Tuesday Reads: Are Women People?

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Good Morning!!

Question for today: Are women human? Are we people in the eyes of our government? We’ve been told that corporations are people. We know that white men are people–that was established by the U.S. Constitution when it was ratified in 1789.  Since that time, there have been amendments that granted some rights to non-white men and to women. We can vote now. Does that mean our government recognizes our humanity?

Today our ultra-conservative, mostly Catholic Supreme Court will hear two cases that bring this question to the forefront, and the Court’s decisions may give us some answers to the question of whether American women are officially people with individual rights.

From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case

Depending on whom you ask, Tuesday morning’s oral argument at the Supreme Court is about whether Obamacare can keep treading on religious liberty – or it’s about a woman’s right to access contraception on her employee insurance plan, no matter what her employer thinks of it. Either way, it is the first time the Affordable Care Act will be at the nation’s highest Court since it was first largely upheld as constitutional. The same two men as in that case, current Solicitor General Don Verrilli and former Bush administration solicitor general Paul Clement, are facing off to argue over a narrower provision.

Before the Supreme Court decides whether the contraceptive coverage required of insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law governing religious liberty, it has to settle the threshold question: Does a corporation even have religious liberty?

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I think the question about the rights of women is far broader than that. Without access to birth control and abortion, a woman has no real autonomy as a human being. If she becomes pregnant–even through rape–she loses the ability to make choices about her future life. It has been a relatively short period of time since women have had the power to make those choices. But that power has led to other advances for women–such as the right to prosecute a rapist or an abusive boyfriend or husband, the right to have credit in her own name, the right to an education, and entry into careers from which women were previously blocked. We can only hope that the justices see clearly what their decisions will mean for women’s lives and women’s personhood.

Back to the MSNBC article:

Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based, evangelical-owned craft chain with about 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, sued the administration and got two very different answers from the lower courts. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared of Hobby Lobby that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion.” In ruling on Conestoga’s bid for exemption from the requirement, the Third Circuit disagreed: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”

The companies are among the 47 for-profit corporations that have objected to their company plans complying with the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under those regulations, contraception is covered fully, without a co-pay, as preventive care. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood object to a handful of contraceptives that they speculate can block a fertilized egg, which is neither documented in the science nor the medical definition of abortion. Other for-profit plaintiffs object to any birth control coverage at all….

The Obama administration says that the government has a compelling interest in women’s health and in gender equality. The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to classify contraceptives as preventive care after considering testimony from medical experts, who cited the country’s high rate of unintended pregnancy and the persistence cost barriers to accessing effective birth control.

Some legal experts argue that to rule for Hobby Lobby would be imposing religion on others, by forcing the women who work for such companies to pay the cost of their employers’ religion. Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young, has even argued in a brief before the Court that doing so would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

What will SCOTUS decide?

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At NPR, Nina Totenberg offers some scary quotes from Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby:

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.

Using birth control is “taking a life?” Apparently one of the arguments Hobby Lobby is using that–contrary to scientific facts–some forms of birth control are equal to abortion. So is every sperm is sacred too? Should men be prosecuted for masturbating? But those questions are not likely to be asked, because it is already legally established that men are people.

 

At the WaPo, Sandra Fluke writes: At the Supreme Court, a potential catastrophe for women’s rights.

Unlike my congressional testimony in 2012, which was about Georgetown University — a Catholic-affiliated university — refusing to include contraception in student insurance because it was a religiously affiliated school, the institutions arguing before the Supreme Court are not houses of worship or religious non-profits. The Affordable Care Act already includes special arrangements for those types of organizations. These are private, for-profit corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — that want to be excluded from health insurance and employment laws because of bosses’ personal views.

Laws that include religious protection have never given corporations the right to have religious views, and it would be a terrible idea to make such an enormous change to our legal precedent now. Our laws protect individuals’ private religious beliefs, but when you cross over into the public sphere to become a corporation and make a profit off of the public, you must abide by the public’s laws.

Depending on the court’s rulings, the cases’ outcomes could deny millions of women coverage of any or all forms of birth control, limiting women’s ability to control their reproductive health, plan their pregnancies and manage their lives. As I testified, women also need birth control for many other medical reasons, including relief of painful health problems like endometriosis.

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And, Fluke argues, recognizing a right for corporations to hold religious views will open the door to

Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.

Furthermore, SCOTUS could not limit these proposed “religious freedoms” to Christians.

Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well.

Sahil Kapur of TPM points out that Justice Scalia, who might be expected to vote in favor of a corporate “right to religious freedom,” will have to deal with one of his previous rulings: Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control.

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness and that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.

“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”

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At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser addresses the right wing organizations that have waged a concerted war against women’s rights during the past several years: Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby.

2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.

Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders oftop anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.

Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

Read the gory details at the link.

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Finally, I ask that everyone read this year-old article at Time Magazine by Jessica Winter, Subject for Debate: Are Women People? It is both darkly humorous and deadly serious.

All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.

You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)

Please go read the whole thing. It’s not long.

So . . . those are my recommended reads for today.  What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

 


Friday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

Sandra Fluke gave a wonderful speech to the DNC on Wednesday. The young woman rose to prominence after being denied an opportunity to be the only women speaking to a Issa congressional panel on the coverage of birth control in all insurance programs.  She was savagely attacked by the right wing press then and now.  Here are some horrible tweets that show exactly how awful women in the spotlight are treated by the right.

Let’s get one thing straight first: Contrary to what Limbaugh said, just because a woman wants to have easier access to contraceptives does not make her a slut or a prostitute.

But in order to promote a radical agenda that would deny women access to something so basic as birth control, conservatives took to Twitter after Fluke’s speech to, once again, repeat the disgusting falsehood that she wants the government to “pay” for her social life and to bash her for “whining” about it on a national stage.

Here’s a sampling of tweets that Think Progress spotted:

Sandra Fluke: I am woman, hear me whine.

— Todd Kincannon (@ToddKincannon) September 6, 2012

Shorter @sandrafluke #DNC speech: Me me me me me me. Free free free free B(irth) C(ontrol).Eeeeevil GOP.

— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) September 6, 2012

Don’t lecture conservative women about empowerment while demanding that we pay for what goes on in your bedroom #DNC2012

— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) September 6, 2012

I wonder if she has “Birth Control Martyr” business cards.

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) September 6, 2012

I hope someone was passing out free condoms tonight, otherwise Sandra Fluke might be in trouble tomorrow.

— Michael Berry (@MichaelBerrySho) September 5, 2012

Sandra wants taxpayers to pay for her tanning appointments.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 6, 2012

So, there’s a new “fish” story from Paul Ryan out and about the web.  First, we heard that Ryan lied about his marathon running feats.  Now, we’re hearing a story about Mountain Climbing.  Lies seem to come easy to Romney and Ryan, as BB pointed out.  This one is really interesting.  How many fourteeners has Ryan really climbed?

Craig Gilbert, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote the original story, back in 2009, about Ryan’s mountain-climbing record. He has now written an update and amplification of exactly what Ryan told him then. Here are relevant parts from the original interview:

Ryan: “My mom was very outdoorsy …  We spent our summers doing backpacking trips in the (Colorado) back-country, you know, Snowmass Lake, Capital Peak, spent all our summers doing that …  went all over White River National Forest, just the whole Elk range. I mean I’ve climbed every fourteener in that range and the three around there … So I got into climbing fourteeners when I was 12, with my brother, Stan. My mom got us into that.”
Question: “How many fourteeners have you climbed? Or how many times?”

Ryan: “38. I think that’s my last count.”

Question: “Those are just climbing peaks that are 14,000 feet?”

Ryan: “I’ve done it 38 times. … I’ve done 38, but I think the number of unique peaks is something like twenty… no, no it’s like thirty or something like that. I counted it up a year or two ago.”

Question: “Most of those in Colorado?”

Ryan: “All of them are in Colorado. So I think I’ve climbed like 28 (peaks), and I’ve done it 38 times, because I’ve done a number of them a few times. So I was, you know, kind of into that stuff.”

So, now folks that are real fourteeners are weighing in on the possibility of that actually being true. According to folks that know what they are doing, it’s likely another Ryan Whopper. So, is Ryan a serial peddler of fish stories or has all that reading of Ayn Rand prevented him from processing reality?

I loved Jared Bernstein’s post on yoyo economics and politics.  It’s a theme that both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton spoke about at the DNC.  The idea of YOYO (your’re on your own) vs. We’re in This all Together is a good way to put the election this year.

Protecting the rights of individuals has always been a core American value. Yet in recent years the emphasis on individualism has been pushed to the point where, like the diners in hell, we’re starving. This political and social philosophy is hurting our nation, endangering our future and that of our children, and, paradoxically, making it harder for individuals to get a fair shot at the American dream.

This extreme individualism dominates the way we talk about the most important aspects of our economic lives, those that reside in the intersection of our living standards, our government, and the future opportunities for ourselves and our children. The message, sometimes implicit but often explicit, is, You’re on your own. Its acronym, YOYO, provides a useful shorthand to summarize this destructive approach to governing.

The concept of YOYO, as used in this book, isn’t all that complicated. It’s the prevailing vision of how our country should be governed. As such, it embodies a set of values, and at the core of the YOYO value system is hyper-individualism: the notion that whatever the challenges we face as a nation, the best way to solve them is for people to fend for themselves. Over the past few decades, this harmful vision has generated a set of policies with that hyper-individualistic gene throughout their DNA.

The YOYO crowd—the politicians, lobbyists, and economists actively promoting this vision—has stepped up its efforts to advance its policies in recent years, but hyper-individualism is not a new phenomenon. Chapter 1 documents archaeological evidence of YOYO thinking and policies from the early 1900s, along with their fingerprint: a sharp increase in the inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity. The most recent incarnation can be found in the ideas generated by the administration of George W. Bush, but the YOYO infrastructure—the personnel with a vested interest in the continued dominance of these policies—will not leave the building with Bush. Unless, that is, we recognize the damage being done and make some major changes.

One central goal of the YOYO movement is to continue and even accelerate the trend toward shifting economic risks from the government and the nation’s corporations onto individuals and their families. You can see this intention beneath the surface of almost every recent conservative initiative: Social Security privatization, personal accounts for health care (the so-called Health Savings Accounts), attacks on labor market regulations, and the perpetual crusade to slash the government’s revenue through regressive tax cuts—a strategy explicitly tagged as “starving the beast”—and block the government from playing a useful role in our economic lives. You can even see this go-it-alone principle in our stance toward our supposed international allies.

While this fast-moving reassignment of economic risk would be bad news in any period, it’s particularly harmful today. As the new century unfolds, we face prodigious economic challenges, many of which have helped to generate both greater inequalities and a higher degree of economic insecurity in our lives. But the dominant vision has failed to develop a hopeful, positive narrative about how these challenges can be met in such a way as to uplift the majority.

If you’d like to read the full text of President Obama’s acceptance speech last night it is reprinted here in full.

If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.

If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now.  Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place.  Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together.  We don’t turn back.  We leave no one behind.  We pull each other up.  We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

The election theme music is Bruce Springstein’s “We Take Care of Our Own”.  Quite a contrast to the Throw yo Momma from the Trian, isn’t it?  I love this song because it was written partially about Hurricane Katrina.

“From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome …”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


DNC Live Blog: Day 3

Here we go . . . This is the last night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. We can only hope the speeches will be as thrilling as the ones we heard last night.

Tonight Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama will accept their nominations to run for reelection. In addition, there will be a who slew of celebrity appearances, including Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, The Foo Fighters, Eva Longoria, Mary J. Blige, James Taylor, Earth Wind & Fire, Marc Anthony, and Kerry Washington. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will lead the pledge of allegiance.

At 8:00, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist will speak. At 10:00, we’ll hear from Eva Longoria, Joe Biden, and President Obama. The rest of the night’s schedule has not been released.

Just a few headlines to get you going:

Amanda Marcotte: Sandra Fluke’s Speech Made Republicans Crazy. Which Is Just What the Democrats Want.

For a short period yesterday evening, a moment of panicked confusion broke out among those of us obsessively watching and tweeting the Democratic National Convention, when Sandra Fluke did not go on stage as scheduled. It turns out that we needn’t have worried; convention organizers made an apparently last minute decision to move Fluke’s speech to later in the night, giving her a prime-time audience. It’s a move that indicates Democrats have finally stopped freaking out at the first sign of reactionary histrionics, and instead have embraced the strategy of taking the fight to conservatives.

After decades of playing along with conservatives who dress up their hostility to female sexuality as nothing more than an interest in “life,” Democrats have finally realized that baiting the anti-choice right into showing its misogynist, sex-phobic side may just be a winning strategy.

Marcotte posts some of the rageful Republican tweets at the link.

HuffPo: Unions Hope Democratic National Convention Draws Attention To Plight Of North Carolina Workers

North Carolina passed right-to-work legislation in 1947, barring contracts that require all workers at unionized companies to pay union dues. North Carolina is now the least-unionized state in the country, with about 3 percent of workers belonging to one, according to the Labor Department. The state also bans collective bargaining for public-sector workers. Feeling snubbed, some activists skipped the convention in favor of what was billed as a “shadow convention” for organized labor in Philadelphia.

“This entire saga, from the beginning to today ­– the site selection, the state selection — the way it’s been handled is just nothing more than confirmation to me that the standing of organized labor in the eyes of the Democratic Party is lower than it’s ever been in my time,” said Chris Townsend, political director of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union, who has been in the labor movement for more than three decades.

CNN Money: Is Wall Street Being Bamboozled by Romney?

FORTUNE — Wall Street is taking quite a pounding at the Democratic National Convention this week as speakers, like Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren, fire populist missives so inflammatory it would cause even the most liberal banker to cringe. While the speeches are meant to fire up the Democratic base, they are also likely to induce some financiers to double their contributions to Republicans, namely, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

But is that a safe bet? Much of Wall Street’s concerns derive from the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, even though some of the most controversial aspects of the bill seem permanently lost in regulatory limbo. Going forward, there remain questions as to what, if anything, a Romney Presidency could truly deliver in the next four years that would be so different from a second term Obama presidency. Given that uncertainty, Wall Street could possibly be better off sticking with the devil they already know.

New York Observer: We Can All Breathe a Sigh of Relief: Mitt Romney Has a Plan to End the Housing Crisis

Is Mitt Romney really the man to solve the housing crisis? Well, consider this: Mr. Romney may not have ever struggled “to put food on the table” as folksy politicians are so fond of saying, but he has four houses. Four. So he knows a thing or two about home ownership. And, unlike some homeowners who took out mortgages and couldn’t pay them back, Mr. Romney is wealthy enough not to have to take out mortgages (although there’s a possibility that he did—the man does have the common touch, at times).

In any event, the Republican candidate has revealed his four-point plan while taking a few swings at Obama, like: “the dream of home ownership is out of reach for many Americans as a result of President Obama’s failed policies and stalled economy.”

Because Americans were doing so well with home ownership before Mr. Obama took the helm. Ha! Good one! As though the “stalled economy” and, well, the “economic crisis” weren’t a result of the fact that many Americans were actually really horrible when it came to assessing risk and making responsible choices about home ownership.

The consensus is that it’s not much of a “plan.”

ABC News: Paul Ryan Anticipates and Counters Obama’s Convention Speech Tonight

COLORADO SPRINGS–Just hours before the president takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention, Paul Ryan attempted to counter Obama’s speech by reminding voters in this battleground state of then candidate Obama’s promises in his 2008 speech in Denver.

“Right here in Colorado, four years ago with the Styrofoam Greek columns, the big stadium, the president gave this long speech with lots of big promises,” Ryan said. “He said … that Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress. By those very measurements, his leadership has fallen woefully short.”

Yawn. . . Lots more of Lyin’ Ryan’s psychic predictions at the link. Frankly, after the spanking he got from Bill Clinton last night, the little twerp would do better to just STFU; but I’m hoping he continues making a fool of himself. I guess he doesn’t know that he has lost all credibility with everyone but obsessive Fox watchers.

Detroit News: Conservatives Pull Ads from Michigan

Mitt Romney’s conservative allies are bypassing Michigan with their advertising while stepping up efforts in other battleground states — suggesting campaign strategists don’t believe his road to the White House leads through his native state.

The pro-Romney groups American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity are pouring nearly $13 million into advertising in key states, indicating they remain eager to lend considerable financial muscle to Romney in states viewed as truly competitive.

There are no presidential campaign ads of any kind airing in Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to information provided by media trackers to the Associated Press.

Nate Silver: The Simple Case for Why Obama Is the Favorite

…our forecast has moved toward President Obama over the past several days. It now gives him about a three-in-four chance of winning the Electoral College on Nov. 6.

I’ll explain a little bit more about how the model comes to that conclusion in a moment, but the intuition behind it is pretty simple:

1. Polls usually overrate the standing of the candidate who just held his convention.
2. Mitt Romney just held his convention. But he seems to have gotten a below-average bounce out of it. The national polls that have come out since the Republican National Convention have shown an almost exact tie in the race.
3. If the polls overrate Mr. Romney, and they show only a tie for him now, then he will eventually lose.
The first point is the simplest of all, but perhaps the most important. There is a lot of focus on the bounce that a candidate gets after his convention — that is, how the polls conducted just after the convention compare with the ones taken immediately beforehand.

Silver predicted the 2008 election results almost perfectly.

I’m looking forward to reading your comments tonight, so bring it!


Thursday Morning Reads: About Last Night

Good Morning!!

Thanks to everyone who helped with the live blogs last night. You guys are the greatest! I’m still fired up from Warren’s and Clinton’s speeches last night. The comparison between those two and Lyin’ Ryan and Etch-a-Sketch Willard could not be any greater. Tonight we’ll see both Joe Biden and Barack Obama. It should be another fun night, so please join us tonight if you can.

Here are some of the early reactions to Wednesday night’s speeches.

TPM: Bill Clinton to Mitt Romney: Barack Obama is My True Heir.

Bill Clinton offered an impassioned defense of President Obama as a leader in the mold of his own image Wednesday night, praising him for rescuing an ailing economy even as Republicans sought to thwart him at every turn.

Mitt Romney has tried to position himself as Clinton’s heir in recent months, employing a false claim that Obama gutted Clinton’s signature welfare reform bill, comparing the two presidents on jobs and claiming he’d follow Clinton’s lead in working with the other party.

Clinton made clear that there was only one candidate in the race who embodied his values.

“If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is alive and well and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace, and justice, and prosperity, in this highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama,” he said.

NYT: Transcript of Bill Clinton’s speech.

ABC News: Elizabeth Warren: The System is Rigged.

Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, speaking ahead of Bill Clinton tonight at the Democratic National Convention, delivered an acid rebuke of Mitt Romney and Republican economic policy.

Their vision is clear, she said: “I’ve got mine, and the rest of you are on your own.”

Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, is the Harvard professor who became a YouTube hero among Democrats when she asked a small gathering of Bay State supporters, “You built a factory out there? Good for you — but I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”

LA Times: Sandra Fluke: GOP positions ‘offensive, obsolete relic’ of past

Sandra Fluke on Wednesday offered a dire vision of the future if Mitt Romney is elected president, one where rape would be redefined, women would be forced to have ultrasounds against their wishes, and access to birth control would be controlled by men.

Calling GOP positions “an offensive, obsolete relic of our past,” Fluke told delegates at the Democratic National Convention that “we know what this America would look like and in few shorts months that’s the American we could be, but that’s not the America that we should be, and it’s not who we are.”

Fluke was referring to a host of Republican moves, including measures to narrow the definition of rape to include only those that are “forcible,” as well as attempts by Republicans in some states to force women seeking abortions to undergo a vaginal ultrasound and efforts to curb funding for Planned Parenthood, a leading source of contraception for poor and younger women.

HuffPo: Randy Johnson Speech Attacks Bain: Mitt Romney Lacks A ‘Moral Compass.’

Bain Capital became front and center at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, with three speakers knocking the private equity firm that GOP nominee Mitt Romney founded for costing them their jobs.

First up was Randy Johnson, who has needled Romney has far back as 1994 when he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, the same year Johnson was laid off.

“I want to tell you about Mitt Romney’s record of cutting jobs. Mitt Romney once said — quote — ‘I like being able to fire people,'” Johnson said, quoting a remark Romney made in January about keeping the competitiveness of the health care industry, rather than workers.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney is a bad man. I don’t fault him for the fact that some companies win and some companies lose. That’s a fact of life,” he said. “What I fault him for is making money without a moral compass.”

Connie’s friend Cindy Hewitt also spoke.

Cindy Hewitt, interviewed by The Huffington Post about layoffs at the plant where she worked, echoed Johnson’s sentiment about Romney Wednesday, along with David Foster, another employee laid-off by a Bain-controlled company. All three speakers acknowledged that business had “winners and losers” or some variation — perhaps to stave off sounding too “anti-business” — but proceeded to attack Bain’s model of capitalism.

A couple more general links:

Here’s an interesting piece comparing Michelle Obama’s convention speech with Ann Romney’s: Study: First Lady’s convention speech seven grade levels higher than Ann Romney’s

The speech First Lady Michelle Obama delivered at Tuesday night’s Democratic convention read at a twelfth grade level, according to an analysis by a University of Minnesota political scientist, making it, by that measure, the most complex speech delivered by a presidential candidate’s spouse at a nominating convention.

By contrast, the speech delivered by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, checked in at a fifth grade reading level. Romney’s speech marked the lowest reading level for a spouse’s convention speech since the practice first began in 1992, according to Eeic Ostermeier, the Minnesota political scientists.

Ostermeier reached his findings using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, a metric that rates sentence structure and difficulty of word use, and then computes numbers corresponding to grade levels to indicate how verbally advanced a given text is. For example, longer sentences and words score more points, while monosyllabic words score fewer points.

Hmmm…5th grade level vs. 12th grade. Interesting. I wonder what grade level this Lyin’ Ryan Speech would test at?

Ryan praises Bill Clinton, compares Obama unfavorably to the former Democratic president.

Void of a single reference to Clinton-era scandals, Ryan’s praise was a way to paint Obama as a failure on the GOP ticket’s terms.

“Under President Clinton we got welfare reform,” Ryan told an audience outside a small-town courthouse west of Des Moines. “President Obama is rolling back welfare reform. President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to have a budget agreement to cut spending. President Obama, a gusher of new spending.”

I’m guessing that one is about 3rd grade level.

I’ll end with this video of Lewis Black talking about how long-winded Bill Clinton’s just how white Mitt Romney is and lots more.


Limbaugh’s Latest Lame Excuse: Liberals Made Him Do It!

So much has been happening with the Rush Limbaugh story today, that I thought I’d post an update.

Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers are dropping like flies. This morning the eighth and ninth sponsors–AOL and Tax Resolution Services Co.–withdrew their ads form his show. This afternoon, two more sponsors–Bonobos and Sears–pulled their ads. It’s practically a stampede! At least one radio station, KPUA in Hawaii, has also cancelled the program.

Even John McCain–the closest thing the Republican Party has to an elder statesman–has now called Limbaugh’s behavior “totally unacceptable.”

Speaking on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” the Arizona lawmaker and 2008 GOP presidential nominee said Limbaugh was an “entertainer,” but that the remarks were “totally unacceptable, totally and completely unacceptable, and there’s no place for it.”

Fluke herself said today on The View that Rush’s faux apology “doesn’t change anything,” noting that Limbaugh hasn’t called to apologize to her personally and she really hopes he doesn’t!

Media Matters has catalogued some of Limbaugh’s greatest hits from his “decades of sexism and misogyny.”

But Rush still doesn’t get it. On his Monday show, Limbaugh once again pretended to apologize for his disgusting behavior, while claiming liberals made him do it. Eric Wemple summarizes Limbaugh’s latest lame effort:

“Give me 30 minutes — I want to explain why I apologized,” said Limbaugh just after noon.

The reason he apologized, he says, is that he descended to such a low, such a scummy, gutter-level depth . . . that he started to resemble liberals: ”I don’t expect morality, intellectual honesty from the left — they’ve demonstrated their willingness to say or do anything. This is the mistake I made: In fighting them . . . I became like them. Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge.”

Limbaugh further mentioned that he felt “very badly” because he’d “used those two words [slut and prostitute] to describe Sandra Fluke and I feel very badly about that. . . . I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. The apology to her over the weekend was sincere. It was simply for using inappropriate words. . . . I ended up descending to their level. It’s important never to be like them.”

I can’t quite make sense of this, but it appears that Limbaugh is only sorry for the two words he used–slut and prostitute–but not for saying Fluke should post sex videos on the internet for him to watch or claiming that she “has so much sex” that she can’t afford all the pills she needs, or for claiming that she has boyfriends lined up around the block to have sex with her.

The show’s parent company Premiere Radio Networks also tried to explain away Limbaugh’s days of repulsive attacks on Sandra Fluke and the 99% of women who have used contraception:

Premiere Radio said in a statement Monday that it respects Limbaugh’s right to express his opinions, and said that “in an attempt at absurdist humor to illustrate his political point, Mr. Limbaugh used words that unfortunately distracted from the message he was trying to convey.”

The company said Limbaugh did the right thing by “expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke.”

I guess Premiere Networks and Clear Channel did not realize Limbaugh would spew out more personal attacks at Sandra Fluke today. It seems he is simply unable to control himself. From Think Progress:

LIMBAUGH: Her testimony was not that of an expert, it was just another expert person in this case, Sandra’s case. 30-year old activist after years of a career championing birth control issues. In fact, she told stories less about birth control as a social tool, which is of course the left’s true agenda, and more about birth control as a medication for treating other conditions, such as pregnancy. To the left, pregnancy is a disease. […]

Sandra Fluke gave vague examples based on unnamed friends, who she says couldn’t afford birth control to treat medical conditions they had, since Georgetown University wouldn’t pay for them. … Or so she says. We still don’t know who any of these friends of hers are, these other women, and we don’t know what happened to them. Her testimony was hearsay, and it was unprovable. […]

But the point here is that this was an issue that represents a tiny, tiny slice of what the Democrats really want here. They use Sandra Fluke to create a controversy. Sandra Fluke used them to advance her agenda, which is to force a religious institution to abandon their principles in order to meet hers.

So Fluke isn’t a “slut” anymore–she’s not only a dupe of the Democratic Party but also she’s duping the party into getting what she wants! WTF?! This incoherent moron is the spiritual voice of the Republican Party?

It appears that the suits in charge of Premiere Radio Networks and most likely Limbaugh’s lawyers are trying to get him to apologize, but he just can’t bring himself to do it. This mess has to be hurting the Republican Party, particularly on the eve of Super Tuesday, but it appears that most Republican leaders are still too afraid of this piggish, repulsive man to take any real action. You’d think at least Mitt and/or Ann Romney would speak up, since Bain Capital owns Clear Channel Communications.

I’ll update with any new developments in the comments to this post.