Serendipity SOUL | Thursday Open Thread

“We Can Work It Out”

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41 Responses to Serendipity SOUL | Thursday Open Thread

  1. Ametia says:

    Condom Maker Creates Special Mitt Romney Rubber For ‘Elite Penises’
    February 9, 2012
    By Stephen D. Foster Jr.

    Nope, this isn’t The Onion. It’s very real and very entertaining. A condom company in New York has decided to pay tribute to Mitt Romney by creating a rubber named after him. According to the website for Say It With A Condom, the Romney condom is for “elite penises” and serves as a safety net for those who use it. Here is the full product information

  2. Ametia says:


    The race to complete Gabrielle Giffords’ term is one of those rapidly developing stories that’s easier to cover online at The Range, our daily dispatch, but we’ll do our best to round up the news as it stands on Tuesday morning, and hope it hasn’t changed too much by the time our dead-tree edition hits the streets.

    You’ll still want to check to get the latest—but, hey, you Skinny readers don’t need to be told the best place to find the latest local political news online, do you?

    As our print deadline closes in, it appears likely that Ron Barber, who has served as the district director for Giffords’ congressional office since her election in 2006, will enter the race to finish out her term in Congressional District 8.

    “I would be shocked if we didn’t hear an announcement soon that Barber is running for the interim position,” Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers told us earlier this week, adding that a Giffords endorsement would probably come along with the announcement.

  3. President Obama Speaks on No Child Left Behind Reform

  4. rikyrah says:

    It’s about contraception, not religion
    By Steve Benen – Thu Feb 9, 2012 3:03 PM EST

    .Critics of the Obama administration’s policy on contraception coverage are eager, if not desperate, to put a faith-based spin on their condemnations. “This is not a women’s rights issue,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said yesterday. “This is a religious liberty issue.”

    As a political matter, it’s easy to understand the motivation for the misleading spin. For one thing, modern birth control is popular, and Obama’s detractors don’t want to be seen as out of touch. For another, Republicans in particular see value in attacking the president over religion, as part of a larger culture war/electoral strategy.

    Once in a while, though, we see a more candid and forthcoming perspective.

    The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

    That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

    “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.

    As Jamelle Bouie explained, “In other words, if a Catholic so much as opens a business — even if it’s secular — they should be allowed to discriminate and deny birth-control coverage to their female employees, in effect, charging them a fine for having two XX chromosomes.”

    The White House is likely to find it difficult to negotiate with a position like this one. After all, it is, at its core, anti-birth control.

    Also note, some of the political players have been just as candid.

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
    Rick Santorum argued several months ago, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. Many of the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay, contraception is okay.’ It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

    When critics say, “It’s not about contraception,” a whole lot of them mean, “It’s about contraception.”

  5. rikyrah says:

    New Hampshire GOP’s War On Lunch Breaks Shows Why We Need Unions

    The attack on unions is nothing new. Unions have been under assault since their inception, but the attack was put on steroids thirty years ago. The argument that many average Americans make is that since we have laws to protect the worker, so we no longer need unions. Unions had their place, but now with these laws on the books, unions are irrelevant and actually an obstacle to job creation.

    Well, for those of you who believe that unions are no longer needed, take a look at New Hampshire. According to the Concord Monitor, the Republicans are looking to eliminate a law mandating a lunch break after five hours of work.

    They are putting their faith in employers to do the right thing and give their employees a lunch break. While that is probably true in most cases, there is also a reason why the law mandating lunch breaks exists.

    Given the circumstances of their work an employer may tell you one day, “no lunch today” we are on a tight schedule. We need this job done. Before lunch breaks were legally required this is the way it used to be, and if Republicans get their way, this is the way it will be again.

    Those who believe that laws are enough need to understand that all laws can be eliminated, all it would take is one congressional action followed by a presidential signature to repeal OSHA, and we would no longer have oversight of safety in the workplace. We can repeal minimum wage and other laws that protect workers. Nothing is permanent in a democracy anything is subject to change or elimination, given the right circumstances.

    When we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it. Labor laws exist because of past actions against workers and without unions there would be no one pressuring lawmakers to pass laws to protect workers

  6. rikyrah says:

    Wonkbook: Economy poised to beat expectations in 2012. But will Congress get in its way?
    Posted by Ezra Klein at 08:00 AM ET, 02/09/2012

    Early in the recession, the government’s forecasts were far too optimistic. In 2009, for instance, the White House forecast that with or without the stimulus, unemployment would be back below seven percent by now. Now, however, their forecasts — and those of many private-sector forecasters — are beginning to look too pessimistic.

    The White House’s most recent set of economic forecasts — the one that will appear in Tuesday’s budget — used November’s employment data to come up with a prediction for unemployment in 2012. That prediction is 8.8 percent. Unemployment, however, is already 8.3 percent. So barring an economic disaster, that prediction is pretty clearly wrong.

    Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told the New York Times that he now believes unemployment could be below eight percent a year from now. And he’s not alone. Mark Zandi, head of Moody’s Analytics, is now projecting 7.9 percent unemployment at the end of 2012.

    These aren’t tremendously optimistic forecasts. As Calculated Risk notes, assuming no change in the labor-force participation right, you could get to 7.7 percent unemployment at the end of 2012 with monthly payroll growth of about 200,000. If monthly payroll growth was 250,000, you could get to 7.3 percent unemployment.

    Of course, that assumes monthly payroll growth will remain at the levels of December and January. But this isn’t the first time we’ve had a few good months in a row. During the first four months of 2011, the economy added an average of 203,000 jobs a month. That’s a higher average rate of job growth than we’ve seen over the last four months, but that recovery sputtered out. This one could, too.

    Which is why it would be wise for policymakers not to get complacent. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t just smoothly extend the payroll tax cut and the unemployment benefits, but we would begin a large program of infrastructure investment, and we would pass a deficit-reduction package that began in 2014, and the Federal Reserve would step up with a bit more support for the economy. All of that would tell businesses and consumers that the political system is united in protecting and sustaining this recovery, and help convince them that this time, finally, the recovery might be real, and so they had better act quickly to take advantage of record-low interest rates, and to hire more workers to meet rising demand.

  7. rikyrah says:

    Republicans Multitask Their Pro-Corporate Job Killing By Privatizing TSA
    By Rmuse

    The ability to complete more than one feat at a time is a desirable quality and indeed, multi-tasking is beneficial to save time and money in nearly any endeavor if a goal is well-defined and there is a reasonable assurance of success. Anyone who follows Republican politics understands that one of their major goals is eliminating the government through privatization to enrich corporations, and if Americans are harmed in the process, then as John Boehner says, “so be it.” Now, Republicans have learned they can multi-task and moved to eliminate government jobs, enrich corporations, and hand over Transportation Security Administration (TSA) duties to for-profit companies. Giving counter-terrorism duties to private companies may not sound dangerous, but Republicans are proposing awarding contracts to foreign companies as well as domestic businesses.

    Republican policy is if a government agency is successful, then destroy it by any means necessary by either defunding it, or transferring operations to a private corporation. In a conference report to H.R. 658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Republicans proposed plans to expand the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) that allows private companies, instead of federal transportation security officers, to conduct airport security screening. Sixteen smaller airports use private screeners now, but Republicans believe corporations should handle all counter-terrorism activities under their expanded privatization plans.

    The chairman of the transportation security subcommittee, Mike Rogers (R-Ala), articulated Republican intentions to award private businesses counter-terrorism duties so they can reap financial rewards when he said, “Rather than trying to insulate a giant federal workforce, TSA should be working to strengthen and improve the private screening program and make it more cost-efficient so that U.S. businesses can take on a more meaningful role.” The push for private contractors as a cost saving measure is problematic because they generally cost the government more money. Private screeners have the same training, follow the same regulations and must be paid at least as much as federal screeners, so Rogers’ argument is inherently false. The truth is Republicans are on a mission to replace federal agencies with corporations and if it is more costly and dangerous, then they accomplished their mission

  8. rikyrah says:

    What Obama’s Up Against
    by E.D. Kain

    Not-Romney is one candidate with two heads, one of which is very large.

    Nate Silver thinksthe GOP primary is going to be a long, protracted race, noting that it bears a “resemblance to something like the 1984 Democratic contest or the 1976 Republican race.” Mondale won in 1984, and Ford beat Reagan in 1976, but both primaries were close calls, and neither Mondale nor Ford inspired their respective parties.

    Still, I’m not sure either one had as abysmal an outlook as presumed front-runner Mitt Romney does in this race:

    Meanwhile, the two not-Romney candidates – Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – are nipping at Romney’s heels making sure that neither one has any real chance at stealing the nomination.

    And of course Ron Paul has his base of support which will likely neither grow nor dwindle in the coming months.

    Now, it’s almost not even worth talking about anyone in the Republican field except Romney – the race is still his to lose as far as I’m concerned. All that Santorum’s win Tuesday achieved was to further split the not-Romney vote. That doesn’t hurt Romney – if anything it helps him. So long as both Gingrich and Santorum keep winning primaries, neither is likely to drop out. And Romney is flush with cash, a well-organized campaign, and the support of the Republican Establishment. He may not have the adoration of the now all-but-defunct Tea Party, but that hardly matters.

    Romney’s real problem is President Obama.

    Rest assured, the president will be well-armed with Super PAC money, campaign contributions, and a well organized network of volunteers both online and in the trenches. As the economy starts to warm up, Romney’s key selling points begin to wither. The private sector businessman routine won’t resonate if unemployment is falling, at least not with moderates and independents. He can’t really drum up culture war issues, either, given his Mormonism and his history as a moderate on social issues. And his extremism in the primary will hurt him with independents in the general, as will the negativity of his rivals, none of whom are likely to stop throwing punches any time soon.

    If Ron Paul goes third party, this will almost certainly hurt Romney more than Obama.

    So it’s no wonder Obama seems happy these days. The Republicans, for all their bizarre hatred of the president, have failed to field even one candidate that has a chance at unseating him, and the lack of enthusiasm among GOP voters stands in stark contrast to the 2010 mid-terms and the Rise of the Tea Party. It’s hard to imagine that this will change much in the general, though Romney could, theoretically, pick a Palinesque VP to help grind up some red meat and inspire the uninspired base.

    Meanwhile, for pundits and bloggers and late-night talk show hosts, and all the political junkies out there, at least we should be in for an entertaining ride.

  9. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Defends Obama SuperPAC Stance: ‘The Rules As They Exist Now Are The Rules We Will Play By’

    DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz visited CNN’s Starting Point to address criticism that President Barack Obama has “flip-flopped” on the issue of Super PACs.

    “Isn’t there something contradictory in that, though?” asked host Soledad O’Brien, “Saying ‘I’m against it, but embrace it because the other guys are embracing it.’”

    “Well, because we can’t operate in a situation where we have only the resources we can raise in our campaign by very limited campaign finance rules,” said Wasserman Schultz, “and the Republicans will have several hundred million dollars in Super PAC money that will be dumped on President Obama in the general election. So, the rules as they exist now are the rules we will play by, but when it comes to the future and if the Republicans would step up right now, pass a disclose act, apply those new transparency rules and get rid of Super PACs to the election right now — which we would love to see — we welcome them and urge them to do that.”

    She added that Obama wouldn’t become beholden to special interest groups now that he’s agreed to play the Super PAC game. “We have been the example in how to reduce special interests,” she said.

  10. rikyrah says:

    9 Feb 2012 10:12 AM
    “Culture Warrior Mitt”
    by Maisie Allison

    As Santorum basks in the resurgence of the culture wars, Steve Benen marks the sudden return of “Culture Warrior Mitt.” Alec MacGillis points out that this is treacherous ground for Romney:

    [D]oes Romney really want to spend much of the months ahead pounding the lectern on religious liberty? That’s Santorum’s wheelhouse. But for Romney, it cannot help but remind voters that he hails from a religion that, not so long ago, was invoking religious liberty to defend practices that are now deemed utterly unacceptable — polygamy, a century ago, (his own great-grandfather led the way in establishing a Mormon outpost in Mexico to avoid a federal crackdown on polygamy) and more recently the banning of African-Americans from positions of leadership.

    Similarly, on yesterday’s appeals court ruling against Proposition 8 in California, Romney decried the decision as stridently as anyone, going so far as to imply that the ruling was biased because of a judge’s sexual orientation. But if he keeps talking about Prop 8, surely that will mean more attention to the fact that members of his church, to which he has given millions of dollars over the years, spent an estimated $20 million to help pass Prop 8.

    Meanwhile, the White House is happy to identify similarities between Obama and Romney’s policies on contraception:

    [T]he White House is in effect giving Romney a social issues death hug … encouraging a dynamic that could further damage Romney in the GOP nomination process: The better Santorum does, the more social issues will come to dominate. And the more Romney has to move to the right on them, in a campaign he had bet would be all about the economy, and at a time when Romney had hoped to be moderating his image in preparation for the general election. This social issues death hug is similar to the health care death hug that the White House gave Romney some time ago by pointing out the similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare. But in some ways social issues could be more problematic.

  11. rikyrah says:

    The right keeps targeting the Girl Scouts
    By Steve Benen – Thu Feb 9, 2012 10:00 AM EST

    .Conservatives’ antipathy towards the Girl Scouts has generally been found on the fringes. In 1994, for example, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family published a memorable attack on the Girl Scouts, insisting the group “lost their way” after the Scouts made a religious oath optional for membership. (For the religious right, faith shouldn’t be voluntary; it should be mandated on children by authority figures demanding vows of allegiance.)

    I can’t find it online anymore, but back in 2005, Amanda Marcotte had a great item about various paranoid voices on the right, complaining about “radical lesbian feminists” having taken over the Girl Scouts.

    And while much of the mainstream likely considers Girl Scouts as American as moms, baseball, and apple pie, the freak-out continues.

    In today’s prayer alert, the Family Research Council boasted that as a result of their pressure campaign against the Girl Scouts “their cookie sales are suffering.” The FRC has long attacked the Girl Scouts over discredited allegations that the Girl Scouts work with Planned Parenthood to promote “casual sex” and train girls about living with HIV. […]

    Although “none of the money” from Girl Scout cookie sales “is given to any other group,” that hasn’t stopped FRC from asking for prayers against the Girl Scouts. The prayer alert says the “Scouts had better confess their errors” and stop “collaborating with Planned Parenthood,” and even cites a passage from Matthew 27 on the suicide of Judas Iscariot to imply that the Girl Scouts are taking blood money.

    The Family Research Council is one of the leading organizations in the religious right movement, but it isn’t the only outfit on the right to be worked up about the Girl Scouts.

    As recently as December, Fox News went after the group quite a bit, and CNN contributor Dana Loesch not only lamented the “moral decline” of the Girl Scouts, she also suggested conservatives should stop buying their cookies as a form of political protest.

    Comedy Central recently responded with the appropriate derision: “Don’t be fooled by those cute little outfits or merit badges. The Girl Scouts aren’t just selling you a pack of cookies — they’re selling you a pack of lies, with a light coating of toasted coconut communism. Why do the Girl Scouts teach survival skills? It’s clearly an attempt to build some kind of liberal tween militia. Volunteering and ‘helping’ others? Just another strategy to mobilize the working poor and other key Democratic voting blocs.”

    This was, in case it’s not obvious, sarcasm.

  12. Ametia says:

    In the largest deal ever to address the housing crisis, federal and state officials on Thursday announced a $26 billion foreclosure settlement with five of the largest home lenders.

    The deal settles potential state charges alleging improper foreclosures based on “robosigning,” seizures made without proper paperwork.

    Most of the relief will go to those who owe far more than their homes are worth, which is known as being underwater on the loans. That relief will come over the course of the next three years, with the banks having incentives to provide most of the relief in the next 12 months.

    The deal is the second biggest state settlement ever reached, trailing only the $206 billion settlement reached in 1998 between state attorneys general and the tobacco industry.

  13. rikyrah says:

    Public revulsion towards Congress increases
    By Steve Benen – Thu Feb 9, 2012 9:24 AM EST

    .President Obama’s approval rating, like the national economy, has steadily improved recently. Those on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue aren’t nearly as fortunate.

    A record-low 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, down from 13% in January and the previous low of 11%, recorded in December 2011. Eighty-six percent disapprove of Congress, tying the record high for disapproval set in December. […]

    Democrats’ and Republicans’ approval of Congress are equally low, at 11% and 12%, respectively, while 8% of independents approve.

    Gallup published this chart to help drive the point home.

  14. rikyrah says:

    February 09, 2012
    ObamaCare’s tyrannical fairness
    Filed under ‘In Case You Missed It.’

    Appearing on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show last night, the unflappable David Boies, of Bush v. Gore fame, calmly and damn near indifferently explained to his host that there is no — repeat, no — Constitutional, First Amendment issue at stake in the most recent Inquisition into ‘Obamacare’s’ purported tyranny, this time over the Catholic Church’s holy conscience.

    (To digress, or perhaps I should say clarify: Yes, holy “conscience,” as divinely revealed, for example, in the ecclesiastical expediencies of shuffling pedophiles or accommodating fascist regimes. Just so we all understand the terminology.)

    What is at stake? Labor law; the same labor laws that the Church and every other U.S. employer is obligated to obey. The Catholic Church, as Boies explained dispassionately, could not evade out of some presumed religious conscience the minimum wage or workers’ compensation or a 40-hour week or any other universally applied labor law of a reasonable standard. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception provision, as a required condition of employer healthcare coverage, is no different. The Obama administration has already compromised, the ACA has already exempted the Church itself, just as a variety of preceding state laws have — which have never, not once, been an “issue.”

    To put it idiomatically, this is a no-brainer. Which is also why, of course, culture-warring demagogues like Rick Santorum and suddenly Mitt Romney and virtually half the U.S. House will ride it to absolute exhaustion.

    Still, that’s what demagogues do. That’s what they’re expected to do. And who among us cares to fritter much time in blaming lizards for crawling or bats for flapping or black widow spiders for mariticide?

    Should we not, however, expect something a bit more honorable from the Church? — you know, the one worried about its integrity and conscience?

  15. rikyrah says:

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012
    Nuked Gingrich Served In Cincy
    Posted by Zandar

    So if you want to know what LEROOOOOOY NNNNNEWTON! was doing while he was drowning in flop sweat and Santorum last night, he was too busy playing for Ohio by attacking the President (and Mitt Romney) here in heavily Catholic Cincinnati yesterday.

    Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich today brought his talk of family, jobs and God straight to where he hoped it would resonate – Cincinnati’s West Side.
    And it did. The popular Price Hill Chili was packed with 200 people who cheered and clapped as Gingrich promised he’d put people on unemployment into job training and cut corporate taxes. “Large-scale” change is needed, he said, and he’s the man to bring it.
    “It is fundamentally wrong to give people 99 weeks of money for doing nothing,” he said, prompting the crowd to yell, “Newt! Newt!”

    He must hate anyone who’s on Social Security for more than two years then. Oh wait, he pretty much does.

    He drew his biggest cheers when he talked about oil and said, “No American president will ever again bow to a Saudi king.”
    He said he doesn’t want to run just a Republican campaign, but one that unleashes “the American people so they can go out and rebuild the America we love.” A woman shouted, “Yes! Yes!”
    When someone in the crowd yelled, “Lead us back to the Bible, Newt!” he didn’t miss a beat: “What I want is to lead you back to the Declaration of Independence… The fact is, in America, we believe that power comes from God to each of you personally” and you loan it back to the government.”

    Newt went on to attack Obama’s War On People Who Were Never Going To Vote For Him In The First Place, and the crowd ate it up.

    Jim Ferneding of Montgomery wanted the chance to shake Gingrich’s hand, and he got it. He told him: “You’re the one with the strength. Just concentrate on condemning Obama and you will win.”

    ecause in the end, that’s all that matters to a hell of a lot of folks around here. They don’t want someone to beat Obama, they want him so thoroughly and utterly destroyed that nobody “like him” dares to run for President again in their lifetimes. He must be broken.

    Don’t forget that little goal even for a second.

  16. rikyrah says:

    Dear Russ Feingold, let me tell you about dancing with the devil
    Tuesday, February 07, 2012 | Posted by Deaniac83 at 2:49 PM

    Hey, did you hear? The Senator who lost his seat to a wingnut is now pretending that he’s qualified to call the shots on ‘strategy’ for the president who not only is the first black president of the United States, but has shown strategic brilliance in defeating the Republican legislative agenda time and again. That’s right. Russ Feingold is calling President Obama’s decision to support Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, “dumb strategy”, and “dancing with the devil.”

    This is dancing with the devil. I know a lot of Democrats in D.C. don’t agree, and I understand the desire to do everything possible to win,” Feingold said in a statement. “But this decision will push Democrats to become corporate-lite, and will send us head-on into a battle we know we will lose, because Republicans like Mitt Romney and his friends have and will spend more money.”

    Dancing with the devil? So because Mitt Romney and his pals “have and will spend more money,” our side should just pretend that the rules of the game has not been changed by the Supreme Court and try to compete? And should President Obama’s re-election team lend the support to competition, they are “dancing with the devil?”


    If you want to see the the dancing devil looking you in the eyes, Mr. Feingold, you need look no further than the Republican governor of your own state, Scott Walker and those of others who submitted to Republican rule after the 2010 elections. Workers’ rights have been attacked, Republican legislatures and governors have claimed the right to dismiss elected local governments and institute dictatorial rule, right wing activists have tried to force women to carry the children of their rapists, and state governments have gone after their own citizens’ right to vote at their own convenience.

    And here’s the thing about how that dancing devil got here and got so far. Part of the problem, frankly, Sen. Feingold, were people like you. People like you who demanded ponies and perfections from President Obama’s sweeping reforms Wall Street for example. It was you, Sen. Feingold, who was willing to contribute to Americans’ feelings that the government can’t do anything right (the Republican argument) by filibustering the most significant re-regulation of the financial sector since 1930s. It was you who was willing to use the “not good enough” excuse to pick up applause lines at pretend-Left spheres rather than doing the hard work of governing and helping this president dig us out of the mess he’d been handed.

    What about your pals who are so enthusiastically extolling your “principled” stand on the super PACs, at the Huffington Post? Did you ever think to ask Sam Stein, the reporter giving you the praises, about his employer’s corporate selling out to AOL to make its owners rich while costing 200 American jobs? Did you think to ask his boss, Arianna Huffington, about why she is so happy to cash in on the work of unpaid bloggers that made the Huffington Post? You want to talk about dancing with the devil by consorting with big corporate money? The first people you need to talk to are the ones that are using your words to undermine the President.

  17. rikyrah says:

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012
    Last Call
    Posted by Zandar
    I haven’t really weighed in on President Obama’s decision to take support and money from the Priorities USA Action PAC, but Kevin Drum is 100% correct about it.

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

    In order for the President to be in any position to do anything about Citizens United through legislation, he still has to be President. That means playing the campaign finance game that SCOTUS has set up so he can get re-elected. The alternative is a Republican in the White House who would certainly veto any campaign finance limitation, not to mention have the ability to appoint SCOTUS justices…and three of them are currently in their 80’s or will be in 2013.

    David Axelrod signals the White House stance:

    We have to live in a world as it is, not how we want it to be.

    You can hate the game, but you still have to play it. And you play it to win. Period.

  18. rikyrah says:

    Thursday, February 9, 2012
    Orange Julius, Over His Head
    Posted by Zandar

    House Speaker John Boehner is picking a fight he won’t win, vowing to force the President to overturn his decision to require insurance companies to provide birth control to women, and going against the will of the American people.

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

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

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

    Translation: Gentlemen, we just found our new hostage for the payroll tax cut! Only…the support might not be there for Johnny.

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

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

    The Tea Party wing of the GOP is counting on it, I’d say. “Sorry ladies, you can have birth control or your payroll tax cut. And we’re making that choice for you!”

    By all means, GOP, continue to drive younger, secular women into the voting booth for President Obama.

  19. rikyrah says:

    Why White House sees political opportunity in the contraception battle
    Posted by Sarah Kliff at 09:30 AM ET, 02/08/2012

    The controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood—and subsequent reversal— continues. Catholic leaders are blasting the health reform requirement that insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Commentator Mark Shields joined other liberals in blasting the provision, saying it could have “cataclysmic” fallout for President Obama come November.

    Numerous pundits have predicted that the requirement —and its narrow exemption for churches — will be a political liability for Obama. But where Shields sees “cataclysmic” fallout, the White House sees something quite different: a chance to widen the reproductive health debate beyond abortion to issues like contraceptives, winning over key demographics of independent voters in the process.

    And that could explain why the White House, alongside the Obama campaign, has engaged eagerly on the issues. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in USA Today earlier this week, praising the new provision. The Obama campaign meanwhile hasn’t been shy either, drawing up an infographic praising the new regulation. While there are some signs of a potential compromise for religious groups, the White House has made it pretty clear it plans to stand firm behind the current regulation.

    But while Catholic leadership has blasted the new regulation, polls show that a majority of Catholics are actually more supportive of the provision than the rest of the country. A poll out Tuesday from the Public Religion Research Institute finds 52 percent of Catholic voters agreed with the statement, “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” That’s pretty much in line with overall support for the provision, which hovers at 55 percent – likely because Catholics use contraceptives at rates similar to the rest of Americans.

    A majority of Catholics – 52 percent – also agree with the Obama administration’s decision to not exempt religious hospitals and universities from the provision. “Outside the political punditry, most Catholics agree with the administration on the issue,” says one Obama campaign official, explaining the view that this could be a political win.

    And a lot of this likely isn’t about Catholic voters at all.

    Rather, it may well be about the demographics that are most supportive of this particular health reform provision: young voters and women. In the PRRI poll, both groups register support above 60 percent for the provision.

  20. rikyrah says:

    Barack Obama’s brilliant play on birth control
    Wednesday, February 08, 2012 | Posted by Deaniac83 at 3:43 PM

    Barack Obama is a transformative president who has far-reaching policy triumphs and who has never been afraid to take the political risk to do the right thing. But he is also the man whose political acumen has Republicans scared. Even post the GOP electoral gains of 2010, President Obama wrapped the Republicans in their own petard, so to speak, and won policy as well as political victories over the GOP on the debt ceiling fight, on instituting and extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, and even on some parts of his jobs agenda.

    Here comes another one: birth control. The beltway media thinks that it’s a public relations disaster for the Administration for applying the law as it has been over more than a decade (only difference being under the Affordable Care Act, it is now free – h/t blackinthebuilding in the comments) and trying to protect the religious freedom of employees of religion-affiliated civil institutions from the religious dicta of their employers. Catholic bishops (who are at odds with the majority of American Catholics) are demanding for their Church-run (but non-church) public civil institutions the ability to shirk laws every other employer has to abide by. But as Rachel Maddow said last night, there is another way to look at this:

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


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

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

  21. rikyrah says:

    Jobless claims continue to improve
    By Steve Benen – Thu Feb 9, 2012 8:39 AM EST.

    The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, though there have been setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning’s report to show an uptick in filings.

    The good news is, that didn’t happen. The better news is, initial jobless claims have reached one of the lowest levels we’ve seen in four years.

    U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 in the week ended Feb. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had estimated claims would rise to 370,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up by 6,000 to 373,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, dropped by 11,000 to 366,250, the lowest level since April 2008.

    In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.

    And with that, here’s the chart, showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I’ve added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama’s Recovery Act began spending money.

  22. rikyrah says:

    GOP, lobbyists partner to weaken STOCK Act
    By Steve Benen – Wed Feb 8, 2012 3:34 PM EST.Last week, by a vote of 96 to 3, the Senate approved legislation to prohibit lawmakers from engaging in insider trading. It wasn’t as strong a bill as it could have been, but the bill, known as the STOCK Act, wasn’t a bad effort.

    There is, however, another chamber in Congress.

    Lobbyists were in a tizzy on Tuesday over provisions of a Senate-passed ethics bill that tighten regulation of lobbying and require secretive “political intelligence” firms to register in the same way as lobbyists.

    House Republicans and their floor leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said they would amend the bill, going to the House floor this week, to strengthen it.

    But Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said, “I think ‘strengthening’ here is a euphemism for ‘weakening.’ ”

    To a certain extent, this isn’t new.. When Congress worked on a jobs bill in 2010, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with corporate lobbyists. When work on Wall Street reform got underway, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with insurance lobbyists. When an energy/climate bill started advancing, Republicans huddled with energy lobbyists.

    It’s not exactly a surprise, then, that GOP leaders would coordinate with lobbyists on insider trading.

    What is surprising, at least a little, is that even Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has accused his Republican counterparts in the House “of doing the bidding of Wall Street by removing a provision … that would have required political intelligence firms to register in a similar fashion to lobbyists.”


    From The Hill’s report:

  23. rikyrah says:

    Controlling Birth Control, Controlling Liberty

    by Zack Beauchamp

    2012’s great birth control debate is far from over. The Catholic Church is threatening all-out war against the Obama Administration until it caves on the decision to require contraceptives without co-pays. One popular framing of the debate is religious liberty versus women’s health, but that’s not quite right. The Administration’s requirement isn’t a threat to liberty, religious or otherwise. It’s a sally in an ongoing debate about the character of liberal rights – and one on the right side, to boot.

    We usually think of religious liberty as an individual believer’s right to worship and practice freely. That’s of course not at issue here – the feds aren’t marching into Catholic bedrooms and making everyone take Plan B on Sunday morning or requiring Catholic hospital administrators to pass out free birth control in the lobby. The regulations instead require they indirectly subsidize birth control use, which several faiths believe means being forced to participate in evil. But opponents worry about a much broader problem than religious freedom. Check this from Ross Douthat last week:

    Critics of the administration’s policy are framing this as a religious liberty issue, and rightly so. But what’s at stake here is bigger even than religious freedom. The Obama White House’s decision is a threat to any kind of voluntary community that doesn’t share the moral sensibilities of whichever party controls the health care bureaucracy.

    Ross is arguing that government regulations “crowd out” private associations that perform valuable societal functions. Forcing members of those associations to adhere to legal rules they find repugnant puts them in a devil’s choice: do something they believe fundamentally wrong or, more likely, get out of providing public services entirely. Government thus guts the ability of private, voluntary organizations to do good. See David Brooks and Kirsten Powers for similar arguments.

    But here’s the problem: these “voluntary communities” aren’t the Rotary Club – they’re employers that wield a significant amount of financial clout. The market, though we refer to it as the “private sector,” is in a certain sense very public: we all have to participate in it. Because in capitalist economies no one has much of a choice about getting a job, all but the most extreme libertarians accept that the government has to set some standards about how employers treat the employed. Allowing “conscience” exemptions whenever an employer doesn’t feel morally clean when complying with regulations in principle neuters all regulation. The argument for allowing Catholic hospitals a pass on covering birth control has to rest or fall on the specifics of the case rather than a general commitment to protecting “voluntary communities.”

    This is where the case against the Administration’s ruling is at its weakest. Birth control is for 98% of women the principal means of protecting a right central to their own liberty – the right to choose when to create a family. Chances are most women employed by Catholic universities and hospitals are part of the 98%. For these women, not having access to birth control renders a crucially important right meaningless.

    Full insurance coverage is a critical part of the picture. Birth control is an expensive product – $81 a month is considered a steal with no contribution from your insurance, but that number still prices out many women. Even insurance plans that have copays can be prohibitively pricey. Cheaper alternatives like condoms have significant failure rates. Insurance, overwhelmingly provided by employers in the American system, that covers birth control with no copays is a woman’s best bet.

    The Administration’s critics are saying that, in the currently existing health care system, protecting that right would create a grave threat to equally important rights of free association. Seems like a classic rights conflict. However, churches and institutions that serve only co-religionists are exempt from the requirement. The only institutions covered by the birth control mandate have chosen to participate in the broader market, a zone of private life governed by political rules. It’s incumbent on critics to explain why this particular rule is a dangerous expansion of state power over market actors as compared to, say, forcing a Randian executive to follow minimum wage laws. If they can’t, then it seems like the coverage requirement protects women’s rights without appreciably increasing the state’s threat to private associations. Critics would have to fall back on the pure religious liberty argument, which is itself problematic.

    Finally, there’s the claim that the coverage mandate will cause valuable charities, hospitals, and universities to shut down rather than violate their consciences. The evidence from 28 states that have this requirement suggests otherwise, though it’s not conclusive. Until there’s real reason to believe otherwise, we should keep the focus squarely on the threat to a woman’s right to plan their lives as they choose. Private financial coercion, contra Douthat, can be every bit as subversive of individual rights as legislation. I’m glad the Administration understands that.

  24. rikyrah says:

    Romney’s Death Trap
    by Zack Beauchamp

    Scott Galupo thinks winning the primary will cost Mitt the general:

    There’s good reason to believe Romney’s relentlessly negative campaigning against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—and, prospectively, Santorum—is driving up his unfavorables and killing his standing with independents…The more time and money that Romney is forced to spend fending off attacks on his right flank, the longer he will have to wait to repair his brand in the general-election fight against President Obama. Equally obviously, Romney can’t openly make this plea. He can’t say to conservatives, “Hey, stop attacking me now, because I need to start looking moderate soon!”

    Romney is in a sort of self-circling death trap: The more mud he’s forced to sling at his conservative opponents, the more muddy he looks to the low-information middle. In effect, Romney grows weaker by acting stronger.

  25. rikyrah says:

    January 20, 2009 changed everything
    by Kay

    A person really couldn’t make this stuff up:

    Republicans have gone to war against President Obama’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage, portraying the measure as a “government takeover” of health care and pledging to repeal the rule in Congress. The measure, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, says that companies offering prescription drug coverage must also provide birth control insurance (but it exempts houses of worship and nonprofits primarily employing and serving those of the same faith).

    The Obama measure closely resembles state laws providing equity in insurance coverage for contraception in six states and actually offers far more conscience protections than previous Congressional efforts to expand women’s access to birth control. For instance, a 2001 bill co-sponsored by Republicans Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Gordon Smith (OR), John Warner (VA), Arlen Specter (PA) — S. 104 — sought to establish parity for contraceptive prescriptions within the context of coverage already guaranteed by insurance plans, but offered no opt-out clause for religious groups who opposed contraception:

    `(a) REQUIREMENTS FOR COVERAGE- A group health plan, and a health insurance issuer providing health insurance coverage in connection with a group health plan, may not–
    `(1) exclude or restrict benefits for prescription contraceptive drugs or devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or generic equivalents approved as substitutable by the Food and Drug Administration, if such plan provides benefits for other outpatient prescription drugs or devices; or
    `(2) exclude or restrict benefits for outpatient contraceptive services if such plan provides benefits.

    “Women shouldn’t be held hostage by virtue of where they live,” Snowe told a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in September of 2001. “It simply is not fair.” “All we’re saying in this legislation is that if health insurance plans provide coverage for prescription drugs that that coverage has to extend to FDA-approved prescription contraceptives. It’s that simple.”

    Strong principled language from Olympia Snowe! She seems to have lost her voice somewhere along the line.

    The rules are different if you’re President Obama. Everything is immediately suspect, everything is a “slap in the face”, and everything is radical and unprecedented. This rule is about as radical as moderate Republicans were waaaay back in 2001

  26. Ametia says:

    States Negotiate $26 Billion Deal for HomeownersBy NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and SHAILA DEWAN
    Published: February 8, 2012

    After months of painstaking talks, government authorities and five of the nation’s biggest banks have agreed to a $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners harmed by the bursting of the housing bubble, state and federal officials said. It is part of a broad national settlement aimed at halting the housing market’s downward slide and holding the banks accountable for foreclosure abuses.

  27. Ametia says:

    Good Morning, Beautiful People! :-)

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