Thursday Open Thread

Santa Baby was originally recorded by Eartha Kitt with Heri René and his orchestra in New York city on October 6, 1953. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-5502 (in USA)[3] and by EMI on the His Master’s Voice as catalog numer B 10728. The song was a huge hit for Kitt, and she later said that it was one of her favorite songs to record. A sequel, “This Year’s Santa Baby”, was recorded by Kitt in 1954, to no commercial success; Kitt also reprised the original song in a 1963 re-recording for Kapp Records, with a more uptempo arrangement. (Madonnas popular rendition for the 1987 charity album A Very Special Christmas is based on this latter version.) The song was featured in the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy.

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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97 Responses to Thursday Open Thread

  1. Ending the War in Iraq: A Promise Kept

  2. DOJ Uncovers Rampant Lawbreaking By Sheriff Joe Arpaio Despite His Stonewalling

    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is unquestionably the most notorious law enforcement official in the country, infamous for his ruthless and illegal treatment of the undocumented immigrants under his charge. He’s known for cramming detained immigrants into outdoor “tent cities” he proudly likens to concentration camps, and for parading prisoners around in pink underwear to humiliate them.

    When the Justice Department first announced it was investigating Arpaio in 2008 for racial profiling and civil rights violations, Arpaio said “bring it on.” But he refused to cooperate with the investigation, stalling the probe for 17 months by withholding records from federal officials.

    Moments ago, the Justice Department announced the findings of its three year investigation, concluding that the self-proclaimed “toughest sherrif in America” has indeed committed an extensive array of civil rights violations against Latinos:

    The federal government issued a scathing report Thursday that outlines how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office has committed a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos, including a pattern of racial profiling and discrimination and carrying out heavy-handed immigration patrols based on racially charged citizen complaints.

    The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release, is a result of the U.S. Justice Department’s three-year investigation of Arpaio’s office amid complaints of racial profiling and a culture of bias at the agency’s top level.

  3. rikyrah says:

    DONNA DEM over at THE OBAMA DIARY won the fundraising challenge for the third quarter for the President’s Campaign. As a prize, she would receive a phone call from the President.

    it happened today.

    here’s her account:

    December 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm
    Ha Chips!!!

    So today I decided to take a half day off from work to finish my Christmas shopping. My cousin who is a shopaholic told me about a newer Mall near Baltimore that had a specialty store that I needed to make a purchase from. So I leave work and swing by and pick her up and we head out to the Mall. Otherwise I would have been in the comfortable setting of my office when my phone rang at 5:04 EST. I almost didn’t answer because I wasn’t familiar with the number but thought it was one of my sons calling from work since it was a DC exchange. Now I was at the cash register when my phone rang and I answered it intending to tell whichever son this was that I would call them right back because I was at the checkout in the Mall. So I answer and a male voice asks if this is Donna S…….. and I respond hesitantly yes. He immediately says the most magical words that I have heard in my life. He says; hold for President Obama and within a second I hear. Hello Donna! Congratulations you were the winner of the grassroots fundraising challenge!!!

    Now I drop the bags I had in my hand and said OMG its President Obama. My cousin looks at me as if I have lost my mind and the cashier’s face is scrunched up looking at me as if to say, what happened? I whisper to my cousin that it’s the real President Obama on my phone. The cashier goes crazy and all the cashiers rush over and my cousin is telling me that it can’t be. So I asked him to tell her it’s really him. Once she hears his voice she drops her bags and screams OMG it’s the President. I’m laughing hysterically at this point. Y’all had to be there to see that scene in that store.

    I get the phone back from my cousin and he says; now you tell Jackie (my cousin) she can’t be hijacking your phone call. He said you know Donna I get this all the time. People never believe its me calling. I just don’t understand it. His sense of humor is off the chart.

    He thanks me for winning the grassroots challenge. He says he is grateful for all the work being done on his behalf. I thank him. I tell him how much I admire and appreciate all that he is doing for our country and that there are so many of us that “has his back”. Then I told him about The Obama Diary and this wonderful space that our Chips has provided us to support him on a daily basis. I asked him to stop by someday. He said to tell you all that he is grateful for the support and that he loves you back and then he wished us all a Merry Christmas. I in turn wished him and his Family a Merry Christmas from both the OFA and TOD bloggers and then he was gone.

    So I didn’t get a chance to ask a question. It just all happened so fast and without warning but somehow I feel totally satisfied. It was a magnificent Christmas present.

    Thank you TOD for helping to make this possible!!!

  4. rikyrah says:

    Romney’s Experience Of Poverty: Living In A Parisian Mansion
    The Telegraph has looked into Romney’s claims that he subsisted as a missionary in France, taking dumps in holes and using showers from hoses. His fellow missionaries remember a different experience:

    The Republican presidential hopeful spent a significant portion of his 30-month mission in a Paris mansion … It featured stained glass windows, chandeliers, and an extensive art collection. It was staffed by two servants – a Spanish chef and a houseboy. Although he spent time in other French cities, for most of 1968, Mr Romney lived in the Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. “It was a house built by and for rich people,” said Richard Anderson, the son of the mission president at the time of Mr Romney’s stay. “I would describe it as a palace”.

    Check out the Telegraph’s photo of the elegant palace. Romney says he didn’t think it had a refrigerator. Maybe the chef didn’t let him in the kitchen. As for the outdoor shitting, a fellow missionary notes:

    “All of the missionary rooms had something like a bath or a shower attached to it. The home had several”. Maybe Romney is referring to trips in other cities, although most of his time was spent living in the palace. But when told of Romney’s story:

    Jean Caussé, a 72-year-old Mormon who met Mr Romney in Bordeaux, said he “would be astonished” if that had been the case. “I never knew missionaries who had to do that,” he said. “I don’t see why he would have lived in conditions like that for two years when it was far from the general case”.

    Why would Romney go out on a limb like that – when it could easily be disproven by an enterprising reporter? Maybe this has something to do with it:

    Tearful as he described the house, Mr Anderson, 70, of Kaysville, Utah, said Romney aides had asked him not to speak publicly about their time together there.

  5. rikyrah says:

    Anonymous donors pay off Kmart layaway accounts
    The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.

    He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

    “She told him, ‘No, I’m paying for it,'” recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. “He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn’t, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears.”

    At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn’t afford, especially toys and children’s clothes set aside by impoverished parents.

    Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.

    “She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn’t going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it,” Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to “remember Ben,” an apparent reference to her husband.

    Deepe, who said she’s worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.

    “It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store,” she said.

    Most of the donors have done their giving secretly.

    Dona Bremser, an Omaha nurse, was at work when a Kmart employee called to tell her that someone had paid off the $70 balance of her layaway account, which held nearly $200 in toys for her 4-year-old son.

    “I was speechless,” Bremser said. “It made me believe in Christmas again.”

    Dozens of other customers have received similar calls in Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana.

  6. rikyrah says:

    Romney Unveils 3-Tier Marriage System For Gays
    By Igor Volsky on Dec 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    During an interview with the Boston Herald on Wednesday, Mitt Romney reiterated his support for a federal amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but also said that he would establish three different tiers of marriage specifically for gay people:

    Expressed support for a constitutional amendment that could create a complex three-tier system of marriage — maintaining marriage rights for straight couples, allowing gays who have already married to remain married, but barring future same-sex marriages.

    “I think it would keep intact those marriages which had occurred under the law but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and a woman,” Romney said.

    The Romney of 1994 would have opposed this system entirely. As candidate for the senate running against Teddy Kennedy, Romney had argued that same-sex marriage is “a state issue as you know – the authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction.” (HT: Ned Flaherty)

  7. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011 2:21 PM

    First step towards recess appointments: having nominees
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    Barack Obama finally got around to naming a couple of nominees to the two vacant spots on the National Labor Relations Board, announcing his intention to forward Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the Senate.

    As White House nomination delays go, this isn’t all that bad (although that’s faint praise). One seat has been open since August; the other has been filled by Craig Becker, who was recess appointed last year after his nomination was blocked by filibuster in the Senate. The big picture here is that the NLRB is supposed to have five members, three Democrats (with a Democrat in the White House) and two Republicans. There’s currently an open Republican seat, with Republicans in the Senate blocking their own nominee. Why? Because it takes three for the NLRB to act, and so if Becker steps down without replacement, the NLRB will be crippled. Just as Republicans are crippling the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by blocking by filibuster any potential head of that agency — it’s what James Fallows and Tom Mann among others have called a form of nullification (see Steve’s good recent item on this here).

    The question is what Obama can do about it, and the answer is simple: recess appointments. It’s true that Republicans have been attempting to block them by trying to prevent a “recess” that would count for purposes of those selections, but there’s every reason to believe that Obama actually has at least three get-tough options. Each of them, to be sure, would anger Republicans, but it’s a bit difficult to see right now exactly what he has to lose. They’re not bargaining over suitable names; they’re just determined to keep these seats empty until after the election. Or, actually, however long he’s in office, as Senator Linday Graham has threatened.

    The first step towards recess appointments, however, is to have people to appoint. Obama has finally done that for the NLRB and CFPB; he still is two short for the even more important vacancies on the Fed. All of which is certainly not going to make recess appointment threats very intimidating, which in turn has certainly contributed to Republican willingness to filibuster. The only way to break out of this is for Obama to start nominating people for each opening as promptly as possible, and then to follow that up with some recess appointments. Preferably before the next session of Congress opens in January. Otherwise, as long as Republicans can block the president without him fighting back with all available tools, you can expect very few confirmations in 2012, and a government that just isn’t functioning nearly as well as it should.

  8. rikyrah says:

    President Obama Faults Republican ‘Lurch Into Extremes’ for DC Gridlock
    By DEVIN DWYER (@devindwyer)
    Dec. 15, 2011

    As political gridlock again threatens Washington with government shutdown, President Obama faulted Republicans’ election year “lurch into extremes” for keeping compromise out of reach.

    “You know, you never want to say, ‘It’s all them,'” Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters. “But I do think that right now at least, in the Republican Party there are a couple of notions. Number one is that compromise is a dirty word. Number two, anything that Obama’s for, we’re against.”

    Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on “World News with Diane Sawyer.” The full interview can be seen during a “20/20” holiday special on Friday, Dec. 23, 10 p.m. ET on ABC stations.

    The president pointed to the ongoing fight over Democrats’ health care overhaul as an example of what has gone awry, calling out his top two potential Republican challengers for having previously supported elements in his plan.

    “If I propose a health care bill that is full of Republican ideas — in fact, is very similar to the law that was passed by the current Republican front runner, or one of the top frontrunners ? the other guy was supportive of many of the ideas as well — suddenly, they become against it,” he said.

    He was alluding to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

  9. rikyrah says:

    Urgent: Help Find Dr. Tosin Oyelowo
    Thursday Dec 15, 2011 – by Britni Danielle

    By now, we’re all familiar with the story of the missing blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls who meet misfortune while on vacation or walking home from class, but we rarely hear about the scores of black and brown women who go missing everyday

    After Dr. Tosin Oyelowo went missing and not hearing about her story on the news, her friends created a website they hope will help bring her home.

    According to the website Help Bring Tosin Home, Dr. Oyelowo went missing on December 9 in Charleston, South Carolina where she is working as a resident after graduating from the University of Charleston West Virginia School of Pharmacy. I was able to find very few details besides a local write-up about her situation. So, that’s where we come in. Social media has the power to change things and help police find Tosin and bring her home.

    Her friends and family are asking that you share her story via social media (use the hashtag #TosinOyelowo) to raise awareness about her absence. If you have any information regarding Dr. Oyelowo’s disappearance call the Charleston Police Department at 843-577-7434

  10. rikyrah says:

    President Obama Talks Facebook and TV Habits
    By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall

    Update Wednesday December 14, 2011 09:00 AM EST
    Originally posted Wednesday December 14, 2011 08:00 AM EST

    Facebook might have been one of the biggest stories of 2011, but don’t count on friending the First Daughters anytime soon.

    In their only print interview of the holiday season, President Obama and the First Lady tell PEOPLE they don’t allow daughters Sasha and Malia on Facebook. Not that it’s been a hard decision to enforce, says the President.

    Their theory is, “Why would we want to have a whole bunch of people who we don’t know knowing our business? That doesn’t make much sense.” But when the First Lady points out that Malia is only 13 and Sasha 10 right now, the President laughs and adds, “We’ll see how they feel in four years.”

    The Obamas, who let the family dog Bo sit in on the Dec. 5 interview (only after removing his distracting jingle-bell collar), also revealed that must-see TV in the White House divides along gender lines.

    “For the girls and me, Modern Family, that’s our favorite show,” the President says, adding that he’s “a little darker” in his TV habits, listing Boardwalk Empire and Homeland as his must-sees, other than sports.

    “Yes,” said the First Lady with a laugh, “we don’t watch TV with him.”

    And lest anyone think the private residence of the most powerful man in the world comes with all the latest gadgets and gizmos, President Obama says the technologically antiquated second-floor family quarters only recently saw a DVR installed. “We’re a little bit behind,” he tells us dryly.,,20553487,00.html

  11. OMFG!!!!!

    Team Sandusky introduces the ‘hygiene’ defense

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Jerry Sandusky, an attorney for the former Penn State defensive coordinator said on Thursday that his embattled client used to shower with young boys to teach them “hygiene.”

    Attorney Karl Rominger, part of the team representing Sandusky against more than 50 felony counts of sexual abuse, admitted to a local television station in Harrisburg, Pa., that his client showered with adolescents he claimed to be “mentoring” through his charity, The Second Mile, but denied there was evidence of criminal activity. Instead, Rominger argued, Sandusky was showering with them to teach them how to shower.

    “Some of these kids don’t have basic hygiene skills,” Rominger told the station. “Teaching a person to shower at the age of 12 or 14 sounds strange to some people, but people who work with troubled youth will tell you there are a lot of juvenile delinquents and people who are dependent who have to be taught basic life skills like how to put soap on their body.”

  12. HuffPost Politics:

    Santorum says he’d cut federal heating assistance, unemployment benefits

  13. Wis. GOP Files Lawsuit Against Election Officials Over Recall Process

    Wisconsin Republicans have mounted a new response to the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker — filing a lawsuit today against the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, alleging that Walker’s 14th Amendment constitutional rights are being violated by the procedures the board uses in verifying, accepting or rejecting petition signatures.

    The state GOP’s legal complaint argues that the GAB’s procedures for recall petitions, which involve the incumbent’s campaign challenging duplicate signatures of people who would have signed more than once — place an undue burden on the Walker campaign. Under the law, the incumbent has a ten-day review period, in which to submit challenges.

    “The GAB’s position that it is the responsibility of the Walker campaign to identify and challenge duplicate signatures flies in the face of the idea of a fair electoral process,” the party said in a press release.

    When asked for comment, the GAB gave TPM this statement from Director Kevin Kennedy: “The plaintiffs are challenging the procedures that have been established by statutes and administrative code, and which have been in place since the late 1980s. Since then, these rules have been used in every state and local recall petition effort against incumbents of both parties.”

  14. Ametia says:

    Posted at 09:10 AM ET, 12/15/2011
    President Obama to stay in D.C. while Michelle Obama, daughters head to Hawaii
    By David Nakamura

    First lady Michelle Obama and first daughters Sasha and Malia are headed to Hono¬lulu on Friday for a 17-day vacation — without the president.
    At least for now.
    With the White House and Congress embroiled in a standoff over a spending bill and payroll tax cut proposal that could lead to a government shutdown Saturday, Obama appears ready to make good on his promise to stay in Washington until the issues are resolved.
    The White House announced Wednesday that the rest of the first family would leave Washington Friday evening after delivering toys and gifts to the Marines Corps’ Toys for Tots program. As of now, the president will not be on the plane with them, unless an agreement is reached in the next 36 hours.

  15. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011 12:37 PM

    The Better Electoral College Reform: DC Statehood
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    Josh Kraushaar reminds us that an Electoral College tie is entirely plausible:

    That would happen if Obama carried all the Kerry states except New Hampshire (where he’s struggling), and added New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia to his column. The Republican nominee would carry the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina.

    I’m not much for Electoral College reform…the current system has it’s weaknesses, but any system will have weaknesses, and overall there are a lot of better places for reformers to devote their energies, in my view.

    However, it’s a good excuse to point out that the easiest way to eliminate this particular problem (and, yes, I think the threat of a tie throwing it into the House is a problem) would be to admit Washington DC as the 51st state. The math is a bit tricky, but it works: Assume that the House remains the same size. In that case, one state would lose a Member of Congress and an electoral vote. However, New Columbia would have the same number of electoral votes then as it does now (thanks to the 23rd Amendment). In other words, currently the Electoral College is 100 (for the Senate) + 435 (for the House) plus 3 (for the District) = 538; post-statehood, it would be 102 + 435 = 537.

    Granted, this particular reform isn’t going to happen right now, since in addition to being absolutely justified as far as democracy goes it would also be a major win for the Democrats, who would pick up two virtually guaranteed Senate seats. And, no, I don’t have any idea why the Democrats didn’t just move ahead with this in 2009 when they had large majorities in Congress. But merits and politics aside: hey, it solves the EC tie problem!

    Technical note for those interested in DC statehood..The easiest way to achieve it is the “carveout” option, in which all the places in the District where people live are made into a state, and the Monuments and federal buildings that remain become the Constitutionally-mandated federal district. That could be done with ordinary legislation, and it’s hard to see a valid Constitutional challenge. However, the tricky part is that the 23rd Amendment gives the three electoral votes to the District, which would have no residents at all under this scheme. It does, however, allow Congress to enforce it through “appropriate legislation.” It’s not clear to me exactly how much of an obstacle that might be; could you just void the 23rd Amendment electoral votes if there are zero voters? Perhaps once statehood was a done deal, Republicans would agree to repeal the 23rd.

  16. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011 10:43 AM
    Newt in Free Fall
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    The Newt implosion is here — at least, the rapid shift in conventional wisdom against the mistaken idea that he had an excellent chance to win the nomination. The last polls haven’t been strong for the disgraced former Speaker, and a new Rasmussen sounding has him slipping behind Mitt Romney in Iowa. This morning I’ve flagged at least three stories about The Fall of Newt, and for what it’s worth his shares at Intrade have tanked, dropping from close to 40% a week ago to as low as 15% chance at the nomination at one point today before recovering some.

    Of course, the conventional wisdom can be way off the reality of the contest. The polls have shifted, yes, but not nearly enough for anyone who thought Gingrich was unstoppable last week to believe he has no chance this week.

    Now, those of us who believed he had no chance last week believe that this is just a case of everyone waking up from a silly dream — the polls were always mostly a mirage, proving only that virtually anyone can have a short-term surge. But if you thought Newt’s connection with GOP voters was forged in battle in 1994 and at least somewhat unshakable, then a couple mediocre polls shouldn’t change that, should it?

    What I think you’re seeing here is to some extent normal press bandwagon behavior. It’s also, however, the effect of GOP opinion leaders who just don’t want Newt Gingrich to be their nominee. Because they’re perceived as experts, and if they haven’t endorsed anyone neutral (within the GOP) experts, they have a strong say in the spin that will be accepted by the press. And so if they interpret a bad poll for Newt as a big deal, reporters are apt to accept that. The more that highly visible Republicans are eager to bash Newt, the more that his good news is going to be muffled and his bad news amplified. And that’s almost certainly even more true within the partisan press — I’d love to find out how much time Newt’s generally well-received performance in Saturday’s debate picked up on Fox News, for example, compared to his Romney-bashing outburst a couple of days later.

    So the real news isn’t so much that Gingrich has slipped a bit in the polls. The real news is how many Republican Party actors want him to be slipping in the polls. And usually that’s the sort of wish that finds a way of making itself come true.

  17. rikyrah says:

    Full Unconcealed Panic” Ctd
    Washington Examiner has endorsed Romney:

    Republican voters seem to be engaging in willful amnesia about what is euphemistically called Gingrich’s “baggage.” They shouldn’t: It would be used against him in ugly ways in a general election campaign.

    National Review likewise rules out Gingrich:

    If he is the nominee, a campaign that should be about whether the country will continue on the path to social democracy would inevitably become to a large extent a referendum on Gingrich instead. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Each week we see the same traits that weakened Republicans from 1995 through 1998:

    Josh Marshall marks the moment:

    This morning we’ve officially reached the end of the Newt Surge and — whether the data support the thesis or not — moved on to the Establishment Counterattack. After a week or so of stunned silence, the Republican establishment, under the very uneasy leadership of Mitt Romney, has roused to the unavoidable truth (now backed up by hard data) that nominating Newt Gingrich means all but giving up any chance of taking the presidency in 2012.

  18. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011 7:59 AM

    Catch of the Day
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    The catch goes to Harry Enton, who read a brand new New Hampshire poll released last night and noticed that “Obama has a higher favorable (22%) than Perry (18%) among GOP primary voters.” Yikes! Yeah, the respondents in this Suffolk U poll include a lot of independents – actually, the GOP/independent split is 59/41. Still, Perry’s numbers are remarkable. An 18/67 favorable/unfavorable split among primary voters in one’s own party? You really don’t see that too often.

    Overall, by the way, Mitt Romney did very well in this particular poll: Mitt 38, Newt Gingrich 20, Jon Huntsman 13, Ron Paul only 8. As usual, don’t pay too much attention to single polls, and remember that dramatic late change in New Hampshire is not unusual at all.

    Back to Perry, however, two things. One is that I’d love to see exactly how it happened. Is it that Perry is just too conservative for New Hampshire? Is it the relatively minor deviations from conservative orthodoxy? Is it the debate performances? The association with George W. Bush?

    And the other thing is that I strongly suspect that these numbers are very, very soft. If Perry has a couple of good weeks and finishes third or better in Iowa, thus receiving a wave of positive publicity, I really think the polling could flip really fast.

    That’s a guess, of course. I just can’t see why there would be solid opposition to Perry. Ron Paul? Sure. Gingrich or Romney? Each has betrayed conservatives numerous times, and each has a personal background which might make some Republican voters wary. But Rick Perry? Are they really so strongly set against (rumored) stupidity and (proven) Texan roots? I am curious.

    But for now: Nice catch!

  19. rikyrah says:

    Would Gingrich Be a Nominee Without a Party?
    by Steve M.
    Thu Dec 15th, 2011 at 02:30:37 PM EST

    It seems less and less likely with every passing day — hell, with every passing hour — that Newt Gingrich will survive the gang beatdown he’s being subjected to right now and go on to win the Republican presidential nomination (see yesterday’s all-Newt-hate Washington Post op-ed page; see also the forthcoming all-Newt-hate issue of National Review).
    But if Gingrich does — somehow — survive this Establishment gang attack, will the party even support him?

    Here’s a scenario I’m imagining:

    If Gingrich really is unstoppable, the real GOP money — from the Rove-connected Crossroads groups and other super PACs — may simply dry up for him. Where will it go? I know everyone mocks this Americans Elect thing, but the group is well funded. What if GOP insiders game the AE nominating process to get a candidate who’s to their liking chosen as the nominee — Daniels, Christie, Barbour, Jeb Bush, Rubio, Jindal, Huntsman? And what if the “Democrat” who fulfills AE’s quest for a bipartisan ticket is … Joe Lieberman?

    I think GOP establishment figures might get behind such a ticket — and I mean really get behind it, with serious money and all kinds of support. And then the party can just somehow fail to help Gingrich in any way. I’m thinking of the way the guy who had the ballot line in the 2006 Connecticut Senate race, Alan Schlesinger, effectively disappeared, as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy cheered on Lieberman against Ned Lamont. Schlesinger got less than 10% of the vote.

    Now, Gingrich won’t take a dive, the way Schlesinger seemed to. But if the party and its donors refuse to finance him, if party opinion-shapers continue to attack him, and if the leaders and pundits get behind the AE effort, I think Gingrich’s numbers could be driven down to the single digits.

    For what it’s worth, yesterday Charlie Pierce posted an MSNBC clip in which Chuck Todd speculated that an anti-1% sentiment might drive a third-party bid to some success at the polls. I think minor parties can have an impact this year, but I don’t think this is why. I do think Rocky Anderson, or some other Nader wannabe, will get some Occupy/Firedoglake love at the polls. But the teabaggers aren’t angry at the 1%. The libertarians aren’t angry at the 1%. The young Paulites seem to be more interested in ending militarism and legalizing hemp than seriously curtailing fat-cat excess (which Paul himself has no intention of curtailing, of course). The general public still — still — hates “big government” more than big business, according to Gallup, and even though they seem to recall their class resentments when reminded of them by pollsters, they never vote in any way that reflects those resentments. And Americans Elect is going to be about centrism at best and conservatism at worst; it’s going to be about opposing “business as usual” without the slightest understanding of why “business as usual” is the way it is (and without the slightest recognition that the people on the ticket are part of the problem).

    And if my cockamamie theory is correct, Americans Elect might just be the real GOP this year.


    On the other hand, if the GOP insiders do successfully kneecap Gingrich, I think we should all join Americans Elect and say that Gingrich is our choice for the top of AE’s ticket. Between us and the remaining Newt true believers in the GOP, we might just be able to get him selected. And you know he’ll accept the nomination, because he’ll do anything for publicity. Then we’ll have Mitt and Newt siphoning votes from each other. Fun!

  20. rikyrah says:

    December 14, 2011 1:39 PM

    Stepping back and watching a mugging
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    Newt Gingrich, as far as I can tell from 1000 miles away (I’m in San Antonio), is just getting hammered right now in Iowa. Either in ads or in their stump speech, at least four of Newt’s competitors are slamming him hard.

    There are two theories about how this will play out. One is what conservative Jonah Goldberg said today: Newt is not vulnerable to attacks, because everyone already knows all the dirt about him. This is often combined with the theory that the link between Newt and conservatives is especially strong because of Newt’s perceived role in the 1994 landslide and in battling Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

    The other theory is that most people don’t pay much attention to politics and know little or nothing of Newt’s negatives, and when they learn about the ethics problems, the deviations from conservative orthodoxy, the ad with Nancy Pelosi, and other things that his support will tank just as Michele Bachmann’s and Herman Cain’s did. Which would be what I’ve been saying.

    Well, we’re about a week into the all-out assault on Gingrich, punctuated by a performance in Saturday night’s debate that got generally good reviews…and while we don’t have definitive evidence yet, it’s looking bad for Goldberg, and more importantly for Newt. Yesterday’s PPP poll had Newt’s negatives up dramatically, and Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports that the same thing is showing up in the candidates’ internal polls (via Goddard). It’s still too early to know for sure the magnitude of the damage, or even for sure if it’s real, but what evidence there is shows Newt just as vulnerable to a massive multi-candidate attack as I’d have expected.

    One factor? Here’s where Newt’s unpopularity among highly visible conservative opinion leaders matters. Because practically no one appears to be rallying to his side. Even if conservatives aren’t interested in defending him against the specific charges that are being made, they certainly could call foul on the attackers for going so harshly negative against another Republican. Ronald Reagan’s supposed 11th Commandment (against attacking within the GOP) could be invoked. Instead, we get either piling on, or crickets. That matters; it lowers the costs of going negative, which include the risk that the attacking candidate will be branded as divisive within his or her own party. Of course, it helps that practically the whole field is doing it (with Jon Huntsman going negative against Romney in New Hampshire to boot), and it’s certainly possible that those seeing the ads directly might punish the attackers. Still, however, if Republican party actors step back and watch the mugging, it certainly doesn’t help the victim.

    Among other things, we’ve already seen Newt lose message discipline and lash out at Romney yesterday; it will be interesting to see how well he manages to avoid repeating that, or worse. He’s certainly going to be provoked enough times. Newt could certainly win in Iowa, but I’d bet against it this point…and I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if he falls right out of the top three.

  21. rikyrah says:

    December 14, 2011 11:45 AM

    No one cares about the Balanced Budget Amendment
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    The Senate today voted on two different versions of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Neither came close to the 2/3 needed to pass it and send it to the states for ratification; it seems that at least for now, there’s not much threat of tarnishing the Constitution of the United States of America with this junk. Note that the House already failed to pass their version earlier this year, and today neither version could even achieve a simple majority, with Democrats voting unanimously against a Republican version while a Democratic version only scraped up 21 votes.

    Steve has often talked about what a substantively bad idea the BBA is, so I’ll just comment for now on the politics of it. The reason that the Senate was voting today on something which had no chance of passing and which had already failed in the House was that, as you may recall, Republicans had demanded this vote as part of their price for raising the debt limit over the summer. What was evident then, and is even more obvious now, is what a silly demand that was. Virtually no one noticed when the House voted down the BBA, and odds are that even fewer will notice today’s votes. Granted, it’s fodder for GOP attack ads in the next election cycle, but I’m finding it hard to believe that “voted against a Balance Budget Amendment” is going to swing any votes. Especially since the handful of swing voters who really are apt to be influenced by that sort of thing (there must be a few, right?) could presumably simply be told about the size of the deficit, and that would do the trick.

    More generally, there’s a lesson for everyone from this. Most single votes by Members of Congress just don’t matter very much to re-election. Oh, if it’s sufficiently high-profile and substantive, it might make a difference on the margins; there’s evidence that voting for ACA hurt Democrats in 2010 compared to voting against it, and the same was true about a couple of high-profile votes preceding the 1994 Republican landslide (although studies establishing that effect cannot tell what would have happened had the measure never made it to a Congressional vote; it’s possible that attack ads would have simply substituted some other vote and achieved the same outcome). But in most cases, unless a policy narrowly affects them directly, most people don’t pay any attention at all to what Congress is up to. No one is going to lose his or her seat in the House over a cheap symbolic vote. Democrats were smart to oppose the BBA even if it polls well because no one really cares about such things, and if Republicans really did give up anything substantive in the debt limit negotiations, then they were quite foolish.

  22. rikyrah says:

    Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital tenure shows mixed record on bankruptcies
    By Jia Lynn Yang, Published: December 14

    With Newt Gingrich accusing Mitt Romney this week of “bankrupting companies” during his time at Bain Capital, Romney’s wildly lucrative business career continues to draw fire from opponents who seek to paint him as a heartless financier.

    So did Romney wreck companies as Gingrich says he did?

    Under Romney’s leadership at Bain, which spanned from 1997 to 1985 and from 1992 to 2000, at least five companies eventually filed for bankruptcy after being acquired by the private equity firm. In some of those cases, investors still made a profit as workers lost their jobs.

    Even more troubling to some, Bain arguably drove some companies to the ground by taking on more debt to give investors dividends earlier.

    “These were not businesses close to collapse,” said Josh Kosman, author of “The Buyout of America.” “They borrowed all this money against the company and then borrowed money again to take a dividend because the company was stable.”

    This week, Romney’s campaign fired back at Gingrich, calling attention to the former House speaker’s work consulting for troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

    “Newt Gingrich comes from the world where politicians are paid millions after they retire to influence their friends in Washington,” Staples founder Tom Stemberg said in a statement distributed by the Romney campaign. “Mitt Romney comes from the private sector, where the economy is built by hard work and entrepreneurial drive.”

    The business of private equity depends on debt for its profitability. A company like Bain Capital raises money from big investors, such as pension funds or university endowments, to form a fund. The firm then goes looking for companies to acquire, using money from the fund, plus much more borrowed from lenders.

    The private equity firm holds on to the company until it can be sold for a profit, perhaps paying out shareholder dividends in the meantime. No matter what, the firm collects fees from investors. It’s not unusual for companies to go bankrupt after being acquired by private equity firms. But that track record has also made the industry controversial because the financiers can make money on fees and dividends even if the businesses they buy go bust.

    Evaluating Romney’s time at Bain depends on how you define success. He consistently delivered for investors, producing as much as 173 percent in annualized returns, according to a prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Times. But the businesses under his firm’s care did not always fare as well — and their names are less well-known than the ones the Romney campaign prefers to tout, such as Domino’s Pizza, Sports Authority and Staples.

    In 1992, Bain bought American Pad & Paper for $5 million. The company turned a profit of $100 million for investors but later filed for bankruptcy in 2000. Layoffs at the company dogged Romney during his 1994 Senate race against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who ran political ads showing Ampad factory workers who had lost their jobs as Bain cut costs. The Romney campaign argued that those job cuts came when he was on leave from the firm.

    A year after the Ampad deal, Bain acquired steel firm GS Industries. In 2001, the company filed for bankruptcy.

    In yet another bad outcome, Bain bought the electronics company DDi, based in Anaheim, Calif., in 1997. Six years later, it declared bankruptcy. Another example: Stage Stores, which Bain bought in 1988 and later filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

  23. rikyrah says:

    Shutdown Will Be Blamed on GOP
    by BooMan
    Thu Dec 15th, 2011 at 10:00:10 AM EST

    Personally, since my passport is current and I don’t plan on visiting any National Parks, I don’t care if most of the government shuts down tomorrow. My strong preference is that the Democrats refuse to fund the government until the Republicans have all missed their Christmas celebrations. That should be their punishment for being what can only be described as “unrelenting dicks.” Just to give you one example of the GOP’s bad behavior, Senate Minority Leader blocked the Senate from voting on the payroll bill that Speaker Boehner passed in the House. Why? Because he didn’t want his members to have to vote on it since it won’t pass and many in his caucus don’t support all of its provisions.
    It’s appropriate that Newt Gingrich is in the news a lot lately, because he once thought that the president would get blamed for a government shutdown only to discover that people blamed him. We’ve lived through this before, and all Boehner and McConnell’s tricks aren’t going to help them avoid responsibility.

    Their strategy is to claim that they passed a payroll tax holiday and unemployment extension in the House and that Harry Reid is holding up the appropriations bills for political reasons. This argument, they hope, will prevent the people from seeing that their extreme and unpopular efforts to shield and protect the richest 2% of the country from any taxation are the real problem.

    I don’t know CNN’s source for saying that the Democrats are dropping their demand for a surtax on millionaires. No one else is reporting that. If the Dems actually do formally drop that demand, it will help them win the argument over who is to blame for the shutdown, but it will undermine their moral standing with the public. Maybe after the government has been shut down for a little while the Dems can relent on their core demand. Doing it preemptively in exchange for nothing? That would be bad negotiating, and subpar politics.

    In any case, I’d expect a Continuing Resolution that lets the bastards go home and spend time with their families. That’s what the White House is asking for at this point. Although, that, too, is part of their pre-shutdown positioning. If the government shuts down, it’s because the Republicans couldn’t even pass a CR.

  24. rikyrah says:

    Wonkbook: Gingrich and Romney have the same problem
    Posted by Ezra Klein at 06:28 AM ET, 12/14/2011

    So Mitt Romney is now saying Newt Gingrich is an “extremely unreliable leader in the conservative world.” This is the pot is calling the kettle a flip-flopper. The problem for Romney, of course, is that he and Gingrich share their weaknesses. They have both supported national health-care plans that included an individual mandate. They have both supported action to curb carbon emissions. Neither truly embraced Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

    And there’s a reason for that. Romney and Gingrich share something important: they’re wonks. Gingrich is flakier than Romney, and Romney is less creative than Gingrich, but the policies that are getting them in trouble are policies that most Republican wonks once backed. Gingrich and Romney’s support for these ideas wasn’t unusual. It was, at the time, typical for Republicans engaged in national policy debates.

    Health-care plans including an individual mandate have been proposed or co-sponsored by Bob Dole, the Heritage Foundation, Phil Gramm, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jesse Helms, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Mike Crapo, and Strom Thurmond — and that’s only a partial list. In 2008, Jim DeMint endorsed Mitt Romney for president, and specifically mentioned his health-care plan as one of Romney’s qualifications. The Republican Party has since turned on the individual mandate. But if past support for the policy is a conservative litmus test, then Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms and the Heritage Foundation are no longer conservatives in good standing. And that’s absurd.

    A similar case can be made on cap-and-trade. The 2008 McCain-Palin ticket had a cap-and-trade plan. In fact, the first cap-and-trade plan considered by the Senate was introduced by McCain in 2003 — and McCain, of course, went on to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

    This is why Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman also had their flirtations with cap-and-trade plans and individual mandates. They may not have inhaled, but they were at the party. And everyone was doing it.

    At the end of the day, the GOP will nominate somebody for president. And that individual is likely to have supported some policies that are now associated with President Obama. There will be some groveling, but eventually, Republicans will forgive such youthful indiscretions. The bigger problem will be if that individual wins.

    At that point, they’ll need actual solutions for the problems facing the nation. But the Republican Party has ruled out an individual mandate to help with health-care reform, a cap-and-trade program to mitigate global warming and speed the development of renewable energy options, tax increases to help reduce the deficit, and stimulus to help boost the economy. That leaves a potential GOP president with a lot of problems to solve, but few workable policies with which to solve them.

  25. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011
    The GOP’s infantilization of politics
    The Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann assesses both the traditional arc and Republican innovations of American governance — congressional style:

    This whole year has been historic in its patterns. They always get work done at the end of sessions, they always put things off until they have to do them, but it’s the hostage taking and recklessness of it all that is so unusual.

    Unusual indeed, although not unheard of. Throughout the assorted sectional crises of the 1850s the Southern slavocracy habitually threatened Northern pols with secession (hence, it was generally assumed, civil war) which naturally caused acute anxieties, but also established a chronic southernization of American politics — one that remains with us in the militant, hostage-taking and reckless character of the geopolitically concentrated GOP.

    A southernization and, in another word, an infantilization of American politics. Antebellum bombthrowers saw no alternative but to stomp their feet and hold everyone’s breath until they got their way — or else — since any real compromise would have fatally undermined the full integrity of their ideological position. One cannot conscientiously shave from ideological purity any more than one can from religious devotion, since both represent a kind of Hegelian, Absolute Right. (Which, paradoxically, put the states-rights, Democratic slavocracy — and puts its modern manifestation, the Republican Party — far more in the Marxist camp of intellectual training than most any progressive school.)

    But to loop back to the modern era, while maintaining a thematic tie to the past, I’d merely note that if Tea Partiers truly venerated the Founders and the mature documents they produced, they, the Tea Partiers, would vigorously reject the GOP’s profound infantilization of politics. For the Founders — chiefly through the Constitution — were a personification of the Enlightenment; proofs of the power of reason and rationality; and, perhaps above all, living examples of unarrested compromise.

    That Tea Partiers and their political instruments in Congress instead embrace the kind of infantile, temper-tantrumed, all-or-nothing politics that they do only demonstrates their abject fraudulence. At their core there lies an ideological violence rooted in a boundless contempt for pluralism’s compromise, absent which we never could have built the nation they so mawkishly profess to love.

  26. rikyrah says:

    December 15, 2011
    The Gingrich factor
    Gallup identifies a Gingrich-voter characteristic which, if extended, worries:

    Newt Gingrich’s current lead in Republican preferences for the GOP presidential nomination is largely due to particularly high support from the types of Republicans who might be expected to turn out heavily in the upcoming primaries…. Roughly 40% of Republicans aged 55 and older as well as core Republicans (as opposed to independents who lean Republican) and conservatives currently favor Gingrich for the nomination. This contrasts with 21% to 23% of each group backing Mitt Romney.

    Those who turn out heavily in primaries do also in general elections. Thus, with respect to the current frontrunner, there’s the worrisome aspect of my observation last month that “Romney will shatter the party, while Gingrich can unite it.”

    Sure, it’s far too early for reliable predictions, nonetheless I remain optimistic that next November Obama-Biden will flatten its GOP opposition, which in its present form persists in radically reinventing conservatism and thereby alienating true conservatives, by the friggin’ hour. But, back to this paragraph’s initial point, politics and its predictive qualities are about as reliable as odd numbers in roulette — and should the Republican nominee somehow broadly inspire his base, while, despite Obama-Biden’s best efforts, this or that faction of the Democratic base sits in a disaffected huff, the resulting conflation could be quite nasty.

    Nothing like covering one’s bets, heh?

  27. rikyrah says:

    Paul Ryan Convinces Ron Wyden To Support Greater Privatization Of Medicare
    By Igor Volsky on Dec 15, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will unveil a new Medicare premium support plan during an event at the Bipartisan Policy Center this morning that is a stark departure from the Budet Committee Chairman’s proposal to end the traditional Medicare program that most Republicans voted for.

    Under the new bipartisan plan, beginning in 2022, seniors will receive a pre-determined premium support voucher to purchase benefits through an exchange of private plans or the existing fee-for-service program. The government subsidy would be determined by the “second-least expensive approved plan or fee-for-service Medicare, whichever is least expensive” and “rise or fall along with the actual cost of the policies — creating more protection for seniors and saving potentially far less in the budget.” Ryan’s budget grows the government’s contribution substantially slower than actual health care costs, shifting health care costs to beneficiaries. The plan maintains the Affordable Care Act’s cap on spending at Gross Domestic Product growth plus 1 percent and would also “add catastrophic coverage with a cap on out-of-pocket costs.”

    The proposal is similar to the Rivlin/Domenici plan and it shares some of its problems. Connecting the premium support credits to the second lowest plan in any given geographic area would shift lest costs to seniors than determining the credits independent of the actual bids (via indexing), but in high cost Medicare areas, the second lowest plan will be cheaper than coverage available through traditional Medicare. Thus, seniors who chose to stay in the fee-for-service could still experience a cost-shift: they would be responsible for the difference between the amount of the premium credit and the actual cost of the policy (conversely, if a “senior chose a plan that cost less than the benchmark, he or she would be given a rebate for the difference”). Lower-income residents would receive additional assistance.

    But the larger problem is that competition between traditional Medicare and private plans — which, the plan says “would foster innovation and quality, while ensuring that the program is financially stable” — could also allow private plans to cherry-pick the healthiest beneficiaries and leave sicker applicants to traditional Medicare. Although the Wyden/Ryan incorporates “risk- adjustment tools” and would require CMS to “conduct an annual risk review audit of all insurance plans,” these mechanisms are still “less than fully effective in adjusting payments downward based on how much healthier these enrollees are” and private plans participating in Medicare Advantage continue to, on average, enroll healthier beneficiaries.

    This bipartisan proposal requires private insurers to “cover at least the actuarial equivalent of the benefit package provided by fee-for-service Medicare,” meaning that plans won’t have to offer standardized benefits and would be able to attract a healthier population (and thus select against sicker applicants) by ratcheting down services that sicker beneficiaries rely on (like chemotherapy) and building up coverage for healthier applicants (like preventive services). If healthier applicants leave the traditional Medicare program, costs will skyrocket, forcing even more seniors out of the government program. Seniors who are priced out of traditional FFS over time would enroll in private plance and receive care through more restricted provider networks relative to what they enjoyed under traditional Medicare (where nearly all hospitals, doctors, nursing homes participate). Wyden/Ryan says “regulations governing the Exchange would include…community rating (i.e., the inability to impose prohibitively disparate costs on seniors),” but does not specifically state that all seniors would be charged the same rate, regardless of age.

    So here, in a nutshell, is the problem: In an interview with the Washington Post, “Ryan and Wyden acknowledged that their plan might not bring in more savings than under the current law.” Yet they’re willing to set the nation on an untested path of private competition that breaks up the large market clout of Medicare (which is now experimenting with more efficient ways to pay providers) and pushes seniors into less efficient private plans. It moves the health care system closer to the Ryan ideal in which future Congresses would be able to reduce federal costs by eating away at the premium credit seniors receive. Over time, Medicare will start bleeding beneficiaries, becoming an ever smaller program.

  28. rikyrah says:

    Pelosi To GOP On Funding The Government: You’re On Your Own
    Brian Beutler December 15, 2011, 11:31 AM

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warns her GOP counterparts that they’ll have to pass legislation to fund the government on their own, unless they quit playing hardball, return to negotiations and meet Democrats halfway on a number of key issues.

    “I hope they have the votes for it,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly Captiol briefing, “because if they don’t they won’t be getting any cooperation from us.”

    That’s a tall order for House GOP leadership. Dozens of rank and file Republicans oppose these appropriations because they’re based on a compromise Speaker John Boehner cut with Congressional Dems and the White House on overall spending. These members want to slash federal programs much more dramatically, and have defected from leadership in great enough numbers that on key votes Boehner and his leadership team have needed Democratic help to achieve a majority vote.

    Boehner et al will have to count on those members members holding their noses and siding with their leadership as a thumb in the eye to Democrats and President Obama.

  29. rikyrah says:

    December 14, 2011 10:04 AM

    The GOP policy problem
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    Ezra Klein has an excellent point to make about Republicans and policy this morning. He’s writing about how many policies Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich once supported that turned out to be Kenyan socialism once Barack Obama adopted them. Jonathan Cohn has yet another excellent example: Newt was an enthusiastic backer (with John Kerry!) of comparative effectiveness research — that is, having the government collect data about which medical treatments actually work. That was way back in 2008, but as Cohn points out, after it became part of ACA a few months later it immediately became evil socialist rationing, something that Gingrich can now get in trouble for with conservatives on the campaign trail.

    Klein concludes that the reason that Romney and Gingrich are stuck with having supported so many now-forbidden policies is because they are “wonks.” I think that’s too strong, however, or perhaps not strong enough, depending on your perspective. Klein provides a long list of Republicans who once supported an individual mandate on health insurance, but surely they weren’t all wonks? Nope. Most of them were just Republicans following the standard Republican line of the time, a line that was good enough until Barack Obama and the Democrats adopted a kitchen sink to health care reform and tossed in any decent idea that they could find (remember all that rhetoric back then about all the Republican-sponsored ideas included in ACA? It was true!).

    No wonder that House Republicans are spending much of their energy repealing non-existent regulations about farm dust or affirming the US motto. Or why Romney’s entire foreign policy program appears to be a pledge not to go on an “apology tour” that never happened. It’s a lot easier to be certain that you always completely oppose the president’s program when you write your own fictional version of the president.

    But Klein’s conclusion is right on the mark:

    At the end of the day, the GOP will nominate somebody for president…The bigger problem will be if that individual wins. At that point, they’ll need actual solutions for the problems facing the nation. But the Republican Party has ruled out an individual mandate to help with health-care reform, a cap-and-trade program to mitigate global warming and speed the development of renewable energy options, tax increases to help reduce the deficit, and stimulus to help boost the economy. That leaves a potential GOP president with a lot of problems to solve, but few workable policies with which to solve them.

  30. rikyrah says:

    Why We Should Let Sasha and Malia Obama Be Kids, Not Fashion Plates

    Over the weekend, the president, First Lady, and their children hung out with Justin Bieber. It was one of those rare photo ops not including animals or infants sure to earn resounding awws from its many postings around the Internet. The First Family was attending the annual “Christmas in Washington” concert, wearing their Sunday-evening best. For Barack Obama, this doesn’t differ from his Monday, Tuesday, or any-other-day-of-the-week best, but for the other three ladies in his family, whose wardrobes noticeably vary day-to-day, the clothes were hard to overlook. And so there was much rejoicing by some members of the media, who seem to have either realized or decided that Michelle Obama is no longer the only First Family member destined to achieve style-icon status. Her daughters are, at least to this group of presidential-children watchers, well on their way.

    The Huffington Post has no shortage of coverage of the concert, much of it focusing on how Michelle, Sasha, and Malia looked. The morning of the concert, the girls went to church with their parents in different outfits, which the site called “impossibly chic.” In another post, they gush over Malia for wearing yellow that night:

    Yellow has been popping up everywhere this season, so it was no surprise to see that Malia was dressed in the bold hue. The 13-year-old has been spotting in several fashion forward outfits lately and is quickly becoming one of our favorite style gals to watch.

    These kinds of stories are certainly expected. The Obamas, when all together, do make a pretty portrait, not only because of how they look and dress but also because of the warmth evident in their interactions. Barack, photographed onstage clutching Malia to his side, plays the role of the endearingly protective father, and you could say the same of Michelle, standing on the stage next to them with her arm around Sasha. The wholesome, refreshing image possesses an appeal with a shade of similarity to that of the Middleton sisters, who have become sartorial sensations by dressing conservatively in simple sheath dresses, blazers, and, of all things unfashionable, nude stockings.

    But Kate and Pippa are 29 and 28, respectively, well into their adult years. Sasha and Malia are just 10 and 13.

    When the Obamas moved into the White House, they asked the press to keep a healthy distance from their girls and not photograph them when they were at school or soccer practice, or without their parents. Even though the press isn’t stalking them at school, as the sisters do attend events with their parents and new photos of them emerge — like when Michelle took them with her to South Africa over the summer — the inevitable urge to call them fashion plates becomes harder and harder to suppress.

    Malia is especially susceptible to this kind of attention since she’s older, about five-foot-nine (something that’s been turned into a news item in itself), and became a teenager this summer. It would be hard not to notice that she and her sister do dress quite nicely when they get photographed with their parents — a far cry from the jeans, fleece sweatshirts, and sneakers most kids wear as 12- or 13-year-olds. But paying so much attention to the way they dress at this stage of their lives is fraught with complications for them and the press who choose to go there. It’s no wonder Barack has such a tight grip on his daughter in that photo.

  31. rikyrah says:

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid Cuts Leave 2,800 Nurses In Nursing Homes Without A Job
    By Tanya Somanader on Dec 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s “new way” of creating jobs has left something to be desired — namely, jobs. Kasich has killed projects that promised to create jobs in favor of policies that are sure to stunt job creation. Now with a state facing an overall loss of 400,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 9 percent, Kasich’s decision to slash state funding for Medicaid left 2,800 Ohioans who help the elderly and disabled out of a job:

    A separate survey of 385 Ohio nursing homes found that 2,800 jobs had been eliminated between July 1 and Sept. 1 — or soon would be — following a 6 percent budget cut to the state’s Medicaid program, the tax-funded health-insurance program for the poor and disabled.

    Kasich’s cuts result from his desire to “rebalance” the amount of funding spent on Ohio seniors and the disabled. Hoping to shift towards “in-home care,” state officials say the nursing-home job loss is “not surprising.” But, as FamiliesUSA notes, funding Medicaid is a sure-fire way to ensure economic growth and job creation.

    According to the Ohio Health Care Association, mostly nurses and nursing assistants “who provide hands-on care to patients” are the ones who have lost their jobs. Other nursing homes have “frozen or cut workers’ pay, as well as freezing or cutting benefits.” Nursing home officials worry that these cuts will affect patient care. Five homes have already closed since the budget cuts began.

    And given the similar obsession with budget hacking among Republican governors and lawmakers, Ohio is just the beginning. According to the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, “Ohio is ground zero for what will be coming for the rest of the country.” There are also federal Medicare cuts pending due to overpayment that will affect jobs in the state.

  32. Ametia says:

    Boehner Outlines Path Forward In Government Shutdown Fight
    BRIAN BEUTLERDECEMBER 15, 2011, 12:21 PM

    At his weekly Capitol briefing, House Speaker John Boehner outlined a way around the current impasse in Congress that will result in a government shutdown if it’s not resolved by Friday night. …

    Read More →

  33. Ametia says:

    Don’t Endorse Ron Paul

    Andrew Sullivan declares himself for Ron Paul as the GOP presidential nominee, as he did in 2008 as well.

    As Andrew himself jokes, the Sullivan endorsement is more likely to hurt Paul than help him. In any event, there is precisely zero likelihood of Paul winning the GOP nomination, although he may well help to stop Gingrich from winning it. Paul is inescapably a boutique candidate, appealing to a very particular fringe within the GOP.

    But here’s what does need discussing, in the wake of Andrew’s endorsement of Paul.

    Paul has had an outsize appeal to writers and intellectuals dissatisfied with the present state of Republicanism.

    Some see him as a corrective to militaristic nationalism. Or as a principled champion of limited government. Or as a leader who can curb the excessive influence of social conservatives.

    Those perceptions are not very realistic, but leave that pass for now. More to the point–even if true, which they are not, these are not the correctives present-day Republicanism most needs. The thing most wrong with present-day Republicanism is its passivity in the face of the economic crisis, its indifference to the economic troubles of the huge majority of the American population, and its blithe insistence that everything was fine for the typical American worker up until Inauguration Day 2009 or (at the outer bound of the thinkable) the financial crisis of the fall 2008.

    It is the lack of concern to the travails of middle-class America that “reform Republicans” should most centrally be concerned with.

    And no candidate in this race–ok, except maybe the defunct Herman Cain–has been more persistently, aggressively, and forcefully heedless of those travails than Ron Paul.

  34. Ametia says:

    Letter from a poor black kid: Baratunde Thurston responds to Forbes’ Gene Marks
    By Baratunde Thurston, Special to CNN

    The following letter is a response from a hypothetical child to Gene Marks’ article in Forbes, titled “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.” While completely fabricated, the letter below has a stronger basis in reality than does Marks’. In his article, Marks, a business and technology contributor to Forbes, argues poorly that poor black children should use technology to improve their station in life. The article is terrible.

    Dear Mr. Gene Marks,

    I am a poor black kid. I don’t have great parental or educational resources. I’m not as smart as your kids. These are facts. In 2011.

    The one smart thing I do everyday is read Forbes. It’s what all us poor black kids do. Forbes is constantly reporting on issues of relevance to me and my community. This week, I found your article “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” printed out and slid under my door like all Forbes articles.
    Thank you Mr. Marks. You have changed everything about my life. Thanks to your article, I worked to make sure I got the best grades, made reading my number one priority and created better paths for myself. If only someone had suggested this earlier.

    But that was just the beginning of how your exceptionally relevant, grounded and experience-based advice changed my life. Thanks only to your article, I discovered technology.
    Why did my teachers not teach this? Why isn’t this technology mentioned anywhere in popular culture? I don’t understand, but you do.

    You listed so many different websites and resources, at first it was overwhelming. But I didn’t let that deter me. I thought to myself, “If a successful, caring, complicated, intelligent man like Gene Marks says to do it, then I’d better head over to right now!”

    I did not stop there. I became an expert at the CIA World Factbook, started using Evernote and made it my goal to get into one of those private schools you wrote about. Before your article, I never wanted anything more for myself. I used Google (thanks for the tip!), found the names and addresses of the school admissions officers, and showed up outside of their homes. It’s like they were waiting for me. They smiled, waved and immediately told me about their secret scholarship programs.

    Private school was exactly like you said it would be. I went straight to the guidance counselor, and I said, “You know everything there is to know about financial aid, grants, minority programs and the like.”

    And she said, “I sure do! And even though I don’t know your name, I’m going to help you get summer employment at a law firm or a business owned by the 1% where you could meet people and show off your stuff.” I love showing off my stuff, sir. You have no idea.
    I took more of your advice. I got “technical.” I had no idea I could get technical. I learned software!

    From there it was just a quick hop to a top college, marketable skills and an immediate job offer from a businessman starved for talent. Did someone say recession? I can’t see it!
    The amazing part is that I did all of this in two days! All thanks to your article!

    I didn’t know any of these opportunities existed. My parents and I were too tired. We were all ignorant, and quite frankly, I could have figured it out sooner on my own if I’d had the brains to do so. Your article provided those brains. It wasn’t about my parents or ways to improve the school system or how to empower the community. It had nothing to do with history or accumulated privilege or social psychology.

    No, I simply needed to want success more and combine that with technology. You taught me that I can do all this by myself, and I have!

    With that one article, you solved the problems of millions. Imagine the good you could do with three or four articles! Please don’t stop with poor black kids! What about children trapped in sex trafficking? How about undocumented migrant workers? And of course, there’s women. Have you ever wondered why there aren’t more women CEOs? I’m sure you have. You’ve thought about everything and figured everything out. You are a great man. Thanks again for teaching me about technology.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Baratunde Thurston.

  35. rikyrah says:

    President Leads Gingrich and Romney in Virginia
    Posted on 12/15/2011 at 7:27 am by Bob Cesca
    PPP shows 2008 margins over both Republican frontrunners:

    Obama leads both Mitt Romney (48-42) and Newt Gingrich (50-43) by margins comparable to his 6 point victory over John McCain in 2008. He leads both of them with independents- Romney by 4 and Gingrich by 8. And between the two match ups he’s picking up as many Republicans as he’s losing Democrats, again something we just aren’t seeing in very many places.

    And the primaries haven’t even begun. These two clowns can only get clownier.

  36. rikyrah says:

    The NDAA and Indefinite Detention
    Posted on 12/15/2011 at 9:39 am by Bob Cesca
    As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the National Defense Authorization Act was passed by the House last night and the president is expected to sign it into law. Activists on the left are accusing Congress and the president of subverting civil liberties by signing the law due to the indefinite detention language in the bill. Mainly, the concern is that U.S. citizens could be indefinitely detained.

    However, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, says the language explicitly prevents the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.

    First, the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) section in our bill, Section 1021, merely codifies current law. It specifically states, “nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” Quite simply, our courts will decide what the law is regarding detention of U.S. citizens.

    Second, any U.S. citizen detained under Section 1021 has the right under habeas corpus to have the legality of any such detention determined by our courts. The courts have also held that anyone detained under the AUMF at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also has habeas rights. We do not change these rights.

    Third, Section [1032], entitled, “Military Custody For Foreign al-Qaeda Terrorists” specifically excludes US citizens. It states, “the requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” It also states the requirement to detain under Section [1032] “does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”

    Fourth, we also codify periodic review for those being detained at Guantanamo Bay, now and in the future, which is an important procedure for those detained indefinitely as a threat to the United States under the law of war.

    Habeas rights for any detainee irrespective of citizenship will remain intact (and backed up by the Supreme Court), and citizens can’t be held in military custody. The reason the president decided to sign the bill and reversed his previous decision to veto the bill was because he wanted the discretion to hold civilian trials for suspected terrorists. The bill in its current form allows him to do that, hence the non-veto.

    The bottom line here is the law merely codifies the current policy, which, admittedly, is ugly and questionable. If you really want to kill this thing, contact your senator. Tweeting impeachment threats at the president is tilting at windmills.

  37. rikyrah says:

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley dictated conclusions of a health panel finding before it ever held a meeting
    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 12:07 pm by GottaLaff
    Yesterday I posted that documents showed that John Boehner’s staff influenced Ohio redistricting “to favor a Republican majority”. How powerful of them.

    Speaking of power plays, let’s hop over to South Carolina.

    A recent poll came out saying South Carolinians have soured on Governor Nikki Haley. An article from The Post and Courier should sour them even more, because they are reporting that Haley “dictated the conclusions of a committee charged with deciding how the state should implement federal health care reform before the group ever held its first meeting, public documents show.”

    Gee, that’s not embarrassing or unethical at all:

    Now, some of those involved in the dozens of meetings are calling the entire planning process a sham that wasted their time and part of a $1 million federal grant.

    “Prescient” Nikki emailed this:

    “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange.”

    And that is exactly what happened.

    [The emails] also reveal the tight control Haley and her top aides exercise over other state agencies, requiring media inquiries to various state departments to pass through the governor’s office for inspection.

    “Oh my God, we just threw $1 million away here,” said Frank Knapp, who participated in the meetings as president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “This confirms this whole thing was an effort to justify the million-dollar grant, but the reality is they had no intention of even exploring whether the state should establish an exchange — which is exactly what the grant called for.”

    So not only did Haley dictate the outcome, she wasted a ton of money in the process. She knew the answers to the test before it was given, and then blew a wad on it, money that could have been put to much better use than pulling a fast one.

  38. rikyrah says:

    Obama’s Re-Election Path May Be Written in Will St. Clair’s Code
    Will St. Clair, wearing semi-rimless glasses, a plaid buttoned-down shirt, jeans and Adidas sneakers, can usually be found sitting on an exercise ball in the back of President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, his eyes trained on his computer screen.

    The 23-year-old’s job is a mystery even to some senior staff in Chicago, yet they say they hope the skills he brings are a secret weapon: he’s a software engineer.

    St. Clair is among more than a dozen developers hired by the campaign to leverage technology to wring out more votes in what Obama’s advisers say may be an election as close as the contested 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. From Seattle startups to International Business Machines Corp., they’ve left lucrative jobs to mine for swing voters. They’ve added a new term to the strategic lexicon: microlistening.

    “Right now, if you want to call this the ‘data arms race,’ clearly Democrats are ahead,” said Alex Gage, CEO of TargetPoint Consulting, who worked on voter targeting for Bush’s successful re-election effort in 2004.

    The Obama campaign is guarding the details of the operation like the political equivalent of nuclear secrets: “I’ll be happy to discuss what we’re doing after we do it,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist.

    “The things we did in 2008 in many ways were prehistoric by contemporary standards,” Axelrod said at a Dec. 7 Bloomberg View lunch. “There’s a lot you can do in the way of more finely targeting voters so they’re getting information that’s useful to them.”

    Micro Campaign
    St. Clair and his team are creating tools to connect with people properly. For example, disenchanted voters are wooed, not hit up for money. They call it microlistening.

  39. Ametia says:

    Reid changes tune, signals deal close on $1T omnibus
    By Josiah Ryan – 12/15/11 09:42 AM ET

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested Thursday that the Senate could move forward with a $1 trillion omnibus spending package soon.

    “I just had a very comfortable conversation with [Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel] Inouye [D-Hawaii],” Reid said. “[T]he issues that relate to the omnibus, I think, according to Sen. Inouye — those are resolvable. There are a few issues that are outstanding, but they are really small in number.

  40. Ametia says:

    Number of death sentences hits a 35-year low
    By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

    WASHINGTON – The number of state executions continued to decline in 2011, according to an annual report issued Thursday, and for the first time in 35 years, the number of new death sentences meted out fell to below 100.

    The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment and puts out an annual tally of executions based on state and federal information, asserts that recent developments reflect “the growing discomfort that many Americans have with the death penalty.”

    Illinois abolished the death penalty — becoming the fourth state in recent years to stop executions. Sixteen states now forbid capital punishment; 34 allow it. In Oregon, which allows for it, Gov. John Kitzhaber, Democrat, recently declared a moratorium for his time in office.

    Polls show, however, majority support for the death penalty, and public backing was evident during a Republican presidential debate last September. The audience applauded at just the mention of hundreds of executions in Texas.

  41. rikyrah says:

    New Poll Suggests Latino Voters See ‘Hostile’ GOP
    Categories: 2012, Electorate

    The overwhelming majority of Latino voters believe that the Republican Party ignores them or is outright “hostile,” and that nominating Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio as a vice presidential candidate might do little to change it, according to a national poll released Monday.

    The December survey, conducted by impreMedia and the polling group Latino Decisions, is the first to test the popularity of the freshman senator from Florida with America’s Hispanics.

    Since his election in 2010, the 40-year-old Rubio, with his considerable political talents and Tea Party support, has emerged as a figure expected to help improve the Republicans’ outreach to Hispanics — whose population growth gives them a pivotal role in the 2012 elections.

    But Rubio and his party may have a difficult time of it. (And not just because Rubio earlier stirred controversy when reporters raised questions about his background as a Cuban exile.)

    The survey of 500 Latino registered voters found that Hispanics continue to lean toward President Obama and other Democratic candidates, and that they feel alienated by Republicans because of their general support for tougher immigration enforcement instead of a path to legal status.

    Forty-six percent of Latino voters said Republicans “don’t care too much” about Hispanics, and another 27 percent said they “are being hostile,” the poll found.

    And if Rubio received his party’s vice presidential nomination, only 13 percent of Latinos said they would be “much more likely” to vote Republican. Eleven percent said they would be “somewhat more likely” to vote Republican. And 46 percent said it would “have no effect” on their decision.

    Pollsters say the strongest opinions — in this case, those “much more likely” to vote Republican if Rubio is nominated — tend to provide the most accurate indicator of voting habits.

    “I think they have a very serious problem,” Matt Barreto, the principal pollster for Latino Decisions, says of the Republican Party. “And Rubio is still new on the scene and not extremely well known. Over the last five years, a lot of Latinos have been upset and moving away from the party because of the hard stance on immigration. So the Republican Party has a lot of work to do.”

  42. rikyrah says:

    “If I Were a Poor Black Kid…”
    By ABL on December 13th, 2011

    Dude naw.

    Look, if you’re a middle-aged white guy writing for Forbes Magazine, and you find yourself writing an article entitled “If I Were a Poor Black Kid,” just stop.

    Seriously. Stop:

    President Obama gave an excellent speech last week in Kansas about inequality in America.

    “This is the defining issue of our time.” He said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”

    He’s right. The spread between rich and poor has gotten wider over the decades. And the opportunities for the 99% have become harder to realize.

    The President’s speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.

    I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.
    It takes brains. It takes hard work. It takes a little luck. And a little help from others. It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available. Like technology. As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.

    If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

    The white privilege wafting from this article is so thick it’s practically choking me. I grew up in Philadelphia. I attended Girls High (as did my mother and my grandmother; my grandfather and great-uncle attended Central, back when it was still an all boys school.) I applied to Masterman (I don’t think I got in, but I can’t really remember, actually.)

    I was not a poor black kid — I was just a black kid. My father was a tenured professor at University of Pennsylvania and my mother was a copy editor for W.B. Saunders (Harcourt-Brace). I never went hungry, I never wanted for technology, and I studied — hard. I worked hard. My parents were both heavily involved in my education. You can imagine growing up the daughter of a professor and a copy editor (it’s the reason I can string two sentences together in a cogent manner). I was a straight A student. But it very easily could have turned out differently.

    I moved from suburban Maryland to Philadelphia in the middle of eighth grade. I went to Jenks in Chestnut Hill for about three months before beginning high school at Girls High. When I started at Jenks, the administration there took one look at me and my skin color and unilaterally placed me in math class with primarily black students. When my mother asked me how math was going, I told her it was too easy. I had done all the stuff they were doing. My mother asked me why I didn’t tell the teacher that. I said “But, I did!” (I mostly likely whined it.) I had told the teacher that I knew how to do all the coursework, but she essentially ignored me. My mother had to take off a day of work and go and talk to the principal and my teacher (imagine the look on their faces, when they saw that my mother was white) and basically demand that I be put in a harder math class. Reluctantly, they put me in a more difficult math class (with all the white kids) and ultimately, I got an A in that class. I did well, went on to high school, college, and law school, and the rest is history.

    My point is this: Being a poor black child trying to succeed in school is difficult for myriad reasons: lack of resources, parents struggling to put food on the table (often working multiple jobs), teachers paying less attention to black students than non-black students. But being a black child — poor or not — is also difficult because teachers and administrators take a look at you and make assumptions about your intelligence and abilities based solely upon your skin color. In my case, even after I told my teachers and principal that the classes in which they had placed me were too easy, they didn’t believe me. It took my mother getting involved and putting her foot down.

    Now how many mothers work jobs that allow them to take a day off to ensure that their child is getting the proper education? My guess is not many. Had my mother not taken that day off — or not been permitted by her employer to take that day off — I likely would not have gone on to take Calculus at Girls High. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone on to Oberlin, or UVA Law. And had my mother been black, who knows how her request to take a day off to talk to her daughter’s teachers would have been received by her employer. I wasn’t sick. There was no emergency. So who knows what would have happened to her — what would have happened to me.

    • Ametia says:

      ABL is on point. The notion that this fool is trying to put himself in a black kids shoes, and spew this nonsense. Just another SELF-ABSORBED WHITE PRIVILEGED man.
      BYE BOY

  43. rikyrah says:

    Parting ways with the left on Plan B

    To me, to be a liberal is to believe that government should intervene where it can protect the vulnerable. Ensuring civil rights and voting rights, shielding the environment from corporate polluters and regulating the food and drug supply are part of that bargain. That’s why it’s ironic when liberals take sides against government in favor of industry.

    That, to me, is the case with the sturm und drang on the left over the Obama administration’s reversal this week of a Food and Drug Administration decision to make the drug called “Plan B” available to children, without a prescription.

    Even for those on the left whose stock and trade is wailing at President Obama for various imagined betrayals of liberalism, the irony was rich. In any society, no one is more vulnerable than children (I have three of them, so it’s kind of personal). And the idea that girls as young as 11 should be able to buy Plan B, also called the “morning after pill,” over the counter, struck me as bizarre.

    And yet, in a back and forth on Twitter, I was lectured by people calling themselves liberals, that the morning after pill is as safe as aspirin, and should be just as available. Never mind that you’re not supposed to give aspirin to 11-year-olds, because it’s dangerous.

    Let’s be clear. The directive from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, did not say Plan B shouldn’t be freely available to women. Indeed, women age 17 and over can buy it today, by walking up to the pharmacy counter — something you can’t do, by the way, with birth control pills. Those you have to get from a doctor or clinic.

    The requested change would have allowed Plan B to be sold in the condoms aisle, or wherever a retailer chose to place it.

    But what makes my liberal friends believe a child at 11 years old, or even 16, wouldn’t use the convenience of condom-aisle Plan B as an excuse to use it instead of condoms, or to skip the hassle of seeing a doctor to get birth control pills, even though the drug is explicitly not supposed to be used as routine contraception?

    What’s to stop teenage boys from pushing their high school — or middle school — girlfriends to forget condoms, since Plan B can take care of everything afterward?

    Why wouldn’t sexual abusers of young girls use Plan B to cover up the horror of ongoing abuse, by pushing their victims to buy it, without fear that they’ll tell a doctor, or a parent, since they won’t need to consult either to get it?

    And if a teenager suffered a dangerous reaction to Plan B — the side effects listed on the manufacturer’s website include severe allergic reactions and breathing difficulties — who would they alert? The parent or doctor they didn’t tell they were taking the drug in the first place?

    All of these worst-case scenarios could clearly happen to adult women, too. But adult woman are just that: adults. They can be expected to read up on the side effects and use the drug as directed. Children, who can’t be counted on to clean their rooms as directed, not so much.

    I respect Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA commissioner who made and has defended the decision to drop the age restrictions for Plan B. And I agree that the right of women to make decisions about their own reproduction should be sacrosanct in a modern society. But when that argument is extended to kids — as if they’re simply conducting routine sexual lives, rather than expressing serious pathologies, it gets downright disturbing.

    And let’s not forget, Hamburg was tasked with taking over an agency with a history of embarrassing failures (remember Vioxx?) tied to its too-cozy relationship with the drug industry. It was the drug manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, not women’s health groups or clinicians that applied for permission to sell Plan B to children.

    It also appears that the FDA relied largely on Teva’s own study that — surprise! — found that 11-to-17 year-olds took Plan B just fine. But those girls got the drug at clinics, where presumably, the risks and instructions were explained to them.

    Besides, since when do liberals rely on a pharmaceutical company to tell them how its own drug works? And since when do liberals side with drug companies against the government when it comes to protecting the vulnerable?

    Read more:

  44. Ametia says:

    By MJ LEE | 12/15/11 7:04 AM EST Updated: 12/15/11 8:26 AM EST

    Herman Cain says that if he could be a Cabinet secretary, he wants to be head of the Department of Defense.

    In an interview with Barbara Walters, who chose Cain as one of the “10 Most Fascinating People” of the year, the former presidential hopeful was asked what Cabinet position he would like.
    Continue Reading

    “We are speaking totally, totally hypothetical, right?” a smiling Cain said. “Department of Defense.”

    A visibly surprised Walters exclaimed, “What?”

    “Not Treasury? I mean, you’re the 9-9-9 man. Why the Department of Defense?” Walters said.

    “Because if I could influence rebuilding our military as it should be, that would be a task I would consider undertaking.”

  45. rikyrah says:

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011
    Running Scared
    Posted by Zandar
    Another chart for you this morning, this one from Gallup:

    Yep, after the banks all but destroyed our economy, America’s distrust of Big Business is now back to 2007 pre-crisis levels, and fear of Big Government is back to near all time highs of the Clinton impeachment circus days. The post 9/11 recession and the collapse of Enron was far more damaging to the credibility of Big Business than the multi-trillion dollar credit swaps disaster that has us heading into year four of a prolonged middle-class depression.

  46. rikyrah says:

    Obama proposes overtime initiative

    Nearly 2 million home care workers could qualify for federal wage and overtime protections under a rule being proposed today by the Obama administration.

    The effort — the 18th initiative in Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign against Congress — would overcome legislative inertia and a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that upheld home care workers’ exclusion from wage-and-hour standards.

    Once classified as companions for the elderly and people with disabilities, most home care workers today are part of a growing $70 billion industry that has doubled in size during the past decade. The nation’s over-65 population is projected to grow from 40 million to 72 million by 2030; 27 million Americans will need home care by 2050, the government estimates.

    At the same time, the duties of home care workers have evolved to include health care services, such as managing medications and monitoring vital signs. Yet they average $17,000 to $20,000 a year — more than the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, but low enough to put many beneath the poverty line and enable them to qualify for public assistance.

    More than 90% of home care workers are women, and nearly 50% are minorities. About four in 10 rely on public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps.

    The care provided by in-home workers is crucial to the quality of life for many families,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says. “The vast majority of these workers are women, many of whom serve as the primary breadwinner for their families.”

    About 1.6 million of the 1.8 million workers are employed by agencies that pay more than the minimum wage but not overtime. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice says the change would lead the agencies to hire more workers, rather than pay overtime rates.

    “The worker is not getting anything out of it,” says Bill Dombi, the group’s vice president for law. “Instead, the employer ends up with higher costs because they have to hire more people.”

    Eventually, he says, an aging society will outpace the industry’s ability to serve it, leading to cost overruns for federal and state government programs serving the elderly and disabled.

    Home care costs Medicaid and Medicare about $56 billion annually. The proposed change is projected to cost about $100 million a year, mostly in overtime costs. Twenty-one states already provide minimum-wage protection for more than half the nation’s home care workers, and 15 also provide overtime protection.

  47. rikyrah says:

    ‘Dismal’ prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income

    By Associated Press
    WASHINGTON – Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

    The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.


    “Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too ‘rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

    “The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”

    Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

    Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

  48. Pres.Obama expected to comment on tax cut/spending debate at noon event where he’ll call for overtime pay for home health workers.

  49. rikyrah says:

    Rick Perry’s Presidential Candidacy a Bitter Pill for Texans
    Dec 15, 2011 1:27 AM EST

    All the governor’s “oops” moments have again saddled his state with unwanted stereotypes, says Evan Smith.

    When I’m asked these days about the status of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, I’ve taken to whistling that song from Spamalot: “No, he’s not yet dead…” Count me alongside John Heilemann in the small group of those who believe the Texas governor still has a route to the GOP nomination—though it’s decidedly narrow, more farm-to-market road than interstate.

    But let’s accept and acknowledge the reality of things at the moment: Despite a record seemingly tailor-made for an election about the economy and an ideological disposition that was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, Perry has vastly underperformed the expectations of even his most ardent critics, who gritted their teeth while admitting, back in August, that he could be the one. Thursday night’s debate in Iowa is one of the last of his seemingly endless clichéd moments of truth—do or die, make or break, etc. The climb back into the top tier will be seriously uphill.

    What the hell happened? What does it mean for him? And what does it mean for Texas?

    I can assure you that every member of the press corps in Austin is chewing over possible answers to the first question. No one is more surprised than we are. We watched him run and win nine straight elections, dating back to his first race for the Texas House as a Democrat way back in 1984. Never did he break his stride; rarely did he have competition with a pulse and a heartbeat. Every quadrennial heavyweight brawl turned out to be, to borrow a phrase I coined at Texas Monthly, the Thrilla in Vanilla—a big yawn. He practically waltzed into office each time.

    Theories abound. The election isn’t, in fact, about the economy (at least the primary isn’t). Perry’s brand of conservatism, particularly on gays and God, is a little much for the rest of the country. He’s a retail politician in a wholesale year. His refusal to debate more than a handful of times over the last decade—an assertion of his political power—made him rusty and clumsy when it counted. It’s the fault of Texas Democrats: If only they hadn’t sucked so bad since 1994, he’d know what it’s like to do battle with real opponents. He’s been poorly managed by staff who are themselves inadequately prepared for the rigors of a national campaign. He tires too easily. His back hurts. He doesn’t actually want to be president. If you thought Bush wasn’t intellectually curious…

    Every one of these explanations has some merit. But the most plausible one is, as usual, the simplest: all of us, fans and foes alike, may have overestimated his ability to play at that level. However successful he’s been on the big stage that is Texas, running in all 50 states is something else entirely. Perhaps, like the minor-league phenom who turns out to be a flop in the bigs, the gaffe-prone goof just isn’t up to the job.

  50. rikyrah says:

    Republicans Chasing Reagan Legacy Once Criticized Party’s Icon
    QBy Kristin Jensen – Dec 14, 2011 11:00 PM CT

    A near-certainty in tonight’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa is that any mention of Ronald Reagan will be full of praise. He stands as the model president for Republicans seeking the office.

    What Newt Gingrich, the front-runner in the party’s current race, is unlikely to note is that he once charged that Reagan’s administration “has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic fundamental change in strategy will continue to fail” in dealing with the Soviet Union. Nor will rival Mitt Romney repeat his comment in a 1994 Senate race that he wasn’t “trying to return to” Reagan policies.

    Ron Paul, another leading Republican presidential contender, blamed Reagan for growing U.S. deficits as he left party in 1987 and sought the White House as the Libertarian nominee a year later. Meanwhile, Rick Perry was a Democrat in Texas during Reagan’s 1981-1989 presidential tenure.

    Past criticisms are now forgotten. Reagan’s name has come up 64 times in 12 previous Republican debates. Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker, mentions him the most. In a Dec. 10 debate, he declared, “I’m proud to be a Reaganite.”

    Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, called Reagan’s powers of leadership “amazing” during a Dec. 7 speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington. And on Dec. 9 he told the Des Moines Register editorial board that Reagan’s experience in the private sector was longer than in government, a selling point in Romney’s campaign.

  51. rikyrah says:

    GOP’s new rules set up long slog to nomination

    Michael Levenson, Globe Staff / Dec 15, 2011 04:21 AM

    Mitt Romney, who once hoped to land a knockout blow in January, is now bracing for a protracted months-long battle against Newt Gingrich, pointing to new election rules that make it mathematically impossible for any candidate to clinch the nomination before April 24.

    Under the rules, which Romney has cited in several recent interviews, most states that vote before April 1 will award their delegates in proportion to the tally, rather than give them all to the candidate who wins a simple majority. A candidate who captures 30 percent of the vote but still loses the state, for example, will still get 30 percent of the delegates.

    The Republican National Committee adopted the rules last year to make it harder for a candidate to wrap up the nomination early. The committee said the rules, combined with an election calendar that pushes more states to vote later, would force the candidates to campaign across the country, energizing more voters by giving them a greater say in selecting the nominee.

    The rules, known as proportional representation, are patterned after the system long used by Democrats to award delegates in their primaries. Republicans looked at the prolonged 2008 Democratic primary between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and believed that, despite its occasional divisiveness, the battle helped excite Democrats and starve the Republican candidate, John McCain, of attention.

    “McCain sat on the sidelines and couldn’t get a headline and was ignored,’’ said Paul Senft, a Republican National Committee member from Florida who helped draft the new rules.

    The new system was also designed to discourage states from moving their primaries earlier in the year to garner more attention from the candidates and the media. Because early primary states will divide their delegates under the new rules, they will be less important to the overall race than they were under the old, largely winner-take-all system.

  52. rikyrah says:

    How Fox News is helping Barack Obama’s re-election bidBecause Fox has put off the best Republican candidates, Barack Obama will be much less vulnerable at the election

    Whoever wrote the political rulebook needs to start rewriting it. It used to be an iron maxim that voters’ most vital organ was neither their head nor their heart, but their wallet. If they were suffering economically, they’d throw the incumbents out. Yet in Britain a coalition presiding over barely-there growth, rising unemployment and forecasts of gloom stretching to the horizon is holding steady in the opinion polls, while in the US Barack Obama is mired in horrible numbers – except for the ones showing him beating all-comers in the election now less than 11 months away. Even though the US economy is slumped in the doldrums, some of the country’s shrewdest commentators make a serious case that Obama could be heading for a landslide victory in 2012.

    How to explain such a turnaround? In the United States, at least, there is one compellingly simple, two-word answer: Fox News.

    By any normal standards, Obama should be extremely vulnerable. Not only is the economy in bad shape, he has proved to be a much more hesitant, less commanding White House presence than his supporters longed for. And yet, most surveys put him comfortably ahead of his would-be rivals. That’s not a positive judgment on the president – whose approval rating stands at a meagre 44% – but an indictment of the dire quality of a Republican field almost comically packed with the scandal-plagued, gaffe-prone and downright flaky. And the finger of blame for this state of affairs points squarely at the studios of Fox News.

    It’s not just usual-suspect lefties and professional Murdoch-haters who say it, mischievously exaggerating the cable TV network’s influence. Dick Morris, veteran political operative and Fox regular, noted the phenomenon himself the other day while sitting on the Fox sofa. “This is a phenomenon of this year’s election,” he said. “You don’t win Iowa in Iowa. You win it on this couch. You win it on Fox News.” In other words, it is Fox – with the largest cable news audience, representing a huge chunk of the Republican base – that is, in effect, picking the party’s nominee to face Obama next November.

  53. Ametia says:

    Gotta love Axelrod- Thank goodenss he got a word in edge wise on HARDBALL

  54. rikyrah says:

    Mitt Romney writes open letter to Obama, expresses ‘disgrace’
    The State Column | Staff | Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. economy a “disgrace” in an open letter he wrote to Mr. Obama Wednesday, published in The Fayetteville Observer.

    Mr. Romney wrote the letter prior to the president’s visit to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wednesday to greet troops that are returning from Iraq.

    Wednesday will be Mr. Obama’s first trip to Fort Bragg as president. The president is slated to discuss the troop withdrawal from Iraq. Earlier this week, he met with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House to discuss U.S.-Iraq relations going forward.

    While Mr. Romney joined the president in “expressing our nation’s gratitude” towards the returning troops, he attacked Mr. Obama for the high unemployment rate that many young veterans will be facing when they return. According to the former Massachusetts governor, the unemployment rate for “recently returned veterans” has risen by more than one percentage point over the past year.

    “It is a disgrace that the unemployment rate for recently returned veterans has increased by more than one percentage point over the past year. It is a disgrace that those who are now returning from Iraq join other Iraq veterans suffering from unemployment above 11 percent,” Mr. Romney stated in the letter.

    Read more:

  55. Ametia says:

    Rep. Col. Wilerson slams the Republican Party; speaks of leaving the CIRCUS

  56. Ametia says:

    PBO & FLOTUS interview with Babs Walter tonight.

  57. Ametia says:

    December 14, 2011 01:00 PM
    Star Parker Plays Fox News Apologist For Those Poor Wealthy Folks Whose ‘Portfolios Fell Apart’
    By karoli


  58. rikyrah says:

    Democrats’ assaults taking toll on Mitt Romney

    Democrats have been pounding Mitt Romney relentlessly for months, issuing Web videos, press releases, and a smattering of paid ads belittling, sometimes with humor, the Republican presidential candidate as a flip-flopping shape-shifter and cold-blooded former corporate raider. With Romney sinking and Newt Gingrich rising in recent polls, the Democrats believe their efforts are hobbling the candidate they evidently fear most in a general election.

    None of the other Republicans has attracted anywhere near the attention Romney has from the Democratic National Committee and allied organizations.

    The steady drip-drip of the partisan assaults has gone on for months. It started when Romney was the default front-runner and continued as one flawed GOP candidate after another challenged or eclipsed him briefly in polls before crashing into single digits. Consistently in the polling, Romney has been unable to exceed 25 percent, which has allowed more conservative candidates to muster their challenges.

    “It’s definitely taking a toll,’’ said Bill Burton, a former spokesman for President Obama now with Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama so-called super political action committee that has aired some paid broadcast ads and more on the Internet at a cost of more than $300,000. To generate news coverage, the group has also issued a series of memos attacking Romney’s shifting positions on issues.

    The group produced a Web video knocking Romney’s policies as beneficial to Wall Street and detrimental to the rest of the country. As of yesterday, the video had scored more than 300,000 Internet hits.

  59. Ametia says:

    Real Americans redistribute: The payroll tax debate’s dirty secret

    By Matt Miller, Published: December 14
    Can we talk for a minute about redistribution of income? Just between us?

    Republicans were aghast when President Obama’s original proposal to extend and deepen payroll tax cuts for 160 million workers would have been paid for by a surtax on America’s 350,000 top earners.

    Egad! cried the GOP. Redistribution is robbery!

    But the real taboo in American politics isn’t redistribution; it’s talking honestly about redistribution. Because as a matter of tradition and public policy we quietly redistribute massive sums each year.

    read on:

  60. Sean Hannity’s intellectual dishonesty

    [wpvideo jriDO9HC]

  61. Have Recall Walker Organizers Hit Their Goal?

    Official announcement coming Thursday, but the Internet is buzzing with reports that more than enough signatures have been collected to force a gubernatorial recall election.

    One month to the day after the start of the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office, organizers have scheduled a Thursday press conference to provide a “special update” on how the effort is going.

    And several liberal blogs and pro-recall Facebook pages said Wednesday that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and United Wisconsin, the two groups spearheading the recall, already have collected more than enough signatures to force an election.

    The effort to recall the Republican governor kicked off on Nov. 15, and organizers have until Jan. 17 to collect more than 540,000 valid signatures to force a spring recall election.

    The blog New Dog Democrat reported Wednesday that more than 550,000 signatures have been collected and that organizers want to hit the 1 million mark before the deadline.

    “After weeks of gathering signatures at a lightning pace, United Wisconsin is soon announcing that they have enough signatures to turn in and recall the governor, but will push for around 1,000,000,” the blog stated.

  62. Obama Health Care Law Gave Medical Coverage To 2.5 Million Young Adults

    2.5 Million Young Adults Gain Health Coverage Under Obama Plan

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says the number of young adults going without medical coverage has shrunk by 2.5 million since the new health care law took effect.

    A new analysis to be released Wednesday finds the drop is two-and-a-half times the figure indicated by government and private estimates from earlier this year. The health care overhaul allows young adults to stay on a parent’s plan until they turn 26.

    Administration analysts found that nearly 36 percent of Americans age 19-25 were uninsured in the third calendar quarter of 2010, before the law’s provision took effect. That’s over 10.5 million people.

    By the second calendar quarter of 2011, the uninsured dropped to a little over 27 percent, or about 8 million.

    The difference is nearly 2.5 million more young adults getting coverage.

  63. Good Morning, Ametia, Rikyrah, 3 Chics, Friends & Visitors!

    Just 10 days to Christmas. Get your last minute shopping done!

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