Friday Reads: The Word for Today is “Surreality”

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Good Morning!!

I’ve been browsing around the internet this morning, and all I can find is really surreal news. The Obamacare “fumble” or “botch” or “mess” or whatever else the pundits decide to call it is still the top story today; and it looks like President Obama could be in for an even worse day than yesterday. He must be glad it’s Friday. All the usual suspects are weighing in on the “problem” and of course Republicans are gloating.

Reuters summarizes Obama’s very bad Thursday: An apologetic Obama unveils fix on health law.

President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to ease the biggest crisis of his presidency, acknowledging missteps with his signature healthcare law and announcing a plan to help those seeing their current health plans canceled because of it.

Obama, trying to limit the political damage to his presidency and fellow Democrats, said health insurers could extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the law.

With insurers complaining the fix could create new problems and lead to higher premiums, it was not clear whether Obama’s plan would actually work, or soothe his party’s concerns that the botched rollout has undercut Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.

A chastened Obama said he had “fumbled” the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his biggest domestic policy achievement, and said he would have to work to regain his credibility and the public’s trust.

Also from Reuters: Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix.

The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire for the botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, announced he would allow individuals to keep insurance policies that were being canceled under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare….

Insurers and state regulators say that Obama’s fix for policies canceled under the law will create new problems for the industry and could lead to an increase in premiums.

The change, which Obama announced under growing pressure from lawmakers from his Democratic Party, would allow policies that do not meet Obamacare’s standards to be renewed anyway.

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From WaPo’s The Fix: ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act’ spells trouble for dozens of Democrats.

Intense focus on the early troubles of the Affordable Care Act already makes this a no good, very bad week for congressional Democrats, who are torn between supporting the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration, but eager to be seen doing something to address significant concerns with the law….

At issue is the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that supporters believe would fulfill President Obama’s now-broken promise to let people keep their current health insurance plan if they like it.

Under the Upton proposal, anyone opting to keep their current plan wouldn’t face financial penalties established by the law. And the measure would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers. The bill is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled House.

Most Democrats believe that the Upton bill would fundamentally gut the ACA by allowing plans not compliant with the new law to continue. They believe that the administrative fixes announced by Obama Thursday will work, or are supporting a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would let people keep their current health-care plans for the next year and require insurers to provide information on new plans that meet the law’s stricter requirements.

Chris Cillizza, also at The Fix, doesn’t think any of this is going to help Republicans much in 2014; Todd Purdum at Politico spanks Obama unmercifully, but at the end of his lengthy piece admits:

It is true that public support for many of the law’s crucial components — a ban on lifetime limits on health coverage; an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; extended coverage for dependent children; improvements to Medicare — have always exceeded support for the law itself. White House officials take pains to note that those provisions are now beginning to take effect — on time, as planned.

Most state-run insurance exchanges are working far better than the federal website — which the administration was forced to make as big as it is only because some three dozen states with recalcitrant Republican governors declined to create their own exchanges as envisioned. And lest anyone forget, the old health insurance system was not so hot.

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Of course Chuck Todd is thrilled, and he went on Morning Joe this morning to dance on Obama’s grave. From Mediaite:

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday that the problematic roll-out of the Affordable Care Act represents an all-time political low for President Barack Obama. He said that the president’s press conference on Thursday was aimed more at Democrats in an attempt to keep them from abandoning him or his signature achievement.

“It seemed like he was trying to offer his party – the Democratic Party – and, basically, all the panicked Democrats on Capitol Hill a pound of flesh so that they don’t vote for these other bills,” Todd said of the bills circulating in the House and Senate that would allow those who have lost their health plans to keep them indefinitely….

“I talked to one of the old guard in Obama-land who said they’ve never seen that in private from him,” Todd added. “This is a moment that he hasn’t experienced in national politics before, is the impression that I was being given.”

“This clearly is the low of his presidency politically right now,” the NBC News reporter continues. “We obviously see it in the polls, but just the way he feels, his ability to lead the party, or, frankly, hope that the party doesn’t abandon him right now in this moment.”

You can just imagine how happy Karl Rove and The Wall Street Journal are about the Obamacare troubles.

I’ll spare you excerpts from those columns and refer you to Jonthan Chait: Conservatives Confident America Rejecting Obamacare, Ready for Every-Man-for-Himself Care.

The keep-your-plan fiasco, in addition to flummoxing Democrats, has not only held out to Republicans the tantalizing prospect that they can discredit and defeat Obamacare, but also drawn into sympathetic focus their own alternative vision.

Here is the basic ideological division. Obama wants the health-care system to do more to pool risk — which is to say, to shift the burden of covering the sick onto the healthy. Republicans want it to do less to pool risk, so that healthy people can be free of the burden of subsidizing the costs of those less medically fortunate.

The small portion of the populace that lies outside of either employer-based or direct government coverage provides the closest existing model for the health-care system conservatives favor. The minority within this market who have insurance, and are losing their plans as a result of regulations preventing insurers from excluding the sick, have dominated public attention and formed what conservatives imagine will be a constituency for their own brand of counter-reform: a deregulated market where healthy people can buy cheap, bare-bones plans, and sicker people have to pay large out-of-pocket costs. Obamacare’s torturous birth pangs have convinced giddy conservatives that they are on the cusp of a great ideological victory.

Read the rest at the New York Magazine link above.

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I’ll wrap up this section of my post with the most surreal Obamacare story I could find: Michele Bachmann: I lost my insurance:

Rep. Michele Bachmann says she is one of the people who lost their health insurance because of Obamacare and she won’t go shopping on a health exchange until it’s fixed.

“Are you kidding? I’m not going to waste an hour on that thing,” the Minnesota Republican said when Wolf Blitzer asked her on CNN on Thursday if she’d signed up on the exchange website. “I lost my health insurance under Obamacare. And so now I’m forced to go into the D.C. health exchange. I’m waiting until they fix this thing. I’m not going to sit there and frustrate myself for hours and hours.”

Don’t members of House have their own insurance plan? Did the rest of the House get their plans cancelled too?

Bachmann did not explain what about Obamacare caused her to lose her health insurance. The health law technically requires congressional staff go on the D.C. exchange, but it’s up to the individual congressional office to determine who qualifies as “official office” staff, so many Republicans have placed their aides on the exchange while Democrats have been split.

At the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca explains to Bachmann how to sign up for health insurance at the DC exchange, which is running quite smoothly, thank you very much.

I’ve run on way too long about the Obamacare story, but I haven’t been paying close attention to it and I needed to bring myself up to speed. I hope I didn’t bore the rest of you!

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Now let’s look at someone who really has a health care problem. Gawker reports on a woman with stage 4 breast cancer and the vile treatment she has been getting from her daughter’s school because of it (emphasis added).

An Albuquerque mother says her daughter’s elementary school principal banned her from school grounds for the way she smells. Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in August, and while she’s undergoing chemotherapy to shrink her tumor, she’s also struggling with the administration at Tierra Antigua Elementary.

According to Mascareno, the school’s principal, Robert Abney, told her last week that she could no longer visit the school:

“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,” she said.

She claims that when she moved outside, the principal went to his window and told her to move farther away. “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.

Calling Dr. Freud! Robert Abney needs psychological treatment STAT! Men with Oedipal complexes should not be in charge of running schools. I hope Kerri Mascareno sues and gets a million-dollar payday so she can leave the money to her children.

Yesterday I wrote about two Secret Service agents who have been removed from President Obama’s security detail. Today the WaPo reports that there have been complaints about misconduct by Secret Service agents in 17 countries!

Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department.

Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.

And get this:

Johnson said that one of those disciplined supervisors, Ignacio Zamora Jr., had helped lead the internal investigation into the April 2012 incident in Cartagena, where more than a dozen agents engaged in a night of heavy drinking and carousing with prostitutes ahead of a presidential visit.

One person involved in security in Cartagena said Zamora was chosen for the review because he served as the “second supervisor” on the trip, and was among the managers responsible for the security effort in advance of Obama’s arrival for an international summit.

Zamora is the agent who was disciplined for trying to break into a woman’s hotel room to retrieve a bullet he had left there.

Finally, once again I want to call your attention to a McClatchy article that RalphB linked to yesterday: Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’. It’s long, but it is a must read. The writer, Nancy A. Youseff, goes through Lara Logan’s “60 Minutes” report line by line and finds numerous outright lies and distortions. Logan and anyone else involved with the story should be fired immediately and Logan should apply for a job at Fox News.

So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.

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Saturday Reads: Tax Returns, True Crime, Olympic Porn, and More

Good Morning!!

It looks like Tim Pawlenty might be the perfect VP match for Mitt Romney. He has had some issues with his financial disclosure forms and he refused to release his tax returns as Governor of Minnesota. From the Guardian:

Democrats have been digging into a web of allegations from nine years ago which involved Pawlenty’s use of a shell corporation to shield $60,000 in payments from a telecommunications group during his election campaign that were not declared to the state’s campaign finance board. The money came from a firm run by a prominent Republican strategist. Pawlenty had until recently been a board member.

Opponents accused Pawlenty of accepting an unethical and possibly illegal salary to campaign. The scandal widened because the telecommunications group making the payments was exposed for scamming customers, many of them elderly.

Pawlenty is touted as a leading candidate to be Mitt Romney’s running-mate in part because his background is seen as a political antidote to Romney’s life of privilege. He is the working class son of a truck driver, who knows adversity after his mother died while he was a boy and his father lost his job.

But if he is on the Republican ticket, a fresh airing of the allegations from 2003 is not only likely to undermine Pawlenty’s attempts to portray himself as the voice of the working man but threatens to draw unwelcome attention to difficult issues for Romney – the pressure to release his own tax returns, the morality of his business practices and the parking of millions of dollars in shell companies.

And if Romney turns Pawlenty down for VP, he (Romney) will look like a hypocrite.

I posted this link on Thursday morning, but I think it bears repeating. This op-ed in the NYT by Michael J. Graetz is the best thing I’ve read so far on what Mitt Romney may be hiding by not releasing his tax returns. Graetz discusses Romney’s huge IRA:

With an I.R.A. account of $20 million to $101 million, the tax savings would be more than a few pennies.

The I.R.A. also allows Mr. Romney to diversify his large holdings tax-free, avoiding the 15 percent tax on capital gains that would otherwise apply. His financial disclosure further reveals that his I.R.A. freed him from paying currently the 35 percent income tax on hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest income each year.

Given the extraordinary size of his I.R.A., we have to presume that Mr. Romney valued the assets he put in his retirement account at far less than he would have sold them for. Otherwise it is quite a trick to turn contributions that are limited to $30,000 to $50,000 a year into the $20 million to $101 million he now has there. But we cannot be certain; his meager disclosure of tax records and financial information does not indicate what kind of assets were put into the I.R.A.

He also addresses Romney’s offshore accounts, and concludes that

Mr. Romney is an Olympic-level athlete at the tax avoidance game. Rich people don’t send their money to Bermuda or the Cayman Islands for the weather.

The part I found most interesting was Graetz’ discussion of Romney’s transfers of funds to his sons. Graetz suggests that Romney may not have paid any gift tax on the $100 million trust fund he established in 1995; because it is well known that the IRS doesn’t generally audit gift tax returns.

Based on his aggressive tax planning, revealed in the 2010 returns he has released and his approval of a notably dicey tax avoidance strategy in 1994 when he headed the audit committee of the board of Marriott International, my bet is that — if Mr. Romney filed a gift tax return for these transfers at all — he put a low or even zero value on the gifts, certainly a small fraction of the price at which he would have sold the transferred assets to an unrelated party….According to a partner at Mr. Romney’s trustee’s law firm, valuing carried interests, such as Mr. Romney’s interests in the private equity company Bain Capital, at zero for gift tax purposes was common advice given to clients like Mr. Romney in the 1990s and early 2000s.

At this point, I’m convinced that there is some really hinky stuff going on in those returns. Otherwise Romney would have released them by now. But he’s dreaming if he thinks the press will stop focusing on this.

Yesterday, Wimpy Willard dodged questions about Michelle Bachmann’s muslim witch hunt and the Chick-fil-A controversy. Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon:

Mitt Romney failed to join other Republican leaders today in condemning Rep. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government, telling reporters at a campaign stop in Las Vegas that it was not “part of my campaign.” Republicans like Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner, among others, have spoken out publicly against Bachmann’s campaign, but when Romney was asked about it, along with the controversy over Chick-fil-A, he dodged the question. “I’m not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign,” the presumed GOP nominee said at a rare press availability after a campaign stop.

Nothing really new about that–just more evidence of Romney cowardice.

We’ve been talking about how the female Olympic athletes are forced to wear skimpy costumes, presumably to attract the male audience. But at The Daily Beast Tricia Romano has a different take: The Olympics or Soft Porn? Female, Gay Fans Gawking at Male Athletes

Ripped, tanned men seemingly carved out of marble are making women and gay men happy—very happy—during these Olympics, spurring Internet memes and social-media buzz. It’s like the Channing Tatum male-stripper movie Magic Mike got a sequel—a very (thankfully) long sequel—one that’s also preciously short on plot but long on beefcake.

While women have long provided daydream fodder for men and lesbians—say hello to the field hockey team when not checking out the scantily clad ladies taking part in the beach volleyball competition—London’s Games seem to be drumming up a particularly focused interest in celebrating the fine male physique.

American gold-medal swimmers Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian might have gained notoriety for winning races, but they became instant sex symbols the second they stepped out of the pool. In the days since their London debut, you can read all about Ryan Lochte’s penchant for one-night stands, and there are entire articles parsing the hot-but-dumb problem posed by Lochte, and conversely how smart and sweet Adrian is and whether or not he has a girlfriend. (He’s single! Ready, set, go!).

I was at the grocery store yesterday afternoon, and I noticed that the National Enquirer had a big splashy story about James Holmes, the “Dark Knight Shooter. I was sorely tempted to buy a copy, but I resisted. It’s just as well, because I discovered the story was on-line. In case you’re interest, here’s the “scoop” in this week’s Enquirer.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE THE SICK TWISTED WORLD OF THE DARK KNIGHT SHOOTER

There aren’t a lot of revelations. They quote a fellow student who was supposedly freaked out by Holmes:

by the time he got to graduate school, Holmes had grown into a creepy individual who frightened others just by his presence.

“I’d seen him many times, always walking alone,” a fellow student at the University of Colorado Denver told The ENQUIRER. “He was very odd, walking around with a blank stare on his face like he didn’t see anyone else. Sometimes he was talking to himself, in an angry tone. I would cross the street when I saw him coming.

“He may have been a nerd, but he was tall and muscular which can be very intimidating. I felt like he was the kind of guy you didn’t want to be around if he snapped.”

The article also says that Holmes’ admired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

In emulation of Breivik, Holmes spent the days leading up to his massacre of the innocent by bingeing on Internet sex and real-world drugs. He reportedly took the prescription painkiller Vicodin just before the shootings.

Holmes shared another trait with Breivik – a fascination with the extremely violent video game World of Warcraft.

I’m not sure where they got that. I suppose it could be a law enforcement source–or they could have made it up out of whole cloth.

There are a couple of other sensational stories on Holmes over there–look if you dare.

In other true crime news, the judge in the Drew Peterson case denied the defense’s request for a mistrial, and testimony continued yesterday. Anna Marie Doman, the sister of Peterson’s wife Kathleen Savio, testified that her sister had said that Peterson had threatened to kill her.

“She was afraid,” Doman said. “She said Drew had told her he was going to kill her. She wasn’t going to make it to the divorce settlement, and she wasn’t going to get his pension or the kids.”

After two years of court battles over the issue, it was the first hearsay statement heard by jurors in Peterson’s murder trial, allowing Savio to speak from beyond the grave.

As she described talking with Savio in her Romeoville home in 2004, Doman testified that Savio extracted a promise to take care of her kids, a vow Doman acknowledged she had failed to act upon.

“She made me promise over and over that I was going to take care of the boys,” Doman said. “She said, ‘I want you to say it — you’ll take care of my kids.'”

After a misstep by a defense attorney, Doman also was allowed to testify about a previously excluded statement — that Peterson had told Savio he would kill her and make it look like an accident.

I heard an interesting story on NPR a couple of days ago. It’s an interview with David Niose, a lawyer from Boston who has written a book called Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans. Here’s the blurb from the show:

The religious right has been a disaster for this country, according to David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. It has imposed an outsized and overbearing influence on our national politics at the expense of reason, critical thinking, science and ethics. And he goes further, saying the rise of the religious right correlates with an array of social ills — from high rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy to low rates of scientific literacy.

But he says there’s a growing movement to counter the religious right. Secular Americans — non-religious believers who for a long time were marginalized in America — are now emerging as a force to be reckoned with.

While a large majority of Americans say they still believe in God, many are losing faith in organized religion. At the same time, the number of Americans who say they don’t have any religious identity has doubled since 1980.

I hope you’ll give it a listen. There also a link to some excerpts from the book at The Humanist if you’re interested.

I found this interesting piece at Raw Story: Mayans may have used chocolate in cooking 2,500 years ago

When the Spanish conquistadores invaded Mexico 500 years ago, they found the emperor Moctezuma drinking a exotic beverage called xocóatl with his breakfast. Made from ground cacao beans that had been boiled in water, spiced, and beaten to a froth, it was literally the drink of kings, permitted only to rulers and other high aristocrats.

Until now, it has been believed that chocolate was consumed in ancient Mexico only in the form of a beverage and not as a food or condiment. However, that belief has been challenged by the discovery in the Yucatan of a 2,500 year old plate with traces of chocolate residue.

The discovery, which was announced this week by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, suggests that present-day Mexican dishes, like the chocolate-based mole sauce often served over meats, may have ancient roots.

Previous excavations have revealed traces of chocolate on drinking vessels used by the Olmecs and other early Mexican cultures as far back as 2000 BC, but this is the first find involving plates.

Smart people, those Mayans.

Now what are your recommendations for weekend reading?


And that’s the way it was …

Some times I just have to wonder how a news anchor can keep a straight face when covering specific news stories.  It seems Shep Smith went rogue while covering Newt Gingrich’s campaign suspension.  C&L’s Karoli captures the absurdity of the moment well.  Minx covered this in her late night news thread but I really thought I’d give the Karoli bit a shout out because of the You Tube below. It comes from the Obama-Biden campaign.  You have to know more of these are coming. You also need to go see Minx’s post because the Luckovich cartoon take off of Porky’s ending to Loony Tunes will give you a big ol’ smile.

After a rambling and nearly-incoherent speech, Newt Gingrich finally dropped his bid for the Republican nomination and Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a predictably benign and “hugs all around” statement about it, saying:

“Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America’s promise.”

This would not be news except that Shepard Smith’s reaction to that statement was just classic and delicious. I think he should not be working for a channel who is almost always “weird and creepy,” but since he is, I’ve got to say that this should go down in the annals of classic news anchor reactions:

Politics is weird. And creepy. And now, I know, lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.

The facial expressions are as wonderful as the words. While Newt didn’t really sing a full-throated praise of Mittens, he did manage to choke out words to the effect that Mitt was still better than President Obama. Of course, the reason Shep was so taken aback was because of statements during the campaign like these:

If you have a bitterly fought primary–which is an honest appraisal of the 2012 Republican primaries–then you’re going to have lots of Kafkaesque Kumbya moments when all the bitter rivals have to make nice with the winner.  That can never been an easy thing to do.  However, we have these SuperPacs that are bringing negative campaigning to new lows.  We’ve also seen a series of debates with endless harangues.  How on earth is the kiss and make up moment supposed to go under that circumstance?

Here’s another story today on Bachmann’s luke warm “endorsement” of Romney.

Michele Bachmann has finally decided to endorse Mitt Romney – 119 days after she dropped out of the race.

The endorsement will come at a joint Romney-Bachmann appearance on Thursday.  No doubt Bachmann will talk about the importance of beating Barack Obama and how Mitt Romney is the one to do it. She’ll almost certainly say that conservatives must unite behind Romney because of the importance of beating Obama.

But here’s the thing: Shortly before she dropped out, Bachmann told me – point blank – that there was  no way Romney could beat Obama.

“He cannot beat Obama,” Bachmann said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Wow, with endorsements like these, who needs opposition research?  Anyway, Karoli has the video of Smith’s moment of Zen. It’s worth tripping over to C&L just to see the look on his face.  Meanwhile, so long Newt, we knew you FAR TOO WELL.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, in honor of the debauchery at Ames last night, I thought we could cover some more interesting Republican political assertions.  Here’s a few odious metaphors.  This first one comes from the ever insane Rick Santorum who says marriage is like water, not beer.  Remember, this is the same guy that tried to explain the difference between paper towels and napkins just a few days ago.

Rick Santorum turned more than a few eye brows on Monday when he explained his opposition to same-sex marriage by holding up a napkin and observing that it was not a paper towel. On Friday, during a meeting with the Des Moines Register, Santorum relied on a similar metaphor to prove why society can’t “redefine” marriage: water is not beer. “It’s like saying this glass of water is a glass of beer. Well, you can call it a glass of beer, but it’s not a glass of beer. It’s a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is,” he said.

Frankly, I agree with Woody Allen who said that marriage is the death of hope.  Just so you don’t think Santorum is the only Republican with incredibly bad metaphors try this one by Allen West on for size.

Comparing homosexuality to a preference in ice cream flavors, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) defended his previous assertion that sexuality is a behavior in an interview with Florida’s Sun-Sentinel yesterday. Watch it here.

WEST: You cannot compare me and my race to a behaviour. Sexuality is a behaviour. And so yeah, I said, I cannot change my color. People can change their sexual behavior. And I’ve seen people do that. You know, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, so I’ve seen a very different perspective on human behaviours. So that’s where I’m coming from with that…

Q: Do you think gay people should change their behavior?

WEST: I like chocolate chip ice cream, and I will continue to like chocolate chip ice cream. So there’s no worry about me changing to vanilla. I like to, you know, ride my motorcycle. What do you want me to do? You want me to change my behavior and ride a scooter? I’

Oy.  Santorum repeated more lies and insane metaphors during the Ames debate.

He continued to press anti-gay views, saying that calling same-sex marriage a marriage would be like calling a cup of tea a basketball.

He repeatedly quoted a study that families do better in heterosexual marriages. Though that study actually uses the phrase “nuclear” family, which can include same-sex couples.

Okay, so let’s continue with more batshit crazy and Michelle Bachmann who made a 2002 video warning Minnesotans that Minnesota’s educational standards would lead to a holocaust literally.

Before Bachmann served in the Minnesota state Senate, led the tea party caucus in the House of Representatives, or ran for president, she worked as an education activist with a conservative group called the Maple River Education Coalition (MREC). Together with Chapman, Bachmann criss-crossed Minnesota, speaking to church groups and warning them about the dire consequences of state and federal education reform.

In the middle of all of this, Bachmann and Chapman made a movie.

Guinea Pig Kids II is not, as its name might suggest, a B-list horror film. The impetus for the film was the Profile of Learning, a set of state curriculum standards adopted by Republican Gov. Arne Carlson’s administration in 1998. To Bachmann and Chapman, the standards were nefarious and part of a a far-reaching globalist plot.

As Bachmann and Chapman explained, a little-known federal program called Goals 2000, initiated under the Clinton administration but consistent with a similar plan supported by President George H.W. Bush, was paving the way for a national curriculum. The new curriculum, the two speakers maintained, moved the state away from established truths like the supposedly Christian founding documents, and replaced them with secular documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that allowed the state to craft its own set of values. Guinea Pig Kids was designed to explain “Minnesota’s new centrally-planned education, workforce & economic system and how citizens are trying to reverse it.” Over the course of the film’s two hours, Bachmann and Chapman did just that.

You can watch the insanity at the MoJo link.

So, you know the Tea Party types are all about ‘personal responsibility’ right?  Check this out : “Tea Party Rep: Bank Should Have Known I Wouldn’t Be Able To Repay $2.2 Million Loan”.  Yeah, it’s the poor people that are sucking the system dry, right?

Tea Party aligned Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R), who castigates Washington for fiscal irresponsibility, reached an out of court settlement Wednesday after he was sued for defaulting on a $2.2 million loan — which his attorney argued is the bank’s fault for lending him the money in the first place.

Graves and his business partner Chip Rogers — who is the state Senate’s Republican majority leader — took out a $2.2 million loan from the Bartow County Bank in 2007 to buy and renovate a local motel. The project soon went belly-up.

The bank, which has since failed and had its assets taken over, sued Graves and Rogers for defaulting. The two Republicans then countersued, “accusing [the bank] of improperly declaring the loan in default after reneging on a promise to refinance it at more favorable terms,” according to Jeremy Redmon and Aaron Gould Sheinin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution .

In June, Simon Bloom, the attorney for Graves and Rogers, argued in a court filing that the default was the bank’s fault because it lent the pair the money knowing full well they couldn’t pay. Bloom cited a deposition in which bank officials saw Graves and Rogers’ financial records, and then had them sign personal guarantees so they’d “‘have some skin in the game’ presumably meaning a sense of personal obligation for the debts … even though they clearly could not fulfill the obligation.” Graves and Rogers said they were unaware of that particular filing.

Robert Riech explains “Why the President Doesn’t present a bold plan to Create Jobs and Jumpstart the Economy”.

Which gets me to the President. Even though the President’s two former top economic advisors (Larry Summers and Christy Roemer) have called for a major fiscal boost to the economy, the President has remained mum. Why?

I’m told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn’t understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender.

So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.

I’m not distracted yet, are you?

So, what’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Midnight Thread: Bachmann suffers from Debilitating Migraines

This is not the sort of thing that you like to put into print.  Oddly enough, the story comes from Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller and undoubtedly some sort of inter-Republican Squabble has created the atmosphere for its release. I’m just going to put up the headline at this point because first, I’m not a doctor, I’m an economist dammit!  Second, because I’m not a psychologist, I’m an economist dammit! Third, I am a Buddhist and any kind of suffering on the part of sentient beings disturbs me.  It will have a profound impact on the Republican presidential campaign so, here it is.

Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged

The Minnesota Republican frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes that she has characterized as severe headaches. These episodes, say witnesses, occur once a week on average and can “incapacitate” her for days at time. On at least three occasions, Bachmann has landed in the hospital as a result.

“She has terrible migraine headaches. And they put her out of commission for a day or more at a time. They come out of nowhere, and they’re unpredictable,” says an adviser to Bachmann who was involved in her 2010 congressional campaign. “They level her. They put her down. It’s actually sad. It’s very painful.”

Bachmann’s medical condition wouldn’t merit public attention, but for the fact she is running for president. Some close to Bachmann fear she won’t be equal to the stress of the campaign, much less the presidency itself.

“When she gets ‘em, frankly, she can’t function at all. It’s not like a little thing with a couple Advils. It’s bad,” the adviser says. “The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills. Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes.”

To staff, Bachmann has implausibly blamed the headaches on uncomfortable high-heel shoes, but those who have worked closely with her cite stress, a busy schedule and anything going badly for Bachmann as causes.

My sister has developed menopause-related migraines so I hate to even delve into that suggestion as it could be another excuse to claim that women’s biology means they can’t be leaders.  However, that being said, Congresswoman Bachmann will have to discuss this.  I’m not too young to have forgotten Thomas Eagleton either.  So, as they said on Saturday Night Live ages ago, discuss amongst yourselves …


Thursday Reads: Lying Politicians vs Truly Egregious Behavior; Crazy Republicans; and More

Good Morning!!

I’m sick and tired of the Weiner story, and I know most of you are too; but I just want to highlight a few reactions that I found interesting–all G rated.

I love this Lambert post, especially this part:

ZOMG!!!!!!! Offensive behavior online!!!!!!!! [Too tired for the riffs about the pearl clutching and the fainting couch.]

Anyhow, so Weiner’s an asshole. And so what. As William Gibson said:

“Fortunately,” he said, “it isn’t about who’s an asshole. If it were, our work would never be done.”

Love that quote! As Lambert points out, these “ethics” investigations never seem to happen to people who engage in torture, election fraud, or handing over the U.S. treasury to banksters.

Speaking of assholes, Andrew Breitbart claims he still has one more “lewd picture” of Weiner that he hasn’t released–and it’s not the one going around today. Talk about an evil human being. Breitbart is disgusting. If you read to the end of that piece, you’ll find out Breitbart’s notions of female sexuality.

One person who seems to have a little sympathy for Weiner is Charlie Rangel.

“His most serious problem is keeping his wife and family together at this time,” Rangel said in an interview on Fox Business Network set to air Wednesday evening.

Rangel did not suggest that Weiner resign. Here’s what he had to say about “ethics” investigations:

“They may do that, and God knows, I know what people feel they have to do as politicians to protect themselves. It’s totally unbelievable, but it happens,” Rangel said. “They love you, but they love themselves better and they make political decisions not to how it affects you, but to how it affects them and their reelection.”

They are all slime, yet they presume to sit in judgment on others. What Weiner did makes me sick, but the rest of them make me even sicker.

Melanie Sloan of CREW says there is a double-standard operating in the many calls for Weiner to resign.

“This is a massive overreaction and I don’t understand it,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

She points out that Charlie Rangel was censured for serious ethical breaches, yet was not forced to resign.

Sloan explained that the mounting pressure on Weiner may stem in part from the early precedent set by House Speaker John Boehner when, at the first sign of sexual misconduct, he urged Reps. Mark Souder (R, Ind.) and Chris Lee (R, N.Y.) to resign, even though their behavior didn’t appear to involve any abuse of their office.

“A lot of people really hate Weiner, too,” she said, referring to Weiner’s colleagues in the House, some of whom are said to have been rankled by his personality and frequent media appearances.

What about Weiner’s denials before he owned up?

“A politician lying is not that unusual,” Sloan said. “If the new standard is that politicians are out the second they lie to us, then a lot of politicians could be gone.”

How true.

As egregious as Weiner’s behavior was, it wasn’t a crime. Here’s an example of truly egregious behavior: U.S. pediatrician on trial for raping toddlers

A Delaware pediatrician went on trial for allegedly raping or sexually exploiting 86 young patients, all girls except one and almost all younger than three.

Earl Bradley has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts against him, and sat quietly in gray prison scrubs as a veteran state trooper spent hours Tuesday describing the doctor’s cache of home videos of the assaults.

They were so “horrible,” testified state police detective Scott Garland, a specialist in forensic computer evidence. “They were beyond anything I had ever witnessed. Nothing prepared me for it.”

And then there’s this: Casey Antony told a fellow inmate that she used chloroform to knock out her daughter Caylee when she (Casey) wanted to party.

And how about this?

Gaddafi bought Viagra-like pills for troops to attack women

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he may ask for a new charge of mass rape to be made against Gaddafi following the new evidence. The chief International Criminal Court prosecutor is expecting a decision from judges within days on his request for crimes against humanity charges against the Libyan leader.

“Now we are getting some information that Gaddafi himself decided to rape and this is new,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo told reporters.

He said there were reports of hundreds of women attacked in some areas of Libya, which is in the grip of a months-long internal rebellion.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said there was evidence that the Libyan authorities bought “Viagra-type” medicines and gave them to troops as part of the official rape policy.

“They were buying containers to enhance the possibility to rape women,” he said.

“We had doubts at the beginning but now we are more convinced that he decided to punish using rapes,” the prosecutor said. “It was very bad — beyond the limits, I would say.”

Let’s move on to the horrors of the Republican 2012 presidential field. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, voters aren’t ready for a Mormon president.

Sorry, Mitt. John Huntsman is also a Mormon. I guess voters don’t mind looney religionists as long as they claim to be Christians though. Have you heard about Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan?

Pawlenty calls for sweeping tax cuts dubbed by some as “breathtaking.” He’d cut the corporate income tax from 35 percent to 15 percent, and eliminate taxes on capital gains, interest income, dividends and inheritances. There would be two tiers of personal income taxes — 10 percent and 25 percent.

Pawlenty would require Congress to reauthorize all federal regulations and radically reshape the federal government by privatizing services such as the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak. He also would support an ill-advised balanced budget amendment. You could almost hear the corporate special interests uttering “check, check and check!” as the South St. Paul truck driver’s son ticked off items on their wish lists and then one-upped them.

Just reading about it makes me want to run out into the street screaming and tearing my hair out.

Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are supposedly feuding now because Ed Rollins said that Bachman is more “serious” than Palin. I had to really look around to find an article that didn’t call it a “cat fight.” Here’s Rollins, quoted by NPR:

“Well I’m going to work for Michele Bachmann if she runs. That’s the one that intrigues me the most at this point and I think to a certain extent she’s articulate, she’s a conservative. She’s got a great story to tell. She’s on the Intelligence Committee. You know, she’s unknown to the national audience, but she’ll become known and that’s the candidacy that I’m going to work for if she runs.

“Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years. She got the vice-presidential thing handed to her. She didn’t go to work in the sense of trying gain more substance. She gave up her governorship. You know, I think Michele Bachmann and others have worked hard. She has been a leader of the Tea Party, which is a very important element here. She’s an attorney, done extraordinary things with family values and what have you. So I think she will connect. She’s a great, great communicator and I would say in the race today she is probably the best communicator.”

Kinda takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Now check this out: Santorum Calls Abortion Exceptions To Protect Health Of The Mother ‘Phony’

Longshot GOP presidential hopeful and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum stomped for votes in Iowa on Tuesday, trumpeting his “culture wars” message. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Santorum is selling himself as the leading social conservative in a crowded field. Yesterday in West Des Moines, he made an appearance at a “crisis pregnancy center” called Informed Choices that tries to talk women out of having abortions. Santorum said that he “separates [himself] from the rest of the pack” and criticized the other candidates for simply “checking the box” on anti-abortion issues.

When discussing his track record as a champion of the partial birth abortion ban, Santorum dismissed exceptions other senators wanted to carve out to protect the life and health of mothers, calling such exceptions “phony”:

SANTORUM: When I was leading the charge on partial birth abortion, several members came forward and said, “Why don’t we just ban all abortions?” Tom Daschle was one of them, if you remember. And Susan Collins, and others. They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective.

In other stupid Republican news, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had a painting of poor and homeless children removed from the governor’s mansion. From Mother Jones:

Walker has made headlines again after he removed a painting depicting three Wisconsin children—one had been homeless, one came from low-income family, and a third who had lost family members in a drunk-driving accident. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the painting was one of numerous pieces of art commissioned by the fund that operates the governor’s mansion—works that were intended to remind the governor of the constituents he or she represents.

Here’s the Journal Sentinel on the painting by artist David Lenz:

In an interview, Lenz said he carefully selected the three children portrayed in “Wishes in the Wind.” The African-American girl, featured in a Journal Sentinel column on homelessness, spent three months at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission with her mother. The Hispanic girl is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. And the boy’s father and brother were killed by a drunken driver in 2009.

“The homeless, central city children and victims of drunk drivers normally do not have a voice in politics,” Lenz explained in an email. “This painting was an opportunity for future governors to look these three children in the eye, and I hope, contemplate how their public policies might affect them and other children like them.”

He added: “I guess that was a conversation Governor Walker did not want to have.”

In other news, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, 77 army cadets were struck by lightening and hospitalized. Let’s hope they’ll all be okay. The weather sure is strange this year!

I’ll end with this interesting story from the LA Times: Autism linked to hundreds of genetic mutations.

Autism is not caused by one or two gene defects but probably by hundreds of different mutations, many of which arise spontaneously, according to research that examined the genetic underpinnings of the disorder in more than 1,000 families.

The findings, reported in three studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, cast autism disorders as genetically very complex, involving many potential changes in DNA that may produce, essentially, different forms of autism.

The affected genes, however, appear to be part of a large network involved in controlling the development of synapses, the critical junctions between nerve cells that allow them to communicate, according to one of the three studies.

Although the work will have no immediate value to patients or their families, the insights provide a wealth of targets to pursue in developing treatments for the disorder, scientists said. Understanding the genetic causes of autism spectrum disorders may promote more accurate diagnoses, and research on synapse formation and function could yield treatments that address the flow of signals between nerve cells.

What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!!


Saturday Night Frights: What the Future of America Could Look Like

For the past two days, Republican movers and shakers have participated in a conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The Faith and Freedom Coalition is the new face of the religious right, but the same old faces are behind the new organization. It is chaired by evil grifter and former Jack Abramoff crony Ralph Reed, who once led the Christian Coalition and is now supposedly experiencing a “political rebirth.”

Just as a reminder of how utterly slimy Ralph Reed is, here is disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff expressing an opinion about Reed.

This dishonest, repulsive man is one of the kingmakers of the Republican Party.

The Caucus blog at The New York Times had a brief writeup on the Faith and Freedom Conference and what the 2012 Republican hopefuls had to say to them. Here are some samples.

John Huntsman

“I do not believe the Republican Party should focus solely on our economic life to the neglect of our human life,” Jon M. Huntsman Jr. told the audience of several hundred after citing antiabortion laws he signed when governor of Utah.

Tim Pawlenty

opened and closed his remarks with biblical quotes. He said his top four “common-sense principles” for the nation were to turn toward God, protect the unborn, support traditional marriage and keep Americans secure.

Michelle Bachmann

reminded the audience that she home-schooled her five children and ended with a prayer that asked a blessing for President Obama, whom she had sharply criticized moments earlier.

Bachmann also promised to repeal Obamacare.

Mitt Romney tried to convince the audience he believed in the “sanctity of human life” and hated gay marriage, Newt Gingrich didn’t show up, and Ron Paul talked about reinstating the gold standard.

Before you laugh too loudly about this parade of loons, check out what Howard Dean told The Hill today. He’s warning Democrats that the “P” woman could beat Obama in 2012. In face Dean thinks if something isn’t done about the economy and unemployment, anyone who wins the Republican nomination could win the presidency.

Dean says his fellow Democrats should beware of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that Obama would crush Palin in a general-election contest next year.

“I think she could win,” Dean told The Hill in an interview Friday. “She wouldn’t be my first choice if I were a Republican but I think she could win.”

Dean warns the sluggish economy could have more of a political impact than many Washington strategists and pundits assume.

“Any time you have a contest — particularly when unemployment is as high as it is — nobody gets a walkover,” Dean said. “Whoever the Republicans nominate, including people like Sarah Palin, whom the inside-the-Beltway crowd dismisses — my view is if you get the nomination of a major party, you can win the presidency, I don’t care what people write about you inside the Beltway,” Dean said.

Personally, I think Michelle Bachmann is scarier than Quitterella. And potential first lady gentleman Mr. Michelle Bachmann Marcus Bachmann is even scarier than she is. Here he is discussing homosexuality.

This is Marcus Bachmann swishing arriving at a radio station for an interview.

These are the kinds of people who could be running the country if the Democrats don’t get off their duffs and do something about the economy and jobs instead of playing footsie with Mich McConnell, John Boehner, and the rest of the Republican freakazoids. This is no joke, folks. I realize this isn’t a particularly politically correct post, but I do not want to be at the mercy of a bunch of self-hating closet cases and hypocritical christianists who are obsessed with fetuses and throwing old people to the wolves. Democrats need to wake the f*ck up and smell the unemployment.