she once had. Did the grass become greener for all the girls when the lives they dreamed of became a reality? The only one who remained true to the original character is Samantha. Now, at 52, she’s dealing with the stress of menopause with her various vitamin concoctions to help turn back her clock and keep her sex life alive. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but ask myself, should one kiss and tell? Carrie meets up with her long-lost love Aidan (John Corbett), thousands of miles away from New York. Was it serendipity? Did it mean something? These were questions she asked herself. Both of them, now married to others, “played with fire” so they said, and went on a dinner date in Abu Dhabi. There’s a reason she never committed to Aidan. She followed her heart into the arms of Mr. Big. There’s also something romantic about running into an old flame while on vacation. It can be very sexy and tempting. Things sometimes happen on vacation that you wouldn’t think of doing while at home. Rules are more easily broken and minds tend to wander a little bit easier. Carrie and Aidan ended up kissing in a moment of passion. It was just one kiss. It went nowhere. She felt guilty immediately. She felt so guilty that she convinced herself that she needed to call her husband right away to let him know. Her supportive girlfriend network disagreed. Charlotte tells her to sleep on it. Miranda reflects when Steve (David Eigenberg) told her about his one-night only affair to relieve his guilt in the original film. Miranda wasn’t happy about it. She didn’t think she needed to know. Steve felt a weight lifted off his shoulders and it took Miranda months to recover. Carrie’s guilt in the film carries her away. The next day she calls her now-devoted husband, Mr. Big, from Abu Dhabi to tell him about her kiss with Aidan. Is one simple kiss considered cheating? Would you want to know if your significant other or spouse embraced in a simple kiss with an old flame that went nowhere? At what point have you crossed the line? Would you really want to know? Does it help or hurt the relationship to come clean? How long will it take for your relationship to recover? These are questions that couples deal with in matters of the heart. I tend to agree with Carrie’s girlfriend network. If she truly felt that badly about it, she should make sure it wouldn’t happen again. To kiss and tell, or not to tell. Should you keep one moment like this to yourself and have it remain as a distant memory? The film opens up to the public on May 27, 2010. There will be several midnight screenings the evening before and tickets are now on sale. More on Sex and the City
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Julie Spira: Sex and the City 2 Film Review - To Kiss and Tell?
The Idaho Republican primary is turning into a pretty fun show. The Republican party in the state has been showing faultlines for several years now between the standard Idaho Republican establishment crazy and the even further right Idaho Republican crazy. If they weren’t in control of the whole state, it’d be a lot more entertaining. But the fault lines are showing now in the primary race to see who challenge the doggiest of the Blue Dogs, Walt Minnick. The establishment candidate, Vaughn Ward, is the Palin-endorsed candidate. The teabagger candidate, however, is state Rep. Raul Labrador. Who has some potent ammunition going into tomorrow’s primary. Idaho Republican Vaughn Ward has already come under fire for mimicking other candidates’ policy language on his website, but now the congressional candidate is facing accusations of plagiarizing from another source: President Barack Obama…. Here’s what Obama said in 2004: “As we stand at the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us. If you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, then I have no doubt the people will rise up in November and this country will reclaim its promise and out of this long political darkness, a brighter day will come.” And here’s what Ward said in January: “As we stand on the crossroads of history, I know we can make the right choice and meet the challenges that lay before us. If you feel the same urgency and the same passion that I do, then I have no doubt that our voices will be heard in November. And our country will reclaim its promise and out of this darkness, a better day is on the horizon.” A Republican blogger and state senate candidate in Idaho put together this video: The controversy that hit today has led two state reps and a party activist to demand that Ward pull out of the primary. They use their status as veterans (Ward is an Iraq vet) to make the demand. They are all Labrador supporters. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted for the Idaho Statesman/KBOI-TV Channel 2 May 17-19 found Idaho fertile ground for the “tea party movement” , depressingly so. A new poll says 63 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Idaho “generally support the agenda of the tea party movement,” and one in six call themselves members…. A national ABC/Washington Post poll in late April found 27 percent support the tea party movement. The same poll asked respondents of all political parties if they were “active” in the movement, and just 2 percent said yes. The Statesman/KBOI-TV poll asked a different question of Idaho Republicans, “Do you consider yourself a member of the tea party?” and 16 percent said yes. The poll also found Vaughn with a very slim lead over Labrador, 31-28, within the margin of error of 5%. Undecided is polling at 37 percent. With this plagiarism charge breaking just the day before the primary, it’s uncertain whether the charges will make or break Vaughn’s candidacy.
Amidst all the hype of the premiere of Sex and the City 2 less than a week away, there’s a lot of chatter. Parties, contests, promos at Macy’s. Last night, I even caught a Food Network Cake Challenge where four female cake decorators had to design a Sex And The City themed cake. It’s the type of publicity the Samantha Jones’ of the world dream of! I got to thinking. Don’t we all have a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte in our lives? Some of us might have more than one, especially if you live in New York. A stylish, bohemian writer? A slightly uptight lawyer? Your rich friend with the beach house in the Hamptons? The PR girl who gets you into all the fab fetes? Honestly, who wouldn’t want a friend with Carrie’s shoes, Samantha’s contacts, Miranda’s smarts and Charlotte’s apartment? And don’t even get me started on having Patricia Field style me! So, we all love SATC for the fashion, the drama, the glamour and the inevitable, modern girl heartbreak. I always look at their living spaces, too. I’m a decorator, that’s what I do. Of course, I love the shoes, the New York-isms and Mr. Big’s uncanny resemblance to my darling husband (Yeah, really!). But, I can’t help it. I think one of the things I enjoyed most about the first SATC flick was that Carrie finally got her act together and decorated her apartment because the whole post-collegiate-milk crate-as-an-end table look went way past the appropriate timetable. I used to get annoyed when she would drop $600 on another pair of Manolo’s and think, “Honey, hit up an Ikea, at least!” Then, poof! All of a sudden Post-Big-breakup, she had a grown up place. When I saw that Hermes blanket, I swear I let out a big “woohoo!” I’ve always liked Charlotte’s upscale, slightly preppy Park Avenue decor, too. Polished, professionally done, screaming Old Money even if the money wasn’t really that old after all. Miranda’s decor was more like one piece from Room & Board, one piece from Crate & Barrel and that quilt was Nana’s. Kind of forgettable. Now that she’s living in Brooklyn with Steve and Brady I’m hoping her abode is a little more, well, Brooklyn Family Cool, you know? And lastly, Samantha. Modern, slick, sleek and sexy. Would you expect any less? I totally would expect her to have the latest Poggenpohl kitchen that never gets used for cooking up anything food related. Ever. It’s kind of weird to be talking about these women like they’re actual, real people as opposed to characters in television and film. But, they became such fixtures in pop culture over the years, I think many of us do feel connected to them in some odd way. I mean, how many times have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker photographed in Us Magazine where she totally looks like Carrie Bradshaw? A lot. Google the press photos from the Met a few weeks ago if you don’t believe me! So, in honor of the women of Sex And The Cit y-and all the women who love them-here’s a collection of items for the home that remind me of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte in all their individual fabulousness. If they were real people and they invited me to their home, these are the gifts I would give them! If Carrie had me over her apartment, I would bring her Nicorette (just in case) and probably something like this framed print. I’m not into pictures of shoes, sorry. $29.99 on www.enjoyart.com Samantha, Darling. You are too sexy to shower alone so I got you this shower curtain! ‘Nuff said. Custom Shower Curtains $70.00 www.etsy.com Miranda would totally dig this ceramic coffee mug! $12 a piece www.wearehappytoserveyou.com Charlotte would be the perfect hostess with this preppy chic lucite platter. Monogrammed of course! 16×16 platter $84.00 www.papercottage.net And since the girls headed to Dubai this year, I thought we might trade in the requisite Martini glasses and serve up cocktails in these glamourous Moroccan beauties instead. And at $45.00 for a set of six, they’re a steal! You can find them at www.e-mosaik.com Note to self: Drop off Manolos at the shoemaker today for Friday pick up. More on Sex and the City
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Courtney Cachet: My Sex and the City Gift Guide
It’s time for people to realize the power of “social contagion.” That’s a term invented by researchers to describe how influence spreads from one person to another. At the level of common sense, we all know that gossip and rumors have a life of their own, as do urban legends. Yesterday’s conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination give way to shadowy paranoia about President Obama’s birth certificate. But social contagion reaches deeper than common sense ever realized. Moods, attitudes, and habits are involved. If you are around a depressed family member, for example, you are more likely than average to become depressed yourself. But that’s also true if you know someone who has a depressed friend, even though the person you know isn’t depressed. This is a very strange finding, but the sociological data supports it. You run a higher risk of being overweight or taking up smoking if a friend of a friend is overweight or smokes cigarettes. No one can account for third-hand and even fourth-hand influences. Social contagion is real but invisible. It also cuts both ways. Positive influences have their own infectiousness, so if a friend of a friend has good lifestyle habits or an optimistic outlook, you are more likely to develop them, too. Which means that if you want to be part of an invisible social network, it’s good to choose the one with the most positive and far-reaching effects. You are having an influence even when you don’t sign up as an official participant. All kinds of catch phrases have cropped up to describe the power of influence. “Tipping point” and “critical mass” are among the most popular. They both refer to a kind of chain reaction. At a certain point so many people believe something that its spread cannot be stopped. In the 2008 campaign, “Yes We Can” reached critical mass and elected a new president. At this moment the rebellious Tea Party seems poised to reach critical mass — or not. No one can tell. Social contagion isn’t about reason. A large majority of Americans tell pollsters that they believe in UFOs, despite decades of disproof from every government group that has investigated the matter. Indeed, the very fact of government denial strengthens the belief in flying saucers. The Tea Party equivalent is the bailout. Rationally, it was a rare moment of decisive intervention for the government to save the banking industry. A serious depression was averted. Credit has slowly begun to flow. The stock market rebounded dramatically, bringing billions of dollars of new capital to the economy. But none of that counts if you are motivated by anger and resentment. At present the hardest hit by the recession are young people, the unemployed, minorities, and immigrants. Yet the typical Tea Party member is an employed middle-class white male, the one segment of the population that is doing relatively well. The Tea Party is a pure example of social contagion. It has no reasonable goals or agenda. Its vision amounts to little more than vague revenge against any incumbent. Behind the so-called passion of the Tea Party lies the same destructive shadow energies that Sarah Palin has evoked from the start. Beyond a cantankerous “don’t tread on me” attitude, there are no policies to hold the movement together. In an atmosphere of unreason, it’s easy for a Rand Paul in Kentucky to hold libertarian views that would undo civil rights, or for Newt Gingrich to smear Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as someone who threw the military off campus during a war. In the absence of good faith, bad faith thrives. In the end, you have to choose which social contagion you want to be part of. Simply by holding resentful, angry, irrational beliefs, you are that third-hand or fourth-hand influence. Your unreason spreads the epidemic of unreason as it creeps from household to household. For myself, I’m grateful that the counter contagion of “Yes We Can” was victorious. Everyone has a right to join any movement they want, as long as they have a clear vision of what the consequences could be. deepakchopra.com More on Elena Kagan
More Too-Hot-for-the-GOP talk out of South Carolina, where people have taken to yelling out, “You lie!” during wedding vows: Will Folks, South Carolina’s top political blogger, is claiming this morning that he had an “inappropriate relationship” several years ago with gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Haley, a Statehouse representative, recently climbed into the lead in the GOP primary. Folks makes clear that this alleged relationship was prior to his own marriage, but he seems to suggest that it was an indiscretion on the part of Haley, who has been married for 14 years and has two children. Will Folks? Well, some will! (Allegedly, allegedly, allegedly.) As an added bonus, Nikki Haley (which is actually my stripper name, by the way) was endorsed by none other than former SC First Lady Jenny Sanford, who’s no doubt wondering why this keeps happening to her. Oh, and yes, she recently flew another sterling character witness into the state (first class, doubtless) to give her the thumbs up: Ms. StArBuRsT herself, Sarah Palin . And of course, this wouldn’t be sufficiently hilarious had not the local teabaggers also done the same. Presumably, they are unaware of the otherwise interesting and inspiring (if you like America) fact that Haley is the daughter of a Punjabi Sikh immigrant . But she’s (allegedly, allegedly, allegedly) assimilating into South Carolina Republican culture rather successfully. Good for her! Though it must be noted she denies the claims, which is a little unorthodox. So what do we think is going to be the catch phrase that stays with us from this latest Romp-publican sex blow-up? Appalachian Trail? Wide stance? Measure it for me? I thought he was robbing me? The country eagerly awaits!
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South Carolina Gone Wild!
During Jimmy Kimmel’s post-”Lost” extravaganza, we were treated to an homage to high school and college movies, with a classic “Where Are They Now?” segment. While characters like The Smoke Monster and Jack followed logical career paths, it was really Charlie Pace’s career that took off in our eyes. And you’ll never guess who’s hanging in Palin’s office. WATCH:
‘Lost’: Where Are They Now? (VIDEO)
What’s getting the most attention right now is Dr. Paul on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bravo Rachel Madow. And of course that is the most offensive of his loony libertarian literalisms. But that’s not what Democrats should focus on going into the November elections. That issue invites Paul and other Republicans to insist, yet again, that they are not racists, while acknowledging a few seemingly nuanced differences on how best to counter racism and, anyway, whatever–those civil rights laws are ancient history. In fact the Paul campaign and the Republican satraps (after multiple conference calls, you may be sure) are already doing exactly that . And it will pass muster with the swathe of Middle American voters the GOP is counting on in 2010. They don’t care that much about racial justice, trust me. So let’s not fall into that trap. Call me paranoid, but I’m even wondering if they didn’t put Michael Steele out on the Sunday talk shows to keep the focus on the civil rights issue while Dr. Paul in his fullness disappears into the news cycle maelstrom. Because what the voters the Republicans covet do care about is their food and medicine and family members with dangerous jobs and stuff like that. Those are issues that federal agencies like the FDA and OSHA address, and those are the issues Democrats should focus on with a vengeance–in Kentucky and all over the country. Because on those issues Rand Paul is so far out there he might as well be on another planet. And those are national issues and Rand Paul is a candidate for national office who is openly and avowedly bringing Tea Party ideas to the national stage under the Republican banner.If the Tea Party issued cards, he said in an interview last month, “I’d be a card carrying member.” In his victory speech he said: “I have a message, a message from the Tea Party. A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We’ve come to take our government back.” He is not referring to the Kentucky state house. So that’s that. He’s stuck. Grown-ups in the Republican party (it’s relative thing) understand the danger of the Rand Paul candidacy going national. That’s why they opposed him in the first place. That’s why they talked him out of going on Meet the Press this Sunday (you can be sure they mentioned Palin’s interview with Katie Couric). And that’s why they are urging him to please, please, just focus on Kentucky and, in Senator John Kyl’s words , avoid philosophical debates “like you had at 2 a.m. in the morning when you’re going to college.” There are signs in that last link and this one that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Dr. Paul’s Democratic opponent, is sensing which way to go in his election. But here’s my point: it’s not just Conway who should laser in on the role of government in protecting the public against corporate carelessness or malfeasance. Every Democrat in the country who is running against a Tea Party Republican–or even just one who is kowtowing to them–should be focused on Rand Paul’s libertarian views and pushing opponents to answer questions like this: What about salmonella in spinach and chicken–do you think government has a role to play in preventing that? What about E coli bacteria in ground beef–do you think government has a role to play in preventing that? What about new drugs from big pharmaceutical companies–do you think government has a role to play in ensuring their safety? What about the language that banks use when they peddle mortgages and credit cards–do you think government ought to set some standards of clarity there? What about sticky accelerators in cars? And so on. It’s especially important to get in phrases like E coli bacteria. It’s automatically bad, in a Frank Luntz sort of way, to be put in a position of shrugging off those bacteria. But, on that question, as on all the others, the position of loony libertarians like Rand Paul, the Tea Party candidate, is that the federal government has little or no role to play in such matters. Leave it to the states. Given the reality of interstate linkages in the marketing of food and drugs–hell, international linkages, think Chinese toothpaste–in today’s economy, that position is more than loony. It is a fundamental challenge to any conservative with a brain. It’s an application of abstract principles that Edmund Burke might expect of Robespierre. Well, OK, Let’s not get too high falutin’ here. The point is that many Tea Partiers and most of their sympathizers love their Social Security and their Medicare. And so do the voters they are hoping to enlist in the Republican interest in 2010. How will they feel about protection from E coli ? More on Health Care
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s intelligence minister on Sunday signaled that Tehran might be open to a prisoner swap with the U.S. for three Americans jailed in Iran since last July. Sarah Shourd, 31, Shane Bauer, 27, and Josh Fattal, 27, were arrested along the Iraqi border 10 months ago. Iran has accused them of espionage and entering the country illegally; their families say the three were hiking in Iraq’s largely peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region and that if they crossed the border, it was accidental. Last week, Iran allowed the trio’s mothers to visit their children. The mothers were hoping to secure their children’s’ release, but returned to the United States on Saturday empty-handed. However, they say they were heartened to find their children are being treated well and in reasonable health. On Sunday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi said the three Americans’ “status as spies is a clear and obvious case,” according to state TV. But Moslehi said there would be a chance of discussing a prisoner exchange with the U.S. once Washington makes a humanitarian gesture toward Iranians in U.S. custody similar to the one Iran made last week toward the mothers. “Our expectation is that the U.S., which has a claim on human rights issues, could make a similar human rights gesture to us, then we may get to the stage of whether or not there would be a swap,” Moslehi said. He did not elaborate. Iran has repeatedly accused the U.S. of abducting some 10 Iranians abroad and sentencing them to prison terms. On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that the U.S. is “not contemplating any kind of a prisoner swap” for the three Americans. “But if Iran has questions about any of its citizens and whether we have any information as to their whereabouts, we would be more than happy to receive that diplomatic note and respond to it,” he said. Moslehi’s comments on Sunday fall far short of the prisoner exchange that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed in March. That idea, however, failed to gain traction at the time. More on Iran
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s intelligence minister on Sunday signaled that Tehran might be open to a prisoner swap with the U.S. for three Americans jailed in Iran since last July. Sarah Shourd, 31, Shane Bauer, 27, and Josh Fattal, 27, were arrested along the Iraqi border 10 months ago. Iran has accused them of espionage and entering the country illegally; their families say the three were hiking in Iraq’s largely peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region and that if they crossed the border, it was accidental. Last week, Iran allowed the trio’s mothers to visit their children. The mothers were hoping to secure their children’s’ release, but returned to the United States on Saturday empty-handed. However, they say they were heartened to find their children are being treated well and in reasonable health. On Sunday, Iranian Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi said the three Americans’ “status as spies is a clear and obvious case,” according to state TV. But Moslehi said there would be a chance of discussing a prisoner exchange with the U.S. once Washington makes a humanitarian gesture toward Iranians in U.S. custody similar to the one Iran made last week toward the mothers. “Our expectation is that the U.S., which has a claim on human rights issues, could make a similar human rights gesture to us, then we may get to the stage of whether or not there would be a swap,” Moslehi said. He did not elaborate. Iran has repeatedly accused the U.S. of abducting some 10 Iranians abroad and sentencing them to prison terms. On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that the U.S. is “not contemplating any kind of a prisoner swap” for the three Americans. “But if Iran has questions about any of its citizens and whether we have any information as to their whereabouts, we would be more than happy to receive that diplomatic note and respond to it,” he said. Moslehi’s comments on Sunday fall far short of the prisoner exchange that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed in March. That idea, however, failed to gain traction at the time. More on Iran
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Iran Spy Chief Floats Prisoner Exchange For U.S. Hikers, Demands ‘Human Rights Gesture’
Right off the bat this past Monday, we were hit with one of strongest Funny or Die videos in a long time. Mary-Elizabeth Ellis, also known as the waitress from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” enlisted her BF Charlie Day (along with Fred Savage) for a sketch that she titled “This Fall on Bravo,” but I prefer to call by it’s more direct name “Prince Rapist.” This video was short and intro-y enough that I think more segments could be coming soon. This Fall on Bravo - watch more funny videos Monday also had the rare occurrence of the the print world infiltrating the viral video-sphere. New York Magazine must have known it had something priceless on its hands when they got Tracy Morgan and Betty White together in a room for a photo shoot. When the print version landed in my mailbox, I thought it was hilarious . But it was nothing compared to the exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the shoot they released later that day. So now I’m just going to come out an admit something that might shock some people on today of all days. I am not a fan of Lost . I don’t get it. I watched some of the first season, thought it was kind of intriguing, but then it just totally got away from me. The clips that I’ve seen and the snippets of conversation I’ve been subjected to over the last few weeks make no sense to me and I have no intention of watching the five and a half hour finale tonight. That’s why I found two videos that came out this week from two comedians named Sara(h) so enjoyable. I’m pretty sure Sarah Silverman has never seen and episode of Lost and I’m positive that Sara Benincasa hasn’t. While Sarah Silverman is clearly the more famous of the two (and had access to the Lost producers), there wasn’t much this week that was funnier than Sara Benincasa’s recap of all six seasons. Sizzle Alert: LOST with Sarah Silverman! from Sarah Silverman As for finales that I did watch, this week’s Thursday night comedies on NBC (plus Modern Family , which might as well be in that line-up) all ended strongly . The winning final scene of the bunch belonged to 30 Rock , which saw Kenneth pulling a drunken Jerry Maguire , after he got fired for giving an intentionally bad studio tour to avoid an L.A. transfer. I assume that the cartoon nature of the show will mean that he’ll be back as a page next season. But I can see myself getting into a Kenneth spin-off where he returns to Georgia and suddenly finds himself with more big-city savvy than everyone around him. We’ll just have to wait until next season to find out. More on 30 Rock
I generally try not to spend a whole lot of time paying attention to Sarah Palin, one of the more shallow and frivolous of political sideshows to grace our nation’s “discourse” in recent memory (and that’s saying a lot). But this week she took a new tack, and this one was just too personal to let slide by. Speaking to the “Susan B. Anthony List,” a group that is cynically using the feminist heroine’s moniker to strip back the rights of women that Susan B. Anthony made possible, Palin embraced a new schtick to try to redefine feminism, and to frame outlawing abortion as “grizzly bear moms” fighting to protect their country. And she said this : “I kinda feel a connection to that tough, gun totin’ pioneer feminism,” she told the enthusiastic crowd of anti-abortion activists gathered to support the SBA List. “For far too long, when people heard the word feminist, they thought of the faculty lounge at some East Coast woman’s college,” she said. “And no offense to them, they have their opinions and their voice and God bless ‘em, that’s great, but that’s not the only voice of women in America.” Conservative pundits are eating it up . Palin’s feminism is more a western, pioneer feminism than an eastern, faculty lounge feminism. That is to say, Sarah Palin’s feminist heroines are more like Annie Oakley than Gloria Steinem, more skilled at shooting firearms and pulling a plow than at writing polemics about the patriarchy and its oppressions. I just want to put to rest here and now the notion that Sarah Palin speaks for anybody but Sarah Palin’s bank account. She sure as hell isn’t the voice of Western women. And if the punditocracy thinks that what she represents has anything to do with the Western frontier, they’ve got a lot to learn. Particularly if they think she would in a million years find herself pulling a plow. As I said, I take this business rather seriously, because my ancestors, my very near ancestors, actually are bonafide pioneers. My grandmother’s grandmother most likely walked the entire distance from Missouri to Oregon in 1852. She was 11 at the time, and that’s what the kids did–they walked. And it was highly unlikely she was totin’ her gun along the way. Her granddaughter, my grandmother, was born in 1892, and life in 1892 in the West hadn’t advanced so greatly from 1852 to 1892, particularly in isolated Idaho, where she ended up. She married my grandfather in 1912. At the time, he was a genuine, old-fashioned ride-the-range cowboy , drawing top hand wages from one of the biggest cow outfits in Idaho. Early in their married life, they moved to Flathead Reservation, Montana, still about as frontier as you can get. There, Grandma and Grandpa had a passle of children, all girls. Grandma once confessed that early on in their marriage they decided they didn’t want to have any children, that they wanted to have the freedom that being just the two of them would bring. Of course, back in those days in the frontier of Montana, there wasn’t a whole lot that couples could do in order to keep children from happening, whether they wanted it or not. Ironically, that’s apparently what Palin would like to take Western women back to. While Grandpa tried wheat farming (a long drought made that enterprise futile) and ended up cowboying again for a big Montana outfit, Grandma did what frontier women all did. Pretty much everything around the homestead. She milked, she raised chickens, she gardened, she cooked, three meals a day on a wood stove. And she took care of her five little girls. Life didn’t change appreciably when they moved back to take over the McCarter family ranch and homestead in Idaho. They had another child, Dad arriving kind of late on the scene. And it’s Dad’s stories about my Grandma Mattie’s life that have instilled in me what Western women’s heritage really is. That’s partly because I was raised on the same cattle ranch as my father and my aunts, so it was really easy for me to envision. I rode horses in the same mountains after the descendants of some of the cattle they chased. We had a garden in the same spot my grandmother worked. I woke up every morning to the same view of the same mountains. But it’s also because Grandma was a remarkable woman. When Dad was growing up, they still had no electricity–that didn’t come until the early 1940s. They did have a well, and the convenience of a hot spring nearby that Dad would haul water from to do the laundry and the weekly bathing. She still cooked three meals a day on a wood stove. She butchered chickens for dinner every day during haying season when there were extra hands to feed–no electricity, no refrigeration (for some reason, Grandpa never built an ice house), so every day the meat had to be fresh. She got up before dawn every morning to get the fire started for breakfast, and to use the little bit of time that she could get for herself to spend in her garden. At well over 5000 ft. in elevation, she did remarkable things in that tilled earth. She had to, to have the fresh vegetables for summer, and the root vegetables to last over the winter. She also was very enterprising in creating a family business of selling eggs and cream. She raised turkeys from setting hens, and sold them dressed. She was, actually, gun totin’, but more out of necessity than fashion. She was the best shot in the family, Dad and his sisters say. She had to keep the magpies out of her garden and away from her chickens. They’ll destroy eggs. They’ll also peck at the hornbuds of young calves, potentially killing them if they can poke through the skull. Grandma was a scourge on the magpie population–she had to be. See, guns for real frontier women had little mystique and probably much less charm. They were a matter of survival, but also ranked with horses and farm machinery in the danger they posed for tragic accidents. Wrapped up in the old 30-30 that’s still in my parents’ house, unloaded, is the gruesome history and potential of that gun’s use, often as not having to have it on hand to kill an injured farm animal. My grandmother’s life was not glamorous, as interesting and as inspiring and important as it was. It was important for her generosity. One of the most touching stories of her life we only knew after her death. At her funeral, an old friend and neighbor told my aunt that the nicest thing that ever happened to her something my Grandma did for her as a little girl. Her parents had mail-ordered a special dress for her to wear to the Christmas pageant. The day before the pageant, she rode down to the general store to pick up the mail and get her dress. It wasn’t there. But, as was habit, she picked up the mail for all the families on her route back home, and by the time she got to our house, was dissolved in tears. Grandma got the story of the missing dress out of her. Then, staying up almost all night, sewed a dress for the little girl to wear to the Christmas pageant, as a surprise. To Grandma, this wasn’t a remarkable thing. No one even knew she had done it until half a century later, when she was gone. Grandma probably wouldn’t have called herself a feminist. That term just wasn’t relevant to her life or her generation. But she lived as one, as a quintessential Western woman. The frontier spirit she had, that her mother and grandmother and great-grandmother had, is made up of courage, of responsibility, determination, entrepreneurship, generosity, and independence. All that and the willingness and ability to do really hard, dirty, and thankless work. Inseparable from all of that is a profound respect for the choices and independence of our sisters. This is an inheritance I hold dear. I was damned lucky to grow up in an environment where I was given a tremendous degree of independence, responsibility, and freedom at a young age. I am a cowgirl by birth, and I won’t cede that and everything it means to anyone. Much less to as callow a politician as Sarah Palin. She is, we would say in Idaho, the female version of a goat roper. Those are the guys you see hanging around in cities in the West in their cowboy hats and their boots, with their big belt buckles. Few of them have ever been nearer to a horse–or a cow–than at the stands in a rodeo or the meat counter in the grocery store. Palin is just like them, using the trappings of her geography to make herself more interesting. The woman who would use a turkey slaughter as a photo op, who hasn’t had a job she couldn’t quit half-way through, who would take away the freedom of choice of all of her sisters, is no pioneer feminist. She’s a poser. And she couldn’t hold a candle to my Grandma. Update: Dad reminds me: if you want a definition of tough, Grandma lived to be 99.
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Sarah Palin vs. Joan’s Grandma
The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is about to raise some important new questions about the costs and limits of U.S. policy toward Cuba. According to Brad Johnson, a climate researcher at the Center for American Progress, oil from the spill carried by the Loop Current is likely to reach the Florida Strait by tomorrow, posing a direct threat to Cuba’s marine environment. News agencies are reporting that U.S. diplomats in Havana informed the Cuban government just days ago of details on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and where it is likely to move. A State Department spokesman said, “It is incumbent upon us to inform all of our neighbors . . . those countries that could be affected by disasters that happen within our territorial waters.” The United States needs to come completely clean with Cuba - and with all of us - about the size, location, extent, and severity of the disastrous flow of oil and chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon Rig that took place on April 20th and killed eleven workers. We know already that figures released by BP concerning the volume of oil pouring into the Gulf since the accident woefully underestimate what most experts believe is actually occurring. In addition to the millions of gallons of oil released, there is now more than 600,000 gallons of chemical dispersants in the Gulf being used to contain the spill. The extent and boundaries of the oil plume beneath the surface of the Gulf are unknown. The toxic effect of the dispersants being used to control the spill is unknown. The U.S. is expanding the closures of fisheries in our territory, but questions surrounding this decision are yet to be fully answered. Is the entire 20% contaminated? Should Cuba take a similar action? If so, why? The U.S. should be communicating all of this to the Cuban government so it can make its own risk assessment and establish its own priorities for the policy actions it should consider taking to protect its people, its climate, its fisheries, and its tourism industry. As Robert Muse and Jorge R. PiÃ±on wrote recently in a Brookings Institution issue brief, there are international frameworks under which the two countries could and should cooperate to protect their shared interests. However, there is a larger point at stake. We shouldn’t have to be talking about how, or whether, or to what extent we should be cooperating with Cuba in the face of this crisis, just as we don’t have to invent or improvise a relationship with Mexico to do so. But our policy of not talking to Cuba, not having diplomatic relations with Cuba, demanding concessions from Cuba to engage with the U.S. cooperatively has precisely this kind of cost, and produces this kind of outcome. So let the discussions confirmed by the State Department take place. Let’s hope they’re comprehensive and fruitful. Let’s hope the U.S. government discloses more information to the Cubans - and to all of us - about the dangers to which the Gulf has been exposed. But let’s also hope that the bigger lesson of this crisis is learned and acted upon; we don’t have to like the Cuban system to benefit from a normal relationship with the Cuban government, and we shouldn’t allow ideology and domestic political concerns to block the orderly transfer of information about a disaster to a neighbor who shares with us stewardship of a gorgeous but now threatened eco-system. More on Cuba
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Sarah Stephens: Time to Come Clean with Cuba on Oil Spill
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accused MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Sunday of conducting a “prejudiced” interview with Rand Paul, in which the Tea Party candidate infamously aired skepticism about the reach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Speaking to “Fox News Sunday,” the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee said that Paul was being subjected to the same biased media coverage that marked her run for office, before offering her Tea Party-backed candidate a bit of advice. “One thing we can learn in this lesson that I have learned and Rand Paul is learning now is don’t assume that you can engage in a hypothetical discussion about constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an agenda, who may be prejudiced before they even get into the interview in regards to what your answer may be,” Palin said. “You know, they are looking for the gotcha moment. And that evidently appears to be what they did with Rand Paul, and I’m thankful he clarified his answer about his support for the Civil Rights Act.” Paul sparked several days worth of controversial coverage when he suggested to Maddow that the government had meddled too far into private enterprise in the passage of the Civil Rights Act and other legislation. But contrary to Palin’s suggestion, it wasn’t an adversarial interview that was the root of the problem. After all, Paul was granted 15 minutes by Maddow to explain his position on the matter. Moreover, he had made the same controversial comments earlier that morning to NPR (which, in turn, served as the basis of Maddow’s questioning). As for the substance of his remark, Palin did her best to avoid actually weighing in one way or another. She was glad Paul clarified his “interpretation of the impacts of the Civil Rights Act,” but she wouldn’t “speak to each of Rand Paul’s positions.” And then, inadvertently, she did. Palin was asked by host Chris Wallace to assess the Obama administration’s reaction to the massive oil spill in the Gulf. Two days prior, Paul had been critical of the president for being too tough on BP, the company responsible for the spill. The rhetoric, he said, was “un-American.” Palin offered a diametrically opposite analysis, accusing the White House of not being tough enough. “These oil companies have got to be held accountable when there is any kind of lax and preventive measures to result in a tragedy like we’re seeing now in the Gulf. Alaska has been through that. I have lived and worked through that Exxon Valdez oil spill. I know what it takes to hold these oil companies accountable. And we need to see more of that,” she said. “I don’t know why the question isn’t asked by the mainstream media and by others if there is any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration, and the support by the oil companies to the administration,” Palin added, “If there is any connection there to President Obama taking so dog-gone long to get in there and dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” More on Rand Paul
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Palin: Maddow Was ‘Prejudiced’ In Her Rand Paul Interview
NEW YORK — The mothers of three Americans jailed in Iran returned to the United States on Saturday, pained to leave their children behind yet heartened to find they’re being treated well and are “in reasonable health.” At a brief news conference at John F. Kennedy International Airport shortly after they returned to New York, Cindy Hickey thanked the Iranians for allowing the women to see the three and said they were disappointed they could not return with their children. “The pain is almost more than we can bear,” Hickey said, but “we will forever savor the precious moments we were able to spend with our children.” She that the mothers “hope and pray that the Iranian authorities will now find it in their hearts to resolve our children’s case and release them without further delay.” Hickey and Nora Shourd left the airport terminal holding hands in support of each other, while the third woman, Laura Fattal, walked arm-in-arm with her son. The women had a “very emotional goodbye” to the children they had to leave behind in Tehran, the brother of one captive told The Associated Press. “They’re managing to cope with an extremely difficult situation,” said Alex Fattal, brother of Josh Fattal. The detained Americans – Sarah Shourd, 31; her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, 27; and their friend Josh Fattal, 27 – have been held in Iran since July, when they were arrested along the Iraqi border. Iran has accused them of espionage; their families say that the three were hiking in Iraq’s largely peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region and that if they crossed the border, it was accidental. The mothers – Shourd, of Oakland, Calif.; Hickey, of Pine City, Minn.; and Fattal, of suburban Philadelphia – returned from Dubai Saturday afternoon, but provided few details of their trip. Alex Fattal said about a dozen family members around the country – in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Colorado – had a half-hour conference call with the mothers on Friday after they arrived in Dubai from Tehran. The women told family members they had spent a total of about 10 hours with their children over two days in Iran but failed to secure their release, said Alex Fattal, who is on leave from a doctoral program in anthropology at Harvard University so he can help gain the Americans’ release. “They have mixed feelings,” he said. Friday, the day they left Tehran, “was a tremendously emotional day for them and for us; it was very difficult for them to leave, an extremely difficult departure after a very emotional goodbye.” The mothers had hoped to at least make a face-to-face appeal for their children’s release to Iranian leaders. On Saturday, they said that at least the three young people “are being well treated and we’re extremely relieved to see for ourselves that they’re in reasonable health,” said Nora Shourd. However, “the emotional strain on them and the loneliness is very difficult and they told us they just cannot understand why they’re still in jail.” Laura Fattal said the women especially thanked the Iranian people and said that “their sympathy and their understanding and the warmth of their welcome are blessings we will always cherish.” She also thanked the media, both American and foreign, for following their story. The Swiss ambassador in Iran told AP Television News there were no negotiations with Iranian officials to free their children. Washington and Tehran broke off diplomatic relations following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and Switzerland handles U.S. interests in Iran. “The point was that they should see their children. They have seen them quite a lot over the last two days,” Ambassador Livia Leu Agosti said late Friday in an interview at the Tehran airport after the mothers left the country. “It was a visit to the children. That was the purpose.” Asked whether there were any positive signs from Iranian authorities, Agosti told APTN: “Well, they were very generous in the time that the allotted the mothers to be with their children. So it was a good gesture.” Iran announced Friday that two of its nationals held in Iraq by U.S. forces for years were freed, raising the possibility that a behind-the-scenes swap was in the offing or that their release was a gesture of goodwill in an attempt to free the Americans. The Iranians’ release “may have some diplomatic effect on this case,” the Americans’ lawyer, Masoud Shafii, told the AP. The U.S. has said it is not offering a direct swap, and Iranian officials made no public connection between the freed Iranians and the Americans. Iran has said it allowed the mothers to visit the Americans as a humanitarian gesture, and state TV gave heavy coverage to the mother’s first reunion with their children Thursday. They embraced, kissed and cried, then sat for a lavish meal in the hotel restaurant. It was the first public look at the three young Americans since their detention. Josh Fattal told reporters, “We hope we’re going home soon, maybe with our mothers.” But that didn’t happen. “Generally, we continue to hold out hope,” Alex Fattal told the AP. “We know our loved ones are innocent, and we hope the Iranian authorities will recognize that.” The three appeared healthy in TV coverage, wearing jeans and polo-style shirts. Sarah Shourd wore a maroon head scarf. They described their routines behind bars and being allowed books, letters from home, the ability to exercise and the one hour each day they are all together. They are all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley. The last direct contact with their families had been a five-minute phone call in March. ___ Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran contributed to this report. More on Iran
8:36 - Finally found the press area and am set up! Pretty low key so far with most people sitting and waiting and some milling around. Lines at the county register booths are very short. Only two groups handing out lit on the way in was a union group saying we should build more stuff and a Palestinian rights person. Also the Bennet campaign was giving away Krispy Kreme donuts - my decision yesterday cost me a donut! Romanoff & Bennet teams are both out in force. More Romanoff signs (by far) both outside and inside. A lot of people wearing Romanoff t-shirts. No surprise with this, he does have the majority among the delegates. There’s also a couple of signs & big banners up for all of our Congress People - DeGette, Polis, Salazar, Markey, & Perlmutter. None for Udall though - I guess as he’s not running this year he doesn’t put anything up. 8:53 - There are two press spots in the skyboxes over section 108 and each has two teams in them. I’m sharing the one I am in with Fox News. They appear to be nice people even though they are part of Murdoch’s plan to control the universe. 8:57 - Hick has a pretty strong presence here too. Lots of signs and stickers being handed out by his campaign team. Still pretty quiet and boring. And very well organized considering that we’re Democrats. 8:59 - Opening video is starting. Starts off with the great things we have done starting and ending with the word LIBERAL . 9:00 - Pat Waak calling us to order (on time!), introducing party officers 9:04 - Pledge of Allegiance and now a woman with an incredible voice singing the Star Spangled Banner. 9:07 - Jared Polis introduced and gets a strong welcome. Doing a good job of laying out the progress we Dems have made in the state. Going from a small state footprint where we were trying to reduce the damage of Republican administration to pretty much running the state. (Yeah baby!) 9:14 - Joe Neguse up speaking. Getting everyone worked up to elect Democrats across the state. And now a short part about why he’s running for regent. 9:17 - Diane Primavera - Nice friendly welcome to Broomfield speech. 9:22 - Bill Ritter walking out - and he’s getting a standing ovation. (I’m going to miss him.) Calling out a giant thank you to the army of volunteers that make our party a success. He’s presenting an award to a woman who has been county chair for 22 years. Calling out a thank you to Pat Waak (she does do an outstanding job). Thanking everyone for their support for the past 4 years. (Ritter is definitely a class act.) He’s now speaking about how as Democrats we must come together. That the differences we have within our team are nothing compared to the difference with the Republicans. He is speaking to the difference in Republican and Democratic control both in Colorado and for the country as a whole. Its interesting - his talk is concentrating more on the federal races. Nice plus to Hickenlooper at the end. This has got to be bittersweet for Ritter as this is his swan song. 9:34 - Ritter gone and no one on stage or any announcement of what/when next. They’re showing screenshots on the large screen and the shot of both Fox news and one of Glen Beck got large boo’s. 9:46 - Still sitting and waiting… Here’s the official schedule: Selection of the Temporary Officers of the Assembly Seating of Assembly Alternates Pledge of allegiance Invocation Welcome by Rep Jared Polis Welcome by the Broomfield Democratic Delegation (Rep. Diane Primavera) Welcome by Governor Bill Ritter - Introduction of Colorado Democratic Party Initiative Chairs and DNC Member Report of the Credentials Committee Chair, Carol Burkhart Report of the Permanent Organization Committee Chair, Carolyn Boller Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien Nomination for Governor Nomination for U.S. Senate Collection of ballots for U.S Senate Diana DeGette John Salazar Betsy Markey CD 5 Candidate (TBD) John Flerlage Ed Perlmutter Nomination for Treasurer Nomination for Secretary of State Introduction of State House by Terrance Carroll Introduction of State Senate by Brandon Shaffer Nomination and balloting for CU Regent Collection of ballots for CU Regent Nomination for Attorney General Senator Mark Udall Platform by Hal Bidlack, Chair of the Platform Committee Announcement of results of balloting Adjournment So we’re apparently waiting for “Introduction of Colorado Democratic Party Initiative Chairs and DNC Member” - but no idea why this is requiring a delay. 9:51 - Pat’s back! Introduced 3 people and we applauded. 9:53 - Credentials committee report (this falls in the necessary but boring part). Everyone just voted aye on something. 9:58 - Lt. Gov Barbara O’Brien now up. Introduces Dem board of education and regent officials - applause for all. 10:02 - Nominations are now open for Governor for the state of Colorado. The tension is unbearable as everyone wonders who it will be Wellington Webb is nominating Hick for Governor. It was a pretty straightforward speech - not killer (and Webb can deliver killer). 10:04 - Video about Hick. It’s person after person talking about Hick. It strikes me as a way of introducing Hick as everyone’s friend and a regular guy. I think that works well for this audience because they’re going to work hard for him - it helps them sell him. 10:08 - Hick walks out to a giant standing ovation. He’s wearing a suite with very wide labels - and the labels are zebra skin. He starts off talking up the attributes of zebras and says he “has always been a zebra of a different stripe.” He’s definitely turning that add to an advantage. Now speaking in a very inclusive way saying that all of us, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans want our state to prosper. Saying that the way forward is not by trashing the other candidate, but to talk about his vision of what he wants to do for Colorado. Now talking about how he is not a politician, that he’s never run for any office before Mayor. What he knows is running a business, creating jobs, and watching every dollar. Talking about the public/private partnerships he’s built to get problems addressed. Brings up how, when everyone said that opening a restaurant in Lo-Do during a recession was impossible, he pulled it off. That when everyone said we can never get the national convention here, he did. Now says “jobs have to be our number one priority.” If he truly gets that and focuses the campaign on that, then I think he’s got a very strong campaign. Nothing specific listed about how to accomplish this, but a lot about why we need to address this problem. Takes that to we need a stellar job on education to have the workforce for the future (damn straight). And says we need to properly fund education - which got a surprisingly mild applause. Next points out that Higher Ed funding is directly related to the health of the state economy. He then says that he will point out the differences between his campaign and his opponent. He listed out a couple of good phrases included building Colorado up instead of tearing people down. 10:25 - Hick is walking off to another standing ovation. He’s got an interesting style, it appears to be half common guy and half very competent businessman. He does it in a ver non-pretensious way and that sells well. 10:26 - Hickenlooper nominated as sole candidate by acclimation! It’s official and that means one thing - bad news for the Republicans! 10:28 - Nomination for Romanoff announced and the place erupted chanting “Andrew.” Person nominating him stressed that he has the highest ethics and was the former speaker of the house. Person seconding it stresses that regular people like her support Andrew. Now a video narrated by Andrew taking us through his family and his growing up. Next talking about the service he did helping the poor. It then went to his service in the legislature which got loud applause. Gave a beautiful story of a woman out of work and her wish to have someone representing her in Washington - strong way to end it. 10:37 - Andrew coming out on the stage to a rock star reception. Starts of thanking his mom - “everything I am or hope to be I owe to her.” (Very classy.) Next says that after the primary we must all support the winner - that he (Andrew will) and everyone must. But he then says that the Senate seat does not belong to “his opponent,” it belongs to Colorado. Now saying he will always remember that he represents the people of Colorado, not the interests in Washington. Now in to a litany of the good things that we Democrats accomplished in Colorado once we gained a majority. (And everyone knows that occurred with him as Speaker.) That so many in Colorado are better off for those efforts. He then talked about needing as good leadership in the capitol as we have in the white house. And then he said that it is critical to have Senators that will represent the people and not sell us out - and that is why he is running. (I’d call that throwing down the gauntlet big time.) He then said fix the system or get out of the way - that got a giant applause. Really good listing of what we should be doing in Washington from not giving bank CEOs a get out of jail free card to letting oil companies that trash the environment have a pass. He’s diving in to how BP is not being held accountable for the devastation it has inflicted on our country. And how BP’s immense amount of lobbying dollars is giving them a pass. He’s now selling his candidacy as saying no to the existing system where the special interests drive the legislation. He reiterated his refusal to accept contributions to special interest groups - and that got a major applause. He’s tapping in to the deep dissatisfaction people have with Washington where it does the bidding of the lobbyists rather than the will of the people. That the one way to change this is for the people to elect a Senator that will represent those that voted for them. That it will happen here, and elsewhere, and each of those Senators elected, in total, will change the system. He ended “stand with me and I will stand with you always.” 10:55 - He’s walking off now. Andrew Romanoff gives a damn good speech (same at the Boulder assembly). And he makes points that are spot-on and resonate well. 10:57 Bennet starting with his video. His daughter is narrating the bio part, then his wife narrating. It does a good job of showing him as a regular guy who’s life is centered on his family. And it does a good and unobtrusive job of showing that he grew up middle class. Then we got Obama’s speech here for him followed by newspaper headlines touting Bennet accomplishments in the Senate. 11:04 - Nomination of Bennet. This is weird, they have the lights low for this part with a spot on the nominator. I think that reduces the level of response to the speech. Says Michael’s accomplishments in office are to stand up to special interests and reform Wall St ( I call bullshit on that one ). And to pass healthcare reform. Many now chanting “we want Mike.” 11:07 - Second for Michael Bennet. Pretty generic Michael’s doing a great job speech. 11:09 - Bennet supporters on their feet (a lot fewer than Romanoff), and Bennet now up on the stage. His first line was “thank you and I accept your nomination to the United States Senate.” Thank you too all the people have supported him. Talking about how we all have the same aspirations for our children and our state. Talking about his parents coming here as refugees from Europe during WWII. That his parents history is the story of America is the land of opportunity. Talking about how he is not a politician and is concerned about our political system. Talking about his efforts working for Hick and then at DPS. That leads in to leaving more for our kids, not less for our kids. Talking about the legislation they passed in the Senate - credit card reform, health care reform, taking on the big banks, and the tax cuts delivered to 90% of the people in Colorado. Next brought up his bill to freeze congressional pay until they fix the economy (he says that was passed). Then discussed his proposal to not allow ex-Senators to be lobbyists. Then talking about the giant financial issues facing most people in our country. Now trash talking the Republicans - crowd happily booing along to that. “They want to take us backwards while we want to take Colorado and our country forward.” Very uplifting speech about how we can make things better, how we can improve the economy, bring our troops home, and we can statrt making responsible decisions and not leave our children a mountain of debt. Then brought in the we will also elect Hickenlooper as Governor and support Obama as president. 11:23 - Standing ovation from the Bennet supporters as he walks off. I don’t know how good my estimate is but I think Romanoff has about twice as many people standing and waving signs. If I am accurate (no idea if I am), then the vote will be 66/33. A couple of notes on this. Bennet’s presentation has improved. He’s not at Romanoff’s level, but he’s now decent. And he’s lost that Thurston Howell III voice and presentation. Strong improvement. He also said nothing about pulling together after the primary - nada. And no real effort to compare himself to Romanoff. Maybe he figures the primary is a slam dunk but it was weird. Bottom line though is that the primary has made Bennet a better campaigner. 11:26 - It’s voting time. 11:40 - reminding people to get their ballot in. We continue to wait. 11:48 - Dianna DeGette is now speaking. The place is half empty now. I don’t know if they’re walking around outside or if people just took off after voting. DeGette is talking about how we Dems are not going to back down from the new legislation we have accomplished. Listing what has been done over the last 18 months. DeGette is a good rep, but a political speech does not seem to be her strong suit (or she’s having an off day). Nothing of note said. 11:56 - John Salazar - Salazar is fired up, he’s talking up that Congress has done “exactly what you asked us to do.” Next talking about the importance of sticking together through and after the primary. Talking up the other congressional candidates and then thanking everyone for the privlege and honor of representing his district. Strong speech and short too so it was well received. 11:59 - Betsy Markey - Good populist speech. Bringing up that she has spent more time out of politics than in politics, has raised a family, and has created two companies. She’s got a really good story for the present political environment. Talking about the work she did to bring about credit card reform. Going through a list of accomplishments and presenting it well, ending with “health care reform we can all be proud of.” Now she’s taking on Sarah Palin agressively - I love Betsy when she gets like this. She asks the great question “when did hope and change become a bad thing?” She brings up the spot-on point that hope and change is the fundamental American approach to life. Oh wow. She was so good on her close I just watched instead of writing it down. But she told Cory Gardner - “bring it on.” 12:09 - Ed Perlmutter - Starting talking off about the great quality of the Democrats we have elected in Colorado (very true). Next went in to the “rude awakening” the Republicans got in the recent special election in Pennsylvania. Going through the big picture of making things better through hope and change. It’s a strong speech and it’s really a speech for the Democratic party. Not a word about his race. 12:15 - John Flerlage - start of the sacrificial lambs category. He’s making a good anti-war speech. Now trash talking Lamborn & Coffman. It was a strong speech, but the numbers in CD6 are overwhelmingly Republican. 12:22 - We now have someone up who is our CD5 candidate (did not catch his name). He apparently decided to run 2 hours ago (that is not a joke). I do appreciate people who step up to do this because we should always challenge ever seat. And from these races we do gauge change (if any) in the districts. 12:26 - Now have all the congressional candidates up together for a final round of applause. John Salazar grabbed the mike to call out a big thank you to Pat Waak (well done). 12:27 - Nomination & second for Cary Kennedy. The second was by Cary’s mom - that was very sweet. Video is all about the BEST program that makes it possible to rebuild broken down school buildings. 11:31 - Cary now speaking, first accepting the nomination. Introducing the family. Going in to detail about how she did a superb job protecting the state’s money - they have made money every single year since she’s been in office (which is more than most fund managers can say). She has really good presentation in her speech. She’s now taking credit for Colorado’s economy being in better shape than the country as a whole - it’s bullshit but I think it will sell. Now talking about adequately funding schools, and making sure the funds are made best use of. Trash talking her opponents - one is a film maker with no financial experience, one is a Bush family member with no financial experience, and the 3 rd is a Wall St. banker. She contrasts that with herself who the people of Colorado can trust to take good care of their money. She’s got a powerful argument for the race. 12:40 - With no other nominations Cary is nominated by acclimation. 12:42 - Nomination, second, etc. for Bernie Beuscher as Sec. of State. Have a 3 rd person up asking for campaign workers (that’s not a good sign). This was not a good presentation. 12:51 - Bernie now up. Talking up the improvements he has brought to the office and doing a good job putting it across. Now talking about keeping elecions fair and clean. 12:56 - Bernie nominated by acclimation. I just talked with a Bennet campaign staffer. And I’m still alive! He disagreed with me that reinstituting Glass-Stegall is key to avoiding a repeat of the great recession. But he did agree that if we have a repeat in the next 10 years, he’ll call me up and tell me I was right. I’m sure that will make everyone going through another recession feel much better I also asked the Bennet campaign if I can interview Senator Bennet on the topic of financial regulation. No reply so far. They’re introducing all the House and Senate members. I’m going to lunch - back about 2:30 Update: I’m not going back. My daughters (met them for lunch) asked me to spend the afternoon. Family first. The Spot blog on the Post should have the Bennet/Romanoff results as soon as they’re known. Have a nice afternoon all.
NRSC chair John Cornyn has spent a lot of time and energy trying to recruit two-time loser Dino Rossi to run against Dem Patty Murray in this year’s Senate race in Washington. The problem for the GOP is that Rossi’s pretty much the oly big name that’s been at all receptive to taking on Murray. But they keep running up against the Rossi sleaze factor. Case in point: earlier this week, Rossi got some heat from Washington Dems for headlining an event teaching real estate investors how to profit off of foreclosures. From the invitation to the event: “With the current financial and real estate meltdown an opportunity has been created like never before in history.” Shock doctrine in practice, and also pretty much the same attitude that got us into the “current financial and real estate meltdown.” Rossi’s team was quick to come to his defense, saying that he himself had never, ever profited from someone else’s foreclosure misfortune. To be exact : “The context of his remarks focus on sharing his story about how he got his start in the commercial real estate business,” one GOPer familiar with Rossi’s remarks told Hotline OnCall earlier this week. “They have nothing to do with foreclosures and in fact, Dino has had no involvement with foreclosure investments throughout his real estate career.” [emphasis mine] Oops. A company owned and operated by ex-state Sen. Dino Rossi’s (R) real estate investment firm purchased foreclosed property shortly after he arrived, and then marketed it to investors, according to documents obtained by Hotline OnCall. Rossi, who lost close WA GOV races in ‘04 and ‘08, is considering a challenge to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). According to real estate excise tax affidavit documents, in March of ‘09, CEP II Ballard 09 LLC, which is owned and operated by Coast Equity Partners, at which Rossi is a principal, acquired apartment complexes in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The complexes had previously come under foreclosure in Oct. ‘08, according to separate affidavit documents. The company later marketed the complexes on its website as the “Voss/Aros Apartments,” adding “the assets were purchased from the bank at 45 cents on the dollar,” and indicating an opportunity for investors to “enjoy substantial cash on cash return and price appreciation over the hold period.” Rossi wouldn’t be the be the kind of same nightmare for Cornyn that Rand Paul has presented–he’s slicker and he knows when to keep his mouth shut. But he’s going to cost them a lot of money and with his star looking more tarnished by the day (not to mention the teabagger/Palin support for another candidate ), he’s a losing bet.
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WA-Sen: Problems for Cornyn’s would-be recruit Rossi
Rand Paul has canceled Meet the Press, citing exhaustion. More likely, it’s really a terminal case of foot-in-mouth disease. So how did we go from Paul Vows to Remain True to the Tea Party to Paul’s ‘Honeymoon’ Seems Over to Poll: Rand Paul Surges Ahead of Palin Among Voters Who Describe Themselves as Morons in such a short period of time? Okay, that last was tongue-in-cheek Andy Borowitz, but still… Dave Weigel on a more serious note: That is the north star for Paul. He does not believe that the Constitution allows the government to force businesses, landlords, etc. to change how they do business and who they do business with. And he fears that doing so in the name of positive social change puts us on a slippery slope to extra-Constitutional measures in the service of negative social change — taking away guns, putting people in camps. You can disagree, but that’s where he’s coming from. Now, if you disagree, can you prove him wrong? I think you can. As Errol Louis pointed out yesterday during our appearance on “Hardball,” while many libertarians believe that America is more or less colorblind, around 500 discrimination cases are filed each week. Paul’s answer to this would be similar to his explanation of why it would have been better for the U.S. economy to have completely crashed than for taxpayers and the Federal Reserve to have temporarily bailed out banks. We should have endured the crash, stuck by our principles and rebuilt. If a man in a wheelchair can’t get into a restaurant, he can raise a fuss, his neighbors can join him, and the restaurant can build a ramp in order to get more business. Weigel gets to the heart of the matter. He’s not a racist, but he is a wingnut. Look at what he says, look at what he believes. His name isn’t from Ayn Rand (his full name is Randal) but his sensibilities are. And how is that playing out so far? Not so good for Paul, the GOP or the tea party. Kentucky GOP urges Rand Paul to avoid national spotlight In an indication that he was heeding advice to limit his national exposure, Betsy Fischer, the executive producer of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Tweeted late Friday afternoon that Paul said he was having “a tough week” and was trying to cancel his scheduled appearance on the show this Sunday. According to Fischer, such cancellations are rare, and only Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia have ever nixed planned appearances. Oh, brother. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And thank you, Rachel Maddow. Joan Walsh lays out what Rachel (and Joan, herself) are doing: Rand Paul, and other Tea Party candidates, are going to continue to have to answer questions about their political views. Maybe the end of that process will be that they win over the country to their approach to government, and Democrats are tossed out on their ears in November. I think the end result is more likely to be that most of the rest of the country is either mystified, or horrified, by their magical thinking about the free market. (They are now in danger of costing Republicans a couple of Senate seats, in Nevada and Kentucky, that should have been easy pickups in November.) But either way, it’s time for them to step up and tell us how they’d govern — not whine about the pesky media. That includes his views on national security, domestic policy, and everything in between. Let’s talk about, minimum wage, overtime, Iraq policy, business responsibility in the Gulf, Obama’s attitude towards British petroleum… let’s hear what you think, Rand! As Weigel suggests, let’s skip the racism charge and have an honest debate about what you really think. Jonathan Weisman : “I’m not for having a civil war or anything like that, but I am for challenging federal authority over the states, through the courts, to see if we can get some better rulings,” he said. To supporters, such ideological purity has made the Bowling Green ophthalmologist a hero. “He’s going back to the Constitution,” said Heather Toombs, a Louisville supporter who came to watch him at a meet-and-greet at a suburban home last week. “He’s taking back the government.” But to Democrats, some Republicans and even some libertarians, Mr. Paul’s arguments seem detached from the social fabric that has bound the U.S. together since 1937. The federal government puts limits on pollutants from corporations, monitors the safety of toys and other products and ensures a safe food supply—much of which Mr. Paul’s philosophy could put in question. Referring to the tea party v the GOP establishment, Democrat Chris Van Hollen lays out the undercurrent: “They are understandably very suspicious of Washington Republicans because Washington Republicans would love to use them but then not adopt any of their policies and I think the Wall Street reform bill is case and point,” Van Hollen said in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. Dan Balz put it this way: But what are the boundaries of the tea party movement’s anti-government rhetoric? What role do the activists who have come to Washington to protest Obama’s “takeover” of the health-care system see for the federal government? How would they bring the federal budget into balance and how quickly? What kind of regulation do they favor for big banks or corporations responsible for oil spills in the gulf? What else would they like to repeal beyond health care? House GOP leaders will launch an effort this week aimed at producing an agenda for the party, but as long as the tea party is knocking off establishment-backed candidates, what are voters to conclude about who really speaks for the Republican Party? Avoid talking about what you think, Rand, and you lose the tea party, but engage (see advice from Kentucky GOP) and you lose the country. Which will it be? I wonder.
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Rand Paul’s terminal case of foot-in-mouth
MINNEAPOLIS - ( The Borowitz Report ) - In a sign of his increasing prominence in the so-called Tea Party movement, a new poll shows Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul topping former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin among voters who describe themselves as morons. In the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, 42% preferred Paul, 36% preferred Palin, and the remaining 22% were unsure what the word “prefer” meant. According to Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, Paul’s surging popularity among morons is bad news for Palin, who previously had a lock on that important constituency. “I never thought I’d say that, but if Palin is going to stay competitive with Paul, she’s going to have to start dumbing down her message.” More here . More on Sarah Palin
Walter J. “Wally” Hickel (1919-2010), the colorful two-time Governor of Alaska and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Richard Nixon, had long declared that “I want to be buried standing up so I can fight for what I believe in forever.” He got his wish. At private services held earlier this week at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, Hickel was buried vertically before family and close friends. Photographs of the services and the unique burial were taken by noted Alaska photographer Clark James Mishler. “Typical Wally,” said his longtime friend and confidante Malcolm Roberts. “He has us laughing even beyond the grave.” “Yes, we shed tears,” said Ermalee Hickel, his wife of 55 years, “but it was such a friendly, joyous occasion. I know Wally is in heaven, and he’s smiling at us and cheering us on.” Hickel, the Kansas welterweight Golden Gloves Champion of 1936, arrived in Alaska four years later with only 37 cents in his pocket. He became a larger-than-life figure in the Last Frontier, where his fighting spirit and seemingly boundless energy assured his success, not only in the political arena, but in business and public policy as well. He was also known for his robust sense of humor. He dedicated the latter part of his life trying to educate the American people that over 80 percent of the earth’s surface is “commons” — meaning that it is commonly owned and should be used and cared for to help all people. “When we finally understand the commons,” he wrote, “there will be no legitimate reason for poverty on this earth.” Hickel was never one do duck a fight. He was forced out of the Nixon White House after criticizing Nixon’s handling of student protests during the Vietnam War. He also took on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose candidacy he initially supported, but by whom he felt profoundly betrayed before she left office. Contrary to claims by Palin supporters this week, Palin had not initiated a rapprochement with Hickel before his death. “Sarah never approached the Governor in person or in any other way to patch things up,” said Roberts. “When he endorsed her candidacy for VP, she sent him an email thanking him effusively and saying she would call him. She never did.” Palin attended the memorial services for Hickel, but she was not invited to the private burial ceremony. The late governor’s former political advisor, John Hendrickson, created a button for the burial services featuring a young Hickel in a boxing pose, with the phrase “Alaska First!” emblazed above it. Archbishop emeritus Francis Hurley, who officiated the final Hickel services, declared: “In 59 years as a priest I have never seen such happiness at a burial.” Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn’s book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be published by St. Martin’s Press. More on Sarah Palin
Bill Maher unloaded on Rand Paul during his monologue on “Real Time” Friday night. Paul, who won Kentucky’s Republican primary just this week, has taken heat for his extreme views . Trying to describe the eye doctor turned Tea Party-favorite, Maher joked that, “It’s as if Sarah Palin somehow made it through medical school.” After pointing to some of Paul’s views, like his belief that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate, Maher observed, “the shit doesn’t fall far from the bat.” WATCH: More on Rand Paul
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Bill Maher Describes Rand Paul: It’s As If Sarah Palin Made It Through Med School (VIDEO)
We certainly have a lot of ground to cover this week, so let’s dig right in. I’d like to start with a declaration, though: Bristol Palin is now fair game for public criticism. Bristol’s mother, Sarah Palin, made much of how the media were launching such attacks at her children on the campaign trail (although she certainly left herself open to such attacks by using her children as political props at every possible opportunity). Then-candidate Barack Obama agreed with Sarah Palin, on the principled point that “politicians’ children should be off limits” (he has kids of his own, of course). At the time, I agreed with both Palin and Obama, mostly because I saw what the media put Amy Carter through, way back when. But Amy Carter herself graduated from “protected child of politician” status to “public figure open to criticism,” when she very publicly joined the anti-apartheid cause in the 1980s, getting arrested for doing so on at least one occasion, if memory serves. She made a conscious decision to put herself out in the public’s eye, to advance a political cause. Therefore, she also made herself fair game for public comment and criticism. Bristol Palin is now officially also fair game, since it was revealed this week that she has now signed up with a speakers’ agency which would charge $10,000 to $30,000 a speech for Bristol’s appearance, assumably for pro-abstinence speeches. So, if she’s pulling down a five-figure income for an hour’s worth of work, telling children to “do as I say, and not as I did” (a perfect “bad example” for the cause, in other words), then she is officially fair game. Although it’s hard not to wonder how exactly she’ll be pitching her message now: “Don’t do what I did, kids, or else you may be assured of $30,000 for a speech like this for years to come” is not exactly the most potent message, I would think, but then it’s hard to fathom the minds of those to whom she’d be speaking, I have to admit. News from Palins aside, though, it was a busy week on the political front. Starting the week off, we had an explosive round of primaries, in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas. I’ve already commented this week on the results of these primaries (and how the media will likely react), and on the Rand Paul civil rights gaffe situation in particular (and how his libertarianism is just bound to provide several more such entertaining episodes during the campaign), so check them out if you’d like, but for space reasons here, I won’t be combing through everything again, simply because we’ve got so much to get through this week. The new media narrative, which is exactly what the White House was pushing just before the primaries happened, coincidentally (for once, Democratic framing actually worked — the media snapped it up like a cheese puff at cocktail hour) is now: “it’s an anti-incumbent year.” The White House was pushing this, because it is a lot better sounding than what the media was using previously, which was: “it’s an anti-Democrat year,” or even: “it’s an anti-Obama-agenda year.” Of course, even if it is just an “anti-incumbent” year, Democrats still have more incumbencies to defend, so it’s not like the party’s out of the woods yet in regards to November. But things are certainly looking a lot better. While Pennsylvania (and possibly Arkansas — check back June 8…) just said “no, thanks” to their sitting “Democratic” senator, this may just improve Democratic chances in November. This is the message almost sure to be lost by Democratic Party leaders — sometimes a real Democrat is better than a fake Democrat. And, even though the Democratic candidate ran against some key Obama initiatives in a special election to replace Representative John Murtha, the Democratic win in PA-12 went a long way towards stopping the media narrative “Republicans are going to sweep everything this November,” which is going to pay off dividends in terms of media coverage (and slant) for months to come. After the election results were dying down (except for Rand Paul’s insert-foot-in-mouth disease, of course), the media belatedly woke up and realize the Senate was actually doing something as groundbreaking as the health reform debate — working all week towards a final vote on the Wall Street reform bill, which passed last night and now heads off to conference committee with House negotiators to hammer out the final language. But, much like the final health reform bill, the Wall Street reform bill that just passed the Senate has led to a lot of head-scratching. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it somewhere in-between? Opinions on the Left differ, depending on which amendments people saw as crucial to strengthening the final bill. Personally, I see the bill as a mishmash of good, bad, and sellout. Some very good parts of the bill (Blanche Lincoln’s derivative reform language) survived intact. Some extremely good ideas (Tom Harkin’s 50-cent cap on ATM fees) never even got a vote. And some very important amendments were absolutely quashed by Harry Reid, because he didn’t want to force Democrats to have to vote on them, or because he was scared that they were going to actually pass (take your pick). In other words, like most legislation, it could have been a lot better. But then again, things could be worse — Harry Reid did indeed, when all is said and done, get the thing through. And it will likely be on President Obama’s desk to sign “before July fourth,” giving the president and the Democrats a large legislative and political victory, right in the midst of campaign season. And, of course, there’s always the conference committee, which could indeed actually come up with a stronger bill this time — because public sentiment is overwhelmingly on the side of doing more, and not less, on this particular issue. One can only hope…. We had a wide array of nominees for this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week, I have to say. If it weren’t such a busy week this week, Senator Tom Harkin would have won the MIDOTW hands down, for fighting with Harry Reid over allowing his amendment to the Wall Street reform bill to even come to a vote . Harkin’s idea was to limit all ATM fees to fifty cents per transaction. This was politically brilliant, I have to say. Here we have this gigantic piece of legislation that is very tough for the average American to understand (one way or another), and Democrats want to rally public support behind what they’re doing. Harkin’s answer was perfect for this — give the average Joe and Jane a concrete, tangible benefit from the bill, so that every time anyone went to an ATM across the country (which must happen billions of times every month ), they would have a reason to thank Democrats. Of course, the news that some sitting senators had never used an ATM in their lives certainly went a long way towards explaining what happened, but that’s a side issue. Because Reid blew it. More on this in a moment, in our next awards section. Like I said, if this was a normal week, Harkin would’ve skated away with the MIDOTW award, so this week we’re creating a special Most Honorable Mention award to thank Senator Harkin for his efforts, though they were in vain. Also worth mentioning, and Honorable Mention -ing were Senators Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold, who both wound up voting against the final bill, in an effort to make it even stronger. They did succeed in slowing Harry Reid down a bit on Thursday, which forced Reid to get Republican Scott Brown to jump the aisle (along with three other Republicans) to vote in favor of the bill. For sticking to their principles, we have to honor them here. And note their lack of support — if one or two other liberal Democrats had joined them, it likely would have forced Reid to hold a vote on some very key provisions which didn’t make the final bill — which would have strengthened the bill. From the primaries, we also have to award an Honorable Mention to Bill Halter, for forcing Senator Blanche Lincoln into a runoff election in Arkansas, as well as Mark Critz, who won the special election in PA-12 by nine points over his Republican challenger. This was a pivotal election in terms of media narrative, so Democrats everywhere are overlooking the fact that Critz ran against two key chunks of Obama’s agenda (health reform and cap-and-trade), in the joy of seeing the “Republicans are inevitable” storyline go away. But the unquestioned Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was none other than Congressman Joe Sestak, who mounted his white charger, picked up his lance, and tilted at the windmill known as Arlen Specter. When the dust settled, Sestak was still on his horse, still clutching his lance, and pieces of the windmill were strewn about the countryside. Sestak’s followed up his primary win against recent Democratic convert Specter by jumping into the lead in the polls against his Republican opponent. This was some tasty icing to a very tasty cake, indeed. Democrats everywhere are celebrating Sestak’s primary victory, and we sincerely hope they’ll all be celebrating this November, as well. For running an impressive campaign, for being an impressive candidate, for an impressive vote margin, and — last but in no way least — for an absolutely brilliant campaign ad against Specter (seeing Specter creepily say “to get re-elected” over and over again is likely why Sestak won the margin he did) — which will, by the way, be referenced in the pantheon of “greatest campaign ads of all time” from now on — Joe Sestak is our obvious choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. Congratulations, Joe, and good luck in November! [ We do not, as a general rule, link to campaign sites here. So you'll have to congratulate Representative Joe Sestak on his official House contact page , to let him know you appreciate his efforts -- unless you'd prefer to Google his name and find his campaign site on your own, that is. ] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got the Wall Street reform bill through the Senate this week. That’s about the best thing that can be said for his performance this week. Now, in Reid’s defense, he had a tight schedule to keep. The Senate has a lot of things on its plate that it has to get done before they all go off on vacation once again. Like funding our wars, for instance. So Reid really wanted to get the Wall Street reform bill done, and into conference committee, on schedule. That being said, the way he did it was by sticking a knife in the back of several very good Democratic ideas on how to improve the bill. First, there was Tom Harkin’s 50-cent ATM fee amendment. Reid’s arrogance is quite obvious, chronicled for all to see by Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post . Grim’s piece is just stunning to read, since Harkin was begging for just five minutes of floor debate on his amendment, and then a quick vote. While Harkin’s amendment may have been largely symbolic in the overall Wall Street reform big picture, once again it would have been a direct benefit to “the little guy” Democrats keep trying to convince us they’re really on the side of, all evidence to the contrary. But there were several bedrock, non-symbolic amendments that Reid disposed of in a similar cavalier fashion, including the Volcker rule and returning to the rules of Glass-Steagall. Reid did this for one of only two possible reasons. Because if the amendments were going to spectacularly fail, he would have just gone ahead and allowed them to be voted on. This, quite obviously, was not the case. Either they would almost have passed — but would have been politically sticky for Democrats who were going to vote against them; or they would have actually succeeded. Either way, not allowing them to be voted on was sheer political cowardice on the part of Reid. There’s just no other way to put it. Maybe these things will be revived in conference committee. Maybe they won’t. But Harry Reid, for the time being, has outright killed them. Thanks a lot, Harry. The only reason Reid isn’t receiving the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is for the fact that he did actually get his (much weaker) bill passed, and it did actually have some strong stuff in it (although not nearly as much as it could have). This mitigating circumstance means Harry only gets a (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week. Also receiving a (Dis-)Honorable Mention this week is President Barack Obama, for once again sitting on the sidelines during the Senate debate. Nary a peep was heard from the White House on any specifics of the Senate bill, except (for shame!) on the things they themselves were trying to weaken. But the real MDDOTW award this week goes to, no surprises here, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, for forgetting exactly what he was doing during Vietnam. Blumenthal got five deferments, then a cushy reserves job, to avoid going to Vietnam. Fine and good, plenty of other people did so. But since then, he has not only become a wildly popular politician, but also taken up veterans’ causes for his own. He’s been a strong supporter of veterans, and likely in an effort to bond with them, has embellished his own war stories as a result. This landed him in the soup this week, as a Republican opponent from the world of professional wrestling (you just can’t make this stuff up, folks) leaked it to the New York Times , which ran with it in a big way. Now, the surprising thing to many of us outside of the Nutmeg State is that Blumenthal will likely survive this scandal. His approval ratings in the state were stratospheric before the scandal broke, and he will likely still win in November. At least, that’s the way it looked to our Friday Talking Points correspondent-on-the-ground in Connecticut (yes, we actually do have one). The party seems to be rallying around Blumenthal, and the state’s veterans don’t seem too upset (yet) about the story — Blumenthal even had a bunch of them on stage with him when he publicly responded to the story. But for all his gaffes (all his gaffing?) past and present, what really decided things for us was the way he spoke about Vietnam in several of those clips. Because it shows a deep hypocrisy in the man, I have to say. Now, you can be a Vietnam draft-dodger and hold your head high today as a politician for standing on principle. Bill Clinton showed how this could be done. Or you can be a Vietnam veteran who came home and denounced the war, after serving honorably. John Kerry showed how this could be done. But to be, in essence, a draft dodger (positions in the reserves were almost impossible to get back then, we should point out) who later tries to make political hay out of his “patriotic service” is just downright horse manure. It doesn’t matter to me whether the person attempting this is named “George W. Bush” or “Richard Blumenthal” either, I should point out. Blumenthal talking about how “we” returning veterans from Vietnam were spit upon and called ugly names is just fantasy — he never came “home” from anywhere, since he never left the country. And to use this as a tear-jerker in a political speech is, as I said, just plain hypocrisy. So, more for trying to repackage draft-dodging and paint it with broad patriotic stripes for your own political gain, than for misstating his actual Vietnam service (or lack thereof), Richard Blumenthal is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. Even if he does wind up winning, this is not the best way to start out a Senate career, I have to say. [ Contact Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (again, as a rule, we do not provide campaign links here) on his official Connecticut Attorney General contact page , to let him know what you think of his actions. ] Volume 124 (5/21/10) There were two big issues this week we’re going to concentrate on here — the upcoming elections (and how this week’s primaries will affect them), and Wall Street reform. Oh, and Rand Paul said something monumentally idiotic, but we’re going to save that for last. At this point, Paul is such a juicy target for Democrats that I doubt anyone needs any help coming up with ways to make him into a joke, which even I couldn’t resist, at the end. Actually, the last three or four of these are just gratuitous Republican-bashing, because I’m in such a good mood. Ahem. So here are this week’s offerings of how to frame issues, for Democrats everywhere to use in the upcoming week, and most especially for any politicians who are scheduled to appear in media interviews. Enjoy, as always, and please check out the special note with a plea for online voting at the end, if you haven’t already done so. Divide and conquer When the opposition hands you a wedge, the political rule is that you should hit that wedge as hard as you can, with a sledgehammer, if need be. The name of this wedge is “Tea Party” and the name of the sledgehammer is “Republican Party fear.” Or maybe I’ve got that backwards, it’s hard to tell with this rampant metaphorizing. Ahem. In any case, this is a direct quote from Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is in charge of the group who is supposed to elect more Democrats to the House. And, I have to say, I cannot improve upon it one bit. The Tea Party movement is right to be very suspicious of the Washington Republicans. The Washington Republicans would love to use the Tea Party movement to meet their electoral goals and then walk away from some of the issues that the Tea Party movement stands for. Rub their faces in PA-12 The Democrats are going to benefit this year from the overinflated expectations of Republicans, because the Republicans have effectively lowered the bar for Democrats in terms of what can be called a “victory” this November. For instance, all of the current Republican crowing about how “they’re going to take the House back” means that if they don’t meet that standard in November, then it’s going to be seen as a failure for the Republicans, even if they win a bunch of seats. The first of (hopefully) many of these races was none other than John Murtha’s PA-12 House district. Here is Van Hollen, again , putting it oh-so-subtly, using Republican talking points against them in the aftermath of the Democratic win. What we clearly saw was Republican hype ran into a brick wall of reality. I mean, what I would say — look, this remains a very challenging political environment, but their claim of somehow running the table just met reality and I think it’s exposed a lot of the Republican hype with respect to ‘This is going to be 1994 all over again.’ And as Tom Davis, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee has pointed out in his comments today — I’ll quote from him because, in that sense, you can hear it from the Republicans themselves. He said: “If you can’t win a seat like this, then where’s the wave?” So, when we say it, it sounds self-serving, so I’m going to let him. Democrats are fighting Wall Street, Republicans are fighting for Wall Street This needs to be hammered upon, whether you think the Senate bill needs improvement or not. Because this is the basic theme of this year’s campaign, which needs to be driven home again and again with the public. This should keep building, right up until Obama signs the bill into law, and then it should be used repeatedly on the campaign trail. Define yourselves! Define your opponents! You will not get a better chance to do so this year, so use it! “As we saw this week, the Democratic Party is fighting for the strongest possible Wall Street reform we can get. Republicans, except for the four who crossed party lines to vote with most Democrats, are fighting to prevent any reform of Wall Street. This is one of those issues that voters see in crystal-clear fashion: Democrats are fighting Wall Street, while Republicans are fighting for Wall Street.” Saint Ronald of Reagan lied about his military service OK, this is weak, I have to admit. Pointing the finger back and saying “you guys do it too!” always is. But it’s about the best defense possible of Richard Blumenthal, so it’s worth trying the old fight-fire-with-fire tactic, I suppose. “Overstating your military service is not something to be admired, but I notice that the same Republicans who are calling for Blumenthal to get out of the race are also quite silent on Senator Lindsey Graham, who did the same thing (with the Gulf War) when he was trying to get elected. And none other than Ronald Reagan himself misstated, to put it politely, his military service in World War II. Politicians of both parties seem to be prone to this type of misstatement, and while I don’t condone it, I certainly think it needs some perspective on whether it is a career-killer for a politician or not. I don’t remember Reagan paying much of a political price for doing so, and I notice Lindsey Graham is still in the Senate.” The big difference in sex scandals There are, it is true, sex scandals on both sides of the aisle. But there’s usually a big difference in sex scandals from the Republicans, and this needs to be pointed out in a big way, once again. “Indiana Republican Mark Souder joins the long list of Republicans who were not only cheating on their spouses, but had also set themselves up as moral arbiters of how everyone else’s sexual relations should be run. The supreme irony of Souder sleeping with a staffer who appeared with him on video discussing abstinence education for children also hits the absolute heights of hypocrisy. Why is it that the Republicans who are cheating always seem to be the ones telling everyone else how to morally run their sex lives? Perhaps they should spend some more time working on their own so-called family values, instead of spending so much time pointing the finger elsewhere.” We proudly endorse the cheater and drunk driver This one’s even more mindblowing than the last one, I have to admit. “The Republican Party officially just endorsed a man running for Congress from New York, a man who had to previously step down from the very seat he is now running for in shame. This shame came from the fact that he was not only pulled over for drunk driving in Virginia, but he also then tried to explain to the cop that it was because he was on his way to see his secret second family. I guess the Republican Party figured that with Vito Fossella , he’s already gotten his scandal out of the way before he gets elected. Kind of a novel approach to that whole family values thing, wouldn’t you say?” Sarah Palin and Rand Paul I saved this one for last, just because. Here’s the best possible way to address Republicans on the subject of Rand Paul: “So, I see your Tea Party guy Rand Paul seems to be in some trouble. To paraphrase Tea Partier Sarah Palin — how’s that libertarian-ey, no-civil-rights-thingie workin’ out for ya, now?” [ Note: A good friend of this column, fellow Huffington Post blogger Matt Osborne (a.k.a. "Osborne Ink"), is in the running to win sponsorship to the upcoming Netroots Nation blogging convention, and he needs your vote! It only takes a few seconds to vote for him at the Democracy For America site. Voting ends Sunday, and he needs a big show of support, so I urge everyone to click on over there, and register a vote for him. Do it now! Matt is in fourth place -- out of 115 entries -- and needs less than 80 votes to hit third place, which will guarantee him a scholarship. Help send Matt to Netroots Nation! ] Chris Weigant blogs at: Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank More on Sarah Palin
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… You Can’t Read This Late Night Snark! (Because it’s privately owned…now go away!) “At a rally this weekend, Sarah Palin said, ‘We’re all Arizonans now.’ At which point every immigrant in Arizona was like, ‘So…we can stay?’” —Jimmy Fallon - “BP said that since the containment dome failed, they may shoot debris such as shredded tires and golf balls into the well’s blowout preventer in an attempt to clog up and stop the leak. Although you know what plugs up a big leak better than golf balls? Almost anything !” —Seth Meyers - “British Petroleum is starting to get defensive. Their new slogan is, “Yeah, like you never spilled anything before!’” —Jay Leno - “Y’know, there’s a specific group of Americans out there—whose name I won’t mention, but it begins with ‘T’ and ends with ‘baggers’—and they have a habit of saying, ‘I want my country back.’ Well, I want my country forward .” —Bill Maher - “So [the thousand-point drop on Wall Street] was a ‘perfect storm.’ Why is it that, whenever something happens that the people who should’ve seen it coming didn’t see it coming, it’s blamed on one of these rare, once-in-a-century ‘perfect storms’ that for some reason takes place every fucking two weeks? I’m beginning to think these are not perfect storms. I’m beginning to think these are regular storms and we have a shitty boat.” ––Jon Stewart - “This is what I admire: any news organization can ‘gather’ news, but [Rupert] Murdoch knows how to make it a sustainable crop. You see, he plants the news in the Wall Street Journal , he fertilizes it in The New York Post , and then he harvests it on Fox News.” —Stephen Colbert And this… Lewis Black: I’ll give Glenn Beck this: he’s got style. He can even make a paranoid Nazi comparison using poetry: Glenn Beck clip: Ya ever heard the old poem, “First they came for the Jews…?” Well, first they came for the banks, then it was the insurance companies, then it was the car companies… Black: Glenn! Get a grip! There’s a difference! They came for the Jews to kill them! The [U.S. government] came for the banks and the car companies to give them 700 billion dollars! If that’s “coming for them,” then come for me ! Hell, for 700 billion, I’ll go to you ! — The Daily Show If you missed Thursday’s C&J, please take a moment to join the cool crowd who pitched in yesterday to support Netroots for the Troops . Donate up to 50 bucks and a bagpiper will come play the best of Lady Gaga under your bedroom window at 6am every morning. Donate more and we’ll call him off. Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts in There’s Moreville… [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
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Cheers and Jeers: Whiskey Sour FRIDAY!
No, I am not in need of a calendar here. Tried to experiment with posting while on the road last night. Unsuccessful test, as it turned out. On the heels of Tuesday’s glories, was Thursday a great day for Democrats? Well…no…not really. The data is, to say the least, mixed. Also, there was at least one disappointing campaign decision made on Thursday. But, heck, when Sarah Palin is meddling in a statewide race, can it ever be a bad day on the Wrap?! THE U.S. SENATE CA-Sen: Boxer’s poll position looking up, says new PPIC poll As the Republican primary in the US Senate grows more complicated, the beneficiary appears to be Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, according to a new poll out Thursday from the Public Policy Institute of California. Boxer has picked up between 5-8 points over her GOP foes since the last PPIC poll in-state, which was conducted in mid-March. She now holds modest leads over Tom Campbell (46-40), Carly Fiorina (48-39), and Chuck DeVore (50-39). In that closely contested GOP primary, it is still a wide-open race. Carly Fiorina, contrary to most recent polling, leads with 25%, with Tom Campbell (23%) and Chuck DeVore (16%) both within range. DK/Research 2000 have also been in the Golden State, and we will have some new numbers for you there, probably a bit later today. NY-Sen: Gillibrand facing a late primary challenge? After spending twelve months successfully navigating a raft of potentially serious primary and general election challenges, it looks like the path to re-election for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand might get a tad more complicated . A report out from the New York Post has Gail Goode, an African-American lawyer with ties to the NYC City Hall, pondering a primary run. Of course, it has to be said that pondering the race and actually making it onto the ballot are two different things. Given that Goode has virtually no chance of getting consideration at the state convention, she’ll have to petition her way onto the ballot, an arduous task to say the least. NC-Sen: Cunningham “retools” campaign in mid-stream More often than not, this is interpreted as a pretty bad sign for a campaign striving for a victory. The campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham have dumped their campaign manager and communications director, in what they deemed as a “retooling” of the campaign. The logic, from the campaign, was that this is a lower-turnout affair, and thus will require a different strategy based more on grassroots politicking. NV-Sen: Lowden loses frontrunner status, according to PPP If the GOP wants to pretend that “ObamaCare” is deeply unpopular, then what will they say about Sue Lowden’s alternative: ChickenCare? Once the clear and obvious frontrunner for the right to battle Harry Reid, Lowden now runs second in the primary, according to a new poll out Thursday evening from PPP (polling on behalf of a left-of-center PAC that, in the name of full disclosure, has done some independent expenditure stuff poking fun at Lowden). Hard-right insurgent candidate Sharron Angle now leads the primary with 29%, with Lowden running second at 26% and Danny Tarkanian just behind at 24%. What this means, of course, is that any of those three can still be the nominee. But this is quite a comedown for Lowden, who was the consensus favorite just a month ago. UT-Sen: Bennett decides to accept GOP’s verdict; ends career Probably the only, albeit tenuous, lifeline for Democratic Senate candidate Sam Granato closed yesterday, with the news that incumbent Senator Bob Bennett, who lost his renomination bid at the state convention last month, will not seek to retain his office via a write-in campaign. In his statement, Bennett cited a fear that a write-in candidacy would divide the Republican Party, showing the party loyalty that was, quite frankly, not shown to him this year. This leaves Granato to face the eventual GOP nominee, which will be settled next month between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. WA-Sen: Palin endorses (!); whither Rossi? The biggest waiting game in the Pacific Northwest took an interesting turn on Thursday, when former half-term Alaska Governor and vanquished VP nominee Sarah Palin offered an endorsement in the Washington Senate race. Palin bestowed her praise on a lesser-known candidate in the field: former NFL player and alfalfa farmer Clint Didier. This would seem to be a direct shot at perennially undecided frontrunner Dino Rossi, whose vacillation on the race has raised the ire of numerous state Republicans. The Seattle Times article also includes this amusing factoid about Didier: “Despite his fierce anti-government rhetoric, Didier’s 1000-acre Pasco farm has benefited from direct federal crop subsidies, as well as government-subsidized irrigation water.” THE U.S. HOUSE IN-03: Holier-than-thou trumps collegiality in Souder’s downfall Wow, to quote the crew at SSP , this is some stone cold shit. Apparently, the architect of the downfall of recently resigned and disgraced Rep. Mark Souder was none other than his GOP colleague, Mike Pence (R-IN). Pence has essentially taken credit, saying that he dropped the dime on his philandering colleague to the House Ethics committee. LA-03: Second top-tier GOPer files in Melancon open seat A very narrow window of opportunity for long-shot Democrat Ravi Sangisetty opened a little wider on Thursday, with the news that former Louisiana speaker Hunt Downer will run for Congress in the district currently occupied by Democratic Senate candidate Charlie Melancon. This means Sangisetty can enjoy a potentially blistering GOP primary between Downer and GOP attorney Jeff Landry. Remember, also, that Louisiana is a late primary state, which means the recovery period will be quite short. NY-13: Staten Island GOP turns to Fossella (!) to challenge Dem Well, it appears that the rumors were legit, after all. Despite having two well-funded Republican candidates (who presumably, had one family each), Staten Island Republicans gave their nod to disgraced former Congressman Vito Fossella at a conference late Wednesday evening. Staten Island GOP legend Guy Molinaro was ticked, to say the least. Saying that GOP chairman Michael Friscia was acting with Fossella’s full knowledge and participation, he vowed to support candidate Michael Grimm in a primary with Fossella. THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES CA-Gov: GOP primary close, general has slight Dem lean, says PPIC The same PPIC poll referenced earlier also took a look at the gubernatorial election. In the suddenly tightening GOP primary, Meg Whitman continues to hold a lead over Steve Poizner, but it is now an extremely modest one. Whitman leads 38-29. To give some perspective of how far eMeg has fallen, she held a 61-11 lead in the same poll just two months ago. Whitman’s general election numbers have been compromised, as well. Whereas Whitman led Democrat Jerry Brown by five points in March, she now trails the former Governor by the same five-point margin (42-37). Brown still maintains a double-digit edge over Poizner (45-32). CO-Gov: All knotted up, according to PPP While the Senate numbers in the “square state” are looking a lot better for Democrats, it is more of a mixed bag in the gubernatorial race. The new numbers from PPP (PDF file) have Democrat John Hickenlooper tied up with Republican Scott McInnis (44-44). That is better than Rasmussen had the race last week, but significantly worse than PPP had it a few months back, when they had a 50-39 edge for the Democrat. THE RAS-A-POLL-OOZA By now, Rasmussen has gotten a lot of attention, and some deserved skepticism, over the poll out yesterday showing Rand Paul way up on Jack Conway. But they also had an eye-opener in Pennsylvania, where the question now becomes whether or not Joe Sestak can sustain what was clearly a fairly sizeable primary bounce. Also a few primary polls (hey, Ras, where were these on Monday?!) emanate from the House of Ras. AZ-Gov (R): Gov. Jan Brewer 45%, Dean Martin 18%, Buz Mills 18%, John Munger 3% KY-Sen: Rand Paul (R) 59%, Jack Conway (D) 34% PA-Sen: Joe Sestak (D) 46%, Patrick Toomey (R) 42% SC-Gov (R): Nikki Haley 30%, Henry McMaster 19%, Gresham Barrett 17%, Andre Bauer 12%
Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 5/20/10
I’ll take Rand Paul at his word. He’s opposed to racial discrimination. However, he obviously supports allowing businesses to engage in racial discrimination without impunity. Evidently, if the government says it’s against the law to run a whites-only business, this is a bridge too far for Rand Paul. Congratulations, Republicans. The man you chose to run for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky and the man who delivered the highest profile political victory for the tea party movement has turned out to have some very twisted ideas about civil rights and race. On the Rachel Maddow Show last night, Paul suffered an epic meltdown — more or less admitting that he doesn’t support the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” In other words, Paul implied that the First Amendment allows any business to be “white-only” if it chooses and the government isn’t allowed to interfere. But he’s against racial discrimination. He said so. Rand Paul’s extremist position on the Civil Right Act underscores a major flaw in libertarian ideology, and it further cements the connection between the tea party movement and race. Libertarianism, which both Ron and Rand Paul famously embrace, suggests the free market is a significant and vital component of liberty. Private businesses are capable of accomplishing everything, and government can’t interfere or regulate those businesses in any way. The free market will police itself. Just leave it be. Private industry can pave roads, educate children, put out fires and protect our streets from drunk drivers. It can shuttle our kids to corporate schools and back, it can provide clean water to our homes and they can guarantee our meat and vegetables aren’t contaminated with diseases. And by the way, in a nation that’s 70 percent white, private businesses can choose to do all of these things for white people only. Private businesses can provide everything we need, but only offer those services to white people. And these businesses, according to libertarian ideology, can form monopolies if they want to. As we’re all painfully aware from the health care debate, monopolies occur even in our current government-regulated system. Imagine what would happen in a totally unregulated free market. So, in Rand Paul’s utopia, not only can Woolworth’s prevent black people from sitting at its soda stand if it wants to, but a private, free market police corporation can set up shop in a community, buy up any competing police corporations and announce that it no longer serves black people or Jewish people or Hispanic people or gay people — any minority segment of the population. Or, when public schools are eliminated, a free market education franchise can form a monopoly and ostensibly can choose turn away non-white students, potentially excluding minorities from receiving an education. And all of these businesses are allowed to consolidate with each other, forming larger monopolies, and the ability of the people to effectively fight back simultaneously decreases as unregulated corporation’s financial and market power increases. Of course these free market mega-corporations might not admit that they’re engaging in discriminatory practices. Bad PR. They could lie and say that all are welcome, but then create unseen rules that prevent minorities from enrolling. No wheelchair ramps, or prohibitively expensive tuition for poorer students and so forth. Who would hold them accountable for their lies? Who would have the financial and organizational wherewithal to take on too big to fail corporate franchises like, say, the Halliburton Police Department? Or the Bechtel Water Corporation? Or the News Corp School System? Most libertarians claim to oppose racial discrimination, but they ultimately support a system that utterly ignores it as a business practice. Put another way, it’s like being opposed to cancer, but in favor of asbestos. Rand Paul, say nothing of a long list of other Republicans, subscribes to this free market libertarian philosophy. And he’s also become a champion of the tea party movement. A gaffe, they say, is when a politician tells the truth out loud. Rand Paul revealed that there is, in fact, a strong racial component of the tea party movement. I don’t know if he realizes it or not, but Paul actually helped to vindicate anyone who has pointed out the tea party’s connection with race. Where there’s racial smoke, there’s racial fire. And the preponderance of evidence points to a large and serious racial aspect of the tea party. Rand Paul just happened to conveniently let it slip out, as did tea party leaders Dale Robertson and Mark Williams , who recently said that Muslims worship a “monkey god,” I can understand a movement based around smaller government and lower taxes, as long as that movement is honest and consistent (this one hasn’t been, as evidenced by its eight years of virtual silence). But the positions on race held by Rand Paul and others lead me to believe that smaller government and lower taxes are merely cosmetic — disguising uglier positions and serving as code language designed to rally certain crowds who hear these concepts and think “welfare queens” and “lazy free loaders.” Small government, in the parlance of tea party leaders, now includes allowing businesses to discriminate against minorities. Lower taxes, meanwhile, only means lower taxes for upper middle class and wealthy Americans. (When the allegedly anti-tax movement learned that 47 percent of Americans didn’t pay federal income taxes in 2009 due to tax cuts, they were outraged .) The Republican Party, for its part, continues to engage in Southern Strategy politics. This isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s empirical fact. The Republican Southern Strategy is real and it inextricably binds the party to the exploitation of anti-minority bigotry for political advantage. Arizona’s anti-Hispanic law is the most recent example in a long history including the “Harold! Call me!” commercial , Lee Atwater , Jesse Helms , Pat Buchanan and the Nixon White House. Therefore the Republican Party has a considerably large racial — even racist — component that’s in operation today. Right now. If it exploits white racial prejudices a wedge for political gain, how can there not be a bond between the two? How can it not be a component? Likewise, it’s become crystal clear throughout the past year or so, going as far back as Sarah Palin’s “community organizer” dog whistle during the campaign, to the wide variety of racially insensitive protest signs and all the rest of it, that the tea party isn’t just about smaller government and lower taxes. It’s also about race. And with a high profile candidate for Senate like Rand Paul who straddles three racially unfriendly political spheres (the GOP, the tea party and libertarianism) perhaps more and more of the ugliness will be exposed to the mainstream and the worst purveyors hectored out of politics. Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog Listen to the Bob & Elvis Show on the iClips Network
Rand Paul, in his now infamous interview with Rachel Maddow, defending his opposition to Federal laws banning racial discrimination in businesses like public restaurants: MADDOW: Hold on just one second. Until the year 2000, Bob Jones University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring that back now, would you support their right to do so? PAUL: Well, I think it’s interesting because the debate involves more than just that, because the debate also involves a lot of court cases with regard to the commerce clause. For example, right now, many states and many gun organizations are saying they have a right to carry a gun in a public restaurant because a public restaurant is not a private restaurant. Therefore, they have a right to carry their gun in there and that the restaurant has no right to have rules to their restaurant. So, you see how this could be turned on many liberal observers who want to excoriate me on this. Then to be consistent, they’d have to say, oh, well, yes, absolutely, you’ve got your right to carry your gun anywhere because it`s a public place. If Rand Paul can’t tell the difference between someone who happens to have been born black or white or brown or yellow and someone who voluntarily decided to carry a gun (or walk into a restaurant without a shirt), then he’s as dim as Sarah Palin. More likely, his pseudo-intellectual nonsense is a rhetorical flourish intended to distract the public from his archaic views on Federal anti-discrimination laws. Either way, he’s not fit to be a United States Senator in the twenty-first century.
KY-Sen: Rand Paul is also stupid (or thinks we are)
STOCKHOLM — The U.S. government is not alone in ceding responsibility to the oil industry for the design of key safety features on offshore rigs, a trend coming under scrutiny worldwide following the deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Across the globe, industry-driven regulation is the norm, not the exception – and critics are calling for a re-examination of a system that puts crucial safety decisions into the hands of corporations motivated by profit. An Associated Press investigation shows other nations harvesting oil and gas from offshore fields, including Britain, Norway, Australia and Canada, have moved in the same direction: Governments set the general safety standards that must be met, but leave it to rig operators to work out the details. The shift away from more heavy-handed regulation started about two decades ago and was based on the notion that oil companies best know the risks of offshore operations – and how to minimize them. But the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 and another platform incident in the Timor Sea off Australia last year have raised concerns that Big Oil has been given too much leeway to police itself. “Safety is a combination of regulation and compliance and both clearly need to be reviewed and tightened across industry everywhere in light of these respective blowouts,” said Gilly Llewellyn of the World Wildlife Fund. While the cause of the latest disaster remains unclear, U.S. lawmakers and President Barack Obama have vowed to reform the federal agency that oversees the offshore industry. Congressional hearings have revealed a lack of regulation covering safety aspects from cement casing surrounding well pipes to blowout preventers, the undersea safety mechanism that failed on the Deepwater Horizon. The absence of detailed regulation is not unique to the U.S., officials said. “When it comes down to it, this kind of drilling is done in the same way more or less everywhere,” said Per Holand, a Norwegian expert on offshore blowouts. He added that some practices and standards are stricter outside the U.S. For example, Norway requires an acoustic backup system to trigger the blowout preventer remotely with sound pulses if the regular switch fails. “That’s also true in Brazil and off the east coast of Canada,” Holand said, adding acoustic triggers are not widely used on American rigs. It’s unclear whether such a device would have made a difference in the April 20 incident. Another difference is that Britain, Norway and Australia have separate agencies overseeing the revenue and safety aspects of the oil industry to avoid conflict of interest. In the U.S. the federal Minerals Management Service oversees both, something White House officials have vowed to change following the Gulf of Mexico blowout. However, the practice of letting industry select the best safety measures is widespread. The system is referred to as “performance-based” in some countries and “goal-oriented” or “goal-setting” in others. It comes down to granting flexibility for oil companies to select the best technology and practices to ensure safety on their offshore installations, as long as they meet the regulator’s minimum standards. “Generally, goal-setting allows you to make improvements as technology develops without having to change the legislation,” said Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP PLC, the company that owns the ruptured well that is releasing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. “So it makes it a more flexible way of improving standards, improving performance.” Britain’s offshore regulations require the operator to make sure that a well is built and maintained to ensure that there are no spills and that health and safety risks to workers “are as low as is reasonably practicable.” It also requires the operator to ensure that suitable control equipment, including blowout preventers, is provided to protect against accidents, but doesn’t get into details. Norway has a similar system, focusing on the integrity of the company’s overall safety plans, rather than specifics. “Our supervisory activity is not to inspect the steel or the hardware. It’s to inspect how the companies inspect themselves,” said Ole-Johan Faret, a spokesman for Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority. The Nordic country had a more prescriptive approach 20 years ago, with very specific regulations, he said. “This part has to be this thick and that long and made of this kind of material,” Faret said. “We realized that the industry developed so fast that (such stringent) regulations were a setback to the development of safety standards. It would take a lot of time to change regulations.” Britain moved away from prescriptive government regulations after a 1988 fire on the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea killed 167 workers. It also moved oversight of safety for the offshore oil and gas industry from the Department of Energy to the Health and Safety Executive, or HSE. Canada last year changed its Oil and Gas Operations Act to make it less prescriptive and more goal-oriented, National Energy Board spokeswoman Sarah Kiley said. Australia also uses a “performance-based” system in which operators must submit plans detailing its safeguards for approval. The offshore regulator then conducts inspections and audits to verify that operators are adhering to their commitments. Industry and government officials say the current system is working, though they concede the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico may prompt reviews. “We will continue to monitor the Deepwater Horizon incident to see if there are any lessons that can be learned and applied to the UK offshore industry,” said Steve Walker, who heads the offshore division at Britain’s HSE. The situation is different in Mexico and Venezuela where foreign oil companies work under tight government control. Mexico’s state oil monopoly Pemex has struggled with safety issues related to pipelines and a shallow-water platform disaster in 2007 that killed 21 workers. But it has little exposure to the dangers of deep-water drilling because Pemex lacks technology to explore untapped resources in the Gulf of Mexico. In Nigeria, where oil majors like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and others explore the oil-rich Niger Delta, regulators often fall back on international standards set by engineering and trade groups as a yardstick. They also at times ask that oil companies take “reasonable” steps to ensure oil doesn’t leak out into the environment. Enforcement is another matter, as Nigeria’s government remains encumbered by a system of institutionalized graft that has given it the reputation of being one of the world’s most corrupt nations. Moving back to more prescriptive rules is not necessarily the answer, said Clifford Jones, an offshore engineering expert at the University of Aberdeen. He noted that there have been relatively few serious accidents in recent years. “Tragic though the recent event has been, it’s 22 years since Piper Alpha,” Jones said. “And I think if the numbers were processed in a risk analysis, that would be a fairly impressive record.” Still, the Deepwater Horizon incident has raised could-it-happen-here concerns outside the U.S. Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency requested that all companies operating in Brazilian waters send information on the control systems used in their wells and to re-evaluate their emergency plans. The Norwegian Oil Industry Association launched a study comparing the rules in Norway and the U.S. and the results are expected in a few weeks, said Jan Krokeide. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of lessons learned,” Krokeide said. ____ MacDougall reported from Oslo, Norway. Associated Press Writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Robert Barr in London, Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria; Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil; and Morgan Lee in Mexico City contributed to this report. More on Gulf Oil Spill
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Oil Self-Regulation Happens All Around The Globe
Today on “Hardball,” Jack Conway charged that Ron Paul wanted to do away with the Civil Rights Act. In fact, Rand Paul’s words to the Courier-Journal, in their editorial board interview, were even more extreme than the paper’s editorial reveal. The interview that reveals Rand Paul’s views on civil rights was done in April. People have linked to the editorial, but the transcript has not been circulated. Conway’s charge today on “Hardball” sent me searching. Below is a transcript (the piece below is at the very end of the interview) : Question: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Rand Paul: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains and I’m all in favor of that. Questioner: But…? Rand Paul: (nervous laugh) You had to ask me the “but.” um.. I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners - I abhor racism - I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination on anything that gets any public funding and that’s most of what the Civil Rights Act was about to my mind. Questioner: And then it was extended by most to most localities to include all… Would you be in favor of just local– Rand Paul: On a local basis it might be a little different. The thing is I would speak out in favor of it. (pause) I mean, I look at the speeches of Martin Luther King, and I tell you I become emotional watching the speeches of Martin Luther King. I love it because he was a transformational figure… (goes on to talk about Martin Luther King for a few moments) Questioner: But under your philosophy it would be okay for Dr. King to not be served at the counter at Woolworths? Rand Paul: I would not go to that Woolworth’s, and I would stand up in my community and say it’s abhorrent. um… But the hard part, and this is the hard part about believing in freedom is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example, you to, for example– most good defenders will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things, and we’re here at the bastion of newspaperdom (sic) and I’m sure you believe in the First Amendment, so I’m sure you understand people can say bad things. It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people we publicly criticize that and don’t belong to those groups or associate with those people. Questioner: But it’s different with race, certainly a hundred years, discrimination based on race was codified under federal law. Rand Paul: Exactly, it was institutionalize and that’s why we had to end all of the institutional racism in um.. I was in favor of completely of that … It’s just stunning. The current playbook being used by Rand Paul was first used in Virginia by Bob McDonnell, regardless of whether they know each other or not. It’s simply how ultra conservative candidates are running their races, focusing on economic issues, while hiding their extreme views on social issues, including women’s rights, but also on civil rights where Rand Paul is concerned. There is an undercurrent of opinion dogging the Tea Party that posits they are racist. It has also dogged the Republican Party since their Southern strategy was implemented, of which the Tea Party is an extreme element. From the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board , after their interview with Rand Paul, an article entitled “In Republican Senate race, a dismal choice” was an indictment on the Republicans in the race. That was an understatement where Rand Paul is concerned. The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream. For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group. He quickly emphasizes that he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination, but he just doesn’t think it should be legislated. His perspectives — like Mr. Grayson’s — are repellent to those who believe in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Indeed, Dr. Paul wouldn’t even permit exceptions in the case of rape or incest. He says the mother and the unborn zygote have equal rights. If you still care, considering Paul’s civil rights views, on Sarah Palin being qualified to be president he says “absolutely,” also saying he feels “a kinship with her,” because of her Alaska outsider status that catapulted her to power. “She also has something you can’t buy and that’s likability,” he said of Palin. However, nothing matters after Rand Paul’s views on women’s rights, but especially on civil rights, which is hair raising. It’s the nakedness and naÃ¯vetÃ© of Mr. Paul’s views on civil rights laws, that legislation should not impact businesses, that is not only evidence that he’s unfit for Congress, but that he’s actually dangerous. To think that the United States would no longer require laws to protect minorities is just ignorant and lacking in experience in the real world. As for his anti-women’s rights views, especially on individual freedoms, it’s absolutely discriminatory against women. It’s appalling in this day and age that a doctor would believe that women should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will. The editorial board found his views “repellent” and they are correct. To say that the unborn has “equal” rights to the woman is simply wrong. As for DADT, Mr. Paul danced around it, but came down on a “non-fraternization” policy for everyone. Oh, but Rand Paul doesn’t think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. He just doesn’t believe a private business should have to serve the President of the United States if they don’t want to. Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.
A 16-year-old New Trier High School student who was left in critical condition following a hit-and-run accident last week is apparently doing much better today. “I was able to hug for the first time in days,” Sarah Goone’s mother, Laura, wrote on a Web site set up to give updates on the 16-year-old girl. “She leaned on me, and I said I love you,’ she said love you too’ and I cried.” “. . . My baby is on her way back.”
WASHINGTON — Party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter fell to a younger and far less experienced rival in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, and political novice Rand Paul rode support from tea party activists to a Republican rout in Kentucky on Tuesday, the latest jolts to the political establishment in a tumultuous midterm election season. In another race with national significance, Democrat Mark Critz won a special House election to fill out the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha in southwestern Pennsylvania. The two political parties spent roughly $1 million apiece hoping to sway the outcome there, and highlighted the contest as a possible bellwether for the fall when all 435 House seats will be on the ballot. On the busiest night of the primary season to date, Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a potentially debilitating June runoff election against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in her bid for nomination to a third term. Rep. John Boozman won the Republican line on the ballot outright. Taken together, the evening’s results were indisputably unkind to the political establishments of both parties – with more contested primaries yet to come, particularly among Republicans. But any attempt to read into the results a probable trend for the fall campaign was hazardous – particularly given Critz’s victory over Republican Tim Burns to succeed Democrat Murtha in Congress. Specter, seeking his sixth term and first as a Democrat, fell to two-term Rep. Joe Sestak, who spent three decades in the Navy before entering politics. Sestak was winning 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Specter. He told cheering supporters his triumph marked a “win for the people over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.” Sestak’s campaign calling card was a television commercial that showed former President George W. Bush saying he could count on Specter, then a Republican, and then had Specter saying he had switched parties so he could win re-election. Once unleashed, it coincided with a steady decline in Specter’s early lead in the polls and signaled the end of the political line for the most durable politician of his generation in Pennsylvania. Former Rep. Pat Toomey won the Republican nomination and will run against Sestak in the fall in what is likely to be one of the marquee races in the battle for control of the Senate. Among Republicans, Paul’s victory over Secretary of State Trey Grayson was a rebuke to the GOP Senate leader, Mitch McConnell. McConnell recruited Grayson to the race after pushing the incumbent, Sen. Jim Bunning, into retirement out of concern that he would lose the seat to the Democrats. Kentucky marked the third time that tea party activists, a collection of disparate groups without a central political structure, have placed their stamp on Republican races. Their votes at a Utah Republican convention helped deny a spot on the ballot to Sen. Bob Bennett, a conservative judged as not sufficiently so. And their backing helped propel one-time longshot Republican Marco Rubio to a lead in the pre-primary polls in Florida’s Senate race, prompting Gov. Charlie Crist to quit the party and run as an independent. Before Specter’s defeat, West Virginia Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan was the only incumbent in his party to lose a primary. Preliminary vote totals suggested turnout was larger than in 2006, the last non-presidential year. But changing circumstances – the presence or absence of contested primaries – make comparisons difficult. Paul celebrated his triumph in an appearance before supporters. “I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back,” he said, a 47-year-old eye surgeon making his first run for office. He opponent in the fall will be Jack Conway, the Kentucky attorney general, winner over Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in the Democratic primary. But the same energy that helped Paul to victory presented problems to be handled carefully by the Republicans in the run-up to November, when control of both houses of Congress will be at stake. Paul has said he might not support his fellow Kentuckian, McConnell, for a new term as party leader. And no sooner had Tuesday’s results been posted than Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative warrior, suggested McConnell step aside. The far-flung races took place a little less than five months before the midterm elections. President Barack Obama backed incumbents in his party’s races, but despite the stakes for his legislative agenda the White House insisted he was not following the results very closely. High unemployment, an economy just now emerging from the worst recession in generations and Congress’ decision to bail out Wall Street giants in 2008 all added to voters’ unease, polls said. In a survey released shortly before the polls closed, ABC said voter expectations for the economy had turned optimistic for the first time in six years. At that, only 33 percent of those polled said so in the network’s polling, compared with 29 percent saying the opposite. In Oregon, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden avoided the deluge afflicting other incumbents and won nomination to a third full term. Republican Jim Huffman won the GOP primary. In Kentucky, Paul had 59 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Grayson. Paul countered Grayson’s establishment support with endorsements – and the political energy that flowed along with them – from tea party activists, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a conservative eager to push his party rightward in advance of the broader fall campaign. On his website, Paul, 47 and an ophthalmologist, calls himself a “career doctor, not a politician.” He favors a balanced budget and paying off the national debt over time, but the website mentions no specifics. He opposes all federal bailouts of private industry and government subsidies for alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power. He has called Washington lobbyists a “distinctly criminal class” and favors banning lobbying and campaign contributions by anyone holding a federal contract exceeding $1 million. Eager to avoid long-term fallout from a bruising primary, GOP leaders in Kentucky set a unity breakfast for Saturday. The far-flung primaries took place a little less than five months before midterm elections in which Republicans will challenge Democrats for control of both houses of Congress. President Barack Obama backed incumbents in his party’s races, but despite the stakes for his legislative agenda the White House insisted he was not following the results very closely. There were gubernatorial races in Oregon and Pennsylvania. Attorney General Tom Corbett won the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania with ease. Dan Onorato led three rivals for the Democratic nomination. In Oregon, former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber won the nomination in a comeback bid. Chris Dudley, a former professional basketball player, was the Republican winner. In Arkansas, the Democratic Senate race took on trappings of a clash of outside interests. Records on file with the Federal Election Commission showed outside groups had spent nearly $10 million to sway the outcome. Lincoln positioned herself as an independent-minded Democrat not beholden to her party. Halter’s campaign was backed by labor unions unhappy with Lincoln’s opposition to a government option under health care, legislation making it easier for unions to organize and trade legislation. Little Rock businessman D.C. Morrison also ran. As if primaries weren’t enough, both parties had other concerns. Rep. Mark Souder, a conservative Republican from Indiana, abruptly announced he would resign on Friday, admitting he had had an affair with a woman on his congressional payroll. And Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general running for the Senate, disputed a newspaper report that he lied about having served in Vietnam. _____ Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Connecticut and Tom Davies and Deanna Martin in Indiana contributed to this report. More on Election Results
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Election RESULTS: Arlen Specter Loses To Joe Sestak, Rand Paul Wins
I first watched Angela Braly perform at the WellPoint Inc. annual shareholders meeting in Indianapolis in May, 2008. I went to the meeting as a stockholder exercising my rights, and I stood and read a litany of bad news the media had reported on the company in the preceding year, which I contrasted to the rosy report the CEO had just made. I finished by asking Ms. Braly to comment. Without batting the proverbial mascara’d eye, she thanked me for my question and began a three minute reply where she nodded and smiled like a robotic Barbie doll, panning back and forth across the room, and when she was done, nothing had been said. There was nothing “scrappy” about it. It was pure smooth. Now The Sunday NY Times (” A Scrappy Insurer Wrestles With Reform “) calls her “scrappy” as she takes on Barak Obama, state insurance regulators, and an increasingly angry public. “We are being targeted and villainized,” she whined last week. Not so smooth any longer. WellPoint announced huge premium increases last February at a point when many feared Congress might not pass anything. “They threw gasoline on the dying embers of health reform,” said Robert Laszewski, an industry analyst, in The Times. He went on to say “WellPoint is the most incredibly tone-deaf insurance company in an industry full of deaf executives.” Angela squirmed under bipartisan questioning from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as they pushed her on her pay and the company’s record profits at the same time millions are being priced out of the insurance market, no longer maintaining that imperturbable Barbie appearance. Last week Professor Douglas Branson of the University of Pittsburg took aim at Angela on the HuffPost, ” How Various Corporate CEOs Aim for Celebrity Status ,” “At Wellpoint Angela Braly now seems to be the sitting female CEO most focused on achievement of celebrity status, at least among the current crop of 15 women CEOs. “Braly’s latest grab at headlines was in response to President Obama’s radio broadcast on Saturday, May 8. He stated that his administration recently asked a health insurer (unnamed) to cease systematically dropping coverage of women policy holders who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Rather than remain quiet, Braly stepped into the fray, concluding that the President had singled out Wellpoint and that Obama’s generic observation “grossly misrepresented the facts.” The address neither referred to nor raised any innuendo about Wellpoint. Braly then gilded the lily”: “To be absolutely clear — Despite your claim [what claim?] Wellpoint does not single out women for breast cancer for rescission. Period.”â¨ Branson goes on to describe how she has sought the limelight, with her photo and bio in full page Wall Street Journal ads for events at which she was appearing. He concludes [with perhaps, a whiff of sexism]: “Keep your ego in check is one of the first lessons any corporate CEO but especially women should learn. Be a plowhorse rather than a showhorse. Angela Braly seems intent on becoming the center of attention, unmindful of a fitting role for herself as a CEO.” But what can you say when Forbes named her #4 on its list of The 100 Most Powerful Women in 2008 and Fortune ratified her status again at #4 on their list of The 50 Most Powerful Women in 2009? She thought she could turn for some solace to The Wall Street Journal. Joseph Rago came to her defense February 7th in a feature on her ” A Wasted Opportunity -WellPoint’s CEO on ObamaCare’s mistakes and how to pick up the political pieces .” “Angela Braly is in good spirits considering that her company seems to have narrowly avoided being converted into a public utility, if not destroyed outright. One gets the sense that she’s always in good spirits. After years of sustained political assault, the power of positive thinking probably helps.” Of course, this piece was from those heady days right on the heels of Scott Brown’s Senate victory, and Rago went on to gloat, “Merely days before this interview in WellPoint’s lower Manhattan offices at the edge of Ground Zero, Massachusetts voters effectively sent ObamaCare to its own death panel.” Rago missed that call, and lately the WSJ hasn’t cut her as much slack either. In WellPoint to Beef Up Rate Reviews on May 5, the Journal reports on a memo she sent to the company’s 40,000 employees about the debacle around WellPoint having made major math errors in its California 2010 rate hike calculations. Her CFO Wayne DeVeydt admitted, “It’s very disappointing and very embarrassing.” It is embarrassing to have to face publicity like this. But that’s why she is reminding me more and more of Sarah Palin these days, another “scrappy” woman who just isn’t discouraged by relentless bad press, at least at the hands of “the liberal media.” I can’t help but ask, “Angela, how’s that $13 million salary workin’ for you now?” Dr. Stone and associates will be meeting with Ms. Braly at the WellPoint/Anthem annual meeting again this year, on Tuesday, May 18. See: ” WellPoint/Anthem Shareholders Revolt !” More on Health Care
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Rob Stone M.D.: WellPoint CEO Angela Braly: "Scrappy" and Looking More Like Sarah Palin Every Day
This is pretty sweet: a statement from President Obama blasting Republicans for defending the low liability limits that protect oil companies from paying for the economic damages caused by spills, costs that would instead be borne by taxpayers. I am disappointed that an effort to ensure that oil companies pay fully for disasters they cause has stalled in the United States Senate on a partisan basis. This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill. I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies. As President Obama points out, if oil companies don’t pay for the damage they cause, taxpayers will be left on the hook. That’s effectively a big oil bailout, allowing oil companies to enjoy unlimited profits while accepting only limited risk. It’s what Sarah Palin might call big oil bailout socialism — if she weren’t a flaming hypocrite. Obama’s statement comes as Republicans once again filibustered Democratic efforts to move forward on raising the liability limits. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are rejecting a Republican counter-offer because they say it is doesn’t hold oil companies accountable. Sam Stein outlines the GOP proposal: On Monday, the Republican Party, led by Sens. David Vitter, R-La., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and Roger Wicker, R-Miss put out the first GOP counter-proposal. Under its design, a company responsible for a spill would have to pay either the last four quarters of its profits or double the current cap ($150 million) — whichever one is greater — to help with economic damages caused by the spill. The GOP plan is absurd. On paper, it seems to establish a fairly high cap for companies like BP who have multi-billion dollar profits, it’s completely arbitrary. Moreover, with all the accounting games one can play, you’d have to be crazy (or bought by big oil) to support something like this. Harry Reid has come forward with the best plan of all: he wants to abolish the cap altogether. Reid told reporters that a proposal pending before the Senate to lift the liability from the current $75 million to $10 billion is inadequate because the $10 billion figure is “too small.” “We’re told that the damage from the oil spill in the Gulf now is $14 billion already,” Reid said, referring to the BP spill off the coast of Louisiana. “I’m for no cap.” In other news today, Democrats are continuing to push for accountability. Eight Senate Dems have joined together, calling for a criminal inquiry into BP’s disaster. They feel BP may have knowingly misled the government about its ability to handle a disaster like the one unfolding int he Gulf. The most important thing here is to get good legislation passed and to hold BP accountable, but let’s not forget that there are political implications at stake. Right now, Republicans are demonstrating what things would be like if they were returned to power. Democrats have their problem spots (see Landrieu, Mary), but the GOP is bought and paid for by big oil. There’s no question we need change in DC, but we need change for the better — and Republicans are once again proving they are incapable of delivering it. Democrats can, as long as they proceed with boldness and stay true to the mission of the Democratic Party: to represent the people.
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Obama: GOP wants taxpayers to foot the bill for big oil
The New York Times Book Review said that Howard Zinn’s bestseller, A People’s History of the United States should be “required reading for a new generation of students.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Arizona’s new law dispensing with ethnic studies programs would permit a teacher in that state to even assign Zinn’s book. You may recall, this past April Arizona foolishly passed a law requiring police officers to inquire about an individual’s immigration status. That law has been highly criticized for, among other things, promoting racial profiling. The law which specifically targets Hispanics is the result of a frightening anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona and across the U.S. Even more frightening however, is the exuberance and frequency with which Arizona legislators enact severely flawed and intolerant laws. The immigration law has since been amended, though its future remains uncertain. Many individuals in Arizona and across the country are making their voices heard by protesting these intolerant pieces of legislation. Demonstrating her commitment to intolerance and rank ignorance, Arizona Governor Janice Brewer signed in to law HB 2281 , yet another gem delivered to her by the Republican controlled state legislature. Like the immigration law that will go into effect on June 29th unless blocked by the courts, this law too bares the mark of conspicuous hostility. This time however, the object is ethnic studies curricula in K-12 education. The law’s passage marks the completion of a crusade by Tom Horne, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Education, against Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies program. The ethnic studies law forbids any program of instruction in a public or charter schools that: “promote[s] the overthrow of the U.S. government; promote[s] resentment toward a race or class of people; is designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; or advocate[s] ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.” If the State Board of Education or the superintendent of public instruction “determines” that a school district or charter school’s ethnic studies program meets the criteria above, then the Arizona State Department of Education may be directed to withhold up 10% of the funding they provide to the district or charter. Ethnic studies programs generally, and specifically TUSD’s Mexican American Studies program do not advocate “ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.” Nor do they advocate the overthrow of the US government while promoting ethnic chauvinism as Horne claims . Further, TUSD’s program is open to all students. The program focuses on historical and contemporary contributions to our country’s history made by Mexican Americans. Unfortunately, some of this subject matter is all too frequently omitted from mainstream history and social studies texts. For example, one need not look any further than to Texas where the Republican led state Board of Education, ignoring the recommendations of history teachers, is ” whitewashing ” social studies guidelines to be followed by publishers of the textbooks for its nearly 5 million K-12 students. Lauri Lebo at Religion Dispatches reports that many of the changes sought by the board in the ” Texas Textbook Massacre ” have become progressively more extreme . For example, the board plans to de-emphasize the contributions of pioneering heroes Thurgood Marshal and CÃ©sar ChÃ¡vez. Superintendent Horne, who is currently campaigning to become Arizona’s next attorney general, has been after TUSD’s Mexican American studies program for a while. In 2007, he penned an open letter to the citizens of Tucson denouncing TUSD’s Mexican American studies program. In that letter, Horne misleadingly characterized the program by saying that ethnic studies classes are for students of a particular race or ethnicity. This is simply incorrect. Instead, ethnic studies programs like TUSD’s are about the contributions to American history made by people of America’s diverse ethnic groups. Horne’s actions fit one of, or a combination of the following: paranoid, politically opportunistic, severely prejudiced or, chose your own Rahm Emanuel-esque adjectival noun. One thing is certain, Horne completely misunderstands the nature and purpose of ethnic studies curricula. The real issue is that Horne, Governor Brewer, Sara ” We’re all Arizonans now ” Palin and the Texas Board of Education are more concerned with the preservation of a jingoistic narrative that is purposefully exclusive of important contributions by ethnic minorities, than with insuring that school children are presented with a more complete historical account of the American experience. Last week more than 300 high school students in Tucson walked out of class to protest a speech Mr. Horne was to deliver at their school concerning the new law terminating their Mexican American Studies program. Just like the labor leaders, civil rights activists, fugitive slaves, and impoverished veterans among many others whose contributions to American history Howard Zinn highlights in A People’s History of the United States , these students are the embodiment of the fortuitous character that has helped to transform America in our quest to form a more perfect union. In fact, these students are the stuff new chapters are made of. Zinn would say that the students’ actions are of the type that galvanizes people to push for change and stand tall in opposition to hate and prejudice. While clad in the rhetoric of equality, these latest pieces of legislation represent anything but. Instead, both the immigration and the ethnic studies laws themselves represent ethnic chauvinism by the Arizona state government. In her book ” Why Are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: And Other Conversations on Race , Beverly Tatum, referring to the fight against racism, says that racism is like the moving walkway at the airport. If you let it, the walkway will just carry you along until you make a conscious decision to get off and walk in the other direction. The 300 students at Tucson High and those around the country boycotting Arizona have chosen to step off of the walkway and proceed in the other direction. The rest of us must as well. No te comas la voz . More on Civil Rights
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Ian Moss: A People’s History of Arizona: What Would Howard Zinn Say?
Bristol Palin has reportedly signed on with a speakers bureau to earn $15,000 to $30,000 for individual speaking engagements. I would assume mini-Palin will be speaking on the issue of teen pregnancy. And what better group to fund $30,000 a speech than nature’s hundredaires, single teenage mothers? I would know this because I, in fact, am a single teenage mother. Now, inevitably, people are going to say things like, “You’re not a woman, and you can’t get pregnant!” Oh no? Then how do you explain the maternity clothes I’m currently wearing? Exactly. Now who looks foolish? Therefore, I would like to announce my availability for speaking engagements aimed at single teenage mothers and potential single teenage mothers everywhere. I’ve got lots of great advice, all gained from my 10+ years of experience as a single teenage mother. Here’s just a few… 1. Don’t handle a car battery without first disconnecting it. 2. A bird in the hand in worth two in the bush. 3. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. See, single teenage mothers would love to hear shit like this, and it’s information they can use. I mean, let’s say a guy wants to you to be a single teenage mother, but you’re simply not interested, and you shouldn’t be - look at the hideous maternity clothes I’m wearing! Don’t you want to make sure your car battery is working properly before you get the hell out of there? Let’s say the battery isn’t working and he’s all, “Come back, let’s make you a single teen mom!” Throw the bird in your hand at him. And while his eyes are being pecked out, grab the two birds in the bush and throws those at him, too. Now you wield the power of three birds, mwahaha! Much better than one in your hand or this guy in your bush. But now what are you going to do? You can’t drive, the car battery isn’t working. And you can’t send a bird with a message; they’re busy pecking out eyeballs. Only thing left to do is walk the one thousand miles back to your parent’s house. But how? Well, lift your right foot and move it forward in front of you. Let your body weight shift to that foot as it touches the ground. Great. That’s called a step, and it’s single just like you. Repeat as necessary. … See? Standing ovation. Lives changed. Eggs unfertilized. I’m like a maternity-clothed Tony Robbins. I could do this in towns and cities across America, and for far less than $15,000. At most, I’ll need money for gas, food, and hotels. You know what? Let’s go motels, because I plan to get a lot of 18 and 19 year old phone numbers!
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Andy McDonald: Bristol Palin $30K Per Speaking Engagement? …I Too Am a Single Mother
What can you really say about something like this ? A Conservative’s Case for Sarah Palin’s Genius … except maybe this . Post-read cigarette optional.
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When the headline says it all
If you were never born, you would never die. Therefore birth is not simply the leading cause of death, but the only one. Everything else is a statistical detail of where and when, with each day bringing to us a new set of end-game probabilities. Fortunately, we have the ability to influence those daily odds, however slightly, by how we assess and manage the risk of living. History teaches us that we could do much better, individually and collectively, in a dangerous world of loose nukes, terrorism, massive oil spills, hurricanes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Tough Choices From the moment you get out of bed, every day, you begin to assess and manage the myriad risks that threaten your peaceful existence. You brush your teeth to minimize the risk of tooth decay. Perhaps you eat a light breakfast of fruit and whole-grain cereal to reduce the chance of heart disease. You might arm your home security system at night to counter the risk of theft. Hopefully you diversified your investment portfolio prior to the most recent economic decline to offset the risk of a market slide. We all make hundreds of these daily decisions. We attempt to make rational choices in a world of uncertainty and unknowns. We calculate risk by forecasting the potential future outcome of today’s action, but with no reliable models on which to base those forecasts. The task is quite difficult. In fact, risk management is so challenging that we all do rather badly at the game. If given a choice between two scenarios in which you have a 10% chance of dying in one case or a 90% chance of living in the other, most of us choose the latter, even though the two options are identical. A proposal can be presented as having either a 70% chance of success or a 30% chance of failure; the former appears more appealing but no difference exists between the two. We bring that same irrationality to our risk management decisions. All of us are vulnerable to the trap of believing our decisions are rational while succumbing to emotional whims. That is simply the human condition. Nothing is rational about our emotional instinct that a 70% chance to win is better than a 30% chance to lose. Our decisions are deeply impacted by how problems are presented to us. We can overcome our vulnerabilities to some extent by better understanding what risk assessment and management really mean. Let’s start by first breaking risk down into two main categories: inherent and operational. Then we will discuss the difference between risk and danger, and how that distinction can inform national policy planning and our daily lives. Inherent Risk Inherent risk is that caused by our interactions with the infrastructure of the physical world. Walking down the sidewalk on a sunny day has inherent risk; injury or death can come suddenly from a car jumping the curb, a brick falling off the face of a building, or a falling tree. We can do little to avoid this risk because our own actions, such as strolling down the sidewalk, are not immediately causative. Aviation is a perfect example of this type of risk. Being transported in an airplane creates an inherent risk, which we endure for the associated benefits of inexpensive and convenient travel over long distances. Even under the most ideal and benign conditions, leaving terra firma and cruising along at 600 knots is not equivalent to sitting home on the couch wearing a helmet. Flying is inherently dangerous . But we have the power to make aviation safer by recognizing, and then carefully managing, the risks inherent to fighting gravity. On the strength of proper training, diligent maintenance of the aircraft and continuing education of our pilots we can largely overcome the underlying dangers. The same logic and approach apply directly to how we manage the inherent risks of a drive on the freeway, nuclear power, oil exploration, terrorism and life in the proximity of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods or volcanoes. After every accident, whether a plane crash or exploding oil rig, we rightfully seek to assign blame to punish negligence and to learn from others how to avoid future mishap. Our assumptions however when investigating a bad outcome are often wrong, leading us to inappropriate conclusions. Again, aviation provides a good example. Most airplane accidents are portrayed as the result of pilot error. The statement may be correct but contains an embedded fallacy. The false idea is that the pilot was doing something inherently safe and then crashed by taking an unsafe action. But in reality the pilot was doing something inherently risky, and failed to manage the risk properly. Those two explanations are not at all equivalent. Which brings us now to operational risk. Operational Risk Operational risk is that caused by our own decisions and actions in pursuit of a goal or objective. We willingly take on operational risks by measuring the anticipated consequences of our actions against potential gains. We can choose to take an action that is more dangerous than not taking that action. I might risk a slip on ice if I were walking to an important meeting, but avoid that risk if I simply intended to go snag a cup of Joe. Or I could decide to risk the ice for a latte, but go a few blocks out of the way to avoid the iciest areas. We have a much greater degree of control over operational risks. Unlike with inherent risk, here our decisions and actions are indeed potentially causative. Operational risks represent the greatest threat to public safety. We face these threats every day. Our decision-making itself is what creates the risk . To understand this deeply, how our decisions create risk, we need to distinguish between risk and danger. The two are often used interchangeably as synonyms, but they represent two completely different concepts. Risk versus Danger Let’s say we know a hungry tiger is lurking in a jungle that we must traverse to get to the golden city on the other side. We can take a shortcut to beat the competition, which will increase our chances of encountering the beast; or we can go the long way around and significantly reduce any likelihood of seeing the mad cat. As usual, the greater the risk we take the greater the potential reward. But note that in this equation of risk and reward, the danger represented by the tiger remains constant. What changes is our approach to the danger. Our risk of becoming cat food will increase or decrease depending on what path we choose to follow, but the ravenous tiger is dangerous no matter what we do. Danger and risk are not synonymous . Danger exists as a condition; risk measures the probability that you will encounter a danger, and the probability that the danger you encounter will have a bad outcome . Loose nukes and volcanoes are like that ravenous tiger: inherently dangerous. Our risk of being consumed by hot ash or a ball of radioactive fallout will wax and wane depending on what path we choose, but the built-in dangers never go away. We ourselves define the risk by what we choose to do. A hiker climbing the side of an active volcano is taking greater risk than a trekker taking in the sites on a Bahamian beach, but the danger represented by the volcano remains constant. Managing Does Not Mean Eliminating With the distinction of risk and danger clarified, we need to tackle another serious misconception. Risk management does not mean in the real world eliminating risk although the two are commonly confused. Rather the idea is to recognize risk, reduce potential danger to the greatest extent practical, and mitigate that which cannot be avoided. Note that ” greatest extent practical” does not mean risk-free . Since we cannot eliminate risk, and no form of risk management is perfect, we come to an odd conclusion, but one important to public policy. An accident does not automatically mean someone did something wrong . An accident can simply be the manifestation of inherent risk, even if everybody did everything right. The very existence of risk means that we can see a bad outcome even under the best circumstances; if not true, there would be no risk. Do not misunderstand this: most accidents are avoidable, and an accident usually is in fact due to mistakes, failures, negligence or specific intent to do somebody harm, but not necessarily so. You do not believe me? Consider a scenario from our favorite source of examples, aviation. A large bird strikes and severely damages the propeller of a single-engine airplane flying between Greenland and Iceland. The high level of training, meticulous aircraft maintenance, detailed planning, beautiful weather, and well-honed pilot skill that brought the aircraft to this moment matters not, and will not change the inevitable fatal outcome of that strike. “Stuff” happens. Not every accident is an indictment nor necessarily reflective of poor skill or judgment. Giant Asteroids and Stubbed Toes: Impact versus Probability A giant asteroid hitting the earth would be catastrophic, but fortunately has a low probability of happening during your lifetime. In contrast, you have a high probability of stubbing your toe during your lifetime, but with little consequence. So nerds worried about risk assessment and management need to consider together not only the impact of an event but the chance that the event will happen in a defined timeframe (your lifetime, next decade, in 10,000 years). We have four extremes that define our event boundaries: â¢ Small consequence and not likely to happen: Butterflies invading your garden and damaging your tomatoes. â¢ Small consequence and very likely to happen: Unexpected rainstorm ruining your weekend at the beach. â¢ Huge consequence and not likely to happen: Sarah Palin being elected president. Or an asteroid impact. â¢ Huge consequence and very likely to happen: Oil rig explosion leading to massive oil spill. Or terrorists exploding a dirty bomb in a major city somewhere in the world. Making Sausage and Public Policy We can now apply these ideas to the important task of governing. Unfortunately, many of our laws and regulations are currently based on emotional instinct (choosing 30% chance of success over 70% chance of failure) rather than on refined risk management strategies, sometimes with tragic and costly consequences. We need to do better. Let’s see how, using just two major public policy arenas as examples. Public Health Heart disease (all forms) and cancer combined cause more than half of all deaths in the United States (28.5% and 22.8% respectively). Of the deaths from cardiovascular disease, about 30% can be attributed to smoking. Of the cancer deaths, 30.9% are due to lung cancer. About 90% of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking. The bottom line is that tobacco kills about 400,000 people every year in the United States. Excluding smokers, obesity kills an additional 300,000 people per year. Tobacco is that tiger in the jungle, an inherent danger. Our risk of being harmed by tobacco is entirely a function of our own actions (excluding for the sake of argument second-hand smoke). The tiger lurks, but we can choose to avoid the beast entirely. This is a perfect opportunity for public policies to reduce risk by influencing our behavior. So what have we done? We have provided tobacco farmers with nearly $1 billion in subsidies since 1995. At the same time we devote nearly $1 billion per year in biomedical research to combat lung cancer. Obesity is the lion in the Serengeti, a predator we encounter only by choice. Here too is a golden opportunity for public policy to have a huge impact. So what do we do? NIH just recently funded a paltry $37 million research program on human behavior to develop more effective interventions to reduce obesity. NIH has an annual budget greater than $30 billion. Health insurance policies rarely pay for wellness visits. We as a nation can assess accurately the risks of smoking and obesity. But we fail to manage those risks. With reasonably simple changes in lifestyle we could every year cut the number of deaths nearly in half . Pause and consider for a moment the mind-boggling implications of that reality. But in spite of this astronomical potential for good, we focus our resources and energy elsewhere, victims of emotional instinct. Knowing what we do, the vast majority of all biomedical research funds should clearly be directed to smoking prevention and promoting healthy eating habits and related lifestyle changes. Our tax laws should make eating healthy foods more attractive than chowing down another fry. But we cannot muster the courage to institute even a small tax on sugared beverages, which have become a significant factor contributing to obesity. The average American now drinks 54 gallons of soft drinks annually, five times as much soda as Europeans. Our policies fail to manage a known risk. Homeland Security The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an annual budget of about $50 billion. Probably a great deal more is spent on classified programs. Their mandate falls into four major categories: guarding against terrorism, securing our borders, enforcing immigration laws and preparing for natural disasters. Perhaps all $50 billion is well spent in ways we cannot know since thwarting terrorists must largely be done in secret. But we have evidence that DHS efforts may ignore the basic tenets of risk assessment and management that we learned earlier, falling victim, like us, to emotional instinct. In 2007 Congress mandated 100% screening of ships bound for the United States at more than 600 ports of origin. The problem is that the technology for scanning about 15 million containers every year simply does not exist. The Bush White House opposed the mandate stating that the scanning requirement was “neither executable nor feasible.” Remember impact versus probability? Imagine the impact of a nuclear bomb exploding in a major U.S. city smuggled through one of our ports. Has this extraordinary threat been a major focus for DHS? Apparently not, for we appear to be no more protected in 2010 than we were in 2007. We are not devoting significant resources to reducing the probability of what would be a catastrophic event. We cannot live without water, yet our water supply is extremely vulnerable to terrorist attack. The nation’s water infrastructure is comprised of three main elements: supply source from lakes, rivers, and wells; treatment facilities; and the distribution system. Some money has been spent to protect supply sources, but they remain vulnerable, and nearly no resources have been devoted to protecting the distribution system. Consider this: less than one-twentieth of a quart of ricin (or anthrax) can render one million gallons of water toxic. That volume of water fills more than 100 miles of six-inch diameter pipe, anywhere along which the toxin can be injected. Impact versus probability? Can we imagine a consequence much worse than contaminating the water supply to millions of people? But we seem to be spending little on reducing the probability. A shoe bomber attempted to bring down an airplane, so we now all take off our shoes at airport security. Why then after the underwear bomber failed are we not all required to take off our skivvies? Thankfully we have not yet seen a suppository bomber, although a failed bra bomber might have better consequences for some of us. A would-be bomber tried to create a bomb by combining two reactive fluids, so now we are all restricted to that ridiculous quart bag and 3 ounces per fluid container. What would prevent four or five conspirators from combining their 3 ounces once on the airplane? We focus our attention and resources inappropriately like this because we ignore the basics of good risk assessment and management. We need to understand and design our programs and policies to accommodate inherent versus operational risk, danger versus risk, the difference between managing and eliminating risk, and the differential consequences of impact versus probability. If we did we would be protecting our ports and water supply instead of (or in addition to) disrobing at the airport. We would do everything possible to reduce smoking. We could begin by stopping our tax payer subsidies to grow tobacco. We would tackle the epidemic of obesity instead of cowering before the soft drink and junk food industries. We have assessed the risks. Now let us gather the courage to massively redirect our resources to those that are high probability and high impact. Walking barefoot through airport security while five TSA officers look on makes little sense if a nuclear bomb is at the same time entering one of our ports unobserved and undetected. Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist, former White House senior policy analyst and author of Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World (Jacquie Jordan, Inc)( http://www.tinyurl.com/CosmicDice ). Follow Jeff Schweitzer on Twitter ( http://twitter.com/jeffschweitzer ) and on Facebook. More on Terrorism
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Jeff Schweitzer: Managing Risks in Public Policy: Impact vs. Probability?
Throw open the shade that covers my mind I’m going to touch I’ve got to believe The bell tolls for me I, I want to testify - Melissa Etheridge Maybe mistakes are what make our fate… without them what would shape our lives? - Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City Sometime in the 1980’s, Alan Abelson, the editor of Money Magazine, said that money was “the new sex.” There is one distinct difference. Many people talk about sex. There are hundreds of television shows, chat rooms, and web sites devoted to sex. Americans still have a hard time talking about money. Especially their own money. Sometimes I think I’ve read almost every financial “self-help” book that has ever been written. Most say the say thing: Have a budget, live within your means and invest for the long term. Great advice, but it’s like telling people they need to lose weight. Knowing it and doing it are two different things. One of my irritations is that many financial writers have a holier-than-thou attitude. People looking to solve financial problems are also looking for empathy. Instead, the message they often receive from books about money is “I’m OK and you’re an idiot.” Even commentators such as Dave Ramsey, who talks about his bankruptcy and how it got him to live the “no debt” philosophy of Christian financial writer Larry Burkett, sometimes comes off as preachy and condescending. What struck me about the book, Hot (Broke) Messes, is that the author, Nancy Trejos, is incredibly candid and allows us to learn from expensive lessons given to her by life. It’s hard for the average person to admit mistakes. Imagine Trejos’ situation. She made her mistakes while working as a personal finance columnist for the Washington Post. The mantra in Washington and the financial world is to always act like you’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Never admit your mistakes, even if those mistakes cost billions of dollars or thousands of lives. Trejos went in the opposite direction. She put her problems on the street and let her readers view her financial rebuilding process. Nancy is a 33 year-old graduate of Georgetown University. She grew up in Queens, after her family immigrated from Columbia. Her financial situation two years ago seemed typical of many in her age group. Lots of student loans, lots of credit card debt, an upside down car payment and a mortgage that she couldn’t afford. She was at absolute rock bottom and in total denial. The mortgage was on a townhouse bought with a live-in boyfriend. After racking up a financial hit and some legal bills, she learned a lesson that all singles should know. Never mix business transactions and love, unless you are completely and legally married. She hit bottom and found a financial counselor who helped her set goals and stick to a strict budget. It was the financial equivalent of a personal trainer. Along with her individual saga, Trejos references many financial commentators, such as Joe Nocera and Dr. Mary Gresham, an Atlanta money management psychologist I intend to learn more about. Trejos made serious life adjustments, but not the extreme “rice and beans” program that some counselors advocate. She is in a constant search for financial moderation, while living in one of America’s most expensive cities. Her story has a semi-happy ending. I spoke to her recently and she said all her debt is paid off, except for her student loans. A huge step forward for her. Her book, with a hot pink cover, has a target audience of younger women (reading it in a coffee shop had to put a dent in my macho image) but both sexes and every age group can benefit. There are lots of people, in every demographic, who have big debts and major financial issues. Like people who have problems with booze, sex or drugs, the way for them to find financial salvation is to make an inventory of their wrongs and start doing something about them. Like Nancy Trejos did, it’s time to testify.
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Don McNay: Money, Sex and Hot (Broke) Messes
When the greatest jazz bass player of all-time takes the stage on Thursday night, May 20th it will part of an All Star jazz concert at Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater. It’s called “A Great Night In Harlem” and that’s certain to be an understatement. I wish I could be there, for no other reason than to once again see and hear the great Ron Carter. He will be joined by a stellar cast of jazz and blues musicians - all playing on the same stage where the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown and John Lennon once cavorted with wild abandon, where the legends Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Patti LaBelle once sang till your heart broke in pieces. The event is a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America. If you’re not familiar with the Jazz Foundation of America, perhaps their mission statement says enough - “Saving jazz and blues… one musician at a time.” And when they say “Saving” they really mean it. When the great Fats Domino, a resident in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, became a victim of Katrina, it was the Jazz Foundation of America that stepped in on his side. Fats lost everything, all his worldly belongings including his piano. Take away Fats Domino’s piano, you might as well take his heart. The Jazz Foundation arranged for a new piano for The Fat Man. They didn’t just call a piano company and get a donation. They had that piano trucked down to Louisiana and delivered right to him. They saved the blues that day, for Fats and for all of us. When the great folk singer, that powerful voice and unforgettable American personality called Odetta, was a struggling 75 year-old woman, the Jazz Foundation of America made sure she kept her home and eventually paid for a private room in a nursing home. So many others, perhaps less famous than Fats Domino or Odetta, but equally deserving have also been helped by the Jazz Foundation - people like Johnnie Mae Dunson and a homeless Sweet Georgia Brown. On May 20th the Jazz Foundation of America will not only fill the Apollo Theater’s great hall with music to match the venue’s history, they will also honor, among others, Ambassador Andrew Young. As one who has lived more than half my life in Atlanta, I know Andy Young as a courageous fighter for justice in America - at a time when you took your life in your hands to do such work - and as the Mayor so responsible for making Atlanta a great international city. On a personal note, I will always remember when Ambassador Young took the time to call me, in 2005, to wish me well as I waited for a heart transplant. If you’re in New York City next Thursday, buy a ticket. If not, make a donation. The music will be fantastic and the money well spent. I’ll be counting on Atlanta’s former Mayor to soak up all the pleasure I wish I could when Ron Carter takes to the Apollo stage.
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Richard Greener: "A Great Night In Harlem"
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” A great sentence that could well have been written about 2010 and the world of book publishing. For Debbie Stier, a lifelong member of Publishing’s elite, it would be easy to see the glass as half empty. She was working as an Associate Publisher for HarperStudio, a forward thinking HarperCollins imprint that offered lower advances and more profit sharing with authors. But when Publisher Bob Miller announced he was leaving, HarperCollins pulled the plug on the HarperStudio operation. Stier was left an Editor at Large, somewhat a minister without portfolio, watching the business she loves struggle with gut-wrenching change. Still, she’s grinning, ear to ear. “Books aren’t going away,” said Stier. “I read on a iPhone, I read on a Kindle, I have a Sony and I have books. And I recently have made a return to books. And I have decided there are different kinds of reading, and there’s certain kinds of reading that’s ephemeral. There’s always going to be a place for printed books” “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” For a seasoned marketer like Stier, finding a title starts with the reader. “I start with, ‘Who is the audience for this book,’ and then, ‘How am I going to reach that person,’” she said. “And I have worked with many literary authors back in the day, five years ago, and seeing if you can get that author on NPR and maybe the New York Times Book Review. And there still is that. But now it also means teaching that author how to connect with their audience online. And a lot of the literary authors, it’s very hard for them to do. But I try and find that place. I always say, ‘If you had a magazine, what would your magazine be? Make that magazine on Wordpress.’” Stier’s authors are on the cutting edge, and there’s no better example of a cross over author than Gary Vanderchuk, the peripatetic preacher of Wine gospel (see: Wine Library TV) and fast rising business coach. “I saw him speak at the Web 2.0 conference,” she said. “I had been following him on Twitter. I’d seen Wine Library TV, I knew what a phenomenon he was. I loved him, I thought he was great. But, then when I saw him speak at the Web 2.0 conference two years ago, I said, this guy has a book.” “It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” Stier talks about authors in way that is personal, intimate and with a real sense that she gets them. “I always knew, to be quite honest with you, that I was going to do a book with [Gary], from the second I saw him up there speaking, and I was like, that’s my guy,” she said. “The book was written here, out-loud, and I have a whole bunch of tape recording devices, and we start with an outline, and Gary just speaks it, and then we put it on paper, and we go from there. And yet, getting books through the old system of publishing is a slow and painful process. “It’s like a jar of peanut butter, and somebody says, ‘Okay, swim, swim through it.’ There are so many layers of why it’s difficult, you cant even believe,” she said. “So let’s say you have something that’s timely like Sarah Palin. And you can push it to the front of the publishing house, and get that done. Now you’ve got the stores to deal with. They’ve booked up their shelf space, six or eight months in advance. So that’s a layer of complication that you have to get through.” But today publishers are embracing social media; they’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, blogs and webpages. “I say that we’re down the rabbit hole,” said Stier, “and it feels to me, everyone gets what I’m talking about, and then I have these moments when I realize that it’s actually same 20 of us that are just bouncing ideas in the echo chamber off one another.” “It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” While books are central to Stiers world, she admits that even her habits are changing. “I hate to even admit this, but I just recently cancelled my subscription to The Times. I had cancelled my print version a year or two ago. And then I was getting it on the Kindle and I realized: I don’t even read it on the Kindle.” Why isn’t Stier reading the whole Newspaper? Because she’s getting her information filtered through her social network and looking to bloggers like GothamGal for recommendations rather than The New York Times bestsellers list, she said. “I followed her because I thought she was cool,” she said. “She would recommend stockings from Etsy and I would buy them for a Christmas gift for my assistant, that sort of thing. I knew she ate at such and such a restaurant, and read such and such a book. So there is this intimacy when you meat someone you have been following online.” “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Stier admits she doesn’t finish most books, but doesn’t feel guilty. “If I’ve gotten to page 50 or 75 and I’m not hooked I’m really pretty much okay with putting it down.” But some authors she feels she owes more. “I had read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. And I loved that book so much and I followed her story of having trouble writing the next book after the phenomenon of that book and so I felt connected to her. And so when I felt disappointed in the next book, I knew that she’d struggled with that. Even though I’ve never met her, because I loved that book so much, I have actually gone back and I’ve read another chapter. And I think I will finish it.” Publishers are all about bigness, but Stier believes that “big” may not be that important anymore. “I just think trying this whole scalable thing is very, very hard,” she said. “The more people you try to get to do one thing, you just try to get them to have a meeting together, the less likely it is going to happen. So while everybody’s plotting world domination and the scalability of everything, I’m going to work with one person over there and make one little thing happen, and I feel like thats the way stuff happens.” In the future, some authors will tweet, blog and make video, but Stier is quick to point out that you can’t make authors into someone they’re not. “Gary would be the first to tell you, you know, ‘Use what medium is most native and comfortable for you.’ So if you’re not comfortable on video, don’t do video if you’re comfortable with words,” she said. Publishing past is over. But publishing future is under construction. And it’s pretty clear that there will be a handful of experienced publishers who are experienced enough to lead and open enough to explore and invent. So, Debbie, what do you hope the future will evolve into? “My fantasy would be that it would be a million little pieces, as opposed to everyone like come on lets get on to the mother ship,” she said. “Like, let us just spread out a little bit more and move and groove, I guess be more indie like.” Which raises the big question: is the internet friend or foe? Can connected devices and new platforms make literature better? Or are we walking into the era of disposable literature? “I do believe that the internet is the ultimate engine behind ‘the cream will rise,’ because, you know, we were talking about word of mouth before. If something’s not great, then it’s not gonna rise. The people will speak.” You can view the video of this entire interview on CurationNation.org here. Steve Rosenbaum is founder and CEO of Magnify.net, a NYC-based Realtime Video Curation Engine for publishers. He has been building and growing consumer-content businesses since 1992. He was the creator and Executive Producer of MTV UNfiltered, a series that was the first commercial application of user-generated video in commercial TV. Follow Steve on Twitter: @Magnify this post was originally published on the Business Insider : More on Book Publishing
PHOENIX — As calls spread for an economic boycott of Arizona, the state’s governor enlisted the help of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday to defend a new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Jan Brewer and Palin blamed President Barack Obama for the state law, saying the measure is Arizona’s attempt to enforce immigration laws because the federal government won’t do it. “It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say, ‘We’re all Arizonans now,’” Palin said. “And in clear unison we say, ‘Mr. President: Do your job. Secure our border.’” The former Alaska governor appeared with Brewer at a brief news conference on Saturday. The event launched a website that Brewer said was an effort to educate America about border security and discourage an economic boycott of the state. The site, funded by Brewer’s re-election campaign, shows pictures of Brewer and Palin and invites visitors to sign a petition opposing boycotts. It includes a list of politicians and organizations calling for the boycotts and asks visitors to call or e-mail to “let them know that you support Arizona.” “Our purpose today is to help the rest of the nation understand the crisis which confronts our state,” Brewer said, citing the presence of human and drug smugglers. The immigration law takes effect July 29 unless blocked by pending court challenges. It requires police enforcing another law to ask a person about his or her immigration status if there’s “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. Being in the country illegally would become a state crime. “I think for most American people the reaction to this would be, ‘Why haven’t the police already been doing that?’” Palin said. Obama and some city, state and foreign governments have condemned the law, which critics say will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics. Brewer on Saturday reiterated her assertion that profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated. “The president apparently considers it a wonderful opportunity to divide people along racial lines for his personal political convenience,” Brewer said. Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Brewer’s the one who has divided people, which she’s done by signing controversial bills, and “puts her political survival first every single day.” “Every word she said today was crafted with her Republican primary in mind,” Johnson said. “Arizona is just an afterthought.” Brewer automatically became governor last year after former Gov. Janet Napolitano was appointed U.S. Homeland Security secretary. She’s found herself rapidly thrust into an international spotlight, the subject of ridicule on the left and praised by anti-illegal immigration activists on the right. Arizona’s law is considered the nation’s toughest crackdown on illicit border crossers. It was pushed by illegal immigration hard-liners in the state Legislature, but Brewer has become the public face of the law since she signed it April 23. Her decision to sign it, announced in a nationally televised press conference, has given Brewer traction in this year’s crowded GOP primary for governor. Some of Brewer’s opponents say she’s not a true conservative and have hit her hard for demanding a temporary increase in the state sales tax. Her campaign has seized on the immigration bill to bolster her conservative credentials. Brewer and Palin refused to say whether they’d support a guest worker program that would allow unskilled workers to temporarily work legally in the United States. Palin is in Phoenix for a previously scheduled speech to a hunters group. She has defended the law on national television and spoken out against boycotts. This week she railed against a suburban Chicago high school for skipping a girls’ basketball tournament in Arizona because of concerns over the new law. Palin said Wednesday night that people should help the Highland Park team get to Arizona even if the girls have to “go rogue.” ___ On the Net: _ Brewer’s immigration site: http://www.SecureTheBorder.com More on Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin: ‘We’re All Arizonans Now’
It was a great week for some Colorado newsmakers. Below, check out the Colorado Winners of the Week, and vote on who you think is the week’s biggest winner. And check out the Colorado Losers of the Week here. Tim Tebow: Not everyone was thrilled when the Broncos selected Tebow in the first round of the NFL draft last weekend. The only certainty surrounding the former Florida quarterback, many argued at the time, was that he would make a lot of money off of endorsement deals. Tebow silenced many critics this week when reports circulated that he had actually turned down several huge endorsement deals because he thought they would distract him from football. Jane Norton: Senate candidate Norton may have received great news this week when she was praised (but not quite endorsed) by none other than conservative icon Sarah Palin. In a GOP primary that figures to be largely a contest to see who can appeal to conservative voters, Norton has thus far struggled to shed her moderate image. An endorsement from Palin would help her chances of securing the Republican nomination. Terrance Carroll: The Speaker of the State House shepherded several tough pieces of legislation through the legislature this session despite divisions within the Democratic caucus. Most recently, Carroll ensured the passage of SB 191 , the controversial teacher tenure reform bill, despite vehement opposition from many Democrats. Earlier in the session, he held the party together on a tough vote to eliminate certain tax exemptions for businesses. Carroll, who is term-limited, has not indicated what his next career move will be, but he certainly didn’t hurt his stock this session. More on Sarah Palin
Dave Weigel reports on the Susan B. Anthony List’s big breakfast keynoted by Sarah Palin : Among the candidates and elected officials: New Hampshire senatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte, Maryland congressional candidate Andy Harris, Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), and Rep. John Culberson (R-N.J.) Let’s take a look at that list. Andy Harris is a Club for Growther who led to Democrat Frank Kratovil picking up MD-01 when Harris defeated moderate Republican incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, who subsequently endorsed Kratovil. Barbara Comstock chaired Scooter Libby’s defense fund , just one chapter in a long history of Bush Republicanism. Steve King is eight times crazier than Michele Bachmann. Christopher Smith has been in the House since 1981 and has taken more than 60% of the vote for 28 of those years, so he can pretty much go to whatever breakfast he wants. John Culberson is such a consistent jackass that I can’t even pick one anecdote out of the many available. They all make sense as Palinites, in other words. (With the possible exception of the not-flagrantly-crazy Smith.) That leaves Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is running for Senate in New Hampshire, a state where abortion doesn’t really come up during elections and where Sarah Palin is really not popular. She’s not popular now and she wasn’t popular in 2008 . And yet, there’s Ayotte, in Washington, DC, listening to Sarah Palin say things like : Obama is “the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the White House” and asserted that the health care law would fund abortions. And: Palin also criticized the media, singling out their coverage of her daughter Bristol, whose pregnancy was announced days after Palin was named the vice presidential nominee…. She said some young women would see what happened to Bristol and perhaps be encouraged to seek an abortion instead of facing similar criticism. New Hampshire voters deserve to know if Kelly Ayotte is on the same page with Sarah Palin when it comes to abortion.
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NH-Sen: Is Ayotte with Palin on abortion?
Local television broadcasters are increasingly challenged by the disruptive impact of new technologies. The concept of families gathering around the television to watch the 6 o’clock news exists only as a nostalgic memory in the age of having instant access to news stories and video clips on our PCs and mobile devices. The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual media report shows a steady decline in local news ratings in all day-parts. The 2009 results revealed that early evening newscasts dropped 1.7%, late-night was down 6.4% and morning news was down 5.5%. It’s a troubling trend for local broadcasters, which has been evident for some time. When the project’s researchers asked Americans to name the journalists they most admired, comedian Jon Stewart ranked number four. That may be a disturbing fact for journalism’s purest, but perhaps it’s an indicator of an overall cultural shift in the way we now choose to experience the news. Comedy is playing a more significant role in the political process. During the 2008 primary, all of the major candidates appeared on Saturday Night Live. The program was clearly instrumental to the rise of Sarah Palin’s public profile. And while they are often accused of being overly liberal, SNL took a jab at the mainstream media for its pampering of Barack Obama during the presidential debates. These facts make many in the journalism profession shake their heads in disgust. However, I’m suggesting we should be inspired by these trends rather than dismayed. Specifically, local broadcasters ought to be actively engaged in finding their own Jon Stewart-type personalities in their communities. I’m not suggesting that newscasts change their entire formats to become comedy shows. However, a lighthearted segment or two that takes a satirical look at local headlines would liven up an otherwise predictable and failing format. This is particularly true if local news has any hope of attracting the younger demographic of viewers who show little interests in their broadcasts. Our other mainstream media institutions also stand to benefit by not taking themselves so seriously. Newspapers in search of readers have perhaps forgotten that many of their loyalist fans turn directly to the comics section. Again, I’m not suggesting that news would by and large be better presented as entertainment. Rather, we should be mindful that as journalists, first and foremost, we are storytellers and that humor can be a highly effective tool in telling stories with great substance. Let us not forget the legacy of newspaper humorists like Art Buchwald. Of course, his level of talent is somewhat rare. Perhaps that’s because a comedic sense is not a skill this profession openly seeks to cultivate? Network news is another venue where there is a highly predictable “one-note” approach to telling stories. Andy Rooney’s contributions to “60 Minutes” serve to balance the hard-hitting journalism that rounds out the rest of the hour. However, to attract younger viewers networks will have to experiment with fresher approaches. MSNBC is experiencing ratings success with “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which strikes a healthy balance in its presentation of the day’s events. User-friendly brevity, pithy writing and humor are complemented by interviews with intelligent guests who provide context for the stories. The reality is that much of the news has become so complicated and daunting that it often requires a dose of humor to help us digest it. Jay Leno and David Letterman are arguably as relevant as their network’s news anchors, in terms of their impact on political discourse. The late night hosts’ jibs and jabs are what we share with one another the morning after. Many have come to depend on Letterman’s top ten as much as what is on page one. In the case of Jon Stewart, his secret weapon is his refreshing and authentic honesty. He’s willing to call it like he sees it, rather than offer another homogenized account of the news. There are no sacred cows on the Daily Show . He even jabbed tech icon Steve Jobs recently, over Apple’s strong-armed response to Gizmodo.com’s public dissection of the forthcoming G4 iPhone. That’s the essence of Stewart’s appeal; his unpredictable ability to tackle the truth, even when it may involve taking on a public figure or product he admires. Local broadcasters need to take note. It’s not that viewers lack interest in local news, it’s that they’ve grown tired of the conventions that are so overly used in its presentation. Give us at least a portion of the news in a manner that is distinctive, challenges the status quo and makes us think. More on Jon Stewart
Ed Madison: We Need a Jon Stewart in Every Town
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin warned NRA members Friday that President Barack Obama wants to gut the Second Amendment and told a separate gathering that “mama grizzlies” will help Republicans win this November, sweeping away the Democratic agenda. Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, told National Rifle Association members during their annual meeting that the only thing stopping Obama and his Democratic allies from trying to ban guns is political backlash. “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment,” said Palin, a lifelong NRA member who once had a baby shower at a local gun range in Alaska. “It’s the job of all of us at the NRA and its allies to stop them in their tracks.” Gun enthusiasts have trumpeted fears that their rights would erode under a Democrat-led White House and Congress, but President Barack Obama has largely been silent on issues such as reviving an assault weapons ban or strengthening background checks at gun shows. Obama also signed a law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks. Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, also praised tea party activism during an appearance in Charlotte, and scoffed at suggestions that the movement had roots in violence, racism or rednecks before adding: “I don’t really have a problem with the redneck part of it, to tell you the truth.” She proceeded to read several redneck jokes off her phone and talked about how she could relate to some of them. During an event earlier Friday in Washington sponsored by an anti-abortion group, she challenged Republican women to help the GOP “take this country back” and elect anti-abortion lawmakers. She praised female leaders of the tea party movement and invoked the 2008 acceptance speech where she compared herself to a pit bull. “You don’t want to mess with moms who are rising up,” Palin said at the Susan B. Anthony List event. “If you thought pit bulls were tough, you don’t want to mess with mama grizzlies.” Palin said she understood how some women might consider abortion, citing her own experiences as the mother of a child with Down syndrome and the parent of an unwed teen mother. Last year, Palin said that “for a fleeting moment” she considered having an abortion when she learned of her son Trig’s prognosis. But she said Friday that abortion is morally wrong and women should carry a fetus to term. “It may not be the easiest path, but it’s always the right path,” she said. She said Obama is “the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the White House” and asserted that the health care law would fund abortions. In fact, Obama’s health care law would not allow federal dollars to pay for elective abortions. Catholic hospitals and organizations of Catholic nuns backed the measure. U.S. Catholic bishops and major anti-abortion groups opposed it, arguing that federal dollars could end up paying for abortions. Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said Palin talks a good game, but her version of what American women want doesn’t honor freedom and independence. She mentioned the Democratic lawmakers whom Palin had targeted for their votes for health care overhaul. “First she puts targets on their back, then she wants the government in their bedrooms – what is Sarah Palin doing to Western women?” said Schriock. EMILY’S List helps candidates who back abortion rights. Palin also criticized the media, singling out their coverage of her daughter Bristol, whose pregnancy was announced days after Palin was named the vice presidential nominee. Bristol Palin is a single mother who works on an abstinence-only campaign. She said some young women would see what happened to Bristol and perhaps be encouraged to seek an abortion instead of facing similar criticism. Palin also said Friday that the United States should continue to drill for oil despite the Gulf spill. She made the comments in an interview with ABC News. ___ Elliott reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Jim Davenport in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report. More on Sarah Palin
What’s the expression? “In the kingdom of the psychotic, the merely crazy man is king.” Something like that. Or maybe, “…the merely crazy man is relatively sane, although still arguably out of his fucking mind.” One is given to such thoughts–profane thoughts, yes–when one is exposed to the latest Tweet from Pastor Rick Warren. Here it is. Let’s listen: KIDS WIN in Recession! In 2009 a MILLION more moms (vs 1986) stayed home with small kids instead of hiring daycare. Kids Win! It’s like a headline in The New York Daily News or Variety. KIDS BOFFO IN ECON SLUMP. Resesh Job-Hunt Downturn Means More Moms Home With Less Bux, More Woes! This is the kind of thing that gives foaming religious zealotry a bad name. It takes a deliberate act of mental weight lifting to remember that “Pastor Rick” is the reasonable one, the who’s not Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps, or Torquemada. He is, one thought in one’s naivete, the thinking man’s evangelist. Who knew that while the thinking man was busy thinking, the non-thinking man was reading Rick Warren’s tweets and thinking, “Moms spending more time at home with their kids, regardless of the reasons they’re at home, regardless of the increased stress and pressures they must be experiencing while (and because) they’re at home, and regardless of how those stresses affect the kids and the moms and the dads–WOW. WIN!” But–because everything is connected in what I call “society”–there’s more. Guess who else wins during recession. If you said, “Oboists, phrenologists, and manufacturers of durable goods,” you’d be wrong. But if you said, “Police departments, emergency rooms, Family Services agencies, and child trauma psychologists,” you’d be right! They all get more business, because domestic violence increases during a recession, too. Too good to be true? Too much WIN! ? Cf. here: http://tinyurl.com/33h6a36 (Divorce, as it happens, goes down. Is it because battling couples decide that they love each other more during a recession? No. It’s because people can’t afford to divorce. Couples terminally opposed to living together but forced by economic circumstances to endure, resent, provoke, ignore, or attack each other with, yes, the kids in the middle: WIN!) As a statement ostensibly about the unexpected benefits of a recession, Warren’s tweet is merely a dopey exercise in disingenuous, and therefore dishonest, optimism. He puts a gun to your back and frog-marches you down the sunny side of the street, and then wants you to tell him it’s fun. But note the not-quite-hidden agenda. If moms-stay-at-home is Win, then moms-go-to-work is Lose. Warren, professional Christian that he is, wants moms to stay at home. Or so his tweet implies. In the nonstop state of delirium that characterizes the mind of the cultural right, women who “abandon” the kids to daycare are selfish monsters of feminism except for famous ones like Phyllis Schlafly and Sarah Palin , who are “leaders.” Those who abandon the kids for a job, because they need the money, are…well, let’s just say they’re poor victims of “secular culture” who–bless their hearts–mean well but still cause their kids, in the end, to lose. This represents a view of kids (and adults) that makes the characters in Dennis the Menace seem like artfully rounded figures out of Chekhov. Warren may tell himself (and certainly others) that his main concern is “the children,” but it’s as though he’s never actually met any families other than those on their best behavior at church. Which I don’t really think is the case. He’s not stupid. But he is, in his mild-mannered way, a religious fanatic, which leads to the same result. How much effort would it have taken Rick Warren to look at that tweet and think, “Wait. I’m saying the recession is good because women who want to work, or have to work, are unable to. I’m saying a mother in the home is an unalloyed good, regardless of why she’s there and how her being there affects her and those around her. Am I nuts?” Apparently too much. It’s all well and good to look on the sunny side and draw attention to it and cheer its bright, sunshiny glory. But what if it’s night? Cross-posted at What HE Said More on The Recession
Ellis Weiner: The Papoose-Driven Life
Via digby , a new low for the country as a whole, and the Republican party in particularly. The Daily Beast’s Bejamin Sarlin has the story . Two Iraq veterans who left the military after surviving charges of crimes against detainees are running credible campaigns for Congress. And far from minimizing the incidents, both candidates have put the accusations front and center in their campaigns, attracting rock-star adulation from conservatives nationwide in the process. But critics, including human-rights activists, veterans, and now even defeated primary opponents, warn that their records should disqualify them from office. Last week, Ilario Pantano won the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 7th District, setting up a challenge to incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre in November. In 2001, immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks, Pantano, a veteran who had previously fought in the Gulf War, left his career as a successful producer and media consultant in his native Manhattan to rejoin the Marines and was eventually deployed to Iraq. In April 2004, Pantano killed two unarmed Iraqi detainees, twice unloading his gun into their bodies and firing between 50 and 60 shots in total. Afterward, he placed a sign over the corpses featuring the Marines’ slogan “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” as a message to the local population…. Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, running in Florida’s 22nd District to replace Democratic Rep. Ron Klein … West was forced to retire from the Army and fined $5,000 after he admitted to apprehending an Iraqi policeman he suspected of planning an ambush, watching as his troops beat him, and then firing a gunshot by the Iraqi’s head in order to scare him into divulging information. West said the decision saved lives by preventing an ambush. But no plot was ever discovered and the policeman in question later told The New York Times that he had no knowledge of any attacks. Such an incident might be a source of shame for some officers. But not for West, who has developed a superstar following among Republicans by portraying himself as a real-life Jack Bauer. These guys are actually centering their campaigns around these incidents, and getting broad support from Republicans–including, who else but Sarah Palin, for doing so. What digby says: “They’re not even pretending to be decent anymore.”
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"Jack Bauer" Republicans, would-be war criminals for Congress
To help local economies rebuild themselves in two countries plagued by war, the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) presents the Race to Innovation , an online competition that is raising money for six social entrepreneurs. The Business Council for Peace is an international network of business professionals who believe that by encouraging local businesses, they can help war-torn communities rebuild peaceful, thriving economies and stable, equitable societies. The Race to Innovation includes three social entrepreneurs from Rwanda, and three from Afghanistan, all competing to raise the most money for their business idea. Bpeace hopes to raise $10,000 for each entrepreneur’s project. Sarah, a young Rwandan woman hopes to build greenhouses to grow pesticide-free tomatoes, reducing local dependence on imported foods, while Sherzai, an Afghani man, dreams of reducing disease in his country by providing cleaning services. Supporters can go online to watch videos from each of the social entrepreneurs and decide which project deserves their vote. Voting on a project requires a minimum donation of $15, but supporters can also choose to give more. Each entrepreneur will be allowed to keep every dollar raised for their project — but the one who raises the most money will win a trip to the U.S. to meet with business experts in their field. For those unable to decide which business idea to support, they can cast their vote for all six entrepreneurs at once. More on Afghanistan
Contrary to popular belief, the Internet hasn’t killed every print form of communication. OK, maybe it will but that’s beside the point. One magazine still standing - and standing strong mind you - is SPIN and last week they unleashed their 25th anniversary edition featuring an interactive, black leather biker jacket cover. Inside those pages are a bunch of guest contributors - sadly none of which are Wang or Chung. I spoke with the mag’s publisher Malcolm Campbell about the super cool edition, and where he sees SPIN and rock going into the future. Was there ever a time you believed a 25thÂ anniversary was out of reach Yes, I think it might have been around the 24th anniversary. No, honestly, we have never questioned the brand’s longevity, but it has seemed increasingly odd as the anniversary neared because anniversaries and milestones are not top of mind around here. The mindset is more about the here and now, and what’s going to be big in six months, so to have this big retrospective project took us a little out of our comfort zone. How did you come up with concept for the cover? We had early discussions more than a year ago where we talked about doing something special with the cover: a flexidisc (making a mag you could play on a turntable), a multi-paneled gate fold poster, a polybagged CD or other promo item… We wanted a cover that was different from anything we’ve ever done or even seen before, so the idea of the perforated zipper cover evolved from that. The zip strip seemed like a fun way to start the issue and it gave the ad team something interesting to sell. The zipper is obviously a nod to the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album cover, but the MC jacket–also a timeless icon of rock’n'roll cool–is something we tried to convey with the issue’s contents. It was also a great way to reveal the collection of SPIN covers underneath (on the “inside” cover). This is the first time a zip strip has been used for a major magazine cover. Fresh. How long did it take you to put this edition together vs. previous ones?Â We’ve been working on concepts and ways to integrate the marketing, online and magazine since last spring. Hot damn! What was your take onÂ Rolling StoneÂ changing their format a few years back? Having been a long time fan of the Rolling Stone, I was a little disappointed. I liked the larger format. I also found their reasoning to be a little disingenuous. They were trying to do the Jedi mind trick thing by insisting everyone will love the smaller size because they’ll reinvest the savings into a thicker magazine. Yeah, that happened. Moving on to the bigger picture, who is the future of rock in your humble opinion? Explain. There are so many more qualified people here to answer that question, but in a general sense I am very bullish on the future of music. There is just so much vitality and variety in music, that it bodes very well for our consumer. But, if you were to hold my feet to the fire, I’d personally say Jim James from My Morning Jacket will only get better as time goes by. Who should quit their day job? Sarah Palin. Oh, wait, she already did that. What are your five favorite albums of all time, and why? I’ll defer to our current SPIN.com list of the 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years (http://www.spin.com/25years). I’ll take my editors’ suggestions every time. Nice…Do you think print publications will soon give way to iPad and online versions only or do you think there will always be a need for print? Hence the question that publishers lay awake at night thinking about. Personally, I think the iPad will be the salvation of many publishing companies, and as content providers, we will increasingly migrate to the digital format. That said, print isn’t going away tomorrow. In fact, if you cut through the hype and look at the research, print readership is quite healthy, and the effectiveness for expressing a marketer’s message in print is incredible. Where do you see SPIN changing in the future? Our business model will always continue to evolve as the marketplace provides new opportunities, but the mission of the product should never change…. SPIN will always be the authoritative voice of new music. More on Magazines
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Jon Chattman: SPIN Magazine Publisher: Internet Didn’t Kill the Magazine Star
Oh Glenn Palin, you will haunt our dreams. But who we fear more is your creator . That rogue scientist who thought to bring you into our world. That twisted soul who set you loose into the world. You, sir, have created a monster. A crying, maverick monster. (via Reddit ) More on Funny Pictures
Why does Franklin Graham follow his dad Billy (who was a fairly moderate Evangelical) with such hatred for gays, Muslims and now President Obama? He was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying: In an interview with Newsmax Television, Graham was asked if he though there was a “pattern of hostility to traditional Christianity by the Obama administration.” “I don’t know if it’s exactly from President Obama,” Graham responded, “but I’m certain that some of the men around him are very much opposed to what we stand for and what we believe.” Graham continued, “It seems as though Muslims are getting a pass.” As I show in my book Crazy For God (a memoir about why and how I left a key leadership position and family in the Religious Right), the Evangelical ghetto is a series of personality cults operating (as far as leadership succession goes) something like North Korea. Franklin Graham followed Billy, Oral Roberts’ son Richard followed Oral (until Richard was kicked out of the ministry for alleged financial impropriety), many members of James Dobson’s family work “with” (read for) him, and so forth. God seems to call many a child and/or sibling to inherit the fundraising mailing list if not the spirit of the original ministry. And since the evangelical children of professional Christians are raised in what amounts to cocoons and echo chambers they are — literally — unequipped to do anything else in life except carry on the family business. I know. I stumbled into the sidekick role and barely dodged the bullet of wasting my whole life instead of only wasting about ten years of it. Whatever the correct theological answers to these weighty questions, the Bible is very clear about who God hates! Christian Right Wing Fundamentalists, be they of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox kind (just like their Jewish and Muslim fundamentalist counterparts) must hate gays, Muslims (and other “sinners”) no matter what they say about “hating the sin but loving the sinner.” The reason they have to hate every “deviation” is simple: At some point in their lives most fundamentalists ask questions. At some point they have a choice; listen to their doubts and follow their questions and therefore grow and change their minds by admitting the fact of paradox or deny the reasonable voice of doubt and redouble their efforts to “keep faith.” I think that is why sometimes the sons (or daughters) of some religious leaders are (counter intuitively) harsher and even more extreme in their views than their parents. Take Franklin Graham. I knew him while we both grew up as the sons of famous Evangelical leaders. Franklin’s father, evangelist (and Schaeffer family friend) Billy Graham, became more moderate and non-political as the years passed. In fact, in the 1970s Billy refused to become part of Dad’s and my anti-abortion crusade, no matter how often we begged him to join our “call to save babies” (as we did face-to-face many times). Billy refused us on the grounds that we’d become “too political” and “too harsh.” But Franklin (Billy’s nepotistic heir) banished his own well-documented youthful “rebellious” doubts and moved dramatically to the Far Right, becoming a leading voice for the shrillest anti-Islamic hysteria, anti-Obama rhetoric, anti-abortion absolutism and gay-bashing. This year, 2010, Franklin even managed to get his father to sign a pro-Sarah Palin “Graham Family” endorsement that was so out of character with everything the post-political Billy stood for that I can only conclude Franklin was taking advantage of a muddled old man. Having bet everything on absolute certainty, the die is cast for the Franklin Graham-type fundamentalist who sticks with the program. I remember talking to Franklin’s mother Ruth and sister Gigi during his “period of youthful rebellion” (Franklin was in his twenties at the time) when Ruth and her daughter Gigi said how sad they were that Franklin had “fallen so far from the Lord.” Well, whatever those doubts were Franklin was having, he’s banished them! He and many like him must therefore keep moving to the Far Right, hating and excluding the “Other” as a only means of reinforcing their own wobbly “certainties.” (Maybe Dick Cheney’s daughter fits this category too!) In the 1970s and 80s, I was the Schaeffer version of a Far Right Franklin Graham-type of harsh and absolutist self-reinforcing extremist. The more doubts I had the farther to the Right I moved ideologically, as if shouting loudly and angrily enough could solve my problem. What was my “problem?” Simple, it boiled down to two issues. 1) My nagging questions about why THE BOOK (the Bible) I was trying to literally believe (and convince others to believe) didn’t match reality. 2) Why were the sorts of people I actually liked being with — my gay acquaintances in the movie business, secularists who’d liked my art, other “non-Christian” artists, lapsed Jews, assorted agnostics and/or the “Wrong” sort of Liberal Christians (even some Democrats!) — counted as “The Enemy,” while the True Believers with Correct Views on everything from the Book of Genesis to who to vote for, were so often mean-spirited Village Idiots that I’d rather be shot than hang out with? In the same interview quoted in Huffington (above) Franklin said: R ev. Graham was then asked by the host about mounting “secular oppression” in the United States. “No question, it’s coming,” Graham says. “I think when you preach that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light, I think we’re going to see, one day, people will say this is hate speech.” Message to Franklin: Your hate-filled nonsense about Muslims, gays and President Obama is your problem, not theirs. Make a fool of yourself, but please stop acting as if you speak for all Christians. You only speak for yourself and the loopy Far Right. Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .
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Frank Schaeffer: Understanding Franklin Graham’s Hate of the "Other"
Update (11:16AM): Robert Menendez says his bill lifting the liability cap to $10 billion would apply retroactively to BP. If Congress passes it, his legislation would go a long way to preventing a massive taxpayer bailout of BP. Original post: Politico ’s Josh Gerstein reports the administration now acknowledges that the ability for individuals to recover economic damages from British Petroleum will be hampered by a 1990 law limiting the liability of oil companies under Federal law for economic damages from spills to $75 million . “Let’s be clear: BP is responsible for — and will be held accountable for — the very significant clean-up and recovery costs,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Ken Baer said Monday evening. “If BP is found to be grossly negligent or to have engaged in willful misconduct or conduct in violation of federal regulations, then there is no cap under the Oil Pollution Act for damages. In addition, BP could be liable for damages under additional applicable federal and state laws. You can be sure that BP will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.” As Baer says, this cap does not apply to clean-up and recovery costs, it won’t stop claims from being filed in state courts, and the caps would be waived if BP were found to have willfully violated laws and regulations. While it is still unclear how much economic damage the spill will ultimately cause, $75 million won’t even begin to cover it. Up to $1 billion in additional funds from the Oil Spill Trust Fund could be used to pay for damages, but that fund was financed through a tax on oil, the cost of which was borne by consumers. Yesterday, Robert Menendez joined Frank Lautenberg and Bill Nelson in offering legislation that would lift the liability cap to $10 billion, but that would only apply to future spills and probably won’t be large enough to cover damages in worst-case scenarios. As long as there’s going to be offshore drilling, there should be no liability limit protecting oil companies from compensating for economic damages caused by their operations. Oil companies must know that if they want to enjoy unlimited profit, then they must be willing to risk the failure of their company. Otherwise we’re stuck with oil company bailout socialism, and you can be damn sure you’ll never hear Sarah Palin or Jim DeMint complain about it. In the meantime, we can’t ignore the current crisis. The administration, Congress, and state and local officials must continue to insist that BP make good on its promise to fully compensate those who suffer economic damages from the Deepwater Horizon spill. In the narrow context of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, BP’s liability might be limited, but given that BP cannot operate in the United States without the support of Federal and state governments, we’ve got the leverage to make them honor their word.
Oil spill bailout socialism
The only things more astounding than conservatives’ record of failure, are their denials of "personal responsibility" for the ensuing disasters, and their attempts to blame somebody — anybody — else. Their response to the growing ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is taken straight from Bart Simpson . "I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, there’s no way you can prove anything!" Despite their latest attempt at dodging accountability, the Deep Horizon disaster is just the latest collision of corporate failure and conservative failure — and its roots go back to the previous administration and its conservative ideology. The attempt to label the Deep Horizon disaster "Obama’s Katrina" is underway at the same time that conservatives are telling us that the proper response is to the oil spill in the Gulf is more drilling . The best example is ex-governor Sarah Palin’s Facebook post about the oil spill . 5,000 barrels of oil are already leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day. The massive and growing oil slick is reaching the shores of Louisiana and it’s scheduled to touch Alabama this weekend. And now the coast guard confirms that a "mobile inland drilling unit" near Morgan City, Louisiana overturned today. This all says one thing to the former Governor of Alaska: accidents happen, but we must continue to drill. Alaskans understand the tragedy of an oil spill, and we’ve taken steps to do all we can to prevent another Exxon tragedy, but we are still pro-development. We still believe in responsible development, which includes drilling to extract energy sources, because we know that there is an inherent link between energy and security, energy and prosperity, and energy and freedom. Production of our own resources means security for America and opportunities for American workers. We need oil, and if we don’t drill for it here, we have to purchase it from countries that not only do not like America and can use energy purchases as a weapon against us, but also do not have the oversight that America has . In the coming days, there will be hearings to discover the cause of the explosion and the subsequent leak. Actions will be taken to increase oversight to prevent future accidents. Government can and must play an appropriate role here. If a company was lax in its prevention practices, it must be held accountable. It is inexcusable for any oil company to not invest in preventative measures. They must be held accountable or the public will forever distrust the industry. "No human endeavor is ever without risk," Palin’s ghostwriter adds later, comparing dangerous and pointless off-shore domestic drilling to the moon landing. For what it’s worth, Democrats are hardly immune here. Just six months ago, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu downplayed safety concerns about offshore drilling . At a congressional hearing, moments after BP’s Vice President of Exploration David Raney declared the company’s practices in the Gulf "both safe and protective of the environment," Landrieu sat in front of an image of a burning Australian oil rig and said, "This rig would not be allowed to operate in the United States of America." At another hearing last month, Landrieu called the risks of offshore drilling "quite minimal." And even as the oil threatens her Louisiana’s coastline and the industries that depend on it, a statement released by Landrieu’s office says, "she also firmly believes that this accident should not be used as an excuse to abandon plans to make America more energy secure." In other words, more drilling. But assurances that our regulations are sufficient to prevent another such catastrophe are undermined by the reality of years of conservative misrule and agency capture. ProPublica noted that the agency charged with overseeing oil rigs was quite literally lying down on the job when it could have acted to prevent just the kind of ecological disaster we’re witnessing in the Gulf. As The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, the oil rig lacked a device — known as an acoustic control — that would’ve served as a safeguard of last resort. While the effectiveness of the $500,000 device is debated, the Journal points out that it is used by other oil-producing nations, including Brazil and Norway. Regulators in the U.S. were also considering requiring it a few years ago, but after industry objections decided that the devices were expensive and needed more study. So which regulator oversees rigs and made that decision? It was the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, an agency that has had a spotty record over the past few years. In 2008, we pointed out that MMS was in quite a bit of trouble for ethical violations by its officials. The scandal involved sex, drugs and (quite literally) sleeping with the very industry it was regulating. (Sourcewatch notes that Landrieu is one of the highest recipients of oil industry money — receiving $574,005 from oil companies from 2005 - 2008 emdash; and voted in favor of big oil companies 67% of the time on oil-related legislation from 2005 - 2007. I don’t have the time or space to address it in this blog post, but I wonder how this all adds up for BP. Sure, the company will spend much more than the $500,00 it objected to paying the safety device that might have prevented all of this, but does the company’s profits between now and then add up to even more than they’ll likely pay for the clean-up? If someone’s done the math on that, I’d be interested in seeing it.) In fact, a good bit of those industry objections came from none other than BP . In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called "extensive, prescriptive regulations" proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. "We believe industry’s current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs continue to be very successful." That was one in a series of clashes between the industry and federal regulators that began during the Clinton administration. In 2000, the federal agency that oversaw oil rig safety issued a safety alert that called added layers of backup "an essential component of a deepwater drilling system." The agency said operators were expected to have multiple layers of protection to prevent a spill. But according to aides to Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has followed offshore drilling issues for years, the industry aggressively lobbied against an additional layer of protection known as an "acoustic system," saying it was too costly. In a March 2003 report, the agency reversed course, and said that layer of protection was no longer needed. "There was a big debate under the Bush administration whether or not to require additional oil drilling safeguards but [federal regulators] decided not to require any additional mandatory safeguards, believing the industry would be motivated to do it themselves, " Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club told ABC News. Yet, if BP is an example of industry being motivated to require additional safety standards , it hardly inspires hope. In March 2005, a massive explosion ripped through a tower at BP’s refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 others. Investigators later determined that the company had ignored its own protocols on operating the tower, which was filled with gasoline, and that a warning system had been disabled . The company pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and was fined more than $50 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Almost a year after the refinery explosion, technicians discovered that some 4,800 barrels of oil had spread into the Alaskan snow through a tiny hole in the company’s pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. BP had been warned to check the pipeline in 2002, but hadn’t, according to a report in Fortune. When it did inspect it, four years later, it found that a six-mile length of pipeline was corroded. The company temporarily shut down its operations in Prudhoe Bay, causing one of the largest disruptions in U.S. oil supply in recent history. BP faced $12 million in fines for a misdemeanor violation of the federal Water Pollution Control Act. A congressional committee determined that BP had ignored opportunities to prevent the spill and that "draconian" cost-saving measures had led to shortcuts in its operation . Other problems followed. There were more spills in Alaska. And BP was charged with manipulating the market price of propane. In that case, it settled with the U.S. Department of Justice and agreed to pay more than $300 million in fines. Well, Sarah Palin was right about one thing: Alaskans understand oil spills, precisely because they’ve faced to many of them due to the unwillingness of an oil company follow safety requirements, and the unwillingness of a conservative-led government to hold industry accountable. According to the the New York Times, during the George W. Bush administration, MMS witheld offshore drilling data, thus hindering risk assessment of drilling in Alaska . As the New York Times reported back in September 2008 — the tail end of the George W. Bush administration — those "industry objections" to additional layers of protection may well have been in the form of "pillow talk" between an agency in bed with the industry it was supposed to monitor. The times reported that a "a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch," where officials not only accepted gifts from energy companies, but "frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives." No fewer than three reports to the Bush administration (posted here , here and here ) detail the kind of behavior demonstrated by Gregory W. Smith one high ranking official the Bush administration refused to prosecute . The other high-ranking official the Justice Department has declined to prosecute is Gregory W. Smith, the former program director of the royalty-in-kind program. Mr. Smith worked in Colorado and reported to Ms. Denett. He retired in 2007. The report said that Mr. Smith improperly used his position with the royalty program to get an outside consulting job helping a technical services firm seek deals with oil and gas companies with which he was also conducting official business. The report accused Mr. Smith of improperly accepting gifts from the oil and gas industry, of engaging in sex with two subordinates and of using cocaine that he purchased from his secretary or her boyfriend several times a year between 2002 and 2005. He sometimes asked for the drugs and received them in his office during work hours, the report said. The report also said that Mr. Smith lied to investigators about these and other incidents, and that he urged the two women subordinates to mislead the investigators as well. In discussions with investigators, the report said, Mr. Smith acknowledged buying cocaine from his secretary and having a sexual encounter with her at her home, but he denied discussing drugs at work. He also denied telling anyone to lie, saying that he only told people that “no one has a right to know what I do on my personal time.” If thisall bears a striking resemblance to the SEC pornography scandal , which also took place on the George W. Bush administration’s watch, it’s no coincidence. It’s the same story of an government agency driven by an ideology that doesn’t even believe the agency should exist in the first place, let alone believe in the agency’s mission. It’s the story of what happened to key government agencies during the Bush era, which were remade by filling the ranks of permanent employees with appointees whose strongest credentials were their conservative beliefs , and others "burrowed in" to permanent federal positions as the Bush administration wound down. The real MMS scandal actually isn’t the sex or the drugs, any more than the real SEC scandal the pornography. It’s the willful lack of oversight driven by a conservative ideology that believes not merely that "government doesn’t work," but truly believes that it shouldn’t work, and once in power sets to work making sure that it can’t work. The end result is setting the government up for what’s called "regulatory capture." Of particular concern is the possibility of regulatory capture, which takes place when a regulator begins acting for the benefit of its subjects rather than in accordance with its stated mandate of minimizing systemic risk. While any agency can theoretically be captured by concentrated and powerful individuals, a breach of the “mothership” would carry far more severe repercussions than the loss of one or two “destroyers.” Of course, only the mothership can accomplish certain tasks; in the economic context, it would exist to take on challenges of a scope that smaller bodies simply cannot handle. …Two archetypal scenarios for regulatory capture exist. The first is an underpowered, understaffed regulator working to control a wealthy, concentrated industry. In these situations, the sheer imbalance in resources means that the regulated parties can reward or punish the agency, but not vice versa. Predictably, rational bureaucrats will choose to cater their policies to the benefit of the subjects instead of suffering their wrath — recall, a regulatory job well done rarely carries any significant benefits to its engineers. The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service is a perfect example of a body that appears to have fallen prey to this pattern. Even a person of upstanding moral character can understand the difficulty of resisting the repeated entreaties of Exxon and the like for the sake of sticking to an unadulterated scheme of allocating oil and gas exploration rights. Someone sitting at the MMS desk may well wonder if anyone would ever notice a shift away from the prescribed approach towards one that favors the companies they deal with on a day-to-day basis. These incentives to cooperate exist even though the relationship between the regulator and the regulated parties is facially adversarial, with MMS holding rights that producers want but cannot get. Except that I don’t see MMS as "falling victim" to "regulatory capture" but regulatory surrender, driven by an ideology that — at its most extreme — seeks to render the government unable to act in times of natural, ecological or financial disaster. That’s the "catastrophic success" of conservative failure. It makes corporate failure inevitable and perhaps even irreparable. In the Gulf oil spill disaster, we see once again what happens when the two collide. More on Extreme Weather
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Terrance Heath: Conservative & Corporate Failure in the Deepwater Disaster
While all eyes are turned to oil and gas development, and offshore drilling, another resource management drama is unfolding out of the national spotlight. The resources are trees and land, and the conflict is brewing between the federal government, a for-profit Alaska Native corporation and the residents in and around the Tongass National Forest. The largest national forest in the U.S., the Tongass will never be seen by most Americans, but it contains the last significan stands of old growth virgin forest in the nation. The question of what to do with it, how to manage it, and if the last remaining land to be taken can be renegotiated and “cherry picked” for the best timber is ripping apart communities in Southeast Alaska. 632,000 acres of old growth areas of the Tongass are surrounded by public forest land, but are in private ownership to the Sealaska native regional corporation, one of many corporations created by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The corporation can use the land however it sees fit, with or without regard to the ecosystems, and human residents of the region. Sarah Red-Laird grew up in Southeast Alaska, andâ¨will graduate this spring with a degree from the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation in Resource Conservation. She’s a former resident of Hollis, Ketchikan, and Skagway, Alaska. Her father is a former logger who now runs a guiding business based in the Tongass National Forest. ~Sarah Red-Laird, logger’s daughter By Sarah Red-Laird As I was growing up in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the timber industry was booming. Around where we lived, on Prince of Wales Island, it seemed like there was an endless supply of trees and money, and people were happy. I remember loggers from the community coming to Hollis School’s bake sales and dropping one hundred and fifty bucks on Cathy’s pineapple upside down cake. I also have heard stories from my friends and former Fo’c’sel Bar tenders about sweeping up hundred dollar bills from below the bar stools back then. They would just fall out of the stuffed pockets and wallets of the men, who were too lit to really care or notice. Being a logger’s daughter in the 1980s on POW (as we call Prince of Wales Island) was fun. Hollis was a great community, and those were good times. My step-mom always says, “Southeast Alaska is a very small town.” The small town, tight-knit community feeling is a unique aspect to life in the largest National Forest in America. Tensions have been growing, however, since the end of the logging boom. And they’re getting worse because of legislation our congressional delegation wants to pass. The bills in question, S881 and HR 2099, will give a private corporation the right to take some of the most valuable forest and recreation lands from the Tongass, including sites filled with majestic trees that are hundreds of years old. The bills do that by changing land selection rules that were set long ago, in the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The settlement act gave Native-owned corporations, including Sealaska, the right to select acreage from the Tongass National Forest for private ownership. Sealaska has already received 80% of the land it’s entitled to get. As a profit-making business, it naturally selected prime stands of old-growth forest for logging. Sealaska then proceeded to clearcut those lands at an unsustainable rate. It has only about two years of profitable timber supply left. Sealaska has identified the remaining 20% of land it would take if it has to follow existing rules set by the 1971 land settlement act. There is no reason Sealaska cannot get that last 20% of its land, and get it fairly quickly. (Congress passed a law in 2004 to speed up the remaining land transfers for Native corporations.) Alaska Natives should have rights to land to manage for the welfare of their people. For the remainder of their selections, however, Sealaska does not want to stick to the existing rules. It wants to pick more valuable old-growth forest land and recreation sites from locations all throughout the Tongass. We call that “cherry-picking the good stuff.” Their attempt to do this, with help from political leaders who are supposed to represent all of us, is already causing more unnecessary conflict. Southeast is moving on from the “good ol’ days” of the timber boom. Being such a resilient community, the residents have been able to see the forest as useful in different ways. Restoration projects, fishing and hunting guiding opportunities, small timber operations, mom and pop saw mills, and eco-tours are bringing a sustainable income to Southeast. Intact forests also support abundant fish and wildlife, which in turn sustain unique and amazing recreation opportunities for locals and visitors, and also support traditional ways of life that are so important to local communities. Allowing Sealaska to have at it, doing more clearcutting and slapping up “Private Property” signs, would be a tragedy. This harmful legislation has come during a time of collaboration in Southeast Alaska, and is threatening years of work among diverse stakeholders to agree on a new vision for managing the Tongass, one that doesn’t rely on logging irreplaceable old-growth forest. With groups such as the Tongass Futures Roundtable and watershed councils scattered around Southeast, many communities were beginning to feel empowered by the opportunity for a say in the future of their forest. This collaborative process includes members from Native Alaskan communities and the Sealaska Corp. Sealaska’s legislation throws this collaborative process, and all the progress that has been made, right out the window. Instead, we are seeing closed-door meetings between Sealaska, conservation organizations, and other groups. Recent wheeling and dealing steered land selections from North Prince of Wales and Edna Bay area to their Hollis area neighbors, which broke the hearts and the patience of Hollis residents. Southeast Alaska has been going through a turbulent transition these last couple of decades. Unable to rely primarily on timber extraction money, communities and their people have had to re-invent themselves and their livelihoods. This is OK, as life is dynamic and gives us multiple chances to change course to a more positive direction. I have faith that Southeast residents value old growth and healthy second growth forests for the subsistence, recreation, and business opportunities, and will not allow this legislation to pass. If it does, it will only be the beginning of a long, painful, and divisive process for Southeast Alaska.
While the attempted SUV bombing in Times Square was the big news this weekend (rightfully so), two smaller stories, taken together, highlight another risk to our democracy. On Sunday, Geoffrey Dunn discussed on HuffPo the latest lie to come from the Sarah Palin camp, as she claimed her ethics issues in Alaska were “a sinister ‘partisan’ conspiracy directed by Obama’s White House against her.” The day before, the New York Times reported that ABC News laid off nearly 400 workers , representing about a quarter of the total staff. What do these stories have to do with each other? And why should we care? Simply put, as political scientists Michael Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter wrote: “Political information is to democratic politics what money is to economics: it is the currency of citizenship.” And right now, our democracy is operating with a dangerously low bank balance. We are living in a time of revolutionary upheaval in the way Americans get their news. In 1980, more than 50 million viewers watched the network evening newscasts . For the week ending April 19, 2010, that number had plummeted to less than 20 million . Even accounting for cable news, the drop-off is astounding. (There is also the issue of the changing nature of network news, namely the evolution from a public-service-oriented presentation of facts to a profit-motivated outlet for infotainment and human interest stories.) With network news and newspapers struggling, the two pillars of traditional hard news are slowly disappearing from American lives. Yes, many people now turn to the Internet to get their news, but this raises two main concerns. First, we are in a transitional era, in which the old media (broadcast and print) are supporting the free news content online. That model can’t last, and we have yet to see a financial model emerge that would allow news content to be funded in an online future. Second, many online media sources (like cable news outlets) are partisan (while we know HuffPo is an excellent source of fact-based news, its progressive instincts can be used against it, as I will discuss in a minute). What this means is that when Sarah Palin (or Rush Limbaugh, or anyone at Fox News, or a Republican officeholder) lies, the traditional mainstream media is not in a position anymore to expose the lies for what they are. I understand (and greatly appreciate) the great work done at HuffPo and other sites like Media Matters in making sure that right-wing lies are identified, publicized and rebutted. These sites are doing work that is essential and valuable to our democracy. But there is a qualitative difference between challenges from progressive-oriented sources and the traditional mainstream objective media. The fact that such media are dying allows the lies to gain traction in some quarters. For our democracy to function, there has to be real debate on issues. Citizens won’t always agree on what policies or even which priorities and values should prevail, but they have to at least agree on the basic facts of what is happening in the country. With the emergence of a right-wing media structure (Fox News, conservative talk radio, etc.) that prioritizes whipping up its base over telling the truth, the right has now constructed its own set of “facts” for its faithful. In this world, President Obama is a terrorist-loving Muslim socialist born in Kenya who seeks to have the government take over American businesses while stripping Americans of all of their freedoms. How can you reasonably debate policy when there are two different sets of “facts”? This weekend’s Palin and ABC News stories remind us that the sources of our shared facts are all but gone. And who wins as a result? Those who would seek to create lies to further political goals. So the HuffPos and Media Matters of the world have to keep doing what they do, fighting the good fight to expose right-wing lies. And we all have to be vigilant to do what we can to keep the right-wing lies from gaining traction in society. But all of our work is made harder by the demise of traditional hard news sources. ABC News no longer does the work it did when news was considered the networks’ public obligation in exchange for the free public resource of transmission rights. Nevertheless, when ABC News loses a quarter of its staff, our democracy loses some of its ability to sift the lies from the facts. Or to go back to Delli Carpini and Keeter’s analogy, if political information is the currency of democracy, there are a lot of counterfeit bills floating around our citizenry. And there are fewer Treasury agents in the field trying to catch the counterfeiters. More on Fox News
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Mitchell Bard: It Seems Fitting that as Palin Lies Again, ABC News Cuts a Quarter of Its Staff
The Gulf disaster proves, at a minimum, that Sarah Palin’s mindless slogans like ” Drill Baby Drill ” are not enough to make good energy or environmental policy. A video by Americans for America PAC , which I co-direct, tries to make that case as simply as possible, juxtaposing Palin’s chanting tea party hordes with a few images from the Gulf. And yet, even in the face of the greatest disaster the Gulf has ever seen, Palin still refuses to admit any error or nuance. Malia Litman noted Sarah Palin’s reaction to the Gulf Disaster here in HuffPost yesterday. Here was her tweet from Friday: “Having worked/lived thru Exxon oil spill,my family&I understand Gulf residents’ fears. Our prayers r w/u. All industry efforts must b employed…” That’s right — Palin’s 2 part response to the BP disaster is faith-based spill clean up (but no government action), and industry efforts — the free market — because the invisible hand is so good and scrubbing sludge from pelicans . That’s not all. On Saturday, at a public speaking gig, she said the spill was “very tragic” but added: “I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry.” Say wha?!?!? Then, just when you would hope she would have backed off slogan-based politics out of respect for the Gulf victims, she blithely says, “My dad always says, ‘Don’t retreat, just reload.’” One of these days, when Palin reloads, her slogan gun will backfire one time too many, destroying her credibility, even to the Tea Partiers, once and for all. More on Sarah Palin
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained by Iranian border guards on July 31, 2009. Their mothers are Cindy Hickey, from Pine City, MN; Nora Shourd, from Oakland, CA; and Laura Fattal, from Elkins Park, PA.Alex. “When will we see our kids?” That’s one of the questions we have for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on his second visit to the United States since Iranian forces detained our children on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where they were on a hiking vacation. In the nine months since then, our children - Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal - have been almost completely cut off from their families and the wider world. We’ve written to President Ahmadinejad each time he has come to New York begging him to bring our children with him. While he is here, we wait for visas that we’ve been promised so we can at least visit Shane, Sarah and Josh in Evin Prison. We’d like to ask President Ahmadinejad where the visas are. We would also like him to tell us why our children have been allowed to call home only once, for a few brief minutes, and have no access to their lawyer. Or why Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran have been granted consular access only three times. On the last occasion on April 22, the first such visit for nearly six months, we learned that our children’s despair is such that they are contemplating a hunger strike. Sarah has a serious gynecological condition that needs specialist care and is suffering from depression. The isolation, strain and uncertainty are damaging the physical and emotional welfare of Shane and Josh as well. To say we are sick with worry does not begin to describe the range of emotions that we feel each day. We feel guilt and frustration at our utter powerlessness to help our children. We’re angry that our hopes were raised when President Ahmadinejad said in September that he would make sure the Iranian judiciary expedited our children’s case and ask for them to be treated leniently, only for nothing to happen. We feel the constant ache of separation as we mark the passage of time by the changing of the seasons - from summer, to fall, to winter to spring and, in a few weeks, back to summer. We know that tensions between Iran and the United States have grown since Shane, Sarah and Josh were detained. But we continue to hope that Iran would rise above politics and treat the case for what it is, a consular matter, and release Shane, Sarah and Josh because it is the right thing to do. The authorities there have no grounds to keep them any longer. Undocumented entry is at most punishable by a fine. It’s the only real allegation Iran can level against them, and even that is unproven. Iran clearly knows that, since they have been questioned only once in the past six months. So we are left to conclude that by punishing our children - and us too - Iran’s leaders somehow believe they are punishing the U.S. government or gaining some form of leverage. We have always believed that the people of a country sometimes stand very separate from their governments. We’ve taught our children never to judge individuals by the actions of their politicians and to be compassionate, respect the law and celebrate our differences, not fear them. One of the ironies of our situation is that our children live those values. Shane, 27, is a journalist who has written sympathetically about the lives of Palestinians. Sarah, 31, works on women’s rights and empowerment through education. Josh, 27, is a committed environmentalist and educator. They actively opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and take issue with many of the foreign policies pursued by successive American administrations. Yet the simple fact that they were born in the USA seems to be the only thing that counts for the people who will determine their fate. Next Sunday, May 9, is Mother’s Day in the United States. As that day approaches, many mothers are asking: “I wonder if we’ll see the kids?” We’re asking the same question. President Ahmadinejad, please finally give us the answer. More on Iran
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Cindy Hickey: What Kind of Mother’s Day? A Question for Iran’s President
One of the more entertaining celebrity feuds recently conducted on Twitter was a dust-up between Chris Anderson, curator of the elite techno-centric lecture series known as the TED conference, and Sarah Silverman, the boundary-busting comedian. (Can you tell already that this isn’t going to be a fair fight?) More on Sarah Silverman
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Sarah Silverman’s ‘The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee’
Layne Gray isn’t your typical investigative journalist. Philanthropist and founder of Vivanista , her mission is to empower women to be better fundraisers, organizers and volunteers. Yet when she poked around, she discovered that billionaire Meg Whitman may not be walking her talk with her foundation. While Whitman’s campaign for Governor of California is rolling in the dough, spending reportedly $59 Million, her foundation, by comparison, has been largely dormant, with only a couple of questionable contributions. Sadly, the only donations trackable to date seem to be self-serving. According to Gray’s research, “political pundits anticipate she’s willing to spend into the 9 figures to win.” Imagine what that money could do for the State of California in its time of need. Instead, it’s being used to fuel negative television advertisements and to spread other campaign propaganda. Whatever you may think of Whitman, two things stood out in Gray’s article: 1) There is so much more a woman of her wealth and education could be doing with her money for the world. 2) The amount she’s using it for political benefit is skewing reality so far that there is no possible sense of equity between candidates in this weighted a playing field. It’s a blatant example of what’s wrong in our campaign financing system. I have heard many good things about Whitman’s leadership while she was CEO of eBay. As a corporate leader, her cv holds much to recommend her. Unfortunately, that does not easily translate to government. Nor does it mean her motives are entirely altruistic. Steve Poizner’s campaign is tweeting and putting out online video ads claiming “Whitman’s entire fortune is entwined with Goldman Sachs.” They also claim she didn’t vote for 28 years . Those are harsh accusations. Aside from that, if she were truly a global leader, wouldn’t she have already shown it through philanthropic endeavors and other policy work? It’s wonderful to see a woman running a viable campaign for Governor of California. Unfortunately most of that money is her own. There is now proof that the playing field is level - if you have money. But the bottom line is Whitman would not be in this race if she didn’t, and because of that money, the race - and public perception - is completely skewed. The only thing to do about it at this point is to raise awareness about her political history (or lack of) and vote for someone more experienced. At the same time, Californians have the opportunity to pass Prop. 15 and conduct a test through voluntary public financing of future Secretary of State races. The economics and sociology behind why so few women are elected to public office are complex, but the bottom line is we need a much more level playing field where multiple qualified individuals can run for office, not just wealthy and well-connected candidates. Then we can pay a lot more attention to how candidates have spent their time in their communities: voting, contributing, volunteering and - ideally - actually leading.
This film has stayed with me the whole weekend after having seen it on Friday night. That’s usually the sign of a good film, but in this case I’m not altogether convinced. The things I can’t seem to let go of are not the moments of beauty or enlightenment. I can’t let go of the irksome images and interviews with people within Halston’s gravitational pull, or not, who took the film hostage, much the same way Whitney insinuated his way into the narrative like an unwelcome guest. I was also stymied by the absence of people like Bill Duggan, Halston’s right arm, and Faye Robson, his Personal Assistant for many, many years at the Olympic Tower and a member of the entourage on his legendary trips. Both these people are very much alive and fonts of information. It seemed deliberate that Sudler-Smith ignored these experts on the subject of Halston. The premise of the documentary, a search for the man, was more a clever tease than an actual mission. The film in the end seemed more of a vehicle for the Director to gain entre to a party long over and ingratiate himself with some characters who brought little to the table. There were moments where the footage of Halston at work, his presentations at the Olympic Tower and entrances at Studio 54 that were riveting. The glamor and larger than life quality of that time dwarfs similar high voltage events of today. The fashion elite at the premiere were like a hollow shell in comparison. Nubile, leggy beauties in impossibly short dresses mixed with the likes of Deeda Blair, easily the most compelling and chic woman there that night, dressed in Chado Ralph Rucci Couture, who was cheek to jowls with the hopefuls and the hopeless. The crowd outside waiting was primed for the photo op. Packs of women of a certain age and social standing were identifiable like tagged birds. Their faces were 20 years younger than their bare arms and all were herded to the best possible seats by their shepherd Boaz Mazor of Oscar de la Renta. He played the part of keeper of the keys to the V.I.P. section. Mario Buatta, the decorator, Kenneth Jay Lane looking so impossibly weary of this world, Women in their Oscars, Chados, Diors,vintage Halston as well as reconstituted Halstons , all air kissing in a nice tight circle while others watched from the side lines. Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman was seated with NaeemKhan, who we learn in the film started his career in design as an assistant at Halston. What was downplayed was his father’s beading concern in India which most likely supplied the intricate beaded fabrics that was so much a part of the Halston oeuvre. That detail was also lost on the cutting room floor. Fern Mallis and Jeffrey Banks were two sweet,knowing faces in a sea of predatory fish. Whitney spent an inordinate amount of footage on Bob Colacello of Interview magazine and Paul Wilmot, the very successful P.R. man. They both recounted lots of stories of the Reaganomic sort that had little to do with the man and more to do with their places within that time frame. Nancy Reagan would appear with her famous “Just Say No” mantra, which obviously Halston and the rest of the country neither heard nor heeded. There was a shot of her in the White House in a white Galanos which didn’t make sense in the overall scheme. Boaz coyly takes us on a tour of Halston’s home, alluding to the fun that was had, and all of it implied as naughty. His big revelation was that he was photographed in a Levi’s jean jacket before he even owned a leather one. This comment was meant to elicit awe and incredulity from the audience. It didn’t. Nothing that was stated did more than tickle. It was as though the truth of the man was either unknown or a secret that would remain so. His appearance like Amy Fine Collins’ was one of the many disconnected tangents that shed little light on the mystery. It was the equivalent of roll-over minutes of fame for them. The footage of Halston and his models was magical but in surprisingly fragile condition. You can’t believe how haphazardly stored these images are like fantastic albums that are covered with dust and scratches. The film asked many more questions than it answered. It will take another more scholarly approach for us to understand who Roy Halston Frowick was. The people left out like Elsa Peretti, Bill Duggan, Faye Robson and others of his friends and models have those answers. Pat Cleveland might have if she had stuck to the assignment which was to shine the light on the man. Instead, she, like the moth she claims to be, was too busy flying into the light, or match, which was meant for him. Her cloying, self absorbed star turn was one of the most annoying moments in the film and at the discussion that followed. Victor Hugo, Halston’s lover and darkside sidekick is credited with being a huge influence on his life and work. The windows of the Madison Ave. boutique were largely the brainchild of Victor. They swung between the sublime and the sinister, but always made an impression that would influence the aesthetic of many of the most important window display masters to come. He is also charged with orchestrating and conducting Halston’s slide into addiction and ultimately his death. This is mildly and cautiously explored by people like Ming Vauze, a charming and clearly knowledgeable survivor of the entourage who was a close friend to Victor with an intimate proximity to Halston. Whitney treats him as more an oddity than a valuable source. Yet, another wasted opportunity. This was no “Valentino: The Last Emperor” or even “Unzipped” as far as a film that both elucidates and educates. It was more the “Love Boat” without the Star Guest of Honor and his entourage. What we’re ultimately left with is the unsavory fact that the company has passed through the hands of too many to count not mention at least 4 Creative Directors. It now belongs to Harvey Weinstein who has already burned through a few Creative Directors, as well. The most recent hire is Sarah Jessica Parker who is uniquely qualified to act as Creative Director for the new secondary line. I, for one, am worried. Emperorsoldclothes.blogspot.com
Eric Gaskins: Ultrasuede: In Search Of Halston Part II
On April 3, 2010, before I began writing for Huffington Post, I published an article on my personal blog entitled Palin Prefers Homilies to Homework - “Drill Baby Drill.” This post was written two and one half weeks before the tragic explosion in the Gulf Coast on April 21, 2010. The impetus for the post was the plan unveiled by Barack Obama for additional offshore drilling and Palin’s criticism of that plan. Throughout the 2008 campaign Palin and McCain advocated the need for more off-shore drilling, by saying, “drill baby drill.” Even when the President indicated that he would consider the authorization of additional drilling, after environmental studies had been conducted, Palin was still critical. Let me repeat, Palin was critical of the President’s concern for the environment. At that time Palin suggested by her comments that Obama’s plan was a joke, stating, “Delays or major restrictions in accessing these resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the national interest…” Now the ever mercurial Palin is attempting to espouse support and concern for the environment, parading around like a card carrying member of Greenpeace. On April 30, 2010, Palin once again took to her Facebook to express concern for the Gulf Coast. It is as if Palin hopes we have all forgotten her callous attitude and derision of Obama with her slogan, “stall baby stall.” Yet, on her post Palin wrote, “Actions must be taken to increase oversight to prevent future accidents. Government can and must play an appropriate role here…” It is quite a change from the usual rhetoric generally spewed by Palin , though certainly within the same vein of Palin’s characteristic superficiality. In my April 3rd post, I quoted Richard Fineberg from Alaska, who was an oil and gas analyst, and who consulted with Palin’s administration, before she resigned as Governor, in both 2007 and 2008. Mr. Fineberg prophetically declared, ” Based upon my first-hand experience, I can tell you that Sarah Palin is misinforming the public on ACES (Alaska Clear and Equitable Share-one of three pieces of legislation for which she takes credit) as she does many other issues…When it comes to the craft of governance, Palin exhibits a superficiality that I find frightening. She tends to prefer homilies to homework and all too often over-simplifies or distorts issues.” It certainly seems that Palin is once again exhibiting vapid and insincere approach. We probably won’t know for years the extent of the damage caused to the economy and to the fish, birds, and animals in the Gulf Coast. In the Exxon Valdez spill, scientists estimated that some shoreline habitats might take up to 30 years to recover. The Gulf Coast will probably surpass the environmental devastation of Exxon Valdez. Even if you have no regard for the environmental impact of this massive spill, consider its economic impact. Exxon spent an estimated $2 billion dollars in an attempt to clean up of the Exxon Valdez disaster, and another one billion dollars to settle related civil and criminal charges. In that disaster, companies’ dependant upon the local marine population went bankrupt. Other economic effects included loss of recreational sports, fisheries, and reduced tourism . There is no reason to believe that the Gulf Coast spill will have any less devastating economic effects. Moreover, the recent spill emphasizes the urgency of developing alternative sources of energy, and the need to lessen our dependence on oil, from any source. If someone says they “like Sarah Palin”, or if they think the RNC is looking out for what is best for America, remind them that they were the ones that coined the phrases “drill baby drill,” and “stall baby stall.” Remind them that when Barack Obama suggested we should consider the environmental risks inherent in off-shore drilling, it was Sarah Palin who suggested that it was not in our national interest to consider the environmental impact of such drilling. Both Sarah Palin, and the spill in the Gulf Coast, are toxic to the United States of America. Surely our memories are vibrant enough to remember those memorable words uttered just weeks ago by Sarah Palin. She is not a politician. She is no longer the vice-presidential candidate. She is just a pretty lady who will say or do anything to allow her to continue to rake in $100,000 per speech, fly in private jets, stay in luxury hotels, and entice people to donate millions of dollars to her PAC. The citizens of this country, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents deserve better. More on Sarah Palin
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Malia Litman: The Gulf Coast Spill and Sarah Palin Are Both Toxic
If credit was worth something… cred·it (krdt) n. Belief or confidence in the truth of something. A reputation for sound character or quality; standing: It is to their credit that they worked so hard without complaining. A source of honor or distinction: This exceptional athlete is a credit to our team. Recognition or approval for an act, ability, or quality: gave them credit for a job well done. Influence based on the good opinion or confidence of others. Let me first talk about how to make sure America is secure from a group of killers, people who hate — you know what they hate? They hate the idea that somebody can go buy a home. Remarks by the President at the Department of Housing and Urban Development Washington, D.C. June 18, 2002, 10:30 A.M. EDT I’ve had some time to read lately. Picked up The Big Short by Michael Lewis, read it in one night. Ordered Liar’s Poker by Lewis as well. That’s sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be opened, after I’ve digested the current crisis a little more. I’ve purchased EConned by Yves Smith, the fine blogger at Naked Capitalism . I’ve also picked up Confidence Game by Christine S. Richard, the story of how hedge funder Bill Ackman uncovered leveraged fraud at MBIA as he shorted the company and eventually went up against the big guns (Eliot Spitzer and the NY Attorney General’s office, the SEC, and others) to prove the lack of substance and capital behind the largest municipal bond insurer in the US. As some of you know, I am, at best, cancer and chemo-brain challenged and somewhat attention-deficit. My reading choices are making me more nauseated than I thought possible, given the daily Zofran I’m taking. My gut reaction has nothing to do with the quality of the content – in every instance cited above, the stories are detailed, reasonably consistent, and enthralling. It’s the rotting core that exists in our nation-wide financial and Wall Street culture that sickens. There are random thoughts in these fuzzy recesses. I’ve tried to think through some kind of cohesive frame that justifies even a small portion of the monster that Wall Street has created. As I post, all I have are angry bits of broken knowledge, incomplete at best. (Where are those CDOs now?) So hell, I’ll just throw it at the wall like a can of paint. Finance-free association, if you like. The captains of finance and industry will tell you that the whole process of describing collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps is too complex and sophisticated for the average American to understand. Really, this stuff at the simplest level is crap - empty paper with no value backing it and no tangible, fungible collateral to attach should the investment go bad. The Abacus Ac-1 2007 20070226 Pitchbook appears to state that there’s no there there. No Legal or Beneficial Interest in Obligations of Reference Entities Participation in the transaction does not constitute a purchase or other acquisition or assignment of any interest in any obligation of any Reference Entity. Neither the Issuer nor Investors will have recourse against any Reference Entitites. Neither the Investors nor any other entity will have any rights to acquire from Goldman Sachs any interest in any obligation of any Reference Entity, notwithstanding any reduction in the principal of the relevant class with respect to such Reference Entity. Neither the issuer nor any investor will have the benefit of any collateral delivered by any reference Entity nor any right to enforce any remedies against any Reference Entity. In the past few days during my cruise on the web for links (and there are many that date back to 2005-2006 that warn of impending doom) I’ve repeatedly come across the theory that the ultimate blame for this crisis rests on the backs of homebuyers who wanted easy money and got it. That the blame lies ultimately and squarely with Main Street, not Wall Street. It was Main Street consumer demand that drove the growth of corruption. Blogs, newspaper articles, pundits’ theories, testimonies before Congress: so many sources find it facile to imply that if it wasn’t for the greedy homebuyers, there wouldn’t have been the creation of these risky mortgages. Placing blame on the borrower does nothing to address the complete collapse of any legitimate credit underwriting process that was at one time in place between lender and debtor, banker and client. The goal is, everybody who wants to own a home has got a shot at doing so. The problem is we have what we call a homeownership gap in America. Three-quarters of Anglos own their homes, and yet less than 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanics own homes. That ownership gap signals that something might be wrong in the land of plenty. And we need to do something about it. Remarks by the President, June 18, 2002 How many subprime homebuyers were told that the future equity in their new house was money in the bank by a lender offering them what is now affectionately called a “liar’s loan”? How many subprime lenders assured a potential borrower that the economy was strong enough that their income would only increase over the life of the loan? How many borrowers were persuaded that they could easily refinance within the 2 to 3 year period before their Option ARM readjusted? I know the American Dream. I was raised on it as a child of the 60’s. My folks, by the time they were in their forties, were established enough to buy a few small rental houses, then refurbish, renovate and resell them within two years in the 1960’s. Small houses could be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars at a pop in the small Oregon coastal community we lived in. The succeeding profit after sale of these properties was likely no more than another couple thousand dollars, after labor (most done by my father) and materials were factored in. These were the small steps taken by my parents on the road to their American Dream. When my mother sold the family business in 1969 after the death of my father, she carried the contract for thirty years at 6.75% interest. The local community bank held the funds transfer in escrow and never charged more than $10 a month over the course of the payout. The mortgage was bought out twice by new individual buyers of the motel property, but the original note was simply assumed and paid on, with no renegotiation of the original principle by my mother; nor were the escrow fees increased by the bank. My mother generated a $454 monthly income from the sale of our business and the final amortized payment was made on December 1, 1999. No packaging of borrower’s paper with other paper. No structured derivatives were designed synthetically to over-leverage empty paper assets against thousands of packaged small fry subprime mortgages. Flash forward nearly forty years. When my older sister decided to refinance her house (which she’d owned since 1969) in 2007 in an attempt to increase her monthly income until she became too old to continue to maintain the property (a time period she estimated as around a year and a half in the future), she entered into a Pay Option ARM in 2007 with a well-known, well-advertised lender. She signed the papers on a refinance that required interest only payments of $1300 a month for two years. After two years, the payments would reset to anywhere between $2200 a month and $2600 a month. She was assured by the loan officer that she would have no difficulty in either refinancing again or selling the property before the reset occurred. My sister made approximately $3000 a month from Social Security and as a home health provider for her disabled adult son, along with a small amount from a tiny 401k. She was 68 years old in 2007. She had never before negotiated a mortgage loan or handled the financial requirements of the family in the forty years she’d lived in her home. Her deceased husband (dead in 2002) had done all of the financing over the years. My sister was not a sophisticated borrower. Four weeks after signing the papers on the loan, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and a month later she was dead. In the intervening two years between her death and the final release of the house to the foreclosure gods, the refinance paper on that property was sold three times to three different entities. My sister’s daughter, my niece, attempted to try and ferret out who the responsible parties were who held the original note so that at least she could discuss the unraveling of the ownership, but inevitably the process failed – a direct connection between loan servicer and mortgage holder could not be found. My best guess is that it went from GMAC to Wells Fargo to a BoA servicing company responsible for divesting foreclosures and REOs. In two years. But I believe owning something is a part of the American Dream, as well. I believe when somebody owns their own home, they’re realizing the American Dream. They can say it’s my home, it’s nobody else’s home. (Applause.) And we saw that yesterday in Atlanta, when we went to the new homes of the new homeowners. And I saw with pride firsthand, the man say, welcome to my home. He didn’t say, welcome to government’s home; he didn’t say, welcome to my neighbor’s home; he said, welcome to my home. I own the home, and you’re welcome to come in the home, and I appreciate it. (Applause.) He was a proud man. He was proud that he owns the property. And I was proud for him. And I want that pride to extend all throughout our country. Remarks by the President, June 18, 2002 The upstream market for these kinds of mortgages flowed into a vortex of greed. Well-known, well-advertised lenders got their risky assets off of the balance sheets by reselling the paper, paper was packaged together into securities – both risky stuff and decent stuff, securities were then sold and resold, sliced and diced, leveraged multiple times in multiple ways (try to figure out what a CDO squared is), and finally insured against through credit default swaps. Over time, between 2000 and 2006, over $4 trillion CDOs were pushed out internationally. The cost looms ahead because the risk is still out there, off the books . It’s probably a greater risk than anyone knows. Between 2002 and early 2008, roughly $1.4 trillion worth of sub-prime loans were originated by now-fallen lenders like New Century Financial. If such loans were our only problem, the theoretical solution would have involved the government subsidizing these mortgages for the maximum cost of $1.4 trillion. However, according to Thomson Reuters, nearly $14 trillion worth of complex-securitized products were created, predominantly on top of them, precisely because leveraged funds abetted every step of their production and dispersion. Thus, at the height of federal payouts in July 2009, the government had put up $17.5 trillion to support Wall Street’s pyramid Ponzi system, not $1.4 trillion. The destruction in the commercial lending market could spur the next implosion. (emphasis mine) As in the case of Goldman Sachs, a few investment banks and hedge funds covered ass by back-filling potential CDO failures with insurance through CDSs when the CDO business got shaky . Market makers. Market monsters. In June 2007, Goldman soft-peddled its increasingly dark view of the mortgage market. In a quarterly filing to the SEC, the company glossed over the calamity its traders were seeing on a daily basis, reiterating that, “The broader credit environment remained strong, although the subprime sector within the mortgage market continued to be weak.” *********** Not until October, after the SEC’s accounting branch pressed Goldman for more details of its subprime exposure, did Goldman reveal in a letter that it held a net short subprime position “during most of 2007 . . . and therefore stood to benefit from declining prices in the mortgage market.” A week later, Goldman’s controller, Sarah Smith, informed the SEC that between Nov. 24, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007, Goldman had reduced its investment in subprime mortgages from $7.8 billion to $462 million. The trail begins at the bottom of the hill. The view from the summit is obscured. A mirage. How many individual loan documents were fraudulently “fixed” to make it into a loan portfolio by lenders like Countrywide, or Franklin Financial, or Washington Mutual and then rapidly pushed upward into the meat grinder of derivatives portfolios and packages? The market would not have existed or sustained at the bottom if there was no appetite at the top. Remember Angelo Mozilo? Countrywide’s CEO, now reviled as the orange monster of subprime, and who is apparently still under investigation by the SEC of fraud, underlined it best as to how dangerous the house of cards was in a series of 2006 emails to his underling at the time, David Sambol (Sambol later briefly became the Countrywide CEO when Bank of America took over the company): (Angelo) Mozilo went on to write that he had “personally observed a serious lack of compliance within our origination system as it relates to documentation and generally a deterioration in the quality of loans originated versus the pricing of those loan [sic].” Mozilo noted that, “[i]n my conversations with Sambol he calls the 100% sub prime seconds as the ‘milk’ of the business. Frankly, I consider that product line to be the poison of ours.” Furthermore, in an April 7, 2006 email to Sambol concerning Countrywide’s subprime 80/20 loans, Mozilo fumed: “In all my years in the business I have never seen a more toxic prduct. [sic] It’s not only subordinated to the first, but the first is subprime. In addition, the FICOs are below 600, below 500 and some below 400[.] With real estate values coming down …the product will become increasingly worse. There has [sic] to be major changes in this program, including substantial increases in the minimum FICO…. Whether you consider the business milk or not, I am prepared to go without milk irrespective of the consequences to our production.” Mozilo cashed out with $129 million in stock in August 2007 as the milk turned to poison. No indictments to date (that I’m aware of). In a world where I find myself “going short” on time, the future of our children, our society, indeed the entire global economy depends on reaffirming and reinterpreting the merits of “going long”. More remarks from the President, June 18, 2002 And so what are the barriers that we can deal with here in Washington? Well, probably the single barrier to first-time homeownership is high down payments. People take a look at the down payment, they say that’s too high, I’m not buying. They may have the desire to buy, but they don’t have the wherewithal to handle the down payment. We can deal with that. And so I’ve asked Congress to fully fund an American Dream down payment fund which will help a low-income family to qualify to buy, to buy. (Applause.) We believe when this fund is fully funded and properly administered, which it will be under the Bush administration, that over 40,000 families a year — 40,000 families a year — will be able to realize the dream we want them to be able to realize, and that’s owning their own home. (Applause.) The second barrier to ownership is the lack of affordable housing. There are neighborhoods in America where you just can’t find a house that’s affordable to purchase, and we need to deal with that problem. The best way to do so, I think, is to set up a single family affordable housing tax credit to the tune of $2.4 billion over the next five years to encourage affordable single family housing in inner-city America. (Applause.) The third problem is the fact that the rules are too complex. People get discouraged by the fine print on the contracts. They take a look and say, well, I’m not so sure I want to sign this. There’s too many words. (Laughter.) There’s too many pitfalls. So one of the things that the Secretary is going to do is he’s going to simplify the closing documents and all the documents that have to deal with homeownership. It is essential that we make it easier for people to buy a home, not harder. And in order to do so, we’ve got to educate folks. Some of us take homeownership for granted, but there are people — obviously, the home purchase is a significant, significant decision by our fellow Americans. We’ve got people who have newly arrived to our country, don’t know the customs. We’ve got people in certain neighborhoods that just aren’t really sure what it means to buy a home. And it seems like to us that it makes sense to have a outreach program, an education program that explains the whys and wherefores of buying a house, to make it easier for people to not only understand the legal implications and ramifications, but to make it easier to understand how to get a good loan. Time to medicate.
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Where credit is due
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin–recently dubbed by Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine as the “President of right-wing America” –and her Anchorage attorney Thomas Van Flein continue to deal in duplicity and fraud in response to findings issued by the Alaska Department of Law regarding Ethics Act complaints levied against Palin and her deceptively named Alaska Fund Trust. In a widely reported posting on Palin’s Facebook page–the intellectual bunker from which Palin launches her lies and verbal grenades, yet another “filter,” as Andrew Sullivan recently noted, that ” protects Palin from scrutiny “–Van Flein issued yet another troubling and intentionally misleading statement about Palin’s violations of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Van Flein, who is as pompous as he is verbose, rambled extensively in a missive entitled “Hit and Miss”: Yesterday we learned that another “ethics” complaint that was filed against Governor Palin was dismissed as baseless. (If you are counting, the Governor is 26-0-1 regarding such complaints or suits, with one still pending). Only this complaint was actually filed after she left office, and alleged that the mere existence of the Alaska Fund Trust (the legal defense fund set up for her to help defray the costs incurred during the Troopergate fiasco and related machinations that followed in its wake) was violative of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act as well as its solicitation or receipt of contributions. The raison d’Ãªtre of the legal defense fund was inexorably linked to Governor Palin’s nomination as the Republican candidate for Vice President and the post-nomination political tactics arising therefrom; thus making the nomination sine quo non for the fund. In a detailed opinion, the complaint was dismissed as lacking a factual or legal basis. Quite a mouthful (French, Latin and ungrammatical English in a single sentence!), and it’s a pack of lies further obfuscated by the fact that neither Palin nor Van Flein had the intellectual integrity to make the opinion public. (Indeed, Palin is to political transparency what raw crude is to ocean water, but that’s another matter). In fact, the ruling–obtained exclusively by the Huffington Post–is extremely limited in its scope (at two-and-half pages it is hardly “detailed”) and does nothing to address the “factual” basis of the complaint, as Van Flein contends. Instead, it asserts simply that the Ethics Act applies solely “to a current officer and does not apply to a former public officer by definition.” The complaint referenced was filed against Palin last year after she quit her governorship midterm amid mounting political controversies in Alaska. Furthermore, the Alaska Fund Trust (set up to pay for Palin’s mounting legal bills–and not to be confused with SarahPAC, with which she spends money on her political allies and sycophants) remains “frozen” following a “preliminary finding” in July of 2009 in which independent Alaska Personnel Board investigator Thomas Daniel contended that “there is probable cause to believe that Governor Palin used, or attempted to use, her official position for personal gain” in establishing the fund. At least six months after Palin quit her position, solicitations on the AFT website still referenced “current Governor Sarah Palin.” It was palpably dishonest. Those are details, of course, that Palin and Van Flein would rather not make public, particularly to the masses outside of Alaska who follow Palin on Facebook as she shamelessly promotes herself towards a run for the presidency in 2012. They also diminish the Palin ” brand ” as marketed in every medium imaginable since her self-serving resignation nine months ago. (In Alaska, she is still widely referred to as a ” grifter .”) Alaska political watchdog Andree McLeod–the longtime Anchorage-based Republican who has filed five of the claims against Palin, including the one to which Van Flein referenced–has called the Van Flein-Palin post “deception filled with contempt, lies and derision.” Sarah Palin’s score-keeping of ethics complaints disappoints. It shows she doesn’t get it. As governor, she breached the public’s trust by consistently putting her interests above the state’s interests, and feathering her nest. In what has been an ongoing culture of political corruption in Alaska–one remarkably lacking both transparency and accountability–Van Flein acknowledges that there have now been 27 Ethics Act complaints lodged against Palin and one legislative investigation. The findings have castigated Palin’s behavior during her brief term in office far more significantly than Van Flein’s scorecard would have us believe: â¢ McLeod’s first ethics complaint brought against Palin — long before she was chosen to be John McCain’s nominee — was directed at the governor’s office for the inappropriate hiring of a Palin supporter for a classified position. It resulted in the finding that a key member of Palin’s staff, Frank Bailey, get “training and counseling” on the Alaska Personnel Act to “prevent the potential for future violations of the act.” â¢ McLeod’s initial Records Act request–also made long before she was named as McCain’s running mate–revealed that Palin and several members of her administration were conducting state business on private email systems — a rogue government communications network with Palin at the helm. The requests further exposed the fact that Palin was using state funds for her family travels and collected a per diem for living at her home in Wasilla. â¢ Palin has also had to repay the state for travel expenses and to pay back income taxes on thousands of dollars in expense money she received while living at her Wasilla home. â¢ Perhaps most troubling of all Van Flein’s comments is his derogatory reference to the “Troopergate fiasco”–which, once again, was initiated well before Palin’s nomination. In the investigation conducted by the bi-partisan Alaska Legislative Council, former Republican prosecutor Steve Branchflower found “that Governor Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.” â¢ Even the Petumenos Report, processed by the Alaska Personnel Board and which exonerated Palin for abuse of power, came to the often overlooked conclusion: A cautionary note must be made with respect to the investigation conducted. Efforts to locate and secure all relevant e-mails have been exceedingly difficult in this case…We are concerned about the use by the Governor and some of her staff of private e-mail accounts for government business. In particular, the Governor and Frank Bailey conducted government business on private accounts…The Governor…deleted e-mails without consulting [document retention schedules]. 26-0-1? Really? Who are they trying to fool? Moreover, the investigative process in all of these Ethics Act complaints has been decidedly stacked in Palin’s favor. In the case of the McLeod’s Fund Trust complaint, the decision was rendered by the Department of Law which is overseen by Attorney General Dan Sullivan. While Sullivan formally recused himself from this investigation, it was conducted by a DOL associate whom he supervises. (Nonetheless, the dismissal letter was inexplicably issued under Sullivan’s name.) The three-member Personnel Board which has overseen the other ethics act complaints is also shamefully partisan. The three members sit at the pleasure of the governor for six-year terms, meaning that current board members have all been appointed by a succession of Republican governors (including Palin). And while the board was intended by statute to be bipartisan, there’s not a Democrat in the bunch. The board is bubbling with biases and hidden agendas. (The most recent appointment by Governor Sean Parnell is a member of the Republican National Committee.) Nonetheless, Palin and Van Flein continue to cast Palin as a victim of a sinister “partisan” conspiracy directed by Obama’s White House against her. It’s a sad joke that reveals the Palin camp’s cultish paranoia. Everyone in Alaska knows that the vast majority of these complaints have been filed by McLeod and an assorted group of Republican and Independent activists from the conservative Alaska railbelt (not from the more liberal Southeast panhandle). Indeed, Alaska Democrats, with rare exception, have kept an arm’s length from McLeod & Co., a distancing I witnessed first-hand during a research excursion in Alaska last summer. None of which has stopped Palin from attacking McLeod, with whom she once worked closely in Alaska politics as recently as 2002. In Going Rogue , Palin refers to McLeod repeatedly as the “falafel lady.” It’s an intended slur of ethnic derision, loaded with all of Palin’s adolescent fury. McLeod’s not buying any of it. Maligning my efforts for accountability doesn’t reverse the eventuality that although Palin quit and threw her oath of office into Lake Lucille after desecrating the position and office of the governor of our state of Alaska, she has yet to amend for her abuses while in office. After all, there should be consequences for bad behavior. Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn’s book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be published by St. Martin’s Press. More on Bestsellers
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Geoffrey Dunn: Sarah Palin’s Latest Facebook Lie
As oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate threatening to surpass that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, the US military has been called into action in an all-out effort to contain the damage . Meanwhile, the people of Mexico continue spilling into the sovereign state of Arizona, necessitating the passage of crazy new laws and the formation of volunteer posses . Coincidence ?
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Sunday Talk - There Goes the Neighborhood
As hard as it might be to believe, we are already one-third of the way through 2010. On this first day of May, we look at a campaign cycle that grows ever more busy. As a result, it will not be long before the Wrap ramps it up to a five-day-a-week feature again. In this weekend edition, we get a GOP nominee in Minnesota, a GOP incumbent taking a walk in Florida (no…not this guy ), and a handful of polls, to boot. THE U.S. SENATE FL-Sen: Crist Leads Three-Way Tabulation, According To GOP Pollster The good news for Florida Governor and nouveau Independent Senate candidate Charlie Crist: a poll taken just before his announcement had Crist leading likely GOP nominee Marco Rubio in a three way Senate race (33-29), with Democrat Kendrick Meek well back at 15%. The bad news? The pollster thinks this is the high-water mark for Crist. Jim McLaughlin (who is one of the better-known numbers guys in the GOP) notes that Crist does surprisingly well in the poll with Democrats and African-Americans (getting 36% of the A-A vote). With an African-American Democratic candidate (Meek is the current frontrunner for the Dem nod, despite the presence of a well-heeled challenger in billionaire Jeff Greene), McLaughlin finds that it is pretty implausible that Crist’s numbers will hold. IN-Sen: Coats Leads Primary and General Elex, According to SUSA Toward the end of the week, SUSA polled the upcoming primary election in Indiana, and found that establishment frontrunner Dan Coats (the former U.S. Senator) has a double-digit lead over the insurgent candidate, former Congressman John Hostettler (36-24). State legislator Marlin Stutzman could get involved in this race for the win, as well, polling at 18%. In the general election, SUSA paints a pretty dire picture for the Dems, putting presumptive Democratic nominee Brad Ellsworth well behind Coats (47-31) and Hostettler (45-32). OH-Sen: Second Poll Confirms Fisher Move in Dem Primary Just days before the Ohio primaries, the Democratic Senate primary is threatening to become one-sided, according to a new poll from Suffolk University . Suffolk’s poll gives state Lt. Governor Lee Fisher a two-to-one edge over OH Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (55-27). Interestingly, the Quinnipiac poll in the state last week had both Brunner and Fisher leading presumptive GOP nominee Rob Portman by similar margins of 3-4 points. THE U.S. HOUSE FL-05: Brown-Waite Steps Down On Filing Deadline Day After hinting at a retirement in February (even calling a press conference where everyone presumed a retirement announcement, only to announce she was remarrying), Republican Ginny Brown-Waite did it for real at the close of the week, retiring from the House. Brown-Waite, 66, immediately endorsed Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent. There might have been a little chicanery on the departing Congresswoman’s part–she delayed the announcement until just a handful of hours before the filing deadline expired on Friday. A little-known candidate (Jason Sager) was already in the field, but the late announcement might have frozen the field for Nugent with regard to the bigger fish in the Florida 5th. Democrat Jim Piccillo is the Democratic nominee-in-waiting, as he was the only Dem to file. In Florida filing news, there has to be some disappointment over the fact that Mario Diaz-Balart will switch from the 25th district to the 21st district with absolutely no problems: he was the only candidate to file in the 21st district. Democrats also failed to field candidates in the 1st, 4th, and 6th districts. Meanwhile, the Democrat that emerges from the crowded primary to replace Kendrick Meek in the 17th District will be practically assured of victory, as the GOP failed to file a candidate in this heavily-Dem district. IN-03: Could A Class of ‘94 Incumbent Be Ready to Bite The Dust? Well, it appears that yesterday’s insurgent is today’s establishment insider. According to a new poll by SUSA , eight-term incumbent Mark Souder leads self-funder Bob Thomas by just six points (35-29), with less than a week to go until their primary battle this Tuesday. Souder was one of the more conservative members of the Gingrich class of 1994, but his campaign skills are only so-so: despite a solidly GOP district, he has been held to 55% or less of the vote in the past two elections. NH-01/NH-02: New UNH Poll Numbers Yucky For Granite State Democrats If the polling center at the University of New Hampshire are correct, the GOP could nab two pickups in the Granite State alone. The new numbers (PDF) have Carol Shea-Porter trailing narrowly against three prospective GOP candidates (margins ranging from 3-4 points). Former GOP Congressman Charlie Bass does even better in the state’s 2nd district, with a huge lead over Katrina Swett (44-27). If there is a small bright spot for the Dems, it is that Democrat Ann McLane Kuster (a member of our Orange to Blue list) comes a great deal closer to Bass (42-30) despite still being a comparably lesser-known challenger. It’s early, but Kuster seems far, far more electable than Swett, despite her name recognition edge. THE GUBERNATORIAL RACES CO-Gov: Hickenlooper Has Monster Fundraising Quarter in Colorado A lot of observers thought that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would be a definite upgrade for the Democrats in the Colorado gubernatorial election. Despite never having run statewide, few doubted his ability to raise money for a statewide election. That ability has quite effectively been put on display. Hickenlooper raised over $1.1 million dollars in his first quarter in the race, well ahead of likely GOP opponent Scott McInnis, who hauled in a little over a half-million dollars. MN-Gov: Palin-Endorsee Emmer Scores Surprisingly Easy GOP Nod Perhaps a bit of an object lesson in how convention-selected nominees might prove less electable than ones selected in primaries: state legislator Tom Emmer, whose biggest claim to fame to date was snagging Sarah Palin’s endorsement, scored an easier than expected win at the Minnesota state GOP convention, emerging from it as the party nominee for Governor. Emmer defeated fellow state Rep. Marty Seifert, who might have been doomed with the role of the “establishment favorite” as the convention convened. Emmer’s Democratic rival is yet to be determined. Former state House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher emerged from the Democratic convention, but still has two primary rivals (former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and legislator Matt Etenza) who did not participate in the convention. THE RAS-A-PALOOZA Ras closes the week with data from a small handful of states, with no real surprises emanating from the House of Ras. The status quo essentially holds (at least, the status quo according to Ras) in Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and Delaware. One interesting stat from Team Rasmussen: their monthly analysis of political self-identification finds that folks identifying themselves as Republicans has hit a nearly two-year low. The gap for April 2010 was Democrats 36.0%, and Republicans at 31.6%. DE-Sen: Mike Castle (R) 55%, Chris Coons (D) 32% FL-Sen: Marco Rubio (R) 37%, Charlie Crist (I) 30%, Kendrick Meek (D) 22% IL-Gov: Bill Brady (R) 45%, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) 38% IL-Sen: Mark Kirk (R) 46%, Alexi Giannoulias (D) 38% NV-Gov: Brian Sandoval (R) 53%, Rory Reid (D) 35% NV-Gov: Mike Montandon (R) 45%, Rory Reid (D) 39% NV-Gov: Rory Reid (R) 47%, Gov. Jim Gibbons (D) 37% NV-Sen: Sue Lowden (R) 52%, Sen. Harry Reid (D) 39% NV-Sen: Danny Tarkanian (R) 51%, Sen. Harry Reid (D) 41% NV-Sen: Sharron Angle (R) 48%, Sen. Harry Reid (D) 40%
Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 5/1/10
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jay Leno can tease the president all he wants, but Barack Obama is likely to offer some barbs of his own. “The Tonight Show” host is the entertainer on Saturday night for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner with the president. The annual black-tie dinner attracts a mix of celebrities, elected officials, political appointees and journalists. In the past year and a half, Leno has invited Obama, the first lady and even senior White House adviser David Axelrod to appear on his show for some friendly chats. But like entertainers at previous dinners, Leno was expected on Saturday to make some jabs at Obama and other politicians. Obama, who arrived with first lady Michelle Obama at 8 p.m., was coming with his own set of jokes, although he may be more careful this time. When he last appeared with Leno on “The Tonight Show,” Obama compared his own bowling skills with those in the Special Olympics. He later apologized for the remark. Among the 3,000 guests invited to witness the gags were celebrities including Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Adrian Grenier, John Cusack, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven and Michelle Pfeiffer. Among the celebrities there were Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, Actress Michelle Pfeiffer, Actor Dennis Quaid, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, GOP Chairman Michael Steele, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and White House senior adviser David Axelrod. Hollywood heavyweights Michel Douglas, Steven Spielberg were chatting with White House aide Rahm Emmanuel. Party crashers were not welcome. After Tareq and Michaele Salahi got through White House gates without invitations to a state dinner, guests had to bring a dinner ticket or printed invitation to attend dinner pre-parties at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Organizers said they were trying to cut down on crowds. But the glitzy event has grown to become much more than the $225-per-ticket dinner. Celebrities, political elite and journalists were also expected to flood several after-parties that can have red carpets of their own, said Sarah Schaffer of Capitol File Magazine, a host to one of the parties. At the dinner, the White House Correspondents’ Association will introduce students from Washington who will receive college scholarships. To be honored at the dinner are several journalists: _Ben Feller of The Associated Press and Jake Tapper of ABC News, for winning the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure. Feller won for his coverage of Obama’s unexpected late-night visit to Dover Air Force Base to honor fallen soldiers. Tapper won for his story that revealed tax problems of former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. _Mark Knoller, of CBS News, for winning the Aldo Beckman award for sustained excellence in White House coverage. Knoller won for his work covering the White House for more than 35 years and in using multiple platforms to report. _Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman, of the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, for winning the Edgar A. Poe Award for excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance. They were cited for a four-part series entitled, “Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters.” The White House Correspondents’ Association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the press and the president. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner. A live feed of the event is embedded below, courtesy of the Washington Post. WATCH: More on Video
During last week’s heated debate in Florida’s House of Representatives over a misguided measure to require pregnant woman to pay for an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, Representative Janet Long of Tampa, a progressive and highly-regarded member of the Democratic caucus, made a statement in opposition to the bill that was as rhetorically compelling as it was intellectually concerning. She told opponents: “Stand down if you don’t have ovaries.” The remark proved memorable enough that it was picked up by New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow, whose otherwise excellent Op-Ed on the wave of anti-abortion legislation that is sweeping through state legislatures made an explicit endorsement of this sentiment. The underlying premise seems to be that since women are the ones forced to bring unwanted fetuses to term when abortion rights are curtailed, they have a greater stake in the outcome of such debates–and therefore more right to influence policy on the subject. I can sympathize with the frustration that might lead to such an outlook. At the same time, as someone without ovaries who has written and marched for reproductive freedom through my entire professional life, and who has been threatened repeatedly as a result, I fear the ongoing effort to frame the abortion debate primarily in gender terms remains both politically unwise and ethically unsound. Rather than urging men to stand down, abortion-rights advocates should reach out to convince men that they have a deep and equal stake in preserving reproductive choice. An unfortunate public perception–advanced by the media and abortion opponents, but all too often accepted by feminist organizations–is that abortion rights are inherently and primarily a women’s issue. This is actually a dangerous concession to those who would restrict or criminalize abortion. Any meaningful philosophical or policy debate over abortion should begin with the question: When, if ever, does a fetus acquire enough “personhood” to limit significantly the rights of another human being? For if fetuses did possess the same degree of “personhood” as born people, then no rational thinker would favor abortion rights. Instead, abortion would be akin to a situation in which one of two conjoined twins sought to murder the other in the name of personal freedom. Those who favor abortion rights presumably share my belief that fetuses do not possess “personhood”–that they are not meaningfully human. That is very different from declaring that fetuses are fully-realized human beings, but women should be able to abort them anyway . Defining abortion as a “women’s issue” all too easily enables opponents to characterize the struggle as one between the “rights of the mother” and the “rights of the child”–which, to pro-choice thinkers, it most certainly is not. Often, this leads abortion-rights advocates to be perceived as agents of identity politics, as part of a special interest group (ie. women) promoting its private agenda. Rather than “winning” the abortion debate, efforts to tag abortion opponents as bigotted against women merely cloud the underlying issues. For example, the proposition that it is sexist for states to pay for Viagra but not for abortion, which one hears all too often in liberal circles, sounds speciously appealing, but is actually rather reductive and shows a stunning inability to grapple with the ideology of abortion opponents. (If one believes abortion kills babies, as some folks sincerely do, of course the taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it.) I can think of hundreds of powerful reasons why the government should pay for abortions–but the frequent claim that it’s sexist to pay for ED drugs, but not pregnancy termination, or even women’s contraceptives, is so deeply illogical and philosophically simplistic that it actually adds to the challenge of making the case for public funding. When pro-choice advocates emphasize the leading role that men play in organizations opposed to abortion, they compound this perception. It is certainly true that a sizeable number of anti-abortion leaders are bankrolled by, and subservient to, the Vatican, and that Pope Ratzinger reserves all meaningful positions of power in his church hierarchy for men. However, many of the most radical critics of abortion rights are women, including Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger and the Army of God’s Shelley Shannon–not to mention the nation’s most outspoken (if not articulate) abortion opponent, Sarah Palin. To say that Antonin Scalia opposes Roe v. Wade because he lacks ovaries does little to explain the jurisprudence of Harry Blackmun or William Brennan. I do not know exactly what percentage of anti-abortion leaders are male or female, a meaningless figure that inevitably varies based upon how one defines the sample. But I am confident that describing 77% of anti-abortion leaders as men, as one popular T-shirt does, is not particularly relevant, and is possibly even counterproductive. So why should abortion rights matter to men? The most obvious and dramatic reason, although likely not the most persuasive, is that the lives lost through illegal abortions will be of our sisters and daughters and partners. I have often heard that interest described as “secondary”–after all, some naysayers ask, how can one compare a woman’s interest in her own life or health with a male relative’s interest in her wellbeing? The reality is that many males do value of the lives of their loved ones, and particularly their daughters, as much as their own. Needless to say, so do women. To put the matter more bluntly: I know many men who would gladly suffer a slow death themselves if it could prevent their wives or girlfriends or daughters from succumbing to septic shock on a mattress in an underground abortion clinic. Anyone who argues that men don’t merit an equal voice in the abortion debate does a grave disservice to these fathers and brothers and partners. The second reason that abortion is a men’s issue is that the entire sexual revolution, from which boys benefit as much as girls, relies heavily upon the right of pregnant women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Couples, both single and married, would risk intimacy with considerably less frequency–and would deny themselves one of life’s greatest pleasures–if they knew that the outcome might be a child that they had no desire to bear or raise. Personally, I would never have intercourse with a woman unless I were highly confident that she would terminate a pregnancy that we were not both ready for. If the law were ever changed to prohibit that option, I doubt that I would have sex with anyone until I was prepared to start a family. Recognizing that no form of birth control is ever foolproof, not even the rhythm method, I imagine most intelligent, responsible men and women, if denied an opportunity for legal termination, would make a similar decision to forgo certain forms of sex. In fact, many abortion opponents relish the prospect of rolling back the sexual progress of the 1960s and 1970s. Pro-choice women would do well to emphasize this to their lovers. These women could take a page from Aristophanes, whose play Lysistrata relates how the women of Greece deny their husbands sexual privileges until they agree to abstain from warfare. If pro-choice women consistently refused to sleep with anti-choice men, or even men who were indifferent or who voted for anti-choice candidates for non-abortion-related reasons, they might be stunned to discover how many new recruits entered the abortion rights movement. Incidentally, if you are single, looking, and reading this, I urge you to add “Pro-Choice Only” to your next personal ad. Men also have a clear stake in the large-scale social consequences of criminalizing abortion. Assuming all heterosexual couples who did not want children were unable or unwilling to remain celibate, our society would soon swarm with a costly and tragic plague of unwanted children. Inevitably, many of these kids would suffer from severe birth defects–diseases or disabilities which, with the legalization of abortion, we have made great strides toward eradicating. Taxes and health care costs would inevitably rise to pay for the care of these victims. Other unwanted offspring would compel parents–and here, I suspect the majority might indeed be mothers–to forgo the educational and professional opportunities that best enable them to raise strong families. Professors John Donahue of Yale and Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago, writing in “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” and in subsequent research, have even made a persuasive (albeit controversial) argument that criminalizing abortion could lead to increases in violent crime. In short, banning abortion would have significantly negative social consequences that extend well beyond the bedroom. Many of these consequences, although certainly not all, would harm males as much as females. Arguing that men should have equal say in the abortion debate is not the same thing as claiming that men should have a say as to whether a particular woman, such as a wife or daughter, has an abortion. As a default policy, they should not. But when, if ever, men should have a say at this personal level is a challenge that neither pro-choicers nor society has yet fully grappled with. For example, should a surrogate mother be able to contract away her right to have an abortion? Under what circumstances? Would enforcing such a contract reduce liberty by restricting bodily autonomy or vindicate liberty by increasing the power that women have to make binding choices regarding their bodies? These are challenging bioethical questions, even for the most progressive advocates of abortion rights. Certainly men deserve a seat at the table when these issues are discussed. Increasingly, pro-choice activists are noting the political downside of relegating men to second-class status in abortion discourse. As Amanda Marcotte, a Pandragon.net blogger, recently told Newsweek : “When the anti-choice side pulls energy from both men and women who are eager to halt sexual liberation and control female bodies, and pro-choicers can only look to women, we’re already running at half capacity.” That is indeed salient political wisdom. But it would be unfortunate if men merely became an auxiliary force in the abortion-rights movement–or if they were relegated to the sort of secondary role that women have been historically, all too often, in other progressive political movements. After all, the abortion controversy is not merely a political debate over the rights of women. It is an ethical and social conflict over how we choose to shape our society and a defining struggle for the soul of our civilization. One does not have to fear carrying an unwanted fetus in order to have a meaningful opinion about when live begins, any more than one has to be a slave in order to speak on behalf of the joys of freedom. The reason that Janet Long’s adversaries in the Florida legislature should “stand down” is because they are wrong about abortion–not because of what they have between their legs. More on Religion
It must be campaign season. How else do you explain Jerry Brown’s recent fascination with investigations and allegations announced with lots of media in tow and advantageously timed to benefit traditional Democratic constituencies and issues? There is no doubt that the Brown campaign committee and political advisors are strategically planning the roll-out of official attorney general “investigations” to maximize public attention and perception. But what is most troubling about Jerry Brown’s use of the Attorney General’s office to campaign for his return to the governor’s mansion is that his cavalier press conferences, media interviews and announced investigations are only chasing Democratic political issues while ignoring real public safety concerns. Brown has turned the Attorney General’s Office into a political machine with subpoena power — and Republicans and their allies are the target. In the month of April alone, Brown has launched investigations to embarrass Sarah Palin, aggressively promote union membership, clear ACORN of criminal activities, play catch-up on the Wall Street scandal by trumping up charges against Wall Street giant Moody’s, go after an oil company politically active in defeating California’s new green house gas emissions law, and grab headlines on issues ranging from home foreclosures to former child star Corey Haim’s death. In just one month, Brown has shown that his race for governor starts by using his legal office to help traditional Democratic allies beat back their opponents. The tactics Jerry Brown is using and the public position he is abusing leaves the public with no other choice but to ask Brown to give up his position as the top law enforcement official in California if he is to run an honest campaign for governor. Brown has promoted his investigation of Sarah Palin’s speech at California State University Stanislaus nationwide in an attempt to raise campaign money from Democrats across the U.S. By using the Attorney General’s office to investigate the Democrat’s favorite villain, Brown has turned the AG’s office into his political fundraising operation. It just isn’t credible for Brown to suggest that Palin’s speech contract deserves the scrutiny of the top law enforcement agency in California — no matter what the details of the contract are. Brown’s hyperbolic and emotional rants on the issue just don’t pass the straight-face test. Brown has also taken aim at a Texas based oil company that recently launched an initiative in California to stop a state greenhouse gas bill from taking effect in 2012. Valero is leading the challenge to AB 32, an anti-business bill passed in 2006 that will force California businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% with costly mandatory caps beginning in 2012. With environmentalists and union leaders aggressively supporting AB 32, Brown has gone after their opponent, Valero, who is trying to overturn the law by taking the controversial issue to the people through a statewide ballot initiative. This month, Brown also launched various “investigations” of construction companies that union leaders love to hate. The California Labor Federation , a consortium of 1,200 unions, has been a loud vocal supporter of Brown’s campaign and Brown has happily returned the favor. This is no unbiased union doing the due diligence work of its union members. The union’s website uses the same verbiage as the Brown campaign and covers the same messages, including the exact same lame charges leveled against Brown’s opponent. The obvious quid-pro-quo support appears with Brown’s multiple “investigations” launched against construction companies who don’t support union rules, including two drywall contractors this month alone. The message is clear - either you help Democrats and their allies, or you face possible “investigations” from AG Brown. Another recent target is Moody’s Corporation, the Wall Street rating agency. Why Moody’s? Look no further than Brown’s own press release, which reads: “Moody’s is one of the most profitable companies in the country. It had the highest profit margin of any company in the S&P 500 in the years leading up to 2008 - higher than Google or Microsoft…” In a lame — and late — attempt to seize headlines by grabbing a piece of the Wall Street scandal, Brown launches a political “investigation” of a Wall Street giant to support the latest Democratic talking points. Brown’s cavalier language when talking about his recent “investigations” is so outrageous and laced with mis-information and unfounded charges that his characterizations are best left on the political stage. The over-the-top language should not be used by methodical and factual law enforcement officials. In an all-out final push to restore his political family’s glory and return to the Governor’s office, Brown has turned his current Attorney General’s office into an aggressive partisan shop where supporters’ favor is curried through subpoenas and innuendos. The business community is being bullied by Brown and his team through Chicago-style politics. If Jerry Brown wants to restore California to its golden days, then he should start by stepping down as attorney general and giving the citizens confidence that the highest law enforcement official in the state will not also be running for governor at the same time.
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Richard Grenell: Jerry Brown’s "Investigations" Are Campaign Stops
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — President Barack Obama took aim Saturday at the angry rhetoric of those who denigrate government as “inherently bad” and said their off-base line of attack ignores the fact that in a democracy, “government is us.” Obama used his commencement speech at the University of Michigan to respond to foes who portray government as oppressive and tyrannical. He also appealed for a more civil political debate and advised graduates to seek out and consider alternative views on the issues of the day, even if it makes their “blood boil.” Just 45 miles from the immense Michigan Stadium, capacity of 106,201, 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin held court in Clarkston, tearing into Obama’s policies at a forum hosted by the anti-tax Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The president told students and others in the audience – the school stopping giving out tickets once 80,000 were distributed – that debates about the size and role of government are as old as the republic itself. “But it troubles me when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad,” said Obama, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree. “For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us.” Obama didn’t mention Palin in the speech, according to remarks the White House released in advance, nor was there any reference to the tea party movement. Palin, a potential Obama opponent in 2012, told activists that “big government” led by Obama’s White House has become “intrusive” in Americans’ lives. In Obama’s view, there are some things that only government can do. Government, he said, is the roads we drive on and the speed limits that keep us safe. It’s the men and women in the military, the inspectors in our mines, the pioneering researchers in public universities. The financial meltdown dramatically showed the dangers of too little government, he said, “when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.” Obama told both sides in the political debate to tone it down. “Phrases like ’socialist’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover,’ ‘fascist’ and ‘right-wing nut’ may grab headlines,” he said. But such language “closes the door to the possibility of compromise.” That kind of passion isn’t new, he acknowledged. Politics in America, he said, “has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. … If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.” Obama hoped the graduates hearing his words can avoid cynicism and brush off the overheated noise of politics. In fact, he said, they should seek out opposing views. His advice: If you’re a regular Glenn Beck listener, then check out the Huffington Post sometimes. If you read The New York Times editorial page the morning, then glance every now and then at The Wall Street Journal. “It may make your blood boil. Your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship,” he said. The speech was part of a busy weekend for the president. He planned to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday evening near the White House and visit the Gulf Coast on Sunday morning for a firsthand update on the massive oil spill. Obama’s helicopter landed on a grass practice football field next to the stadium on a damp, overcast day. It was biggest crowd that the president had addressed since his inauguration. The president’s appearance in Michigan – a battleground in the 2008 White House race that’s likely to play a big role in the fall congressional campaign – comes as the state struggles with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, 14.1 percent. It’s also has an unhappy electorate to match. In the Republican’s weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich, said Obama’s visit was a chance “to show the president, firsthand, the painful plight of the people of Michigan.” Many of the graduates Obama addresses will soon learn how tough it is to find a job in this economy, Hoekstra said, adding that the share of young Americans out of work is the highest it’s been in more than 50 years. Speaking before Obama was Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who’s known to be on his short list of possible Supreme Court nominees. She said Michigan residents owe him thanks for “delivering on health care reform” and “for supporting our auto industry. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, they all have bright futures now, where a year ago, much darker clouds than these loomed overhead.” Obama’s speech was the first of four he is giving this commencement season. On May 9, he’ll speak at Hampton University, a historically black college in Hampton, Va., founded in 1868 on the grounds of a former plantation. He’s also addressing Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on May 22, continuing a tradition of presidents addressing graduates at the service academies. He announced his Afghanistan troop surge at West Post last December. Also this year, for the first time, Obama plans a high school commencement. It’s part of his “Race to the Top” education initiative, with its goal of boosting the United States’ lagging graduation rate to the world’s best by 2020. High schools across the country have competed for the honor, submitting essays and videos. A vote on the White House website yielded three finalists, and Obama will choose among them next week. ___ Smith reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing and Corey Williams in Clarkston contributed to this report. ___ On the Net: GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/houseconference More on Barack Obama
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Obama Michigan Graduation Speech: President’s Advice To Class Of 2010