3/19: Monday morning’s slightly interesting things

1) PRESIDENT OBAMA / DEMOCRATS

  • Obama’s Spending Record: More Conservative Than Reagan’s - This is the kind of reality that makes Sean Hannity’s head explodes. So far, the GOP candidates have been running against a fictional president with a fictional record. Obama didn’t campaign to increase government spending, but inheriting what was in the final quarter of 2008 an annulaized contraction of 9 percent of GDP, he opted for a stimulus. That accounts for much of the spending. I know we are supposed – along with Fox News – to have total amnesia about the spending record of George W. Bush, wh had nothing like the recession Obama inherited to counter. But there it is. Along with the fact that of the last seven presidents, the top three are all Republicans…
  • Obama Plans Big Effort to Build Support Among Women - On Monday, mailings will go out to one million women in more than a dozen battleground states in three separate versions for mothers, young women and older women, campaign and party officials said. [...] The campaign’s effort to rally women around the health care law had been long planned, to coincide with the second anniversary of Mr. Obama signing it on March 23, campaign officials said. But the effort has gained intensity, they added, because of recent controversies over contraception, abortion and education in Washington and in state capitals that have energized people in the campaign’s far-flung field offices who are essential to putting any national strategy into action.
  • Sen. Daniel Akaka: Congress should stop targeting federal employees - Hard-working federal employees are being squeezed by Congress again, as some of my colleagues attempt to attach an extension of the pay freeze to pending highway funding bills. This comes after Congress last month effectively cut the pay of new employees by forcing them to pay more toward their pensions — permanently — to offset the costs of just 10 months of unemployment. I strongly oppose this new habit of picking the pockets of America’s dedicated middle-class public servants. [...]  CBO’s report said that workers without college degrees were paid higher average wages in the federal government than in the private sector, but noted that workers with college degrees — the bulk of the federal workforce — were paid about the same, and workers with graduate or professional degrees were paid significantly less. Averaged across all categories, federal workers were paid 2 percent more. However, the report was flawed. CBO relied on limited survey data of self-reported wages and occupations, and some federal contractors inaccurately reported that they are federal employees. CBO did not account for complexity or other aspects of jobs, instead using broad occupational categories. As Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry pointed out, we should pay the federal forklift operator transporting nuclear-tipped torpedoes more than the private-sector forklift operator moving boxes… [graph via: thebottom99percent.com]

2) THE 2012 GOP PRIMARY

  • After Santorum tells Puerto Ricans to speak English… Mitt Romney Wins Puerto Rico Primary - Late Sunday night, with 61 percent of the Puerto Rican votes counted, Romney had 83 percent of them. He won all 20 delegates to the national convention at stake because he prevailed with more than 50 percent of the vote. That padded his comfortable lead over Santorum in the race to amass the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Romney announced the Puerto Rico win at the Illinois rally and told the crowd, “I intend to become our nominee and I intend to get Latino voters to vote for a Republican and take back the White House.” The Santorum campaign accused Romney of pandering. “Mitt Romney says he supports English as the official language of America while on the mainland, but then says Puerto Ricans don’t have to learn English while he’s on Puerto Rico,” Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said in a press release.
  • Santorum: Obama ‘exposing children’ to risk from porn  - In an undated statement on his official website, the former Pennsylvania senator asserted that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography” because Obama’s Justice Department was favoring “pornographers over children.” “Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships,” the statement says. “It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.” “Current federal ‘obscenity’ laws prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier,” the statement continues, adding that these laws should be “vigorously enforced.”
  • LGF: Santorum also accused President Obama of being an “appeaser of evil.” This is very sick stuff; I don’t think I’ve ever seen such twisted counter-factual arguments in a presidential campaign.
  • Porn in the USA: Conservatives Are Biggest Consumers

3) THE 21st CENTURY REPUBLICAN (TEA)PARTY

  • McCain: GOP needs ‘to get off’ contraception issue - McCain appeared once again on NBC’s Meet The Press (for a record 64th time) and told host David Gregory that the GOP needed to “get off” the issue and “fix the perception” their party currently has with women. “I think we have to fix that,” McCain said. “I think that there is a perception out there, because of the way that this whole contraception issue played out. We need to get off of that issue, in my view. I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives, and make that clear, and get back on to what the American people really care about: jobs and the economy.

4) REPUBLICAN WAR ON WOMEN

  •  

    Tennessee Bill May Expose Identities Of Women Seeking Abortions - Tennessee lawmakers will consider a controversial measure on Wednesday that could intimidate women seeking abortions by requiring that the names of doctors who perform the procedures be published online. The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said at an initial hearing on the bill earlier this month that the reporting requirement writes into law a form that the Department of Health already asks providers to fill out whenever they perform an abortion. “The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it,” he said. “All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.”

5) HEALTHCARE REFORM  

  • Paul Krugman: Hurray for Health Reform - Can such a system work? It’s already working! Massachusetts enacted a very similar reform six years ago — yes, while Mitt Romney was governor. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who played a key role in developing both the local and the national reforms (and has published an illustrated guide to reform) has surveyed the results — and finds that Romneycare is working pretty much as advertised. The number of people without insurance has dropped sharply, the quality of care hasn’t suffered, and the program’s cost has been very close to initial projections. Oh, and the budgetary cost per newly insured resident of Massachusetts was actually lower than the projected cost per American insured by the Affordable Care Act. Given this evidence, what’s a virulent opponent of reform to do? The answer is, make stuff up. We all know how the act’s proposal that Medicare evaluate medical procedures for effectiveness became, in the fevered imagination of the right, an evil plan to create death panels. And rest assured, this lie will be back in force once the general election campaign is in full swing. For now, however, most of the disinformation involves claims about costs…
  • U.S. Tells States How to Expand Medicaid in Health Law - The Obama administration on Friday told states how to enroll millions more low-income Americans into Medicaid under the health-care overhaul, 10 days before the Supreme Court begins considering a challenge to the law. The regulations, published by the Department of Health and Human Services, detail the scheduled expansion of Medicaid to cover a larger batch of low earners in 2014, when much of the health-care law is set to take effect. ‘Medicaid will look and feel like a very different program by 2015,’ said Cindy Mann, a top official at the agency charged with overseeing the changes. The Medicaid expansion is part of the broader case brought by opponents of Democrats’ 2010 health-care law that the Supreme Court will begin hearing March 26. To reduce the number of uninsured Americans, the law calls for adding 17 million or more additional people to the Medicaid program in the next decade.

6) PROTECTING THE WEALTH OF THE ONE PERCENT: GOP WAR ON THE 99%

  • Marginal Tax Rates and Wishful Thinking - At least since Calvin Coolidge, politicians have trumpeted the supply-side benefits of cutting marginal income tax rates. Lower rates will unleash economic growth and the cuts will largely pay for themselves — or so it’s often said. Yet careful studies find little evidence of such effects. Perhaps it’s time to reform tax policy based on facts, not worn-out assumptions…History shows that marginal federal income tax rates have varied widely…If you can find a consistent relationship between these fluctuations and sustained economic performance, you’re more creative than I am. Growth was indeed slower in the 1970s than in the ’60s, and tax rates were higher in the ’70s. But growth was stronger in the 1990s than in the 2000s, despite noticeably higher rates in the ’90s…If moderate increases in marginal rates wouldn’t much affect behavior, a mix of rate increases and cuts in tax expenditures might be a sensible path. [...] Finally, income inequality has surged in recent decades. Raising marginal rates on the wealthy is a straightforward, effective way to counter this trend, while helping to solve our looming deficit problem. Given the strong evidence that the incentive effects of marginal rates are small, opponents of such a move will need a new argument. Invoking the myth of terrible supply-side consequences just won’t cut it.
  • AFL-CIO calls for birth control access, immigration reform and overturning Citizens United - Broad statements on Fixing What is Wrong with Our Economy and Organizing and Growth sketch out a vision for the economy and for unions. To “fix what is wrong with our economy,” What we need now is an economic program as serious and far-reaching as the problem President Obama has correctly diagnosed. We must start by shifting the focus of U.S. economic policy from one of maximizing the competitiveness and profitability of corporations that happen to maintain headquarters somewhere on U.S. territory to one of maximizing the competitiveness and prosperity of the human beings who live and work in America. The AFL-CIO proposes massive “productive public investment” in education, energy, transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure and more, all paid for by letting the Bush tax cuts expire and imposing new or increased taxes on capital gains, financial speculation and income greater than $1 million. Related, we have to rein in the financial sector and expand and support manufacturing. Additionally, “it is essential that we tackle the problems of wage stagnation and economic inequality,” by increasing and indexing the minimum wage and reforming labor law, among other things.
  • Today in labor history, March 19, 1917:  The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Adamson Act, a federal law that established an 8-hour workday, with overtime pay, for interstate railway workers.  Congress passed the law in 1916 to avert a nationwide rail strike. [via: todayinlaborhistory]

Saturday morning’s 6 subjectively interesting things

1) The President / Democrats

  • WHITE HOUSE: COLLEGES MUST COVER BIRTH CONTROL FOR STUDENTS - The Health and Human Services Department said student health plans will be treated like employees’ plans, meaning they will have to comply with new requirements under healthcare reform — including the requirement to provide contraception without charging a copay. The contraception mandate has sparked intense criticism from some religious groups and Republican lawmakers. They say it violates employers’ religious freedoms by forcing them to provide a service they find immoral. Religious universities will treat their student plans the same as their employees’ plans, administration officials said Friday. That means they will not have to directly offer contraception in their plans, but students and workers will be able to get birth control from their insurance companies without a copay.
  • A REAL CONSERVATIVE’S TAKE ON OBAMA - The British Tories have not gone insane like the GOP. And it’s an open secret that Cameron would be extremely confortable with an Obama re-election. But I was struck by the prime minister’s remarks the other night and since they’re now being attacked from thefar right, it’s worth reprinting them: “There are three things about Barack that really stand out for me: strength, moral authority, and wisdom…” [...] Just because Americans need amnesia to forget what this country did to its own moral authority under Bush and Cheney does not mean that America’s allies have. They saw the damage it did to all of us defending civilization against barbarism, only to discover that some of that barbarism was emanating from the White House itself.
  • OBAMA’S JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION RATE IS AT LEAST 30 JUDGES BEHIND BUSH’S - In the wake of this week’s deal where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to stop obstructing 14 of President Obama’s judicial nominees and allow them to be confirmed by early May, Al Kamen runs the numbers on how President Obama’s confirmation rate compares to the rate of confirmations under Presidents Bush and Clinton… [...] If the Senate does, in fact, approve them all, Obama’s number of confirmed judges will stand at 172. To put that in perspective, by the end of May in their respective first terms, George W. Bush had 175 judges approved, and Bill Clinton had 183.

2) Your 2012 GOP primary

  • A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ‘ENTHUSIASM GAP’ - Republicans are less enthusiastic about having Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum as their potential presidential nominee than they were four years ago about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., according to a Gallup survey released on Thursday. For conservatives, the lackluster numbers are a worrying sign that the party’s already bitter primary fight has sapped voter enthusiasm and left the GOP weakened for the fall battle with President Obama. Gallup reported that just 35 percent of Republicans surveyed said they would vote enthusiastically for front-runner Romney if he becomes the party’s standard-bearer. Similarly, 34 percent said they would enthusiastically support Santorum, his main challenger for the nomination and the preferred choice of the most-conservative Republicans. That represents a precipitous drop in excitement from 2008, the poll found. In a survey released in early February of that year, 47 percent of Republicans were enthusiastic about the prospect of backing McCain, a 12-point difference from Romney’s numbers today.
  • Limbaugh’s chemically enhanced dittoheads will NEVER go for this: SANTORUM PROMISES BROAD WAR ON PORN - The Daily Caller flags a little-discussed position paper on Rick Santorum’s campaign website—his pledge to aggressively prosecute those who produce and distribute pornography. Santorum avers that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He pledges to use the resources of the Department of Justice to fight that “pandemic,” by bringing obscenity prosecutions against pornographers. [The photo was snapped by a passenger on an Atlantis all-gay cruise in Puerto Rico. - via: Buzzfeed / JMG]
  • ROMNEY SAYS FOX NEWS IS “PRETTY FAIR AND BALANCED” AND NOT “SHILLING FOR ANYONE” - Mitt Romney on Thursday dismissed former senator Rick Santorum’s charge that Fox News Channel is “shilling” for the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign.“I don’t think you’re shilling for anyone, to tell you the truth,” Romney said on the “Kilmeade and Friends” radio show. “Each one of the people I meet has their own opinions. My guess is different ones of the commentators have different people they think have a better shot but you don’t hear that from the network or from the individual commentators. So look, you are free to express your own views but I think it’s as you say, pretty fair and balanced.”
  • ROMNEY’S FOX NEWS BLITZ - Mitt Romney has been up and down on the trail — and that’s also true of his ubiquity on Fox News. Recently, he’s been a near-constant presence. Romney’s tour of the Fox News empire this week is the most time Romney’s done on a Fox News set in a week since Jan. 1. In the week alone, Romney has appeared on Fox News six times, and he’s scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday this weekend. The tone of the interviews has ranged from a bit uncomfortable to downright chummy. [...] America Live host Megyn Kelly on Wednesday asked why Romney is making so many wealth-related gaffes, citing his references to football and NASCAR team owners. Romney still hasn’t found a solid answer to this critique, though there’s been a general “he’s rich, get over it” push from his surrogates lately. But Romney’s answer to Kelly showed a continued inability to explain his wealth in a way that would endear him to the middle-class voters he is courting. “Guess what? I’ve made a lot of money,” Romney said. “I’ve been very successful. I’m not going to apologize for that.”
  • “GOD’S WILL?” SARAH PALIN’S SECRET PLOT TO CAPTURE THE WHITE HOUSE IN 2012 - Pay close attention: Palin’s rhetoric between now and Tampa will continue to be critical of both Romney and Obama; it will continue to push for a contested primary; and it will continue to signal Palin’s willingness to accept the nomination of a brokered convention. Palin knows that Romney will never pack her star power with the base — and that neither Rick Santorum nor Newt Gingrich will either. In the aftermath of Santorum’s sweep of Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, a brokered GOP convention is a very real possibility. The Republican Party has become a fractured mosaic of fringe constituencies — from Tea Partiers to evangelical anti-abortion activists, from libertarians who support Ron Paul to white supremacists who despise the fact that there is a black man in the White House. It is an unruly lot. The days of a GOP elite framing the presidential selection process are over. Charisma trumps experience; celebrity trumps substance; and, perhaps most disturbingly, anger trumps reason. Mama grizzlies, especially those who have been wounded, don’t go down easy. [Remember what Ann Coulter said a few days ago about this...]

3) The drug-addicted, morally-challenged ‘shock blob’ known as Rush Limbaugh

  • WESTBORO RELEASES ‘YOU MIGHT BE A SLUT’ AD FOR LIMBAUGH’S SHOW - A church in Topeka, Kansas famous for its “God Hates Fags” protests is hoping to take their message to millions of dittoheads across the U.S. The Westboro Baptist Church on Friday released two advertisements that they hope to air on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, which is experiencing an exodus of advertisers after he called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” because she spoke in favor of religious institutions providing contraception coverage. The first spot was a parody of comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” routine. “If you wear a dress that is strapless with a brassiere that isn’t, you might be a slut,” an announcer says. “If you are an anchor bimbo for Fox News and your name is Kelly or Julie, you might be a slut.” [...] Premiere Networks has already said it would reject the ads as soon as it receives them on Friday. “If they turn these things down, how are they really any different than the people who are turning their nose up at Rush Limbaugh?” Drain asked. “We are making a moral statement with our advertising just like he was making a moral statement with his airtime.”
  • (AUDIO) RUSH SUGGESTS GOP IS NOT ANTI-WOMAN BECAUSE REPUBLICANS “TAKE WOMEN TO DINNER. THEY BUY WOMEN DIAMONDS.” - [The following commentary on this via: Wonkette]: Honestly, who can even be mad at this dumb fuck any more? It is like being mad at an incredibly stupid, fat, drug-addicted, offensive head of lettuce. Why even bother? Fine, Rush, give us some whore diamonds, for our whoring, whore whore whore. Yeah, we get it kiddo, we’re whores. No, no, you got us, we’re super offended, we promise! No really, really, we are! Run along now sweetie, there’s some cookies on the counter. Remember, Jesus loves you, and good job.

4) Republican War on Women

  • Living in a red state is hazardous to your health if you’re a woman: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ARIZONA? - To recap: Arizona senate committees have approved bills to allow doctors to withhold information from pregnant women if they suspect it will lead to an abortion, to allow employers to demand proof that your contraception is for non-reproductive purposes, and now a bill to cut state funding from family planning services entirely. [...] If HB2800 is signed into law, Arizona will also lose Medicaid matching funds for family planning services in the same manner as Texas. And maybe that’s the idea. What other conclusion is there?
  • KANSAS, TOO: COUNTY TURNS DOWN FUNDING FOR BIRTH CONTROL - After yesterday’s post about county commissioners in New Hanover County, North Carolina, voting to reject state money for family planning, Amber Pickman wrote to tell us about a similar move in Miami County, Kansas. The Miami County Commission voted 3-2 last week to exclude about $9,000 in funding aimed at covering contraceptives from the county’s state grant applications. The Louisburg Herald covered the fallout: The decision didn’t sit well with Kelly Fritz, who volunteers at the health department and spoke with Miami County commissioners last August when they first considered eliminating the distribution of contraceptives from the family planning program. During that August meeting, Fritz said Miami County’s program serves 151 women, 116 of whom do not have insurance. She also said that statistics show that 85 percent of women who are regularly sexually active will become pregnant within one year without family planning services, and she estimated that 98 of the 116 women without insurance would become pregnant if the services were no longer provided…“It’s like we’re going backwards,” Fritz said. “I can’t believe the rights we had are being taken away from our children’s generation.”
  • OUT OF FAVOR IN WASHINGTON, BLUNT-STYLE BILLS CATCH FIRE IN THE STATES - Over the last few weeks, Republicans have quietly backed away from the controversial Blunt Amendment and other legislative efforts to allow employers to deny contraception coverage to women. “I think Republicans know that it hasn’t served them well,” Sen. Chuck Schumer told TPM at the time. Apparently, state-level Republicans didn’t get the memo. Several state legislatures were inspired rather than dissuaded by the contraception debate in Washington, and are considering their own versions of the Blunt Amendment — keeping alive an issue national Republicans thought they were putting to bed. Arizona, New Hampshire, Idaho and Georgia have taken up bills to expand exemptions for contraception coverage. Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Idaho and Wyoming lawmakers are moving symbolic resolutions condemning the administration’s contraception coverage rule. Lawmakers working on the state bills, like their counterparts in Congress, insist that the measures are about protecting religious liberty, not women’s access to health care. But a new poll from Bloomberg shows that a majority of voters don’t see it that way…

5) The Republican War on everyone / everything else in the world

  • ANTI-OBAMA RACISM IS REAL - A photograph of a bumper sticker that features racist, anti-Obama language has gone viral on Facebook and other social networks. The sticker reads “Don’t Re-Nig In 2012,” in large white type, above smaller text that reads: “Stop repeat offenders. Don’t re-elect Obama!” The offensive design appears to have originated at a site called Stumpy’s Stickers, where it can be purchased. The site sells variations on the same idea, including another “Don’t Re-Nig” design featuring a caricature of a black man’s face with a missing tooth, a picture of a chimp that reads “Obama 2012,” and another with a drawing of several Ku Klux Klan members that reads “The Original Boys In The Hood.”
  • OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMES OUT AGAINST NORTH CAROLINA’S MARRIAGE AMENDMENT - Today, President Obama’s re-election campaign came out in opposition to Amendment One, which would ban all same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships in North Carolina. According to Cameron French, Obama’s North Carolina spokesman: FRENCH: While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.
  • DONALD TRUMP: WINDMILLS ARE ‘DISGUSTING’ - President Barack Obama characterized clean energy cynics in the GOP presidential field as would-be members of the Flat Earth Society. Birther and Romney-endorser Donald Trump cast himself with the Flat Earth candidates yesterday, with his latest tirade against clean energy. Trump told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto: Wind is destroying the environment in many, many places. People are going crazy over the horrible, noisy, disgusting windmills. And they are horrible and a horrible intrusion, ruining communities, and solar is weak and has not been effective and is very, very expensive.

6) Misc

  • SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAT GEOMAGNETIC STORMS ARE MAKING YOU SICK - Geomagnetic storms aren’t just beautiful to look at — these disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field could also be messing with your mind and body. There’s a ton of evidence suggesting that geomagnetic storms can cause everything from depression to cardiac problems — and may even be influencing the stock market. A new paper suggests there’s a lot more evidence for this connection than anybody realizes. The paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, argues that there’s a large, disparate, and controversial body of scientific literature that links geomagnetic storms to a number of animal behaviors, including cardiovascular, psychiatric and behavioral changes in humans. And author Dr. James Close has the enormous literature review to back up his claims… [via: the-star-stuff]