Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gay Rights Video: “I Want To Know What It’s Like”

The following powerful, inspiring video expresses the gay rights movement's demand for equality, openness and justice. The performance was in support of filmmaker Ryan James Yezak’s documentary “Second Class Citizens.” Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Dr. John Live

Dr. John, New Orleans piano master and songwriter, begins a three-week series of nine concerts this weekend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In celebration, let's listen to his renditions of the jazz standard "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" and, appropriately, given his current venue, "New York City Blues." The performance took  in 1996 or 1997 on French TV; one could also imagine it taking place in one of the Greenwich Village clubs he sings about in the latter song.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Carville: Supreme Court Health Veto "Best Thing" For Democrats

James Carville presented a positive political view of the Supreme Court's potential ruling against the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic strategist and CNN commentator told Wolf Blitzer that the Republicans would then "own the health care system." The GOP would be blamed as that system, one that President Obama and the Democrats tried to reform, further implodes as the population ages. Watch:

BLITZER: Let's say it is overturned, James, what is the political fallout from your perspective?

CARVILLE: I think that this will be the best thing that has ever happened to the Democratic Party, because I think health care costs are going to escalate unbelievably. It's 2012, 20 out of 100 people are over 65, by 2020 it's going to be 26. You know, what the Democrats are going to say, and it is completely justified, 'We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.' The public has these guys figured out; our polls show half think the whole thing is political. They overturned an election. And just as a professional Democrat, there's noting better for me than overturning this thing 5-4. Then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin. Let's go see Scalia when you want health care.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Police Video Of Zimmerman Shows No Abrasions Or Blood

After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, he told police that the teen attacked him:

With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered, law-enforcement authorities told the Orlando Sentinel.

This is an amazing account from a man who was 110 pounds heavier than the teen who decked, climbed on top of and slammed him. Regardless, an ABC News video from the night of the killing shows no evidence of a "bloody and battered" Zimmerman:

The surveillance video, which was obtained exclusively by ABC News, shows Zimmerman arriving in a police cruiser. As he exits the car, his hands are cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led down a series of hallways, still cuffed.

...The initial police report noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of the head and nose, and after medical attention it was decided that he was in good enough condition to travel in a police cruiser to the Sanford, Fla., police station for questioning.

His lawyer later insisted that Zimmerman's nose had been broken in his scuffle with 17-year-old Martin.

In the video an officer is seen pausing to look at the back of Zimmerman's head, but no abrasions or blood can be seen in the video and he did not check into the emergency room following the police questioning.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Matt Rothschild: U.S.-Backed Karzai Gov't. Endorses Women's Oppression

Matt Rothschild (left), editor of The Progressive, notes the bitter irony of American military support for President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. Karzai recently endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by the clerical Ulema Council allowing husbands to beat their wives based on "sharia-compliant reasons" and encouraging segregation of the sexes. When the war started a decade ago, its supporters cited the Taliban's brutal treatment of women as a justification. While the code is supposedly voluntary, many Afghan women fear "a green light for Talibanisation" on the part of a president trying to appeal to fundamentalists. Karzai's stance comes amid a sharp drop in support for the war, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Listen as Rothschild comments on how "the U.S. is now supporting a government that officially declares women to be second-class citizens":

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Santorum Campaign Releases Chilling “Obamaville” Ad

Featuring a creepy soundtrack, ominous voice-over and scenes of desolation, an ad from the Santorum campaign can be characterized as a mix of the Gothic and the dystopian, with the "Twilight Zone" thrown in. “Obamaville” is a right-wing fantasy of the horrible fate that awaits America within two years if President Obama is re-elected. At one point, his face even morphs with that of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Presumably the one to rescue us from this national catastrophe is the theocratic, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-contraceptionanti-education and anti-health care Santorum. "Obamaville" is the first of an eight-part series. Watch if you dare:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Veteran Police Chief On "Florida's Disastrous Self-Defense Law"

John F. Timoney, former Miami police chief, Philadelphia police commissioner and New York deputy police commissioner, and current senior police advisor in Bahrain, is certainly familiar with self-defense and firearms. In 2005, he and other Florida police chiefs opposed the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. Now Timoney states that the "public controversy surrounding the killing" of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was "predictable." He contends that the law, which discards legal consequences of shootings by homeowners and safe retreats from situations perceived as dangerous, is unnecessary and used to justify homicides. Excerpts from "Florida's Disastrous Self-Defense Law":

...At the time the Florida law was working its way through the Legislature, proponents argued that a homeowner should have the absolute right to defend himself and his home against an intruder and should not have to worry about the legal consequences if he killed someone. Proponents also maintained that there should be no judicial review of such a shooting.

But I pointed out at the time that even a police officer is held to account for every single bullet he or she discharges, so why should a private citizen be given more rights when it came to using deadly physical force? I also asked the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Dennis K. Baxley, to point to any case in Florida where a homeowner had been indicted or arrested as a result of “defending his castle.” He could not come up with a single one.

...The second part of the law — “stand your ground” — is the most problematic. Until 2005, in all 50 states, the law on the use of force for civilians was pretty simple. If you found yourself in a situation where you felt threatened but could safely retreat, you had the duty to do so...

Police officers are trained to de-escalate highly charged encounters with aggressive people, using deadly force as a last resort. Citizens, on the other hand, may act from emotion and perceived threats. But “stand your ground” gives citizens the right to use force in public if they feel threatened. As the law emphatically states, a citizen has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.”

During one debate, one of the law’s proponents suggested that if a citizen felt threatened in a public space, he should not have to retreat and should be able to meet force with force. ...In tightly congested urban areas, public encounters can be threatening; a look, a physical bump, a leer, someone you think may be following you. ...You learn to navigate threatening settings without resorting to force. Retreating is always the best option.

As Florida police chiefs predicted in 2005, the law has been used to justify killings ranging from drug dealers’ turf battles to road rage incidents. Homicides categorized as justifiable have nearly tripled since the law went into effect...

"Jiffy-Vag" Offers Fast, Convenient Mandatory Ultrasounds

Comedian David Feldman announces "Jiffy-Vag," mandatory ultrasounds for today's on-the-go women. One enthusiastic customer stated, "The violation of my uterus was so quick and easy, and I never thought I could become so permanently traumatized at so low a price!" Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Rachel Maddow: Gun Laws Only Go In One Direction

Rachel Maddow asks what it takes for us to change our permissive gun laws. Jared Loughner was able to kill and wound so many, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-D) in Tucson, January 2011, due to his gun’s holding 31 bullets. George Zimmerman, admitted killer of Trayvon Martin, remains free under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The size of magazines for ammunition never changed, and the Florida Senate has no plans to review “Stand Your Ground.” In fact, the NRA wants it adopted on the federal level. In states throughout the country, laws are loosening in terms of being able to carry guns in schools, libraries, state parks, hospitals, restaurants, bars, arenas and public transportation. Maddow states, “All the changes in law go toward more guns in more places and more legal excuses for shooting people.” No matter what horrific event involving gun violence occurs, so far it is only the gun lobby, specifically the NRA, whose decision matters. Watch:

"A Separation": Family Conflicts And Shifting Truths

Directed by Iranian filmmaker Ashgar Farhadi, "A Separation" (2012 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film) is a tightly constructed depiction of family and class tensions and shifting truths. The film opens as Nader (Peyman Moadi) and his wife Simin (Leila Hatami) argue in family court over Nader's refusal to either divorce Simin or leave the country with her and their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Fahadi, the director's daughter). Nader won't abandon his father, who has Alzheimer's; Simin contends that she wants a better life for their child abroad and that the father no longer knows who his son is. With the conflict unresolved, Simin leaves to live with her mother while Nader hires a poorer, more religious, woman, Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to care for his father. Eventually, conflict breaks out between employer and employee that leads them to court and mutual accusations. Razieh's husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), unemployed and deeply in debt, takes out his sense of disenfranchisement on the middle-class Nader and Simin. All parties to the conflict maintain their incomplete versions of events, though we gradually gain a more complete perspective. The main victim is young Termeh, who senses the lies in the adults around her and is forced into decisions no child should be expected to make. She emerges as the most sympathetic character in this compelling film.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Geraldo Rivera: Hoodies Kill People

Speaking on "Fox and Friends"about the death of Trayvon Martin, Geraldo Rivera assigned equal culpability between the actions of admitted shooter George Zimmerman and Martin's wearing a hoodie: "I think the hoodie is as much responsible (emphasis mine) for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was." Rivera referred to ethnic stereotypes to explain that wearing a hoodie is provocative dress for a black teen: "...he wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond to in this irrational, zealous way... I think unless it's raining out or if you're at a track meet, leave the hoodie home..." One is reminded of supposed justifications for rape based on a woman's dress. Rivera should also be reminded that it was indeed raining the night Martin was shot. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Catherine Russell Sings “New Speedway Boogie”

Jazz and blues singer Catherine Russell covered the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” at the Winter Garden, NYC, in January 2007. The performance was part of the “American Beauty Project,” two shows in tribute to the Dead’s folk and bluegrass albums “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead.” The lyrics are about the disastrous Altamont Concert in 1969, depicted in the movie "Gimme Shelter" (1970). Following Russell’s outstanding performance, Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times, "Catherine Russell, a longtime backup singer, was the concert’s discovery... She sang “New Speedway Boogie” over a jazzy bass vamp and Larry Campbell’s mandolin, in a skeletal arrangement that only heightened the song’s philosophical reflections."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pastor Introducing Santorum: Liberals And Non-Christians Should “Get Out” Of America

Introducing Rick Santorum at the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Pastor Dennis Terry said that he doesn’t care “what the liberals say… This nation was founded as a Christian nation.” To those who disagree, his advice is to “Get out! We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammed, we don’t worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God’s son Jesus Christ!” Terry went on to condemn abortion rights and marriage equality and called for America to “put God back” in government. Though Santorum later told reporters that he believes in freedom of religion, it is still significant to see who endorses his candidacy (the pastor later prayed over Santorum)–and to view him, at the end of the video, standing and applauding the pastor's bigoted remarks. Watch:

Advisor's "Etch-A-Sketch" Comment Exposes Romney's Hollowness

Mitt Romney has repeatedly made gaffes that reveal how out of touch he is with most Americans, reinforcing the perception of him as Mr. One Percent. Indeed, Romney stands for nothing except getting elected; he has reversed countless positions, recently within an hour. Romney tries to make up for his hollow core with the most shameless pandering to the Republican right, but that hasn't stopped a number of conservatives from seeing through him.

In this context, it was interesting to see a Romney advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, make the kind of gaffe that he should be counseling his client to avoid. The gaffe itself also sheds light on the candidate. Asked about concerns regarding Romney's current tacking to the right, Fehrnstrom compared the campaign to an "Etch-A-Sketch" in which one can "reset" and "shake up" one's positions once the fall begins. Listen as he exposes the void at the heart of the Romney candidacy:

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Isn't George Zimmerman In Custody?

The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating the shooting of Trayvon Martin (right), 17, by George Zimmerman (left), 28, who claims self-defense. Despite that development, one must ask: How could Sanford, Florida, police release Zimmerman after questioning? If Martin were the shooter, would he have been let go? Does Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and right to carry loaded weapons in public lead to such a tragedy? Think Progress has compiled a list of facts about the case that cause one to question why Zimmerman is not in custody regardless of his claim, including:

 Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher: Dispatcher: “Are you following him?” Zimmerman: “Yeah.” Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” [Orlando Sentinel]

Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]

Martin weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250 pounds. [Orlando Sentinel; WDBO]

Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. “Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Santorum Pledges To Return To “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Speaking at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Louisianna, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Rick Santorum exchanged falsehoods on gays in the military. Perkins referred to gays serving as equals as “social experimentation” and "forcing open homosexuality on the military." Santorum stated that he would return to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. While he states that the policy called for keeping private matters to oneself, in reality it forced gays to lie about their identity or be thrown out of the armed forces. Watch as Santorum pledges to march backwards:

PA Gov. Corbett: "Outside" Mandatory Ultrasound "Not Invasive"

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) recently advised women to "close your eyes" if they object to mandatory ultrasounds. Confronted by a young woman who asked him why he supports the state's mandatory ultrasound bill, Corbett explained that the proposed procedure isn't transvaginal and therefore "not invasive." This despite the fact that the procedure is unnecessary, unwanted and an attempt to intimidate–and women will have to pay for it. Watch:

QUESTIONER: Excuse me, hi. Can you tell me why you supported the ultrasound bill?

CORBETT: It’s a position that I took a while ago. It’s just on the outside; it’s not invasive. That’s why.

(h/t: Think Progress)

"Cindy Sherman" At MOMA: The Revelations Of Artifice

The Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, demonstrates the photographer’s consistent ability to disturb and provoke. Mainly using herself as a model, Sherman employs costumes, settings and makeup to undermine and expose identity, particularly female identity in Western culture. For this viewer, the most affecting portraits were of society women desperately clinging to youth and glamour. In the portrait above (Untitled # 474, 2008), Sherman poses as one such matron, and the artifice involved–especially a face so made up it seems like a mask–is obvious, purposely so. The adopted persona represents an attempt to hide the vulnerability and fear beneath and to ward off mortality–an effort that will, of course, fail. Such revelations show the complexity of Sherman’s work in its compassion and cruelty.

Cindy Sherman” will be on view through June 11 at the Museum of Modern Art; (212) 708-9400,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Romney On Planned Parenthood: “We’re Gonna Get Rid Of That”

Mitt Romney pretends that he wants to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” out of budgetary concerns. Planned Parenthood accounts for .0083 percent of the federal budget. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said that that Romney’s tax-cutting plan would cut his own taxes nearly in half and increase the deficit by about $2.6 trillion. Characteristic of Romney's entire campaign, his pledge to eliminate Planned Parenthood is actually driven by pandering to the Republican right-wing base. Regarding the underprivileged women who would suffer from a loss of health care provided by Planned Parenthood, Romney has already said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.” Listen as he reveals his intentions:

PA Gov. On Women Who Object To Ultrasounds: "Close Your Eyes"

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) doesn’t know what that big deal is regarding a state bill that would force women to have an ultrasound before an abortion. At a news conference this week, Corbett said he supported the legislation as long as it wasn’t “obtrusive.” Asked whether "making them watch" went too far, Corbett said, “I don’t know how you make anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes. But as long as it’s on the exterior and not the interior, OK?” Watch:

Israeli Authors Grossman And Oz Speak Against War With Iran

Two of Israel’s most outstanding authors, essayists and peace activists have come out against war with Iran. David Grossman (left), who has spoken at anti-settlement protests, told The Nation magazine that the consequences of an attack by Israel or the U.S. were worse than Iran's having nuclear weapons:

“I don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but I think that if the sanctions do not work, Israel and the whole world, painfully, will have to live with it,” Grossman said, warning that bombing Iran would set in motion “a nightmare that’s hard to describe...” 

...He said that in view of Iran’s chemical and biological weapons, Israel was already living with a “balance of terror.” While acknowledging that Iran’s nuclearization would make the standoff “more dangerous and acute,” he feared that an Israeli attack would prove “so destructive that it might itself create an existential danger for us. I think we shall find ourselves, Israel and Iran, in a nightmare that’s hard to describe.

“True, it would have been created in order to prevent a worse nightmare in the future, but does everyone have the right,” he asked, “to make so many people die in the name of this anxiety over an outcome—an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel—that might never take place?”

...Citing the large presence of “more secular, educated, realistic” people in Iran, masses of whom protested bravely in 2009 against the regime, Grossman said this face of Iran held out the hope of a future leadership that might be less hostile to Israel. But he warned that this hope would be destroyed, too, in an Israeli attack.

Interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Amos Oz (left), one of the founders of the Peace Now movement, commented about the hysteria and futility associated with such an attack:

“Instead of moving ahead to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, they are whipping themselves into a frenzy ahead of an attack on Iran. An attack on Iran will not be of much use, because you cannot bomb knowledge and you cannot bomb motivation, and the Iranians have both the knowledge and the motivation to make nuclear weapons. Even if an attack on Iran postpones the manufacture of nuclear weapons for a year or two, it will immeasurably heighten the motivation to use the weapons.

“During the first Lebanon war, [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin talked about ‘Hitler hiding in a bunker in Beirut.’ I wrote an article back then entitled, ‘Hitler is Already Dead, Mr. Prime Minister.’ What was written in that article I now direct at Netanyahu. Anyone who compares Iran of today to Hitler, and Israel to Auschwitz, is committing an act that is anti-Zionist and demagogic, encouraging people to emigrate from Israel and sowing hysteria.

“You ask if I am worried? I am not only worried. I am fearful. I see processes and trends that are threatening everything I hold dear. And also the existence of the State of Israel.”

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Pogues Perform “Dirty Old Town”

“I met my love by the gasworks wall. Dreamed a dream by the old canal. I kissed my girl by the factory wall. Dirty old town. Dirty old town.” Pure poetry. Originally written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 in reference to working class discontent in industrial Salford, northern England, "Dirty Old Town" is now most associated with Belfast, Dublin or Derry, Ireland. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s listen to the fine rendition above by The Pogues, with vocals by Shane MacGowan.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mississippi Conservatives Speak: “Our President Should Be American, Not Muslim”

Rick Santorum recently won presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. That such an anti-women, anti-gay reactionary can claim victory jibes with a recent Public Policy Institute poll regarding Republican attitudes in the two states. Alexandra Pelosi, “Real Time With Bill Maher” correspondent, wondered why Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, one that ranks high in health care problems and low in literacy, is also the nation’s reddest state. What makes so many of its citizens vote against their interests by supporting Republicans? The answers in interviews are disturbing–especially the racism toward President Obama. Watch:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

MoveOn Ad: GOP War On Women

Recently we’ve seen that even centrist and Republican women are alienated by the GOP’s attack on women’s right to choose and birth control. In this powerful MoveOn.Org ad, women recite recent outrageous Republican statements and conclude, “Judging from their comments, the GOP must have a serious problem with women. And until the Republicans get over their issues, we women have got a serious problem with the Republican Party.” Watch:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alabama, Mississippi Republicans: Obama Muslim, Evolution False, Limbaugh OK

A Public Policy Institute survey of Mississippi and Alabama Republicans found that at least a plurality in both states believes that President Obama is a Muslim, evolution is false and Rush Limbaugh is admirable:

A stunning 52% of Mississippi respondents to a survey done ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary have bought into the false notion that Obama worships Allah, Public Policy Polling reported Monday. Some 36% said they weren’t sure.

In Alabama, 45% responded in the affirmative when asked the same question and 41% said they weren’t sure, pollsters found.

...Mississippi and Alabama are also deeply religious states that generally rank at or close to the bottom in most state education rankings.

Sixty-six percent of Mississippians surveyed by PPP said they didn’t believe in evolution as did 60% of people in Alabama, the pollsters found.

And in these states, Rush Limbaugh is an admired figure, with 53% of those polled admitting to having a favorable opinion of the right wing rabblerouser. The figure was 51% in Mississippi.

The survey was done over the weekend as Limbaugh continued to be hit by criticism for calling a Georgetown University law student a “slut” on the air.

"Doonesbury" Focuses On Mandatory Ultrasounds And Sonograms

"Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau is concentrating on abortion this week, particularly as Republicans push mandatory ultrasound and sonogram bills in states around the country. Some newspapers are not running the series; the Oregonian said that the series “went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for the comics page.” In one strip, a woman is invited to take a seat in the "shaming room" to wait for a "middle-aged, male state legislator":

The woman is "welcomed" to her mandatory procedure:

Trudeau commented on the series in an interview:

I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.

...Texas’s HB-15 [bill] isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.

...Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school. Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99 percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?

NYT: Centrist And Republican Women Alienated By GOP

The more Republican candidates attack women's right to choose and birth control, the more they alienate centrist and GOP women. They're dismayed by the attempt to interfere with such personal decisions, and many now see President Obama as the better choice on women's issues. The New York Times reports in "Centrist Women Tell of Disenchantment With GOP":

...dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion...

...“Everybody is so busy telling us how we should act in the bedroom, they’re letting the country fall through the cracks,” said Fran Kelley, a retired public school worker in Seattle who voted for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama in the 2008 election. Of the Republican candidates this year, she added, “They’re nothing but hatemongers trying to control everyone, saying, ‘Live as I live.’ ”

...Last week Joyce Kimball, a retired secretary in Greenville, Ill., who voted for Mr. McCain in 2008, said she had recently become “fed up,” adding that it was not out of the question for her to vote for a Democrat in November. “I’m looking to hear how the candidates propose to put people back to work, not what they think about contraception,” she said. “I hope to God they stop talking about this.”

...A rally for women’s rights in San Diego on Thursday drew Jessica Lopez, 27, a registered independent who said she voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. Ms. Lopez said her choice this year became clear amid the Republican debate on contraception and abortion. “This has really energized me, that I need to get more involved with the Obama campaign,” she said.

Ms. Lopez added: “The G.O.P. has never been so clear about their agenda for women. I’m afraid if we get a Republican president, my health will be up to their personal discretion.”

Image: Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Matt Rothschild: We Need To Close Corporate Loopholes

Matt Rothschild (left), editor of The Progressive, counters Republican falsehoods regarding high corporate taxes of 35 percent. What the GOP doesn't talk about are the loopholes that enable corporations to pay much less–or nothing at all, taking the example of General Electric and other corporate giants. He cites economist Robert Reich, who wrote about the decline in corporate taxes and billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who called high corporate taxes "a myth" and said that they “aren’t strangling American competitiveness." Rothschild concludes, “We don’t need to lower corporate taxes; we need to close the loopholes so they start paying their fair share.” Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left podcast)

Ed Schultz Rips White House/Sandra Fluke Conspiracy Theory

You had to know this was coming. Following the loss of sponsors, Rush Limbaugh “apologized” for his despicable attacks on Sandra Fluke, Georgetown law student who was denied permission to testify before a Republican-controlled House hearing on contraception. Charging in to defend Limbaugh is Fox News, claiming a grand conspiracy cooked up between the White House and Fluke. Ed Schultz considers the baseless charges leveled by Fox's Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling, who are “following the lead of the actual boss of the Republican Party”–Limbaugh himself, shamefully playing the victim. Schultz takes apart this “conspiracy,” which is nothing more than a distraction from the GOP attack on women’s rights. Watch:

Romney Does His Son Of The South Routine

Consider the Romney dilemma: when he goes off script, he reveals himself as an out-of-touch patrician, Mr. One Percent. So he attempts the common touch–and falls flat, as evidenced by his campaigning in the South. It’s almost painful to watch this “buttoned down millionaire son of a Michigan governor talking about grits,” along with “learning to say y’all” and reciting “Davy Crockett.” Watch:

(h/t: Talking Points Memo)

Fox Shifts On Gas Prices From Bush To Obama

One Fox commentator after another is blaming President Obama for rising gas prices. Gretchen Carlson asked, “Why is nobody talking about this? …I remember when President Bush was president, people talked about it almost every single day.” Carlson seems to forget Fox’s stance in 2008, when prices spiked under Bush. Media Matters reminds us that back then, Fox pundits argued that the president has no influence over gas prices. Instead, they were controlled by market forces–and it was unfair to blame Bush. Apparently the economics of gas completely changed when Obama was elected. Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left podcast)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Garcia And Grisman Perform "Sitting Here In Limbo"

Jerry Garcia, acoustic guitar and vocals, and David Grisman, mandolin, perform a lyrical version of Jimmy Cliff's "Sitting Here In Limbo," at the Warfield, San Francisco, May 11, 1992.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Female Georgia Senators Walk Out On Anti-Abortion, Contraception BIlls

Today, International Women’s Day, was a fine day for eight female Democratic senators to walk out of the Georgia Senate in protest against the Republican male majority’s passing two objectionable bills. According to the AP, one prohibits “state employees from using state health benefits to pay for abortions,” while the other states that “employees of private religious institutions have no right to demand that their insurance policies pay for contraceptives, as the Obama administration wants to require.“ In 1999, the state passed legislation requiring insurance companies to cover contraception. Sen. Nan Orrock (D) said, "It's a good law. Never had a problem with it. But here come the right wing shock troops, marching, marching, marching. And women are on the bullseye target." Watch the senators take a principled stand:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Limbaugh: I Descended To The Level Of The Left

In Rush Limbaugh’s “apology” to Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, he said that he “did not mean a personal attack on Ms Fluke.” Apparently there’s nothing personal about calling a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” on the airwaves to thousands. Speaking on "The View," Ms. Fluke said that Limbaugh’s statement on his poor word choice changes nothing–and that it was made under pressure from sponsors who are rapidly withdrawing support. Returning to his show, Limbaugh presented a cowardly and hypocritical summation: he acted too much like those on the left and departed from his customary "high degree of integrity." Listen:

Limbaugh: “I don’t expect — and I know you don’t either — morality, intellectual honesty from the left. They’ve demonstrated over and over a willingness to say or do anything to advance their agenda. It’s what they do. It’s what we fight against here every day. But this is the mistake I made: In fighting them on this issue last week, I became like them. Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong, I descended to their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error. I feel very badly about that. I’ve always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence on this program."

Regarding Limbaugh's contention that the attack on Fluke was contrary to his "integrity," Media Matters has documented his decades of sexism and misogyny.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Idaho Cuts Education, Health Funding–And Taxes For Rich, Corporations

Idaho provides us with the essence of Republican fiscal policy. Following massive cuts to education and health care, what's the next step? According to Gov. Butch Otter (left) and most Idaho Republicans, it's to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, of course. One GOP supporter of the plan justifies it by stating that "we're collecting too much" money. Not enough, apparently, for schools and Medicare–but what do such programs matter? The gap between the tax cuts and the state's needs couldn't be more obvious:

A $36 million tax cut for Idaho’s top earners is roaring through the Idaho Legislature, backed by Gov. Butch Otter and co-sponsored by a majority of the members of the Idaho House.

The move comes even as Idaho’s reeling from three years of deep budget cuts to everything from schools to Medicaid, very few of which are being restored.

“The governor has recommended that we not collect this money, that we’re collecting too much,” said Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, one of the bill’s 40 house co-sponsors; the Idaho House has 70 members.

The bill would lower Idaho’s top individual income tax rate from 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent, and lower the corporate tax rate from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent; that would take $35.7 million out of the state’s tax revenue stream next year and every year thereafter.

Opponents of HB 563, who included 12 Democrats and eight Republicans in the House, say the state can’t afford a tax cut right now, when it’s still struggling with the impact of three years of budget cuts. They’re also raising questions about whether trimming taxes really constitutes economic development.

“Every study I’ve seen says cutting taxes in and of itself does nothing to further economic growth, even though I recognize that’s a strong belief by many in this body,” said Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, who said he thought investing in higher education would have more impact. “I certainly don’t think giving money back in the hope that it’ll somehow generate jobs is a very intelligent way to go about it.”

Wilmington City Council Recognizes "Personhood" Rights For Sperm

Kudos to the Wilmington City Council, Delaware, for passing a satirical protest resolution authored by Councilwoman Loretta Walsh advising the Delaware legislature, other state legislatures and Congress to legalize "personhood" status for eggs and sperm. After women were shut out of a House contraception hearing, saw bills calling for mandatory ultrasounds, witnessed the Blunt amendment almost squeak by and heard Rick Santorum telling impregnated rape victims to make the best of it, it's time for men to have restrictions placed on what they can do with their bodies, including "destroying his semen":

The Wilmington City Council has a message for men -- sperm are people, too.

The council for Delaware's largest city passed a resolution by an 8-4 vote Thursday calling on the Delaware legislature, other state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to pass laws granting "personhood" rights to eggs and sperm. The resolution was authored by councilwoman Loretta Walsh as a protest in the current battle over women's health care access.

"[E]ach 'egg person' and each 'sperm person' should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government and be subject to the same laws and regulations as any other dependent minor and be protected against abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parent or guardian," says the resolution. "[L]aws should be enacted by all legislative bodies in the United States to promote equal representation, and should potentially include laws in defense of 'personhood,' forbidding every man from destroying his semen."

..."What's good for the gander is good for the goose," said Walsh...

Laura Bassett Explains Women's Birth Control To Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for wanting to testify before a House hearing to advocate access to birth control as part of women's health coverage; she was not allowed to appear (only men testified). Limbaugh apparently believes that the more sex women have, the more birth control they need. Speaking to Keith Olbermann, Laura Bassett, political reporter for the Huffington Post, explained the facts of life about women and birth control that Limbaugh is missing (and is still missing, as evidenced by his so-called "apology" to Fluke). Bassett also pointed out the hypocrisy of covering erectile dysfunction drugs without controversy. Did Limbaugh listen and learn? Watch:

Bassett: "For him to say 'She's having so much sex that she can't afford birth control'–I mean, whether you have sex once or whether you have it a hundred times, you need the same amount of birth control. And birth control is prescribed for a number of health reasons that go beyond simply wanting to space out your children or family planning or anything like that. And I also think that there's an element of hypocrisy involved because erectile dysfunction drugs are covered under a lot of these plans."

Paul Krugman: GOP Candidates Are “Fiscal Phonies”

Paul Krugman points out that for all their talk about the deficit, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul would leave us with much greater debt due to their zeal for more tax cuts for the wealthy, while they slash programs that benefit the middle class and the poor. The four Republican presidential candidates seek to reassure us that such cuts will stimulate the economy–a notion that should have been put to rest following the Bush administration. Excerpts from Krugman's “Four Fiscal Phonies”:

...all four significant Republican presidential candidates still standing are fiscal phonies. They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich.

And nobody should be surprised. It has been obvious all along, to anyone paying attention, that the politicians shouting loudest about deficits are actually using deficit hysteria as a cover story for their real agenda, which is top-down class warfare.’s what [the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget] tells us: According to an “intermediate debt scenario,” the budget proposals of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney would all lead to much higher debt a decade from now than the proposals in the 2013 Obama budget. Ron Paul would do better, roughly matching Mr. Obama. But if you look at the details, it turns out that Mr. Paul is assuming trillions of dollars in unspecified and implausible spending cuts. So, in the end, he’s really a spendthrift, too.

Is there any way to make the G.O.P. proposals seem fiscally responsible? Well, no — not unless you believe in magic. Sure enough, voodoo economics is making a big comeback, with Mr. Romney, in particular, asserting that his tax cuts wouldn’t actually explode the deficit because they would promote faster economic growth and this would raise revenue.

And you might find this plausible if you spent the past two decades sleeping in a cave somewhere...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Limbaugh At His Most Vile In Maligning Sandra Fluke

Sandra Fluke is the Georgetown University law student who tried to appear before a House Oversight Committee hearing on contraception coverage that included testimony only from men. Fluke wanted to talk about a friend who couldn’t afford her prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries, with potentially dire consequences. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Republican from California, refused to let her testify, stating that because the hearing is about freedom of religion and not contraception, “Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness." Rush Limbaugh reached a new low this week in calling Ms. Fluke a "slut." Listen:

President Obama called Fluke to offer his support. As for Limbaugh, the firestorm caused by his comments is causing sponsors to drop their support.

Romney Flip Flops Within An Hour On Blunt Amendment

The Senate defeated the ill-conceived amendment put forward by Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, allowing employers and insurance companies to deny birth control and other forms of health coverage due to religious and moral objections. The bill could also have affected cervical-cancer vaccines, prenatal sonograms, HIV screenings and mammograms. A New York Times editorial stated that the bill was part of the Republican effort to “undermine the separation of church and state, deny women access to essential health services and tear apart President Obama’s health care reform law.”

True to form, Mitt Romney first said that he was against the Blunt Amendment, but within an hour, his campaign issued a statement stating that he “misunderstood” a clearly asked question and was for it. No doubt his advisers warned that right wingers would look askance at his position. Once again, Romney showed that he has no principles other than to get elected. Watch as Lawrence O’Donnell and Melissa Harris-Perry listen to statements from Romney and his campaign and consider the candidate's latest rapid reversal:

Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory: Obama Ordered a Hit On Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart, conservative media activist, passed away on Thursday at 43. I wrote about him in connection with a video he created that made a false impression of Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod (an issue that Ta-Nehisi Coates considers in his thoughtful assessment of Breitbart’s career). Other responses to Breitbart’s passing recall insinuations by right wingers such as Rush Limbaugh that the Clintons were involved in the death of former White House Council Vince Foster. Currently there are online conspiracy theories contending that an Obama hit squad killed Breitbart (who actually had a history of heart problems) to prevent a video of the president’s college years from being released. Here’s one Tweet that makes this outlandish accusation:

More conspiracy-oriented Tweets are here. What’s with the right-wing depiction of Democratic administrations as Mafiosi gangs?

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Michel Pertrucciani Performs “So What”

In January, we listened to the brilliant, late pianist and composer Michel Petrucciani accompany saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Now let’s turn to Petrucciani’s interpretation of the Miles Davis composition “So What” (Davis's 1959 rendition was showcased here in Dec. 2008). Accompanied by Anthony Jackson on bass and Steve Gadd on drums, Petrucianni performed the piece in Stuttgart, Feb. 1998. Enjoy the subtlety of Petrucciani’s touch and the interplay among the trio; toward the end, Gadd plays the main riff with his brushes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sen. Scofield: Women Can Choose The Type Of Mandatory Ultrasound

Like Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Republican Sen. Clay Scofield of Alabama (left) has “compromised” in his sponsorship of a state bill that would require a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion. Scofield tries to sound as if he respects women's choices while advocating this unnecessary, intrusive procedure. He dropped the insistence on a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound following protests by Democrats that that amounted to “state-sponsored rape." Now Scofield states that a woman should decide the “method of ultrasound she would be more comfortable with.” He also contends, “We’re not requiring it unless the woman wants to get an abortion. If she doesn’t want to get an abortion, she doesn’t have to do it.” The bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.