Serendipity SOUL | Wednesday Open Thread | Norman Brown Week!

Happy Hump day, Everyone! LET’S WAIT AWHILE…

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63 Responses to Serendipity SOUL | Wednesday Open Thread | Norman Brown Week!

  1. rikyrah says:

    Rachel Maddow’s first segment tonight on Willard is pretty brutal.

  2. Ametia says:

    Barber: Blagojevich’s hair will turn gray in prison
    Published March 21, 2012

    Associated Press

    CHICAGO – Rod Blagojevich’s famously thick, dark hair is dyed and will turn gray within months as he serves his 14-year sentence in a Colorado prison, where dyes are strictly banned, the former Illinois governor’s longtime barber said Wednesday.

    Peter Vodovoz, Blagojevich’s Chicago-area barber for more than two decades, told The Associated Press that the 55-year-old ex-governor has dyed his hair for years and that his last dye will fade within three months.

    “His hair will turn gray, like Jay Leno’s,” Vodovoz said, speaking a week after Blagojevich entered federal prison to serve his sentence on corruption charges.

    Read more:

  3. rikyrah says:

    Justice Prosser Attempts To Kill Ethics Case Against Him By Asking All Colleagues To Recuse Themselves

    By Josh Israel on Mar 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Last Friday, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed an ethics complaint against conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck during an argument in her chambers and the commission urged the high court to have a panel of three appeals court judges consider whether his actions violated three ethics rules.

    Under that proposal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court would review the panel’s findings and decide on Prosser’s fate. But yesterday, the embattled judge — who has explained the alleged assault as a “total reflex” reaction after Bradley “charged” him — suggested his own audacious proposal.

    Prosser said all six of his supreme court colleagues should recuse themselves from the case, which would have the apparent effect of killing the proceedings.

    “You have six justices who were present at the scene,” Prosser explained, “You have justices with actual bias who are eyewitnesses and, in effect, parties.” A former Republican Wisconsin house speaker, he also blasted the judicial commission for being “partisan.”

    By Prosser’s logic, justices would be able to escape punishment by their colleagues for any indiscretion — as long as they committed it in the presence of the rest of the court.

  4. rikyrah says:

    Obama gains in ‘purple’ states as GOP primary pushes on

    By Kim Geiger

    4:20 p.m. CDT, March 21, 2012
    Reporting from Washington —

    President Obama’s standing with voters in 12 battleground states appears to be on the rise as views of the economy and the direction of the country have improved slightly, according to a new poll of voters in so-called purple states.

    Thirty-six percent of those voters say the country is moving in the right direction, up from just 20% in November. More than two-thirds – 70% — said in November that the country was moving in the wrong direction. That number has fallen to 57%.

    Obama’s job approval rating also has improved, to 46% from 41% in September.

    The Purple Poll surveyed voters in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

    The poll, which has a sampling error of 2 percentage points, surveyed 1,424 voters in those states from Friday through Monday. The survey used automated telephone interviews, which are not considered as reliable as live interviews.

    Much has been made of the increase in gas prices as a potential problem for Obama, but the poll of purple state voters found that half said they would not blame him if gas prices were to continue to go up. Still, a large chunk – 45% — said they would blame him.

    The poll also showed that Democrats continued to be perceived as the party that cares more about issues that are important to women. Fifty-one percent of independent voters believe this to be so, compared with 24% who believe the Republicans care more about women’s issues.

    And as Mitt Romney continues his march toward the Republican presidential nomination, the poll suggests trouble for the presumed GOP front-runner.

    More than half of purple state voters – 56% — view him unfavorably, up from 39% in September. Just 29% view him favorably, down from 32% in September.,0,3600676.story

  5. rikyrah says:

    Princess Dumbass of the Norwoods Will Not Go Away
    By Charles P. Pierce
    at 3:19PM

    Sometimes, you have to look so deeply into polling results like these that basic human sanity catches a cab and tells you it will meet you back at the house:
    The talk of a brokered convention never seems to die down and one interesting finding on this poll was that Sarah Palin is far more popular than any of the actual Republican candidates in the race. Her net favorability is +48, with 68% of voters rating her favorably to only 20% with a negative opinion. That compares favorably to +29 for Santorum, +19 for Romney, and -26 for Paul.

    One man’s “interesting finding” is another man’s desperate cry for help, I guess. If, at this point in the process, a clueless grifter is your most popular option with your most energized voters, then I think I speak for the rest of the country when I say, please, people, get some therapy.

    Read more:

  6. rikyrah says:

    Beyond Illinois: Romneybot Cannot Compute All It Takes
    By Charles P. Pierce
    at 11:37PM

    It’s taken an awfully long time, but the Romneybot 2.0 finally is almost capable of simulating actual human speech and, therefore, sounding very nearly like an actual presidential candidate. But, as its stumbling victory speech proved on Tuesday night in Schaumburg, Illinois, it’s still pretty far from sounding like a President of the United States.

    What was your favorite moment? When it said “still Jobs” and not “Steve Jobs”? When it briefly froze on how many words comprise the word “enough”? (“It’s time to say these words — this word: Enough. We’ve had enough.”) The mechanism looked like the speech had been programmed into it two minutes before they sent it on stage, and that the Speaking English Good software had been loaded a minute before that. One thing is for certain: The Romneybot 2.0 is now forbidden from making a credible teleprompter joke ever again.

    No kidding. That was about as bad a speech as you ever will see from a candidate who probably just wrapped up the nomination. (And, yes, I am aware that the arcane rules regarding how to parcel out the delegates were designed by a committee of lemurs and that the final delegate count might not be official until 2017.) It was bad rhetoric so badly delivered that at least one veteran Romney watcher reasserted her contention that the guy is simply worn out from the campaign. But the substance of it was jerry-rigged demagoguery. (Barack Obama would have prevented the Wright Brothers from inventing the airplane?) At one point, Romney walked backwards over history and got his feet all tangled in it:

    “We built an interstate highway system. We built the Hoover Dam. Now, we can’t build a pipeline?”

    This line got a huge hand, despite the fact that is obvious arrant bullshit. Weren’t we talking just a few minutes earlier about how government should get out of the way, and how government can’t create jobs? Weren’t the interstate highway system and Hoover Dam actually government projects? Didn’t both of those projects provide a lot of jobs? And is Romney proposing that the government build the Keystone XL pipeline? Danger, danger. Romneybot cannot compute.

    At its heart, though, the speech featured some sub-Santorumish sarcasm directed at the president for having been a law professor while Willard was fighting his way up every inch of the hard road that leads from opulent wealth to incalculable wealth.

    “Now, you know that yesterday I was giving a speech at the University of Chicago — not very far from here, not very far from where Professor Barack Obama taught law. It was a speech on economic freedom. And as I was writing the speech, I thought to my lifetime of experiences…. And those jobs helped families buy their first homes. Those jobs put kids through school. Those jobs helped people live better lives, dream a little bigger. for 25 years, I lived and breathed business, and the economy, and jobs. I had successes, and failures. But each step of the way, I learned a little bit more about what makes our American system so powerful. You can’t learn that teaching constitutional law and the University of Chicago, all right?”

    There was also the requisite sneering at community organizing. Let us consider, then, the community in which the president once organized. This is what I found out about it when I went and looked at it in 2008:

    Obama also worked in the Altgeld Gardens, a housing development built in 1945 atop an ecological hellspout where two thousand families lived on an old landfill and hard by fifty-three different sites that had been designated as “toxic” by one study of the area.

    Altgeld Gardens was built on the bones of old steel mills and factories, and atop the waste dumps and landfills that serviced them. And, when they built the projects there, they filled them full of asbestos. That poisoned neighborhood was a perfect product of the “freedom” that Romney talks about when he talks about an unregulated economy. Barack Obama went there to organize the people who were living on that deadly ground because The Market couldn’t have cared less about them, and the various governments allowed The Market not to care and, so, did not care either. The kids with the asthma, they weren’t free. The kids who developed the renal disease, they weren’t free. The people in all the cancer clusters, they weren’t free. If I were as much of a demagogue as Willard Romney is, I would point out that, in the 1980’s, when the president was working for peanuts trying to get some sort of justice for the people that The Market had chosen to poison, Willard Romney was making millions with Bain Capital. But I’m not, so I won’t.

    Romney simply cannot do it. A truly effective demagogue — and we’ll get to one of those in a minute — has to get his audience to fully engage itself in the slander he’s trying to sell. Romney tries — “I see an America where poverty is defeated by opportunity, not enabled by a government check” — but he can’t really sell it effectively. He’s getting better, god knows, but I think that’s a serious part of why he hasn’t been able to “close the deal” with the Republican base: He doesn’t seem to them yet that he knows that the primary goal of public policy is to make liberals feel bad. He can’t convince them yet that he can be as colossal a dick as he has to be for them to nominate him.

    Read more:

  7. rikyrah says:

    Mayor, 2 others vote ‘no confidence’ in police chief
    City commissioners discuss Sanford PD Chief Bill Lee’s fate

    Sanford City Commissioners passed a “no confidence motion” in the Sanford police chief at a meeting on Wednesday after the investigation into the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Commissioners voted 3-2 in a no confidence in the police chief. The three that voted they had no confidence in Police Chief Bill Lee were Mayor Jeff Triplett and Commissioners Velma Williams and Mark McCarty. It’s not clear what this motion means for the police chief.

    McCarty said at the meeting that Police Chief Bill Lee should step down. Commissioner Patty Mahany disagreed with McCarty. They said they wanted wait for all the facts to come in to decide on firing or requiring resignation.

  8. rikyrah says:

    Civil Rights Leaders Call On Florida Governor To Suspend George Zimmerman’s Concealed Carry Permit

    By Judd Legum on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin on February 26, hasn’t just avoided arrest — he is still licensed to carry a concealed handgun in the State of Florida. This morning, local civil rights leaders called on Gov. Rick Scott (R) to suspend Zimmerman’s concealed carry permit to protect the public.

    Wesley T. Leonard of the Florida Civil Rights Association, flanked by numerous civil rights attorneys, clergy and community activists, spoke outside the office of the state’s licensing division in Orlando. The group argues that “Mr. Zimmerman is not fit to maintain his license because he has demonstrated to be a clear threat to public safety.”

    Ordinarily, a concealed permit in Florida can only be suspended after an arrest. But in an interview with ThinkProgress, Orlando civil rights attorney Shayan Elahi explained that Scott has broad executive powers that gives him the authority to suspend Zimmerman’s license in the name of pubic safety.

    Elahi argued that action by Scott was essential in light of the “botched” investigation by the Sanford police, which accepted Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense despite numerous witnesses and other evidence that conflicts with his account. Zimmerman would then be able to contest the suspension at an administrative proceeding within 20 days.

    Thus far, Scott’s administration is defending its decision to keep Zimmerman’s permit active, arguing that “short of a permit holder being convicted of a felony, the state does not have the authority to revoke a permit.”

    Elahi also criticized the decision of Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Norman Wolfinger to send the case to a grand jury rather than charging Zimmerman himself. According to Elahi there is concern in the Florida civil rights community that these proceedings are secret, so the public will never no what evidence is or is not presented to a grand jury. If Zimmerman was simply charged, all proceedings would take place in open court.

  9. rikyrah says:

    DOJ Opposes New Florida Voting Restrictions, Citing Possible Discriminatory Purpose Or Effect

    By Josh Israel on Mar 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    ast May, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a vote suppression bill that radically overhauled the state’s election laws, reducing the time available for early voting, invalidating absentee ballots if the voter’s signature doesn’t closely match the one on file, and forcing provisional ballots for voters whose names or addresses have changed. At the time, numerous state publications and critics noted that this was most likely intended to cripple turnout among low-income voters, seniors, students, and minorities who tend to lean Democratic.

    Because parts of Florida are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the controversial bill, it went to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for a pre-clearance review. Though the DOJ determined that several of the key changes were not valid under federal law, Florida filed a lawsuit seeking to preserve the law.

    In a filing yesterday, the DOJ told the court:

    As to the voter registration, early voting, and inter-county movers sets of voting changes enacted by Chapter 2011-40, amending Fla. Stat. §§ 97.0575, 101.657, and 101.045, respectively, the United States’ position is that the State of Florida has not met its burden of proof under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, on behalf of its covered counties, that these three sets of proposed voting changes neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

    In an earlier filing, the DOJ observed that the law, as written, would have a retrogressive effect on voting rights.

    Since that may have been the Florida Republican’s intent to begin with, it will be interesting to watch the state to try to prove to the court that this voter suppression bill will not have the effect of voter suppression.

  10. rikyrah says:

    Political Animal
    March 21, 2012 3:09 PM
    Moral Fiber
    By Ed Kilgore

    It takes a lot these days to get the jaded and cynical Washington observer Dana Milbank angry. Paul Ryan managed easily to do so during his remarks on his budget plan at a friendly American Enterprise Institute audience yesterday. After outlining the details of the Ryan budget, Milbank observed with rising bile:

    Taken together, Ryan would cut spending…by $5.3 trillion, much of which currently goes to the have-nots. He would then give that money to America’s haves: some $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, compared with current policies, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

    Ryan’s justification was straight out of Dickens. He wants to improve the moral fiber of the poor. There is, he told the audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute later Tuesday, an “insidious moral tipping point, and I think the president is accelerating this.” Too many Americans, he said, are receiving more from the government than they pay in taxes.

    After recalling his family’s immigration from Ireland generations ago, and his belief in the virtue of people who “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Ryan warned that a generous safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”

    How very kind: To protect poor Americans from being demeaned, Ryan is cutting their anti-poverty programs and using the proceeds to give the wealthiest Americans a six-figure tax cut.

    Yeah, Ryan’s tough love for the poor is pretty impressive. The “complacency” of the unwashed and unemployed has been especially evident of late. Fat and happy, they whistle on April 15 while hard-working job-creators at the top of the wealth ladder have to trudge to their accountants’ offices and sign over an unconscionable percentage of the assets that both God and nature—operating together, as they do of course, through markets—have assigned to them.

    I know that some conservatives with the best will in the world have concluded that smaller government, lower and more regressive taxation, and in general a world where private forces exert more power produce a better society for everybody. I don’t agree, but I can respect their position. But when they befoul it with this sanctimonious claptrap about concern for the “moral fiber” of lesser breeds, it makes me crazy. When the housing market and the financial system collapsed and jobs disappeared—in 2008 or 2009, or for that matter in 1929—did millions of people suddenly lose their “moral fiber?” Does the ability via public assistance of one sort of another to feed their children or provide them with medical care when they are sick truly darken their souls and destroy their motivation to better themselves?

    You know, much as I dislike the viral adolescent-intoxicating legacy of Ayn Rand—you know, the author of Atlas Shrugged, the book Paul Ryan used to (or for all I know, still does) require his staff to read—at least she had the honesty to disclaim any pity for the poor. Indeed, she called altruism the one great moral abomination, as bad as “looting.” I’d have a lot more respect for Paul Ryan if he loudly and proudly embraced the “virtue of selfishness” himself, and didn’t pretend he wanted to cut food stamps in order to improve the lives of the working poor through some character-building hunger.

  11. rikyrah says:

    March 21, 2012 4:27 PM
    Risky Business

    By Ed Kilgore

    In the course of his post-Illinois ruminations about Mitt Romney the putative GOP nominee, my TNR colleague Noam Scheiber discusses Romney’s management-consultant tendency to play the safe strategic percentages, and then sets out an interesting hypothetical:

    Will Romney have the guts to take a massive gamble—to make a move that offers him a higher probability of success than his current strategy but also a greater chance of spectacular failure? I have in mind here something like a long-ball vice presidential pick (maybe a sitting Democratic governor?) or a balanced-budget plan that increases taxes on the wealthy. He’s ambitious and clear-eyed enough to see the benefit of such a move against a heavily-favored incumbent—and, at least in the latter case, he may even believe in it—but also so lacking in nerve that it’s hard to imagine him pulling the trigger.

    I think the problem with the entire premise here is the belief that it is within Romney’s power to attempt such audacious maneuvers, even if he somehow wanted to. We now have enough examples to choke a horse of the absolute unwillingness of Republicans in Congress or anywhere else to support fiscal measures that include “increases [in] taxes on the wealthy.” That’s not because Republicans are universally risk-averse; au contraire, they are currently gambling heavily on an unpopular budget proposal because it fits their ideological framework, which isn’t very popular, either.

    As for picking a Democrat for his running-mate, we have another recent precedent that tells us just about everything we need to know about the plausibility of such a maneuver. In the summer of 2008, John McCain was facing an uphill climb in the general election. Unlike Romney, McCain was famously attracted to risk-taking. And according to multiple accounts, he wanted to pick as his running-mate his close friend Joe Lieberman, who had already burned bridges with his own party by running against its Senate nominee in 2006, and then endorsing McCain and campaigning actively for him.

    But McCain finally gave up on that idea when his advisors convinced him the step would likely provoke an ugly floor revolt at the GOP convention that would virtually guarantee a divided party and a loss in November. And that’s what ultimately drove McCain to the “high risk, high reward” tactic of choosing a little-known Alaska governor who fit the exceedingly narrow criteria of being a “maverick” who had defied the Republican establishment of her state but was also a cult figure among right-to-lifers and Christian Right leaders generally.

    In other words, the ideological prison of his party meant that any big risk-taking had to be to the Right of party orthodoxy, not to the Left.

    There is nothing about Mitt Romney or his current situation that changes that fundamental rule; indeed, the GOP has become significantly more ideologically right-wing since 2008, as Romney knows well since he was the “movement conservative” primary candidate that year and now is at least as suspect to conservative activists as McCain was four years ago.


    And the broader lesson, as the Jan/Feb issue of the Washington Monthly explained repeatedly, is that anyone hoping Mitt Romney, as a candidate or as a president, is going to be a pleasant surprise to progressives and moderates and an unpleasant surprise to hard-core conservatives, is not paying much attention to the recent history or current dynamics of the GOP.

  12. rikyrah says:

    This Is Who They Are, Cont’d

    by Geov Parrish
    Wed Mar 21st, 2012 at 06:12:49 PM EST

    The latest PPP polling shows Romney, finally, starting to consolidate the Republican base in the wake of his seemingly inevitable coronation. But it also had this revealing, albeit depressing, side note:

    The talk of a brokered convention never seems to die down and one interesting finding on this poll was that Sarah Palin is far more popular than any of the actual Republican candidates in the race. Her net favorability is +48, with 68% of [Republican] voters rating her favorably to only 20% with a negative opinion. That compares favorably to +29 for Santorum, +19 for Romney, and -26 for Paul.

    Palin is someone GOP delegates might be able to unify around in the case of a hopelessly deadlocked convention. She is seen positively by Gingrich voters (85/7), Santorum supporters (80/10), and Romney ones (57/27) alike. That’s a contrast to Romney who is disliked by both Santorum (38/48) and Gingrich (32/54) voters and Santorum who is disliked by Romney (38/48) voters and only seen narrowly favorably by Gingrich (46/42) backers.

    I can think of no swifter route to the GOP becoming a national and international laughingstock than, in their moment of doubt and crisis, turning to a proven charlatan and ignoramus like Palin as their unifying great white (and I do mean white) hope. And if she only has to campaign for two months, that just might be a short enough time that she can be bothered to rouse herself to work, and a small enough window that someone could imagine she could successfully be shielded from any public interactions that would further reveal what an idiot she is. (Alas, there is no window small enough for that.)

    It won’t happen, of course. Romney has the nomination locked up, and given the alternatives, he could be caught in bed with the proverbial dead girl or live boy and he’d still be the nominee. (He’d blame Obama.) But: what a telling snapshot of who the current GOP is. Sarah. Fucking. Palin. Remind me again why it is that our political and media establishment treats this collection of asylum inmates as though it has any legitimacy at all to govern the world’s most powerful country?

  13. rikyrah says:

    March 21, 2012 5:17 PM
    \A Different Kind of Religious “Wedge”

    By Ed Kilgore

    Even as Republicans continue to hope that perceptions of Obama administration hostility to organized religion will increase and create a “wedge issue” hurting Democrats, evidence continues to mount that the theocratic vibes set off by conservative rhetoric could backfire.

    Today Pew released one of its periodic surveys on public attitudes about religion and politics. The headline everyone’s talking about is the growing percentage of Americans who are getting uncomfortable about religious expression by politicians. But it’s the subhed—“Santorum voters disagree”—that I find most interesting, along with a general and growing tendency towards partisan and ideological polarization on the issue that could prove very troubling to the GOP.

    I won’t go through all the numbers, but the main point is that self-identified independents are tracking Democrats very closely in the percentage who believe there is “too much” religious talk from pols (46% of Democrats, 42% of indies). The percentage of Republicans feeling that way is also rising, at 24%, but it’s still less than the 28% of GOPers who say the amount of religious expression is fine, and the 40% who want more of it. Unsurprisingly, an actual majority of Santorum supporters fall into the “give us more” category.

    Similarly, 60% of Democrats and 58% of indies (and, BTW, 60% of Catholics) think churches should stay out of politics. Only 44% of Republicans feel that way, and the number drops to 36% among white evangelicals.

    Sure looks to me like Republicans are being tugged by their “base” in a direction away from the views of independents and of a significant minority of their own voters. That may or may not be a recipe for the subject to become a “wedge issue,” but if it does, it probably won’t be Democrats who are being “wedged.”

  14. Keeping His Word: Health Coverage for Young Americans

  15. rikyrah says:

    Posted at 05:21 PM ET, 03/21/2012
    Ten questions for Paul Ryan and his supporters
    By Jonathan Bernstein

    In a scathing analysis, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted today that under Paul Ryan’s budget, “most of the federal government aside from Social Security, health care, and defense would cease to exist.”

    Ryan’s plan doesn’t tell you this, of course. Instead, it focuses mostly on steep cuts that most Republicans probably feel fine about supporting — such as cuts to Medicaid, S-CHIP, and subsidies from the Democrats’ health care law.

    But as the CBPP analysis spells out, the math of the plan simply requires draconian spending cuts elsewhere that would do away with most of the government. Those are unspecified. Remember, too, that Ryan’s tax reform proposal implies “about $6.2 trillion in tax deductions and loopholes over 10 years,” which of course are also unspecified.

    So here are ten questions for anyone who supports the Ryan budget:

    1) Do you support eliminating the child tax credit?

    2) Do you support eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest?

    3) Do you support eliminating the National Weather Service and all of NOAA?

    4) Do you support eliminating Pell Grants and student loans?

    5) Do you support ending all federal spending on highways, air traffic control, and other forms of transportation?

    6) Do you support shutting down FEMA?

    7) Do you support shutting down federal prisons, the FBI, and other federal law enforcement agencies?

    8) Do you support ending all foreign aid — including Israel?

    9) Do you support eliminating NASA?

    10) Do you support eliminating the FDA and all food safety inspections?

    There certainly are some — Ron Paul, for example, or Grover Norquist — who would probably be comfortable answering yes to eight, nine or even ten of these (and Paul would have more room to work with if he wanted it, since he supports significant military cuts). Perhaps Paul Ryan himself is one of them.

    But make no mistake: for Ryan’s numbers to work, you’d need to answer Yes to most, if not all, of these questions. If Republicans claim to support Ryan but don’t answer Yes to them, then they’re just frauds.

  16. rikyrah says:

    Posted at 03:27 PM ET, 03/21/2012
    What Americans really think about Obama and religion
    By Greg Sargent

    Is Obama hostile towards religion? That’s the subtext of many of the right’s attacks on the president, and in some cases this argument is made explicitly. Mitt Romney recently seized on the birth control fight to make the unhinged claim that the Obama administration is guilty of “the most outrageous assault on religious liberty in American history.”

    But some interesting new polling out from Pew Research suggests only a small minority of Americans buy the notion that the administration is hostile towards religion:

    Opinions about whether the Obama administration is friendly toward religion have shifted modestly since 2009. Currently, 39% say the administration is friendly to religion, 32% say it is neutral and 23% say it is unfriendly. The balance of opinion was comparable in August 2009, although somewhat fewer (17%) said the administration was unfriendly to religion.

    However, there has been a noticeable shift in opinions among white Catholics, perhaps reflecting effects from the controversy over the administration’s policies on contraception coverage. The percentage of white Catholics who say the administration is unfriendly to religion has nearly doubled — from 17% to 31% — since 2009.

    So less than a quarter, 23 percent, say Obama is unfriendly toward religion. The poll does suggest some movement among Catholics against the president, perhaps because of birth control. But here still, less than a third see Obama in these terms. And while far more see the Republican Party as friendly to religion than believe this about Obama, a majority, 51 percent, and 57 percent of independents, say religious conservatives have too much control over the GOP.

    A case can be made that the polling is mixed on the contraception fight. But criticism of Obama over it is meant to advance a larger storyline, one that is echoed in many other attacks. The narrative is that on some fundamental level he harbors hostility towards the values of ordinary folks; he’s so committed to expanding government that he wants it to reach into private matters of faith; any day now he’ll unleash an ever-more-radical godless agenda on unsuspecting Americans.

    What continues to be puzzling is how many leading officials and candidates continue to tell tales about this verson of Obama, even though it’s completely out of sync with mainstream voter perceptions of him. Of course, if you spend enough time inhabiting the alternate reality defined by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where that Obama looms very large indeed, it’s easy to persuade yourself that this is how the American mainstream views him, too. But swing voters and independents just aren’t going to buy this storyline or care about it at all.

  17. rikyrah says:

    Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 03/21/2012
    Top Romney adviser: Mitt will erase his conservative positions once he’s the nominee
    By Greg Sargent

    Think Progress flags an amazing exchange on CNN, in which Eric Fehrnstrom, a top adviser to Mitt Romney, seems to confirm that the conservative positions Romney has been forced to take during the primary won’t be a big deal because he can simply erase them once he becomes the GOP nominee:

    Here’s the exchange:

    HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

    FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

    There you have it. Dems, predictably, are pouncing on the remark, arguing that it validates their message that Romney has no core and will say or do anything to get elected.

    But you’d think this exchange should have more meaning for conservatives. Fehrnstrom has come awfully close to admitting that the most damaging conservative positions Romney has had to adopt in the primary will be “reset,” and — to continue the Etch A Sketch analogy — can be erased at will if necessary. You’d think conservative reporters and commentators might want to press for a bit of clarification here.

    One other point: Note how casually these remarks were greeted by the panel of commentators, as if his kind of thing is just business as usual. As I and others, such as Steve Benen, have been pointing out, it seems likely that many commentators will forget all about Romney’s flirtation with far right positions and grant him the presumption of moderation the second he becomes the nominee. It will be widely accepted that Romney didn’t really mean any of the things he said to get through the primary; all that silly stuff was just part of the game. The above foreshadows this perfectly.

  18. rikyrah says:

    A line that will be tough to live down
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:00 PM EDT

    When Eric Fehrnstrom, the communications director for Mitt Romney’s campaign, appeared on CNN this morning, he couldn’t possibly have predicted how much trouble he was about to cause for his boss.

    It was such a simple question: is there a concern Romney is being pushed so far to the right that he’ll struggle with mainstream voters in the fall? The smart response would have been, “Romney is a mainstream conservative, and there’s nothing extreme about his vision for America.”

    Instead Fehrnstrom said, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”

    It’s the kind of line that reinforces the worst possible fears about Mitt Romney’s entire candidacy — he doesn’t even care what he’s saying to voters right now, because it’ll all be thrown out the window in a few months anyway.

    Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren’t great candidates, but wouldn’t you know it, both are campaigning with an Etch A Sketch this afternoon. While their staffers ran to the nearest toy store, the Democratic National Committee was putting together this new video:

    Tabitha Hale tweeted this afternoon, “This Etch-A-Sketch situation is not going to go away… maybe ever.”

    I’m very much inclined to agree. The knock on Romney since Day One has been that he’s a shallow, unprincipled politician, willing to say anything to anyone to win. “Etch A Sketch” is so perfect a metaphor, it’s extraordinary that it came from the candidate’s own communications director.

  19. rikyrah says:

    Romney backs Ryan plan, to Dems’ delight
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:28 PM EDT

    About a year ago, when Paul Ryan’s original budget plan was unveiled, Mitt Romney was not yet an announced presidential candidate, and went to great lengths to avoid endorsing the far-right agenda. Romney dodged questions for months, until reporters eventually gave up asking.

    That changed in December, when Romney found his presidential campaign in a bit of trouble, and discovered he had to work harder to prove his conservative bona fides. On Dec. 8, the Romney campaign boasted, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did.” The campaign went even further soon after, attacking Newt Gingrich for failing to fully embrace the Ryan plan.

    Eventually, after avoiding the subject for nearly a year, the former governor broke down and said out loud, “We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

    That was in December. What, pray tell, does Romney think about Ryan’s new-and-not-improved budget plan? Here’s what the former governor said a campaign event yesterday:

    “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier…. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.”

    There’s not a lot of wiggle room here. “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan” is not an ambiguous statement of support, no matter what Romney chooses to do with his Etch A Sketch.

    This is no small development. On the contrary, it’s arguably one of the most important policy developments of the year — Romney is “very supportive” of a budget plan that ends Medicare’s guaranteed benefit, takes health care coverage from millions, radically redistributes wealth in the wrong direction, slashes taxes on the very wealthy, and would “take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure.”

    Romney is “very supportive” of this plan — and Democrats couldn’t be happier about it.

  20. rikyrah says:

    A ‘Scrooge-like, Gilded-Age’ budget plan
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

    Following up on yesterday’s coverage, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has released his caucus’ new budget plan, and there’s no shortage of wonky analyses to check out. Ezra Klein had a good piece this morning, for example, noting that the GOP vision punishes the poor severely, while Jonathan Cohn details the brutal effect Ryan’s cuts would have on Americans’ health care.

    But folks also shouldn’t miss the analysis from the CBPP’s Robert Greenstein, whose reaction to the Republican plan was simply devastating.

    The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history). […]

    Chairman Ryan says these changes in domestic programs are necessary due to the nation’s severe fiscal straits. The nation’s fiscal straits, however, surely do not justify massive new tax cuts for its wealthiest people alongside budget cuts that would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree, and squeeze funding for research, education, and infrastructure. Under Chairman Ryan’s budget, our nation would be a very different one — less fair and less generous, with an even wider gap between the very well-off and everyone else (especially between rich and poor) — and our society would be a coarser one.

    It need not be this way. In 1990, 1993, and 1997, policymakers enacted major deficit reduction packages that reduced deficits in a more balanced way, without increasing poverty. Deficit reduction does not require the Scrooge-like, Gilded-Age policies that the Ryan plan embodies.

    It’s worth noting that Greenstein is not a wild-eyed ideologue or partisan bomb-thrower; he’s one of Washington’s most respected budget experts. He’s not prone to hyperbole or rhetorical excesses, so when Greenstein uses language like this, it’s only because of the unusual extremism of the policy agenda itself.

    I’d note just one other angle to keep in mind. For three years, we’ve heard incessant talk from the right, accusing President Obama of pursuing a radical socialist agenda that would turn the United States into a country most of us wouldn’t recognize. It’s always been ridiculous — love Obama or hate him, his vision is entirely mainstream — but the Paul Ryan plan reminds us how ironic the charges are, too.

    There’s only one group of people in Washington who are eager to overhaul the nature of the American experience. They’re called House Republicans.

  21. rikyrah says:

    The 2012 Etch-A-Sketch plan
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:40 AM EDT

    Eric Fehrnstrom, the communications director for Mitt Romney’s campaign, appeared on CNN this morning, and was asked a good question: “Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?”

    Alex Seitz-Wald posted a clip of the response, which was rather startling in its candor.

    For those who can’t watch clips online, Fehrnstrom said, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”

    Given Romney’s record of changing his positions on practically every issue, sometimes more than once, this wasn’t exactly an encouraging answer.

    If Fehrnstrom were simply talking about intra-party divisions, the metaphor would make a lot more sense. Indeed, it stands to reason that Republicans, while facing intra-party divisions now, will find it pretty easy to come together by the summer. In this sense, once there’s a nominee, the party does effectively hit the reset button and start the next phase in the process fresh.

    But that wasn’t the question and it certainly wasn’t what Fehrnstrom was referring to. Look at the exchange again: the Romney aide was asked whether the former governor was being pushed too far to the right, and Fehrnstrom effectively responded the current positioning doesn’t matter, since Romney will shake the Etch A Sketch and roll out a new version of himself in the fall.

    Romney 1.0 was an independent who distanced himself from Reagan; Romney 2.0 was a moderate Republican with self-described “progressive” views on social issues and health care; Romney 3.0 was a social conservative who cared deeply about the culture war; and Romney 4.0 is a far-right businessman who represents the GOP establishment and the top 1%.

    What will Romney 5.0 look like? I don’t know; I guess we’ll have to wait until after Fehrnstrom & Co. shake the Etch A Sketch and hit the reset button.

    Update: A month ago, Romney was asked to describe himself in one word, and he picked “resolute.” It was ironic at the time, but it looks even worse thanks to his campaign’s new choices in metaphors.

    Second Update: One wonders if conservative activists, worried about whether Romney would keep his commitments to them if elected, might reevaluate their support for him given the campaign’s plan to “restart all over again” once the general election phase begins.

  22. rikyrah says:

    Issa’s revealing new conspiracy theory
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:05 AM EDT

    Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, chatted with the hosts of Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Monday, and shared a creative argument about the Obama administration and the Recovery Act.

    “Stimulus was supposed to be quick. In fact, they never intended to spend it and will not completely have effectively spent it until after the president’s re-elect. Always looking at how do you get the maximum hit when the president was up for re-elect.”

    Glenn Kessler asked Issa’s office for evidence to bolster the congressman’s on-air claims, but Issa’s aides didn’t have anything substantive to offer.

    The Republican’s grammar and syntax is a little tough to decipher, but it appears Issa believes the Obama administration deliberately delayed stimulus spending in 2009 in order to give the president’s re-election campaign the “maximum hit” in 2012. There are a couple of ways to consider a line like Issa’s, even putting aside his penchant for strange and unfounded conspiracy theories.

    The first is the substantive question: is there any reason to believe the underlying claim? Not even a little — nearly all of the money was invested long before the 2012 election got underway.

    It’s true that the Recovery Act money was not spent all at all once, which was intentional in order to prevent a sudden stop to the economic activity, but for those concerned with the facts, the “maximum hit” has come and gone.

    But there’s another, arguably more important, aspect to this: Darrell Issa seems to be arguing that public investments through government stimulus boosts the economy. That’s true, of course, but aren’t Republicans supposed to argue the opposite?

    In other words, even from Issa’s perspective, the only way his bogus conspiracy theory is coherent is if you believe stimulus money from Washington is good for the economy. Otherwise, there’d be no point in delaying the “maximum hit” to coincide with the campaign.

    But if Issa believes his own rhetoric, why has he fought so aggressively against the Recovery Act and related efforts?

  23. rikyrah says:

    Left with no choice, Romney pivots on economy
    By Steve Benen

    Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:24 AM EDT

    Did you catch Mitt Romney’s victory speech in Illinois last night? Echoing the themes — and at times, the literal phrasing — of his economic speech at the University of Chicago on Monday, the former governor spoke at length about his vague appreciation for “freedom.”

    Romney did not, however, do what he spent 2011 doing: he didn’t accuse President Obama of making the economy “worse.”

    This is not an accident. I first started reporting in January about the subtle — and at times, not-so-subtle — shift in Romney’s rhetoric about the economy, as the candidate and his campaign began to come to terms with the fact that the recovery is picking up steam. Romney had a choice: stick to a line no one would believe, or adapt to improving circumstances. He chose the latter, and now acknowledges practically every day that the economy is getting better on Obama’s watch, while trying to deny the president credit for the progress.

    The L.A. Times had a good report on this yesterday, noting that Romney effectively had no choice.

    [A]fter months of steady job growth, improved consumer confidence and big gains on Wall Street, the economy seems in less dire need of fixing, and Romney has been forced to alter his message or risk seeming out of touch.

    “I believe the economy’s coming back,” Romney said at a breakfast stop Monday in Springfield, where the former Massachusetts governor campaigned ahead of Tuesday’s Illinois primary.

    But he gave absolutely no credit to President Obama — “the economy always comes back after recession” — and insisted the administration’s policies had made matters worse and the recovery slower than it should have been.

    Greg Sargent added, “This yet another sign that the Romney campaign is betting heavily on the possibility that the American people won’t remember or factor in just how awful a crisis Obama inherited upon taking office.”

    Quite right. At this point, the old Reagan line — “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” — is the one question Romney and the Republican Party doesn’t want Americans to ask, because it’s so transparently obvious that national conditions have improved considerably.

    This is not to say that conditions are good, necessarily, only that they’re better. When FDR sought re-election in 1936, the unemployment rate was 17%, but he won re-election in a historic landslide — not because a 17% unemployment rate was satisfactory, but because Americans realized Roosevelt inherited a crisis and helped get the country back on track.

    It was about the direction, not the condition — like now, the economy went from losing jobs to gaining jobs, from contraction to growth.

    It makes Romney’s challenge very difficult. His pitch is, in effect, “Sure, Obama inherited a global crash, took steps to turn the economy around, and I’ll concede that things are now better. But vote against him anyway because I perceive us lacking … economic ‘freedom.'”

    This is the single most important aspect of the 2012 presidential election, and Mitt Romney appears to have found himself without an argument.

  24. rikyrah says:

    Commentary: Trayvon Martin’s shooting raises old fears, questions
    Leonard Pitts Jr. | The Miami Herald

    They do not see you.

    For every African American, it comes as surely as hard times, setback and tears, that moment when you realize somebody is looking right at you and yet, not seeing you – as if you had become cellophane, as if you had become air, as if somehow, some way, you were right there and yet at the same time, not.

    Ralph Ellison described that phenomenon in a milestone novel that begins as follows: “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe. Nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

    Trayvon Martin was killed on Feb. 26th in Sanford, Fla., fully 60 years after Ellison published Invisible Man. The circumstances of the unarmed 17-year-old’s death suggest that even six decades later, invisibility plagues black folks, still.

    It happened like this. He was visiting his father, watching hoops on television. At halftime, he left his dad’s townhouse in a gated community and walked to a 7-Eleven for snacks. There was a light drizzle and he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. On the way back, he drew the attention of George Zimmerman, captain of the Neighborhood Watch. Zimmerman, who is white, called police from his SUV and told them he was following a “suspicious” character. The dispatcher promised to send a prowl car and told Zimmerman to stay in his vehicle.

    He didn’t. When police arrived, they found him with a bloody nose and Martin face down on the grass not far from his father’s door, a gunshot wound in his chest. Zimmerman said he shot the boy in self defense. Police did not arrest him. At this writing, nearly three weeks later, they still have not, citing insufficient evidence. The case has been referred to the State’s Attorney and the NAACP has asked the Justice Department to intervene.

    All of which raises a number of pressing questions:

    How can you get out of your truck against police advice, instigate a fight, get your nose bloodied in said fight, shoot the person you were fighting with, and claim self defense? If anyone was defending themselves, wasn’t it Trayvon Martin?

    Would police have been so forbearing had Martin confronted and killed an unarmed George Zimmerman?

    Of course, the most pressing question is this: What exactly was it that made this boy seem “suspicious?” The available evidence suggests a sad and simple answer: He existed while black.

    The manner of said existence doesn’t matter. It is the existing itself that is problematic. Again: Sometimes, they do not see you.

    That’s one of the great frustrations of African-American life, those times when you are standing right there, minding your business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.

    Read more here:

  25. rikyrah says:

    The Affordable Care Act: Making a difference for African-Americans

    By Valerie Jarrett

    t has been two years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, and already, the new law is improving the lives of African-Americans.

    Since March 2009, more than 2.4 million African-American seniors with Medicare have received free preventive services such as diabetes screenings. About 410,000 more African- American young adults who would otherwise be uninsured gained coverage due to the law. In addition, 5.5 million African-Americans with private health insurance now have coverage for preventive services without paying an extra penny at their doctor’s office.

    And 10.4 million African-Americans with private insurance coverage no longer face lifetime limits thanks to the new health care law — in other words, your insurance company can no longer drop your coverage at a time when you need it most.

    Behind each of these are statistics are stories of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors, who are healthier because of the new law. I know firsthand that the Affordable Care Act is already making a difference in people’s lives. When my daughter, Laura, was between school and a new job, she was able to go on my insurance plan thanks to the new health care law.

    The new health care law will also make health care more accessible in the African-American communities most in need. Nearly 26 percent of patients served by community health centers in 2010 were African-American, and the Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to those centers in all 50 states. They currently serve more than 19 million patients, and by 2015, because of the health care law, they will be able to serve millions more.

    The Affordable Care Act has also helped triple the number of clinicians in the National Health Service Corps since President Obama took office. The Corps is a network of primary care providers serving areas of significant need, and helps medical students pay back their loans in exchange for their service.

    Finally, the new health care law is helping to level the playing field and eliminate health disparities — a key priority for the Obama Administration. Today, African-Americans are less likely to have health insurance than Americans as a whole. They are also less likely to have access to a primary care physician, and less likely to receive high quality care.

    Compared to non-Hispanic whites, the average African-American child is twice as likely to be hospitalized from asthma, and more than four times as likely to die from it.

    The Affordable Care Act takes steps to change all this. The Department of Health and Human Services has developed and is implementing the first-ever department-wide Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities. The new health care law is providing new tools and resources to put the plan into action, including upgrading data collection standards to better understand and ultimately get rid of gaps in the quality of health and health care across groups.

    Over the next few years, the health care law will introduce new tools that will make a huge difference in the lives of millions of African-Americans, expanding access to health coverage to 34 million Americans, including nearly seven million African-Americans. Starting in 2014, Affordable Insurance Exchanges will serve as a one-stop marketplace for Americans, new tax credits will help families buy coverage, and Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low-income Americans.

    Of course, we still have a great deal of work to do to make sure every American has access to affordable, quality care — and eliminating health disparities entirely is a goal that will take a great deal of time to achieve. But each and every day, we are making progress, and we will continue to do so, until all Americans have the care and security they deserve.

  26. rikyrah says:

    White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious!
    by Michael Skolnik
    Posted March 19, 2012

    I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me. I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.” I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.” I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white.

    I was born white. It was the card I was dealt. No choice in the matter. Just the card handed out by the dealer. I have lived my whole life privileged. Privileged to be born without a glass ceiling. Privileged to grow up in the richest country in the world. Privileged to never look suspicious. I have no guilt for the color of my skin or the privilege that I have. Remember, it was just the next card that came out of the deck. But, I have choices. I got choices on how I play the hand I was dealt. I got a lot of options. The ball is in my court.

    So, today I decided to hit the ball. Making a choice. A choice to stand up for Trayvon Martin. 17 years old. black. innocent. murdered with a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea in his hands. “Suspicious.” that is what the guy who killed him said he looked like cause he had on a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers. But, remember I had on that same outfit yesterday. And yes my Air Force Ones were “brand-new” clean. After all, I was raised in hip-hop…part of our dress code. I digress. Back to Trayvon and the gated community in Sanford, Florida, where he was visiting his father.

    I got a lot of emails about Trayvon. I have read a lot of articles. I have seen a lot of television segments. The message is consistent. Most of the commentators, writers, op-ed pages agree. Something went wrong. Trayvon was murdered. Racially profiled. Race. America’s elephant that never seems to leave the room. But, the part that doesn’t sit well with me is that all of the messengers of this message are all black too. I mean, it was only two weeks ago when almost every white person I knew was tweeting about stopping a brutal African warlord from killing more innocent children. And they even took thirty minutes out of their busy schedules to watch a movie about dude. They bought t-shirts. Some bracelets. Even tweeted at Rihanna to take a stance. But, a 17 year old American kid is followed and then ultimately killed by a neighborhood vigilante who happens to be carrying a semi-automatic weapon and my white friends are quiet. Eerily quiet. Not even a trending topic for the young man.

    We’ve heard the 911 calls. We seen the 13 year old witness. We’ve read the letter from the alleged killer’s father. We listened to the anger of the family’s attorney. We’ve felt the pain of Trayvon’s mother. For heaven’s sake, for 24 hours he was a deceased John Doe at the hospital because even the police couldn’t believe that maybe he LIVES in the community. There are still some facts to figure out. There are still some questions to be answered. But, let’s be clear. Let’s be very, very clear. Before the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, started following him against the better judgement of the 911 dispatcher. Before any altercation. Before any self-defense claim. Before Travyon’s cries for help were heard on the 911 tapes. Before the bullet hit him dead in the chest. Before all of this. He was suspicious. He was suspicious. suspicious. And you know, like I know, it wasn’t because of the hoodie or the jeans or the sneakers. Cause I had on that same outfit yesterday and no one called 911 saying I was just wandering around their neighborhood. It was because of one thing and one thing only. Trayvon is black.

    So I’ve made the choice today to tell my white friends that the rights I take for granted are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others. The taxi cab. The purse. The meal. The police car. The police. These are all things I’ve taken for granted.

  27. rikyrah says:

    Top Romney Adviser Says Romney Can Change His Positions After The Primaries: ‘It’s Almost Like An Etch A Sketch’

    By Alex Seitz-Wald on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Mitt Romney can’t be held accountable for his extreme right-wing views, at least according to his campaign’s senior adviser, who said the candidate should be given a “reset button” on any positions he’s taken during the primary campaign if he wins the nominations and faces off against President Obama in the fall.

    Appearing on CNN this morning, Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom was asked if he’s concerned that Romney may alienate general election voters with some of the hard-right positions he’s taken during the primary to appeal to conservatives. Fehrnstrom brushed this concern off:

    HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

    FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.

  28. rikyrah says:

    Witness to FL teen shooting: not self-defense
    One of the people to call 911 during the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, said she doesn’t think the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, was acting in self-defense.

    Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen last month.

    He has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

    Mary Cutcher describes what she witnessed that night.

    “And at the time that we heard the whining and then the gunshot, we did not hear any wrestling, no punching, no fighting, nothing to make it sound like there was a fight,” Cutcher said to Anderson Cooper.

    Cutcher told Cooper that she does not believe the Zimmerman acted in self-defense.

    “Originally, I didn’t believe it was self-defense because of what we saw when we walked out on the porch. If it was self-defense, why was he on Trayvon’s back?”

    Another caller, Selma Mora Lamilla, who was also on Anderson Cooper 360, said she saw Zimmerman straddling Martin’s body after the shooting.

  29. Trayvon Martin case: Sanford resident Cindy Philemon cries during a town hall meeting with civil rights leaders to discuss the death of the unarmed 17-year-old. (Gerardo Mora / Getty Images)

  30. Controversial abortion proposal withdrawn #TN

  31. First Lady Michelle Obama: Women’s Week of Action Starts March 23rd

  32. Mitt Romney: Some Things You Can’t Shake Off

  33. Idaho lawmaker sparks anger with abortion comments

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Republican Idaho lawmaker’s suggestion on the Senate floor that a doctor should ask a woman who says she was raped if the pregnancy could have been “caused by normal relations in a marriage” brought a rebuke from another legislator who said it’s insensitive and suggests women may lie to get an abortion.

    Sen. Chuck Winder of Boise, the Senate assistant majority leader, was speaking during closing testimony on a bill to require a woman to get an ultrasound before an abortion, when he addressed foes of the legislation who said it provided no exemptions for medical emergencies — or in cases of rape or incest.

    “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape,” Winder said during his testimony Monday, before the bill passed the Senate 23-12. “I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

  34. Ametia says:

    Supreme Court says states can’t be sued for violating sick-leave law

    Women’s groups warned that the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday had severely undermined the Family and Medical Leave Act for state workers.

    “By the narrowest of margins, the Court ruled that millions of state workers all across this country will have no meaningful recourse if their employers deny them medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),” Debra L. Ness, the president of the group, said. “This effectively puts state workers and their families at risk when workers become pregnant or illness strikes. It is an appalling and dangerous ruling that simply cannot stand.”

    In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court held that Daniel Coleman could not sue the Maryland Court of Appeals, his employer, under the FMLA because the court was immune from damage suits as an entity of a sovereign state.

  35. Obama wows deaf community by speaking sign language

    It may have looked like sleight of hand, but with a few quick gestures Obama just about guaranteed himself the deaf vote in November, thanks to Stephon, a deaf, 26-year-old student. After enjoying his up-close seat to “hear” the president at Prince George’s Community College, Stephon caught his eye. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he explains in his video recount. “I took the moment and signed ‘I am proud of you’ and his response was ‘Thank you’ in sign language back!” The deaf community is mighty impressed, not only with the prez, but with Michelle, too;

  36. Ametia says:

    Under the Affordable Care Act, parents can now add or keep their children on their health insurance plans until they turn 26 years old. Since that part of President Obama’s health reform law went into effect in September 2010, more that 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage.

    Before the passage of health reform, young adults were typically dropped from their parents’ coverage when they turned 18 or graduated from college, and often faced barriers to accessing and maintaining affordable health insurance. Nearly 76 percent of uninsured young adults avoided getting the care they needed because they couldn’t afford it.

    In addition to helping them gain or keep insurance coverage through their parents’ plans, the Affordable Care Act is improving health care for many young adults in other ways. For example, insurance companies must now cover preventive services, like vaccinations and cancer screenings, at no additional cost. Insurance companies are banned from imposing a limit on the amount of care they’ll cover over a person’s life time, and are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on care—not overhead.

    Young adults that have been unable to purchase or obtain insurance because of a pre-existing condition can now get the coverage then they need through the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.

  37. Ametia says:

    Hugh Hefner’s SonSentenced to Violence ClassesAfter Alleged Playmate Beating

    Hugh Hefner’s son Marston has been sentenced to a 52-week domestic violence program after allegedly beating his Playmate girlfriend Claire Sinclair last month.

    Marston was charged with corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant after the February 12th incident — when he allegedly attacked Claire at the couple’s Pasadena apartment, bruising her up and damaging her laptop. He pled “no contest” today.

    Marston was charged with vandalism over the laptop — but that count was dismissed. The judge also ordered Marston to stay away from Claire.

  38. Ametia says:

    Obama to visit DMZ, raise pressure on North Korea
    By Alister Bull and Matt Spetalnick
    WASHINGTON | Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:58pm EDT

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, seeking to increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its atomic weapons, will visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on South Korea’s tense border on Sunday before a nuclear security summit in Seoul.

    Obama’s visit to the border will be a strong show of support for South Korea, the White House said on Tuesday, sending a message to the North as Washington builds an international effort to get stalled nuclear disarmament talks back on track.

    North Korea will not attend the summit, where Obama will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and urge him to use Beijing’s long-standing influence with Pyongyang, where leadership has recently passed to Kim Jong-un.

  39. rikyrah says:

    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Picks Co-Author Of Strict Voter ID Law As New Secretary Of State

    By Josh Israel on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    With the recent felony conviction of then-Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R), the task fell upon Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to select a replacement for the chief elections officer of his state. Friday, he announced his pick: state Senator Connie Lawson (R).

    Lawson, who served in the state senate since 1996 and as clerk of the Hendricks County Circuit Court for seven years before that, was one of the two original authors of Senate Bill 483. That law, enacted in 2005 and upheld by a divided U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, was among the nation’s first laws mandating strict photo identification requirements for voters.

    Lawson’s concern about election integrity was also evident in another key vote — in 2010, she voted against the bill that made it legal for alcohol to be sold on election day in Indiana.

    Along with Georgia, Indiana’s voter ID rules were the strictest in the nation until 2011 — making it significantly more difficult for voters without valid driver’s licenses to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Since the 2010 elections, Republican legislatures around the country, pushed by their allies at the right-wing corporate front group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have been passing similar laws in an organized “war on voting.” These measures, of course, disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters who are less likely to have valid photo identification — and, probably not coincidentally, are most likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Daniels himself signed Lawson’s bill into law; her co-author said at the time that it was needed to guard against voter fraud.

    Actual cases of voting fraud are so rare that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls, though White proved to be the rare exception. He registered and voted in the wrong district, falsely claiming his ex-wife’s residence as his own. Lawson’s law and voter ID laws like it do nothing to prevent that kind of fraud. White had ironically campaigned on election integrity and a pledge to “protect and defend Indiana’s Voter ID law to ensure our elections are fair and protect the most basic and precious right and responsibility of our democracy-voting.”

    Hopefully, at least Lawson will oversee the state’s voter suppression without the hypocrisy White demonstrated.

  40. rikyrah says:

    Top GOP Congressman Reaffirms His Doubts About Obama’s Birth Certificate, Cites Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Investigation

    By Scott Keyes on Mar 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    ep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who was roundly criticized last week after ThinkProgress reported the Florida congressmen questioning whether President Obama’s birth certificate is “legitimate,” confirmed today that he is indeed a birther.

    When asked about the issue on Capitol Hill today, Stearns told reporters, “I am, shall we say, looking at all the evidence.” He called for credence to be given to birth certificate investigations, saying, “I don’t think it is unreasonable just to see what they have to say.” The Hill has more:

    In April 2011, the White House released Obama’s long-form birth certificate to the public, hoping to put the matter to bed for good. But the issue has popped back up repeatedly — most recently in early March, when Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he had evidence the document was a fake.

    Asked Tuesday if he thinks the birth certificate is legitimate, Stearns cited an inquiry by an Arizona sheriff – an apparent reference to Arpaio – and noted he believed there is “another investigation” as well.

    “I think we are just going to hold in abeyance a final decision until we hear, you know, some of these people seem to have legitimate concerns, so I don’t think it is unreasonable just to see what they have to say,” Stearns said.

    The man Stearns finds it reasonable to listen to is disgraced Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, generally known for rampant racial profiling against Latinos, but more recently for assembling a team of volunteer self-styled investigators to examine Obama’s birth certificate. Earlier this month, that team concluded that the birth certificate is a “forgery and fraud.”

  41. rikyrah says:

    Wanker of the Day: Arik Roy

    by BooMan
    Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 04:43:55 PM EST
    Ken Arrow may have made an important contribution to understanding health care markets fifty years ago, but I see Arik Roy’s critique of his ideas to be wholly irrelevant. When I talk about the free market not being a good fit for health insurance, I am not talking about how expensive it is to get a medical degree, the importance of trust in the doctor/patient relationship, or any differences in the relative medical knowledge of a doctor and their patient. It’s not about the patient as consumer. It’s about the nature of insurance.

    You insure your house against fire, your car against collision, your family-supporting income against death. You do these things, not because your house will definitely burn down or because you will definitely be in a car accident or because you are certain to die before you retire. Health care is different. Except for a tiny subsection of people who die suddenly while in good health, everybody is going to get sick and die and use a ton of health care in the process. When you buy health insurance, you aren’t buying coverage for something you hope won’t happen but coverage for something you know almost certainly will. You’re not really insuring against anything. What you’re doing is spreading out the cost of end-of-life healthcare by making many small payments during your working years.

    This is no different from how Medicare works, and that’s why Medicare does work. There is no reason why there should be one system for people over 65 and another for people under 65. There is nothing about private health insurance that makes health care more rational or cheaper. All we want to do is help people pay for their health care needs by collecting a percentage of their earnings in each paycheck (while they are earning paychecks) so that the money will be there when they need it. Whether that money goes to Aetna, Blue Cross, or the Treasury Department is not particularly important, but it costs more if we have to add corporate profits to the price tag.

    There are ways to discourage people from over-utilizing the health care system. That’s why we have deductibles and co-pays. The government can apply those concepts just as well as the insurance companies, and without spending a ton of time trying to deny people the coverage they’ve paid for.

    Here’s the deal. When it comes to the provision of health care, it’s not about free markets. It’s about an entirely unnecessary market. There isn’t one coherent reason why people should buy health care insurance when they know for a fact that they are going to need health care. This becomes even more obvious when you turn it around. Would you insure someone’s house against fire if it was already on fire? Would you insure a car against theft if it had already been stolen? Of course not. Likewise, you wouldn’t agree to pay for a sick person’s health care.

    All I want is to pay a relatively small fee each month for the rest of my working life so that I will be taken care of when I get sick. I may get sick tomorrow. I may get sick when I’m 101, like my grandmother. I have zero interest in paying ANY of that money to a for-profit health insurance corporation that wants to find any loophole to screw me out of what I’m entitled to. I cannot imagine ANY WAY that that insurance corporation is superior to just paying the money in taxes. None. I can’t even imagine a possible way that they’re better. They’re certainly not cheaper. They definitely are more intrusive about what treatments I can get. They not only don’t care about me, the moment i get sick they consider me their adversary. Why would I pay for representation like that?

    It’s insane that a large enough segment of our population has been brain-washed to the point that they think private health insurance isn’t the worst scam since Enron. Free markets? What does that even mean in this context?

    Even if I wanted to think about health care exclusively as a transaction where I weigh my perception of the doctor’s expertise against the price he’s demanding, how do health insurance companies help this process?

    They don’t.

    But Arik Roy will continue to spout the insurance industry’s b.s

  42. dannie22 says:

    good morning

  43. rikyrah says:

    The opposite of seriousness
    By Steve Benen

    Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:42 PM EDT

    Paul Krugman likes to joke about the phenomenon of the Very Serious Person. The VSP is one of those Washington insiders that the political establishment respects and listens to, despite the fact that the person is (a) nearly always wrong; (b) habitually dishonest; or (c) both.

    House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the quintessential Very Serious Person. But as the dust settles on the first day of his new budget plan, we’re reminded once again of how fundamentally unserious the right-wing congressman really is.

    Ryan’s plan wants to simplify the tax code, but doesn’t do any of the work necessary — eliminating unwarranted loopholes, for example — to actually achieve the purported goal. It wants to use budget assumptions for future estimates, but chose assumptions that no sane person could expect to have happen.

    It intends to force down discretionary spending to 3.75% of GDP by 2050, but as Jonathan Bernstein explained, that’s ridiculous.

    Why does that matter? Because that category includes military spending, which as CBO reminds us has never dropped below 3 percent of GDP since World War II. Since Ryan doesn’t want to cut the military, that would leave less than one percent of GDP — to fund the entire rest of the government.

    In other words, Ryan’s long term proposal would basically shut down the federal government except for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the military. Republicans don’t really want to shut down the FDA, the FBI, and the national parks, not to mention patrolling the border and farm programs and roads. And yet that’s the implication of this document. It’s not even remotely realistic — and neither is Ryan’s claim that his budget would cut the deficit way down.

    The bottom line is that this is less of a budget or a blueprint than it is a partisan document designed to score partisan talking points in an election year.

    Kevin Drum, who called the Ryan plan “nuts,” fleshed this out a little more, noting CBO numbers that show the Republican budget would whack everything — prisons, border control, education, the FBI, courts, embassies, the IRS, FEMA, housing, student loans, roads, unemployment insurance … everything — by about 80% over the next generation.

    And what about Ryan’s alleged interest in debt reduction, which leads him to slash spending on Americans’ health care? According to Citizens for Tax Justice Director Robert McIntyre, even if we’re generous in giving Ryan the benefit of the doubt, his budget plan would cut spending by $4.2 trillion over the next decade, but instead of using it to lower the deficit — and prevent the so-called “crisis” — the Wisconsin Republican would use it to pay for $4.3 trillion in tax cuts.

    I realize there’s nothing I can say to convince the political establishment to stop treating Paul Ryan like a Very Serious Person and start treating him like an Ayn Rand-loving con man, but his budget plan is a bad joke.

  44. rikyrah says:

    The President with a Black, deaf constituent:

  45. rikyrah says:

    Pro-Planned Parenthood Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s Office Firebombed

    by ABL 2.0


    FORT WORTH — Police are trying to identify the man who entered the West 7th office of State Sen. Wendy Davis Tuesday afternoon and threw two firebombs just outside the door.

    Two staffers were in the third floor office when the attack occurred around 4 o’clock. One of them had to leap over the flames to escape, then went to the break room, grabbed an extinguisher and put out the fire.
    Investigators said Sen. Davis was not in the office at the time of the incident, but was at her law office closer to downtown Fort Worth.

    A staffer told News 8 the Democratic lawmaker was alerted about what happened and that security at Davis’ other local office was tightened as a result.
    No one was hurt, but the lawmaker’s office was damaged by the fire.

    It’s unclear yet whether or not the firebombing of Senator Davis’s office is connected to her advocacy for women’s health and pro-Planned Parenthood stance, but it sure feels that way to me and to the pro-choice women in Texas:

  46. rikyrah says:

    20 Mar 2012 07:02 PM
    Does It Matter That Mitt Didn’t Serve?

    Alec Macgillis offers another reason for Romney’s failure to connect with Southerners:

    In the region that prizes military service more than any other, Bush’s aviation heroics, Dole’s paralyzed right arm and McCain’s years in North Vietnamese captivity lent them fundamental credibility and a connection with voters, particularly fellow veterans. McCain might’ve disagreed about voters in South Carolina about immigration or climate change, but he could crack one of his Marine jokes, or go on one of his solemn Country First turns, and have the crowd eating out of his hand. With Dole and Bush, the appeal was less explicit, but it was still there; everyone knew where they’d been.

    Romney has nothing to draw on here.

    Quite the opposite—when he was asked in 2007 why none of his five sons had served in the military, he answered, to widespread derision, “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected.” Making matters trickier for Romney, this factor is in fact linked with his religion: He avoided being drafted during the Vietnam War by claiming an exemption for his 30-month missionary duty in France.

  47. rikyrah says:

    Insane in the Membrane

    by BooMan
    Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 10:55:29 PM EST
    Here’s what freaking Fred Hiatt has to say about Paul Ryan’s dangerous, intentionally vague budget plan:

    The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said Mr. Ryan’s plan would reduce revenues by an eye-popping $4.6 trilllion — and that’s on top of the $5.4 trillion cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Moreover, no matter what deductions are curtailed, the benefit of the lower rates would flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest Americans, while Mr. Ryan would take a machete to programs that help the least fortunate.

    Witness the insanity of Republicans saying that $10 trillion in lost revenue isn’t good enough:

    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a conservative member of Ryan’s Budget Committee, said he would vote against the plan, saying it broke the GOP’s “Pledge to America” and did not cut spending deeply enough. Huelskamp voted for the Ryan budget in 2011.

    “It’s not good enough,” he said during an appearance with six other conservatives at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

    Huelskamp said he was troubled by a lack of specificity on tax reform and the budget’s failure, in his view, to hold to spending levels that will be lower because of $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts set to take effect next year.

    The half-dozen other members of the Heritage panel said they were undecided on the budget resolution.

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) criticized the proposal for not cutting spending at the levels promised in the 2010 Pledge to America.

    “I’m not sure if I’m going to vote for it or not,” Gohmert said. “I appreciate so much the great work of Paul Ryan, but we took a pledge a year and a half ago, and we said we would cut more than is being cut. So that’s my struggle.”

    Paul Ryan wants to increase defense spending while chopping $10 trillion out of the budget. And he says that this will help balance the budget. And that’s not good enough. That violates the pledge the tea partiers took. That’s what we’re dealing with from a reality standpoint.

    The GOP cannot die quickly enough.

  48. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

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