Sunday Talks, 2/12/12

On the eve of the Obama administration’s rollout of its budget for the new fiscal year, newly appointed White House chief of staff Jack Lew previews the proposal on all five major television network talk shows Sunday.

. . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/12/12

GOP Hopefuls Release Partial Campaign Playlists

Scrambling to avoid being outflanked by the Obama campaign — which on Friday released a list of 29 songs to be played at the incumbent President’s campaign events — all four GOP presidential campaigns today released partial playlists along with promises to make their full soundtracks public by the end of the week.

The reasons for not having full playlists available immediately varied by campaign:

A spokesman for Ron Paul’s campaign said, “Musical preferences are deeply personal matter, and Dr. Paul feels very strongly that no individual should ever be forced to share his music with others. However, we also realize that when one aspires to the nation’s highest office it’s only natural that the people want to know what their President is listening to.”

The Santorum campaign, along with its partial list, issued a statement which read in part, “From his earliest memories as a child attending church, Sen. Santorum has felt a very deep and personal connection with certain songs that will always touch his heart. Which of those he chooses to share with his supporters on the campaign trail is a very important decision, and therefore only after careful contemplation and prayer for guidance from the Almighty will he compile and make public his final playlist.”

Callista Gingrich — hinting at a possible expanded role in her husband’s campaign following her earlier appearance at this week’s CPAC convention — took center stage on the music issue telling reporters, “Naming handful of songs off the top of our heads was easy enough, but to compile a full list requires careful deliberation. As soon as we are able to locate a working 8-track player and go through Newt’s extensive collection, we’ll make our final determinations.” Continue reading GOP Hopefuls Release Partial Campaign Playlists

Just Sayin’ Is All (Oh, Sweet Jesus! edition)

Well, it looks like the Catholic Church hierarchy have their cassocks all in a twist over the Obama administration’s recent ruling that religious institutions had to follow the same rules as other employers, and offer contraception as part of health insurance coverage.

Now, I hope His Holier-Than-Thouness is sitting down for this news:  Catholic women use birth control. Yep, they do – honest to God.  And they really don’t give a damn what the Church has to say about it.

The basis for the Church’s objection seems to be that they should not have to fund something that is against their conscience as Catholics. That being said, I wonder when the powers-that-be will be reimbursing parishioners who, via their Sunday contributions to the collection plate, unwittingly funded the legal defense of pedophile priests and/or the monetary settlements flowing from same.

Of course, what the Church’s position fails to recognize is that the cost of birth control being covered by insurance does not equate to shoving BC pills down a woman’s throat. It’s a matter of choice as to whether any woman takes advantage of this option – and, as we all know, the concept of a woman having a choice with respect to her own body is something the Church has had a problem with for centuries.

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – the RW talking heads lost no time declaring that Obama will lose the votes of the entire Catholic electorate in November. Yeah, mm-hmm, right. There’s nothing that makes one moan “Oh, Sweet Jesus!” like outraged pseudo-Christians purporting to know what they’re talking about – especially in a political atmosphere where “None of the Above” is ranking at the top of the current list of GOP presidential wannabes.

In a related story of committing the sin of hypocrisy, Cardinal Edward Egan (formerly of the archbishop-prick of New York) has withdrawn his 2002 apology for the Church’s handling of sex abuse cases, now maintaining that the handling of the situation under his watch was “incredibly good”.

“I never should have said that,” he said of his previous mea culpa. “I don’t think we did anything wrong.” As he stated in a recent interview with Connecticut Magazine, “If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I’d be happy to know who he is.”

Well, given his actual record (during his time with the Diocese of Bridgeport, Egan’s diocese had to settle cases and shell out awards to victims to the hymnal tune of some $12-15,000,000 in damages), when someone does come up with another bishop with a worse record, I hope I’m the one sitting down for that news.

Egan went on to claim that the Church had no obligation to report abuse to the civil authorities (which they have, by law, been required to do since the Seventies).  So we can add the sins of lying and arrogance to Egan’s list of transgressions. He’d better hope Christ was so busy laughing at the idea that Catholic women don’t use birth control that he wasn’t listening to Egan’s administration of Extreme Unctuousness. Continue reading Just Sayin’ Is All (Oh, Sweet Jesus! edition)

Friday Talking Points [197] -- White House Fumbles

Before we get to the week that was, politically-speaking (and, with it, our final football metaphors of the season), we’ve first got to call another state in the Republican primary season race. Last week, we almost forgot to predict Nevada’s race, and this column went out without containing such a prediction to many readers, for which we apologize (we had to quickly paste in an “Update” at ChrisWeigant.com, which smacks of last-minute-ism, we fully admit).

While many haven’t even noticed it, the state of Maine will wrap up its caucuses tomorrow. If there has been any polling out of the state, we certainly haven’t been able to find it, so predicting the outcome is a true gut-feeling exercise. From conversations with the Mainers we know, nobody seems to have a clue what the results will be.

One interesting comment: virtually no television ads have run in the state, from any of the candidates. Which just adds to the free-for-all nature of the race.

Based on absolutely nothing more than tossing a mental dart at the wall, I think Mitt Romney’s going to win the Maine caucus. Mitt could certainly use some good news right about now, especially since the only contest in the next two-and-a-half weeks is the Northern Marianas (which I will predict right now will generate almost zero interest in the media). But folks in Maine are in Massachusetts’ back yard (fun Maine trivia fact number one: the state used to be part of Massachusetts), so they likely have formed a pretty solid opinion of Romney by now. Also, Mainers are a down-to-earth bunch who are not as impressed by glitz (Gingrich, for instance) or fire-breathing (Santorum, perhaps) as voters elsewhere.

The biggest news out of the Maine caucuses will be that Ron Paul chalks up second place, after doing so decisively in Minnesota earlier in the week. I think Paul is the only candidate who actually bothered to visit Maine, which will pay off for him in a light-turnout caucus. Third place is anyone’s guess, but I flipped a coin and it came up Santorum, so let’s call third for Rick.

So, Maine prediction, in the following order: Romney, Paul, Santorum, with Gingrich barely even registering. Those are my picks; feel free to share yours in the comments, as always.

As for my record, I only did OK last Tuesday, although I did nail 3-for-3 in Missouri. Overall, though, I only chalked up 5-for-9 for the entire night (which I’ve belatedly decided to call “MinneRockyShowMe Tuesday”), which leaves my overall percentage at:

Total correct 2012 primary picks so far: 14 for 24 — 58%.

Fun Maine trivia fact number two: Maine is the only state’s name which contains only one syllable. But enough silliness, let’s get on with the show….

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

In what can only be called the best-yet example of “How To Springboard Off Stephen Colbert,” Nancy Pelosi branded her effort to pass a political financial disclosure bill as the “Stop Colbert” campaign. So far, we’re pretty impressed at her grasp of hilarity. Here’s Pelosi, from the video:

Stephen Colbert used to be my friend. I even signed the poor baby’s cast when he hurt his hand. But since the day he started his super PAC, taking secret money from special interests, he’s been out of control, even using his super PAC to attack my friend, Newt Gingrich. And if that weren’t enough, I hear he doesn’t even like kittens.

Heh. Love that part about Pelosi’s “friend” Newt Gingrich. It’s a serious piece of legislation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it and get your message out as a direct result. For doing so, Pelosi wins at least an Honorable Mention this week.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week winner was Senator Barbara Boxer, for being the woman leading the effort to provide political cover for the White House this week on the birth control controversy (much more on this later in this column). Perhaps we’re biased, since we do reside in Boxer’s home state of California — there were some other Democrats out there in the media mounting a strong defense of the new policy, as well. But Boxer has made women’s reproductive health one of her signature issues in the Senate, so it was her voice that carried the most weight in the debate from the Democrats’ side.

For being a consistently-strong advocate of women’s rights, and for stepping up to the plate this week on the birth control decision, Barbara Boxer wins the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. Well done, Senator Boxer, well done.

[Congratulate Senator Barbara Boxer on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Moving along, we have the “How Not To Springboard Off Stephen Colbert” category, it seems. Colbert apparently, right after the BP oil spill, proposed renaming the Gulf of Mexico the “Gulf of America” (on the you-broke-it-you-buy-it theory), as a joke. Mississippi state representative Steve Holland just introduced a bill in the state legislature which would do just that.

The only problem is, it’s very easy to miss the fact that he’s joking. After all, it wasn’t that long ago our country’s national legislators were spending their valuable time coming up with such neologisms as “freedom fries.” So while Holland was shooting for some Colbert-inspired humor, he missed the mark for a lot of folks. We don’t think this rises to the level of even a (Dis-)Honorable Mention, but we did at least think it was worth pointing out here.

In other news, the Obama White House had rather a bad week… but again, we’ll get to that in a moment.

The disgrace of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week belongs to another state legislator, Bill DeWeese of Pennsylvania.

DeWeese has now been convicted of five out of six corruption charges against him. This will make him a convicted felon, once he is sentenced. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 24, which is the day Pennsylvania holds primary elections. In an astounding display of chutzpah, however, DeWeese is trying to move his sentencing back past the November election, so he can get re-elected. He is not just some backbencher, either, but the majority leader of the state house of representatives.

What he should be doing instead is writing his resignation letter. If he’s sentenced as a felon, he will either have to step down or face the certainty that he’s going to be kicked out. Rather than putting Pennsylvania voters through that disgrace, however, DeWeese should “take more time to work on my legal problems and my appeals” and resign his office.

For not immediately doing so — and with golden “I’m Entitled To This Office, Dammit!” poison-ivy-leaf clusters — Bill DeWeese is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week. Do the right thing, Bill. Resign.

[Contact Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions, even though he is not likely to pay the slightest attention.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 197 (2/10/12)

We’re going to forgo enumerated talking points this week, to follow the White House’s lead.

That was sarcasm, just for the record.

For the past week the political world (outside of the Republican primary race) has been consumed by a gigantic policy fight. Barack Obama and the White House were supposedly at the heart of this battle, but they were (for the most part) missing in action. This left the field for the opposition, who successfully framed the entire issue in their own terms — which was very damaging to Obama, to say the least.

The issue, of course, was the administration’s decision to require religious organizations who operate secular businesses such as universities and hospitals to provide health insurance for their employees (who are also secular, not religious employees) which fully covered birth control. Churches themselves would continue to be exempt from this requirement, but hospital workers would not.

This decision was announced a while back, and it was greeted with a full-scale attack by the Catholic Church and (once they realized what was going on) most Republicans. Inexplicably, the White House was caught flatfooted in their response. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [197] — White House Fumbles

Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

ONE: Fired Up and Ready to Stay Home!

A couple of weeks back, Take Five looked at a CBS News poll which indicated that voter enthusiasm (meaning a lack thereof) could be a huge problem for the Republicans this year.

The Atlantic Wire recently examined other polls that pretty much confirm the hypothesis. A January 30 Pew poll, for example, pegged the number of Republicans happy with their field of candidates at 46%, while those dissatisfied with it were measured at 52%. As has become a cliché this election year, they can’t resist citing yet another Gallup poll purporting to demonstrate that Republicans remain more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats. The only problem with this is that the accumulating empirical evidence suggests it’s not true.

Nate Silver notes that among “Republican identifiers” only, turnout in Iowa was down 11% over 2008 and New Hampshire was down 15%, and while South Carolina’s turnout jumped 20% over the last presidential election cycle, driven by Gingrich zealots, Florida’s was down 16% from ’08. According to CNN, Nevada’s Republican numbers last Saturday were down by one-third from four years ago.

Watch for increasingly desperate and increasingly amusing spin about all this to emanate from Republican Party apparatchiks and pundits in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to really exert themselves to outdo Romney spokesmouth John H. Sununu, who said this with a resolutely straight and characteristically dour face on MSNBC Monday morning:

In an odd sense when turnout is down, contrary to what you are hearing, people are satisfied with the winning and the candidate that’s winning. They are satisfied with Mitt Romney.

Yeah, sure they are. I’m hoping they’re so satisfied they’ll all stay home in November, too. Sununu’s explanation for that will be priceless.

Ron Paul, seemingly unaware that he himself is a candidate, made some caustic remarks about the Nevada and Florida numbers:

“There’s a lot of people not satisfied with any of the candidates out there,” the Texas congressman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And that’s why in many ways we’re seeing a lower turnout right now…”

Mr. Paul said Republicans are wondering why they haven’t been offered someone else besides Mr. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The last time I looked, Republicans were also being offered, aggressively, not only Ron Paul but also Rick Santorum, and not long ago they also had such choices as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain, not to mention perplexingly premature dropout Tim Pawlenty and even perennial wingnut darling Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore. And then there was the contingent of maybes whose trial balloons, for the most part, never got any altitude: Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.

I apologize for taxing your digestive tract with this litany of names, gentle reader, but I think it points up the fact that GOP voters have had no shortage of choices; they’ve only had a shortage of remotely acceptable choices, even by famously lax Republican standards.

So Romney remains the frontrunner, his three remaining challengers – for various reasons – will hang around a while yet, and Republican voters are less than impressed with the whole spectacle. Hey, it’s nice to agree with Republicans about something, I guess.

TWO: Y’all don’t come back now, hear?

The Charleston Place Hotel has filed suit against the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for non-payment of a $227,872 bill. The SRLC disputes the charge and has declared its intention to launch a counterclaim. In a statement released Monday, the organization said:

“After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place’s attempt to mischaracterize this legitimate dispute as the SRLC’s walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.

“We continue to seek a reasonable and equitable settlement even as the Charleston Place’s Management seeks to sensationalize. We sincerely hope that cooler heads at the Charleston Place will prevail and they will acknowledge serious errors and actions resulting in a fair agreement.”

The conference lined up a Jan. 19-22 stay… and booked nearly every room in the luxury hotel in the center of downtown Charleston, according to the lawsuit. Political consultant Robert Cahaly signed the agreement on behalf of the group…

The hotel wants to hold Cahaly and others personally responsible for the tab, arguing that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is nothing but a corporate shell Cahaly uses to hide from his obligations, the lawsuit states.

Cahaly has kept a pretty low profile since threatening to sue the SC SLED before turning himself in on an arrest warrant last fall on charges of making illegal robocalls in half a dozen House Districts in the 2010 election. While there don’t seem to be any recent updates about that case, I’m already looking forward to this new one. If the hotel really has evidence that the SRLC is a corporate front for Cahaly, I can’t wait to read the details. It’s also going to be fascinating to see if the organization’s counterclaim is predicated on something more substantial and credible than Charleston Place management being unprofessional, deceptive, sensationalistic hotheads.

THREE: You’re Nobody ’til Rick Santorum Hates You

Fresh off of telling a seriously ill child and his mother that drug companies should be free to charge whatever the hell they want for the boy’s medication, Rick “Mr. Sensitive” Santorum told a gay Missouri man that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage. In doing so, Santorum briefly opened a wormhole into the strange and uncharted dimension that is his mind when he said:

“[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good… And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior…”

Actually, Senator, you don’t need to bother encouraging that behavior, since your enthusiastic advocacy of another type of behavior helps ensure that humans, gay or straight, won’t be around to mess up Creation much longer anyway:

A day before Republicans voice[d] their presidential preferences in the Colorado caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.

True to form, Santorum couldn’t opine on this without dragging his close personal friend, God, into it:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create…”

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life…

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face and yet we have politicians running into the ramparts, unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade…”

Small wonder that Sarah Palin’s star has faded; with Rick Santorum in the news, fans of nonsensical word salad can get their fill and more. At least until catastrophic climate change leads to their extinction, that is.

Oh, and about that “sauce” he mentioned… never mind. Continue reading Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

Why Black History Month Matters

Black people need Black History Month because they need to know that black people are more than the ugly and false stereotypes too often portrayed in the media. Black history is more than cursory mentions of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

White people need Black History Month because they need to know that black people are more than the ugly and false stereotypes too often portrayed in the media. Black people didn’t magically appear as slaves in the USA only to disappear after the Civil War and then re-appear after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that began the Civil Rights Era. Slaves were not smiling, dancing, happy people who were simply “servants” and a part of the master’s family.

Black History Month matters because it is history. It is history forgotten, ignored, and suppressed. It is a history of and within a country that desperately longs to forget its sullied and unfavorable past. There is no mention of slavery in the country’s founding documents, but slavery helped make it the most powerful and wealthiest in recorded history.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece called “Black History That Doesn’t Make It Into the History Books.” It reflected roughly five years of research and help from various people on various topics, from the historically black colleges and universities, to desegregation of the US military, to white allies in the struggle, to the source of the One-Drop Rule, and most everything in between. There is a lot of history that has been deliberately left out or simply ignored.

Why would that history be left out and forgotten? For the same reason that it was left out of the country’s founding documents: It makes the country look bad. A country that was created based on liberty and freedom can’t easily reconcile the existence of chattel slavery and a racial caste system. What cannot be reconciled gets written out and forgotten. Re-writing history is nothing new; what is new is that a lot of that history has been saved and not forgotten.

History is written by the winners. When the winners become the social norm and their version of history becomes the standard, there is no need for any other versions. The other versions are simply not taught.

And when you’re the norm, you don’t have to know about what matters to everyone else. You don’t have to know what “those people” think or how they feel or how they live or what they know. That kind of ignorance can make for some awkward moments, like Bill O’Reilly’s visit to Sylvia’s (Wow! I didn’t know black people could behave in public!), or saying to someone black, “You know, I don’t think of you as black,” or the all-time favorite, “I didn’t know black people could (insert non-stereotypical activity here).”

Peggy McIntosh’s treatise “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” outlines the functional points of white privilege, i.e. the privilege of being the norm. In reference to Black History Month, it has a couple of telling points. They are:

  • When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race. Continue reading Why Black History Month Matters