Snark: to annoy or irritate

"Snark" has been in English language dictionaries since at least 1906, and Lewis Carroll used the word to describe a mythological animal in his poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1874). Most recently, the word has come to characterize snappish, sarcastic, or mean-spirited comments or actions directed at those who annoy or irritate us.

At first, this blog was just going be a place to gripe, but because it's more satisfying to take action than it is to merely complain, now most of the posts/reposts suggest ways to get involved in solving problems.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan's Dishonest Convention Speech

From Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic, August 29, 2012
Here's the link:
The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?

You’re going to read and hear a lot about Paul Ryan’s speech on Wednesday night. And I imagine most of it will be about how Ryan’s speech played—with the party loyalists in Tampa, with the television viewers across the country, and eventually with the swing voters who will decide the election.

I’d like to talk, instead, about what Ryan actually said—not because I find Ryan’s ideas objectionable, although I do, but because I thought he was so brazenly willing to twist the truth.

At least five times, Ryan misrepresented the facts. And while none of the statements were new, the context was. It’s one thing to hear them on a thirty-second television spot or even in a stump speech before a small crowd. It’s something else entirely to hear them in prime time address, as a vice presidential nominee is accepting his party’s nomination and speaking to the entire country.

Here are the five statements that deserve serious scrutiny:

1) About the GM plant in Janesville.

Ryan’s home district includes a shuttered General Motors plant. Here’s what happened, according to Ryan:
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

It’s true: The plant shut down. But it shut down in 2008—before Obama became president.

By the way, nobody questions that, if not for the Obama Administration’s decision to rescue Chrysler and GM, the domestic auto industry would have crumbled. Credible estimates suggested that the rescue saved more than a million jobs. Unemployment in Michigan and Ohio, the two states with the most auto jobs, have declined precipitously.

2) About Medicare.

Ryan attacked Obama for “raiding” Medicare. Again, Ryan has no standing whatsoever to make this attack, because his own budget called for taking the same amount of money from Medicare. Twice. The only difference is that Ryan’s budget used those savings to finance Ryan’s priorities, which include a massive tax cut that benefits the wealthy disproportionately.

It’s true that Romney has pledged to put that money back into Medicare and Ryan now says he would do the same. But the claim is totally implausible given Romney's promise to cap non-defense spending at 16 percent of gross domestic product.

By the way, Obamacare's cut to Medicare was a reduction in what the plan pays hospitals and insurance companies. And the hospitals said they could live with those cuts, because Obamacare was simultaneously giving more people health insurance, alleviating the financial burden of charity care.

What Obamacare did not do is take away benefits. On the contrary, it added benefits, by offering free preventative care and new prescription drug coverage. By repealing Obamacare, Romney and Ryan would take away those benefits—and, by the way, add to Medicare's financial troubles because the program would be back to paying hospitals and insurers the higher rates.

3) About the credit rating downgrade.

Ryan blamed the downgrading of American debt on Obama. But it was the possibility that America would default on its debts that led to the downgrade. And why did that possibility exist? Because Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling, playing chicken not just with the nations’ credit rating but the whole economy, unless Obama would cave into their budget demands.

4) About the deficit.

Ryan said “President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him” and proclaimed “We need to stop spending money we don’t have.” In fact, this decade’s big deficits are primarily a product of Bush-era tax cuts and wars. (See graph.) And you know who voted for them? Paul Ryan.

5) About protecting the weak.

Here’s Ryan on the obligations to help those who can’t help themselves:
We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves. … We can make the safety net safe again.

The rhetoric is stirring—and positively galling. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 62 percent of the cuts in Ryan budget would come from programs that serve low-income people. And that’s assuming he keeps the Obamacare Medicare cuts. If he’s serious about putting that money back into Medicare, the cuts to these programs would have to be even bigger.

Among the cuts Ryan specified was a massive reduction in Medicaid spending. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Urban Institute, between 14 and 27 million people would lose health insurance from these cuts. That’s above and beyond the 15 million or so who are supposed to get Medicaid coverage from the Affordable Care Act but wouldn’t because Romney and Ryan have pledged to repeal the law.

I realize conservatives think that transforming Medicaid into a block grant, so that states have more control over how to spend the money, can make the program more efficient. But Medicaid already costs far less than any other insurance program in America. And even to the extent states can find some new efficiencies, the idea that they can find enough to offset such a draconian funding cut is just not credible.

Update: I clarified the passage on Medicare.

follow me on twitter @CitizenCohn

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Live GOP Convention Coverage

Live from the Republican Convention!

More Info   Get Minute-by-Minute Updates from AAUW's Lisa Maatz

The political conventions are upon us! Even though Tropical Storm Isaac has pushed back the official start of the Republican Convention by one day, the GOP has already converged on Tampa, Florida, to approve the party platform and officially nominate Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to headline the party's ticket. As usual, AAUW will be in the middle of it all!

AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Director Lisa Maatz will be in the thick of things at the Republican Convention this week and the Democratic Convention next week. Lisa will be in the convention hall talking with delegates, party power brokers, and other advocates about AAUW's policy priorities and our nationwide nonpartisan voter education and turnout campaign, It's My Vote: I Will be Heard. She will also be live-tweeting from some of the most important speeches and submitting blogs each day, so watch Twitter, Facebook, and AAUW Dialog for pictures and updates from the conventions.

Here's what you can expect from us during the Republican Convention:
Daily blog updates to AAUW Dialog. Check out the first blog post that went up today!
Lots of pictures posted to Facebook!
Live-tweeting from the convention floor for the key speeches, including:
Tuesday, August 28: Remarks by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Ann Romney, followed by the keynote address from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Wednesday, August 29: Remarks by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (WI)
Thursday, August 30: Mitt Romney's official nomination acceptance speech, preceded by an introduction by Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)

Whether you're at the convention or not, we want to hear from you, too! Send an email to with:
Email us your pictures and videos from the convention floor.
Tell us about your rockin' convention watch party you hosted (don't forget to take pictures there as well!) Read AAUW Dialog for tips on hosting a convention watch party.
Submit your own pep talk video on why voting in the 2012 elections is important to you.

The political conventions come only once every four years – don't miss out on the chance to connect with AAUW in 2012! And tune in next week for updates from the Democratic National Convention, live from Charlotte, North Carolina!

Follow AAUW on Twitter, and read our award-winning AAUW Dialog Blog for discussion, information, and advocacy for women and girls!

Are you an AAUW member? Subscribe to Washington Update, a members-only weekly e-mail bulletin with an insider's view on public policy and politics news, resources for advocates and programming ideas! Subscribe today!

Take the next step to break through barriers for women and girls: Become part of the AAUW national community! Join or donate today!

Have general questions about AAUW? Please contact or call 800/326-2289 between 10 am and 5 pm Eastern, Monday through Friday.

GOP Anti-Gay Platform

Today the Republican Party approved a platform that The New York Times called "more aggressive in its opposition ... to gay rights than any in memory."

The intolerant document calls for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It condemns President Obama for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The platform fails to recognize civil unions for gay couples, and it rejects the "use of the military as a platform for social experimentation" -- a veiled dig at the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

This platform, which was written at the direction of Mitt Romney's campaign, defines the Republican Party today.

It's a sharp reminder of what we stand to lose if Romney and Ryan take the White House this November. One party supports our right to be equals in the eyes of the law, the other rejects it.

There is a clear choice in this election for the LGBT community and allies.

We've got to fight for the only candidate who has our back. Join Obama Pride on Dashboard, the campaign's online field office, and stay informed about campaign news, events, and opportunities to volunteer:

Jamie Citron
National LGBT Vote Director
Obama for America

Stepping on the Middle Class

A message from  Our efforts to define Mitt Romney as the candidate for the 1% are working. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans think Romney will look out for the rich more than the middle class if he becomes president.1
But Romney just pulled ahead of President Obama in the latest national poll, and he's gaining ground in some key swing states.2 At the Republican Convention in Tampa this week, Romney's going to try to do what all the experts say he has to—make us believe that he actually cares about the middle class, even though all the evidence shows otherwise.
That's why it's so important to remind voters that Romney and Ryan will step on cash-strapped seniors by dismantling Medicare and walk over the struggling middle class with more taxes to pay for steep tax cuts for the rich.3 And we have a video that LITERALLY shows just that.
Stepping on the
middle class

Thanks for all you do.
–Lenore, Tate, Emily, Robin, and the rest of the MoveOn team 

P.S. Tune in soon for the hilarious mockumentary about how Mitt Romney survived his hardscrabble childhood 'burbs of Bloomfield Hills to become the man he is today. It's aptly named The Man from Bloomfield Hills, and it's coming out just in time for Romney's acceptance speech!
1. "Poll: Obama, Romney neck-and-neck ahead of party conventions," The Washington Post, August 27, 2012 
2. Ibid.
"Despite Medicare plan, Romney gains in swing states," The Boston Globe, August 23, 2012 
3. "Study: Romney tax plan would result in cuts for rich, higher burden for others," The Washington Post, August 1, 2012

Shut Them Down

Romney-Ryan: The Koch Brothers' Dream Ticket
We all know that Todd Akin's recent comments about rape victims being able to "shut down" pregnancies are medieval and ridiculous.
What's terrifying is that Akin is not alone, and his comments are just the tip of the crazy iceberg. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan may have called for Akin to step aside -- but then the just-approved 2012 GOP platform calls for a constitutional amendment banning abortions in ALL cases, with no exception for rape or incest. And it was written as directed by the Romney/Ryan campaign!
It's obvious that the GOP's "outrage" over Akin's comments was utterly contrived -- and we need your help right away to fight back against them. Romney, Ryan and the Republican Party are now showing their true colors.
GOP candidates across the country have proven that they know nothing about the American Way, and help from concerned people like you -- today and at the polls -- is the only thing we have to stop them.
The Radical Right is showing what they really stand for -- and it’s not the American Way. Instead, they are calling for policies that are not only dangerous for women, but for all Americans.
We know how to push back. We know that the American Way is about moving this country forward, not about backward views. And with your help, we can stop Mitt Romney and his party of extremists from winning control of every branch of the government.
Can I count on you to renew your support right now and help us protect the American Way?Cheryl, if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, they will enact an agenda that goes against everything we have fought for. We know they want to:
  • Take away women’s reproductive freedoms
  • Roll back civil rights protections
  • Overturn healthcare reform
  • Eliminate protections for LGBT Americans
  • End Medicare as we know it ... and so much more.
Time is running out for us to fight them -- and I need your support to stop these extremists from taking control of this country.
Renew your membership to People For the American way with a contribution right away. If Mitt Romney and his extremist cronies win in November -- we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Michael B. Keegan signature
Michael Keegan, President

Lisa Edelstein (House) Video

A video from
If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win, we could lose choice. This is horrifying. And this is for real—women, including rape survivors, could once again be forced to turn to dangerous back-alley abortions if we don't fight back now.
Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, and the entire Republican Party platform support a "personhood" amendment that would ban all abortions.1 Ryan and Akin even tried to limit the definition of rape to "forcible rape" to block some women's access to safe abortions.2 We can't afford to lose. Period. 
We need to make sure that every woman knows just how far Republicans are willing to go in their War on Women. 
Lisa Edelstein video

Thanks for all you do.
–Lenore, Milan, Wes, Carrie, and the rest of the team
1. "Romney: I Would 'Absolutely' Support State Constitutional Amendment to Define Life As Beginning At Conception," Think Progress, October 3, 2011
"GOP party platform sticks with anti-abortion stance, does not address rape exception," The Washington Post, August 21, 2012
2. "How Todd Akin and Paul Ryan Partnered to Redefine Rape," Think Progress, August 19, 2012

Sandra Fluke on "Legitimate Rape"

In a recent statement that was both factually inaccurate and horribly offensive, Republican Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said that victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan tried to distance themselves from the remark -- but the fact is they're in lockstep with Akin on the major women's health issues of our time. Just this morning, the Republican Party voted to include the "Human Life Amendment" in their platform, calling for a constitutional ban on abortions nationwide, even for rape victims. Several Romney supporters and advisers stood silently by while this vote took place, and the Los Angeles Times reports that the platform "was written at the direction of Romney's campaign."

President Obama spoke out in response to Akin's comments: "What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women."

This controversy is not an accident, or a mistake, or an isolated incident. It's a reflection of a Republican Party whose policies are dangerous for women.

There is a clear choice for women in this election: Stand with President Obama.

I entered this national debate on women's rights in February, when, as a Georgetown Law student, I testified before members of Congress on the issue of contraception.

Without knowing me or my story, Rush Limbaugh called me a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his radio show.

Many Americans stepped forward to tell me they agreed with me, and supported my right to speak out without being verbally attacked. President Obama stood with us.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand? He didn't even condemn the remark, instead saying only: "It's not the language I would have used."

Since that moment, I'm even more resolved to continue the fight to make sure every single woman -- and every man who cares about the women in his life -- knows exactly what's at stake in this election. The Republicans are frighteningly clear on these issues.

The party platform itself includes a "salute" to states that have pushed "informed consent" laws, such as those that force women seeking an abortion to first undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary ultrasound.

Just last year, Paul Ryan joined Todd Akin and more than 200 other Republicans in co-sponsoring legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape, limiting which victims of rape were "legitimate" enough to receive financial assistance for access to abortion care.

Mitt Romney famously says he would "get rid of" Planned Parenthood if he had the chance. And both Romney and Ryan pledge to go back to a system where insurance companies can discriminate against women and charge us more than men for the same health insurance.

Akin's comments shouldn't be surprising. But this isn't about him -- just like it was never about me.

President Obama has told us what he's fighting for: "I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons."

Republicans, led by Romney and Ryan, have made it clear that they want to make our decisions for us.

President Obama trusts us to make our own.

It's as simple as that. Join me and stand with him today:


Sandra Fluke

"Legitimate Rape" = A Dangerous Fallacy

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

‘Legitimate Rape’—a Dangerous Fallacy

August 21, 2012, 12:15 pm
Over the weekend, the Missouri politician Todd Akin introduced a new concept to television viewers: “legitimate rape.”  Representative Akin, a six-term member of Congress, professed that legitimate rapes rarely result in pregnancy. He told an interviewer:
Well, you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, “Well, how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?” It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Akin’s faux pas is troubling for what it suggests regarding women and sex. On the one hand, there are different species of rape. On the other hand, only one type of rape is real or legitimate; the others are phony. Implicitly, the comment conveys that only consensual sex results in pregnancy—and not incest, marital rape, war rape, date rape, and other types of sexual coercion and abuse. If taken to its logical end, that would mean possible evidence of a rape, such as a pregnancy, could be invoked by a rapist to discredit the victim.
Akin’s theory about rape and reproduction is scientifically flawed and factually inaccurate. A three-year longitudinal study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Rape-Related Pregnancy: Estimates and Descriptive Characteristics From a National Sample of Women,” concluded that 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancies. The study dates to 1996; however, the conclusions remain salient. The authors attempted to determine how many pregnancies result from rape and the circumstances surrounding those pregnancies (known versus unknown perpetrator, whether the rape was reported, when the rape was reported, etc.).
Among adult women who are raped in the United States, over 32,000 pregnancies occur each year. That figure can be multiplied globally as tens of thousands of girls are forced into underage marriages in India, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Yemen, and other countries. Sometimes girls are raped because they are seen as “pure” and will not infect their assailants with HIV, syphilis, or gonorrhea.
Among American cases of known rape pregnancies involving adolescents, a majority of victims are biologically related to their perpetrators. Nearly a third of the rape victims “did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester,” according to the 1996 study. The researchers discovered that less than 12 percent of the pregnancies resulted in a spontaneous abortion. The authors concluded that sexual victimization “frequently” leads to unwanted pregnancies.
However, Congressman Akin’s comment also marks an important opportunity to reflect on the political manipulation of women’s reproduction. In a recent article, “Precarious Moorings: Tying Fetal Drug Law Policy to Social Profiling,” I document the false assumptions and race and class profiling tangled up in legislative efforts to reduce low-birth-weight babies. That’s just one example of inaccuracies parading as facts in political comment and debate on women’s reproduction.
In recent years, politicians have warned women in recovery that they will punish them severely if they become pregnant while continuing to use drugs. In South Carolina, women were reportedly shackled during labor and delivery, carted off to jail while still bleeding from giving birth, and giving birth while in prison. (See here, here, and here.)
The punishments in that state were so severe that Regina McKnight—a rape victim—was convicted for suffering a miscarriage. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Nearly a decade later, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction. Justice prevailed, but at a significant cost to Ms. McKnight’s dignity, liberty, and freedom.
Akin’s comment illuminates how a predominantly male electorate is shaping the political and regulatory discourse on women’s reproduction. For example, a range of fetal-protection laws are now implemented and variously enforced in 37 states. Many of the laws are overly broad and unusually vague, criminalizing any and all activities that could harm a fetus. Most of these efforts ultimately target pregnant women.
My forthcoming book, Policing the Womb: The New Cultural Politics of Reproduction (Cambridge University Press), empirically details this political movement and its consequences. In one case, Christine Taylor, a woman from Iowa, was arrested for falling down steps during her pregnancy. In another case, an Indiana woman, Bei Bei Shuai, may be sentenced to 45 years in prison for attempting suicide during her pregnancy. In yet another case, a Florida woman, Samantha Burton, was forcibly confined for refusing bed-rest.
Sadly, this is not a new movement. To the contrary, women’s reproduction has been deployed for political sport in other eras. As the bioethicist and legal scholar Paul Lombardo’s elegant work reveals, before World War II, a majority of states adopted eugenics laws, permitting the state to forcibly sterilize women deemed “socially unfit,” as they were thought to burden local economies by birthing “imbecilic” children. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. extolled in 1927:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.
Mostly white women suffered that fate. Decades later, states turned to sterilizing black women receiving welfare benefits; hundreds were sterilized in Southern states—many with no knowledge of what had occurred until years later. Then too, politicians were getting tough on women.
Michele Goodwin is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota with joint appointments at the university’s medical and public-health schools.

End Rape Rather Than Redefining It

Dear V-Activists,

I posted this letter on The Huffington Post less than 24 hours ago and I have been flooded with thousands of emails, tweets, texts, stories of terrible rapes and profound emotion. There is a loud trembling unspoken story of women about to break to the surface of the world. It must break through if we are to survive as a species. It must break through.
I want to thank each and every person (woman and man) who shared their story of violation with me. Your courage, your support, your anger, your love, your voice is so powerful it can and must make the world right. Now is the time.
I urge you to join One Billion Rising on February 14, 2013 when every woman on this planet who has been raped or beaten or violated or cut or burned or exploited or muted or hurt and all the men and women who love them will walk out of their jobs, their offices, factories, homes, schools and say this is the day that violence against women and girls ends, this is the day we DANCE and do not stop dancing.
I ask you to sign-up and to get one hundred people to do the same.
My deepest love, admiration and gratitude,

Eve Ensler
Dear Mr. Akin, I Want You to Imagine...
Dear Todd Akin,
I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.
I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.
Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.
As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking "off the cuff."
Clarification. You didn't make some glib throwaway remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but onemade with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

"Legitimate" Rape?

Stop lying about rape and apologize to women!A message from CREDO Action: This is outrageous even for a Tea Party Republican.

Congressman Todd Akin, a member of the House and a Tea Party Republican Senate nominee, said that survivors of "legitimate rape" have biological defenses against pregnancy:
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." 1
This is not only an outright falsehood, but it's an offensive attack on women.
In fact, according to the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency" and over 32,000 pregnancies each year result from rape. 2
Suggesting that women who become pregnant as a result of rape are not "legitimately raped," is outrageous and shows an utter lack of understanding of the basic principles of human biology But it's not simply an isolated comment by a dangerously ignorant politician. And it's not the first time Republicans in the House have tried to "redefine" rape.
In 2011, Rep. Akin co-sponsored Rep. Chris Smith's bill to redefine rape. The purpose of the bill was to limit the number of survivors of rape and incest who could receive federally funded abortion care under existing law by changing the definition of rape to "forcible rape." That bill was so outrageous that even the extreme anti-woman majority in the House had to back down in the face of public opposition. 3
Rep. Akin's utterly offensive remarks may be beyond the pale, but they are not isolated. They are part of a pattern of attacks led by Tea Party Republicans against women in this country. We have to push back, and we have to push back hard. We will not let them redefine rape. We will not let them continue their attacks on women's health.
Tell Rep Todd Akin that his statement that survivors of "legitimate rape" have biological defenses against pregnancy is not only an outrageous falsehood, but it's offensive and dangerous. He needs to stop lying about rape, and apologize to women. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for standing up to Republican attacks on women.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Evan McMorris-Santoro, "Republican Senate Nominee: Victims Of 'Legitimate Rape' Don't Get Pregnant" Talking Points Memo, Aug. 19, 2012.
2. ibid.
3. Evan McMorris-Santoro, "Report: Republicans Give Up On Redefining Rape" Talking Points Memo, Feb. 3, 2011.

Obama - BidenA message from Obama for America: This video, right here, explains why I'm working day in and day out to win this election. When the hours are long and the fight is hard, I know that what we're doing will make a real difference in people's lives.

You have to watch this video -- and then share it with whoever you think needs to see it. It gave me chills:

Jen O'Malley Dillon
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stealing the Election

Jon Husted

A message from PFAW: It's not a coincidence; it's not an accident; it's not a mistake. Republicans across the country are trying to suppress the vote so they can win the election.
In Ohio, where the stakes couldn't be higher, the Republican Party isn't even trying to hide its intentions. This past Sunday, one of Gov. John Kasich's closest advisers declared that election officials like himself should not "accommodate the urban -- read African American -- voter-turnout machine," essentially admitting that their strategy is to limit African Americans' ability to vote. On Friday, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended and now may fire two election board members for the offense of -- imagine this -- seeking to expand access to the polls.
After the 2004 election, which saw thousands of Ohioans waiting in long lines for hours after the polls closed, Ohio sensibly created early voting by mail and in person. County election officials were able to ensure access to the polls for all voters. And in 2008, hundreds of thousands of voters -- particularly African Americans -- were able to vote early instead of waiting in long lines on Election Day.
But now, Republicans want to change the rules and limit access to early voting to give themselves an unfair advantage. In fact, they expanded early voting opportunities for Republican counties, but gave voters in larger, Democratic counties less time to vote early -- even though these counties were precisely the counties that needed early voting because of the long lines in 2004! In response to accusations of unfairness, Secretary of State Husted then limited early voting opportunities for all counties. It's outrageous.
In the past week, two Democratic election board members in Montgomery County refused to back down to Husted and proposed keeping early voting on the weekends so working people could vote in the election. For that, Husted punished them, suspending them from their positions. Can you believe it? Election officials shouldn't be fired for trying to expand access to the voting booth.
We can't let this happen in Ohio. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our democracy depends on it. Sign the petition now.

Thank you for all that you do,

Calvin Sloan
Field Manager, People For the American Way 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Ridiculous Rise of Ayn Rand

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Ridiculous Rise of Ayn Rand

August 19, 2012, 12:10 pm  by Alan Wolfe

Interview with CBS’s Mike Wallace, 1959.
When the literary editor of The New Republic asked me to review two new books on Ayn Rand three years ago, I readily agreed. Rand, the Russian-born writer known for her take-no-prisoners defense of capitalism, was beginning to come back into vogue among conservatives, and I recalled hearing that there was a congressman from Wisconsin who was singing her praises and assigning her writings to his staff. I had had my own flirtation with Rand, when I was 18, and although it lasted less than a year, I could never forget a college classmate who kept extensive index cards ready so that he could quote her whenever he deemed the situation appropriate.
The two books were interesting, indeed fascinating. One, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, was written by Jennifer Burns, a historian at Stanford University. The other, Ayn Rand and the World She Made, came from the journalist Anne C. Heller. As good as the books were, however, I felt that to do justice to the essay, I would have to reread Rand’s own novels. That proved to be too much. One of the best things I have done for American politics in recent years was to turn down the review assignment. It went instead to Jonathan Chait, now at New York magazine, and I consider his masterly essay to be one of the outstanding pieces of political journalism of the past decade.
With Paul Ryan’s selection as vice-presidential candidate on the 2012 Republican ticket, Rand is back in the news. Chait continues to write about her. Burns came out with two essays about her contemporary relevance, one in The New York Times, the other in The New Republic. We now know that Ryan tempered his enthusiasm for Rand when he realized that her atheism might prove problematic for members of his party. It has become clear that Rand was pro-choice and, like any hater of government properly ought to be, a civil libertarian. She would be disgusted by the Republican Party’s spending on defense (let alone Ryan’s support, during the George W. Bush years, for the Medicare Part D prescription benefit and TARP).
Yet as much as I like it when intellectuals receive attention, I still find myself uninterested in Ayn Rand. I do not care what she would have thought of the current scene. That those who invoke her name treat her selectively is of almost no significance to me. I have the sense, moreover, that I am not alone, at least among those in the academic world. Despite a flutter of interest, she has been mostly ignored.
Rand wrote novels that are highly unlikely to be read and taught in departments of English. Her subject was the market, but no academic economists take her seriously, unless, of course, wealthy libertarians offer funds for that purpose. She considered herself an Aristotelian, but it is impossible to imagine departments of philosophy and political science adding her to the canon.
For those under Rand’s spell, all this is just more evidence of academe’s irrelevance. For me it demonstrates that, for all the attacks directed against it, American academic life still has standards. I will be teaching a course next semester called “Liberalism and Conservatism.” John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke will be on the reading list.  So will libertarians such as Friedrich von Hayek and the founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. Contemporary liberals such as E.J. Dionne will be there. But not Rand. My reasons for excluding her may be the same reasons that other academics ignore her.
Rand’s “thought,” such as it is, boils down to two propositions. One is that selfishness is the highest of moral virtues. The other is that the masses, above all resentful of success, are parasites living off the hard work of capitalists far superior to them in every way.
Self-interest is a useful concept, while selfishness is not. That, I believe, helps explain why Adam Smith is a first-rate thinker and Ayn Rand is an amateur.
Self-interest makes altruism possible: I can decide to help others, even if in doing so I may be set back financially, because other gains to my self-esteem are important to me. Self-interest requires a nuanced psychology, which is why economists now find themselves investigating all kinds of human behavior and are increasingly interested in how the mind works. Selfishness, by contrast, is not psychologically interesting; Rand’s understanding of human behavior has no room for the complex, the unexpected, or the paradoxical. It is one thing to say, as she frequently did, that altruism is evil; that is a normative position with which one might agree or, I hope, disagree. But to claim that altruism is impossible, an empirical question, is another matter entirely. Any social science, including economics, must be based on a realistic psychology. Rand does not offer one.
As for the masses, serious thinkers have shared Rand’s concern about their impact on society: de Tocqueville spoke of the tyranny of the majority and Ortega y Gasset of their “revolt.”  There was a time when the concept of mass society was taken seriously in academic sociology: Daniel Bell wrote an essay about it, C. Wright Mills a chapter, and William Kornhauser a book. But while we continue to discuss mass media and mass culture, we have also learned, as Mills tried to teach us, that elites have flaws of their own. A theory of society that attributes virtues to one group and vices to another cannot pass the realism test: Rand’s “inverted” Marxism, as Chait calls it, is as myopic as its opposite.
Right-wing think tanks can have Rand (even if she had little use for them). In the academy, she is a nonperson. Her theories are works of fiction. Her works of fiction are theories, and bad ones at that. Should the Republicans actually win in 2012, we might need to study her in the academic world. It would be for the same reason we sometimes need to study creationism.
Alan Wolfe is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and a professor of political science at Boston College.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Check Your Voter Registration Status

Check Your Voter Registration Status!
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Change your name, move, or graduate recently? Are you registered to vote? Are you sure? Don't take a chance on Election Day! Double-check your voting status nowon AAUW Action Fund's website.
This innovative website tool comes from Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip from Maryland. The nonpartisan app provides information about registering to vote in all 50 states and even offers electronic reminders for registration and voting deadlines.
Check to make sure you're registered to vote, and then share this app with your friends and family! You can also install this great nonpartisan app on your branch or state website, as well as your personal blog.
Once you've checked your voter registration status, join AAUW Action Fund's "It’s My Vote: I Will be Heard" campaign to help register new voters! Learn about the It's My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign on the AAUW Action Fund website and through thebiweekly campaign update. Email with any questions on how to get involved in your state.

Join Seniors for Obama

Obama - Biden
The moment Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, this election got a lot more urgent for anyone who cares about Medicare, Social Security, and a secure retirement.

The Romney-Ryan budget would cut Medicare -- not to make the program more efficient -- but to make room for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And Ryan has even proposed plans to raise the retirement age and privatize Social Security, asking seniors to trust their retirement savings to the whims of Wall Street.

Romney and Ryan are effectively saying to seniors: "Too bad -- you're on your own."

We can't sit back and let Republicans dismantle Medicare and other crucial programs. Join Seniors for Obama, and help get the word out about how devastating a Romney-Ryan administration would be.

Let's dig a little deeper into why Mitt Romney's pick for VP matters:

The Romney-Ryan budget would turn Medicare -- which folks have been paying into for years, in expectation of protection and care in old age -- into a voucher program. Instead of being covered by Medicare, every senior would get a voucher to buy insurance, but the vouchers wouldn't come close to covering seniors' health care costs. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office even looked at the plan authored by Paul Ryan, and found that seniors would be on the hook for an extra $6,350 a year.

By shifting seniors to the private market, private insurers would make a windfall profit, while seniors would be hung out to dry.

Think about that in contrast to what President Obama's health care reform has done for seniors. The Affordable Care Act has lowered Medicare costs, cutting premiums and deductibles, and helping close the prescription drug doughnut hole -- which saved those with Medicare an average of $600 last year on prescription drug costs. Thanks to Obamacare, Medicare also now covers a range of preventive services free of charge, like flu shots, checkups, mammograms, and colon cancer screenings.

And by eliminating inefficiencies and cracking down on waste and fraud, the Affordable Care Act has extended the life of Medicare, protecting it for our future. A Romney-Ryan administration would roll back Obamacare on Day One.

There's a stark difference here, measurable in dollars and cents -- and in seniors' well-being.

So support the leader who is standing up for our future. Join Seniors for Obama today:

--Buffy Wicks
Operation Vote Director
Obama for America

Paid for by Obama for America

Bernie Sanders' News Update

In the 77 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on August 14, 1935, the retirement program has been one of the nation's most successful anti-poverty programs. Before Social Security existed, about half of America's senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent live in poverty.

Today, Social Security not only provides retirement security but also enables millions of people with disabilities, and widows, widowers and children to live in dignity and security.

In these highly volatile economic times, when millions of Americans lost their life savings in the 2008 Wall Street crash, it is important to remember that since its inception, through good economic times and bad, Social Security has paid every penny owed to every eligible beneficiary.

Despite Wall Street and right-wing misinformation, Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax, does not contribute to the deficit. In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund today, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years. Further, unlike the huge commissions paid out to Wall Street firms, Social Security is run with very modest administrative costs.

Despite Social Security's popularity and overwhelming success, we are now in the midst of a fierce and well-financed attack against Social Security. Pete Peterson, the Wall Street billionaire, has pledged $1 billion of his resources to cut Social Security and other programs of enormous importance to the American people. Other billionaires and Wall Street representatives are also working hard to weaken or destroy Social Security and endanger the well-being of millions of Americans. We must not allow their effort to succeed.

Let us never forget that the current deficit of $1 trillion was primarily caused by two unpaid-for wars and tax breaks for the rich. These policies were strongly supported by "deficit hawks." The deficit is also related to a major decline in revenue as a result of the Wall Street-created recession. The deficit is a serious issue, but we must not move toward deficit reduction on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. This would not only be immoral, it is bad economic policy. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the top 1 percent must begin paying their fair share of taxes. At a time when large corporations are enjoying record-breaking profits, we have got to eliminate the huge corporate loopholes which result in a massive loss of federal revenue. At a time when we have tripled military spending since 1997, we must take a hard look at a bloated and wasteful Defense Department.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has been a proponent of privatizing the retirement program by putting seniors' savings into risky Wall Street investments. Even before tapping Ryan as his running mate, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he wants to begin the process of privatizing Social Security. He also would gradually increase the retirement age to 68 or 69. And he favors slowing the growth of benefits for persons with "higher incomes." Under a plan floated by Romney's allies on Capitol Hill -- Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- someone making about $45,000 a year today who retires in 2050 would receive 32 percent less in annual Social Security benefits than under the current formula. By that definition, the top 60 percent of all wage earners would be considered "higher income."

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, was a staunch defender of Social Security in his 2008 campaign. So far this year, however, Obama has refused to stand behind his four-year-old opposition to cuts. In fact, the president has signaled that he may be open to lowering benefits by changing how they are calculated. In my view, it is long past time that the president told the American people in no uncertain terms, as he did in 2008, that he will not cut Social Security on his watch.

To keep Social Security's finances sound in the future I have introduced legislation -- identical to a proposal that Obama advocated in 2008 -- to apply the payroll tax on incomes above $250,000 a year. Under current law, only earnings up to $110,100 are taxed. The Center for Economic Policy and Research has estimated that applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would only impact the wealthiest 1.4 percent of wage earners.

Those who want to cut Social Security benefits are looking at a number of proposals. One of the most talked about ideas is moving toward a so-called "chained-CPI," which would not only impact seniors, but also military retirees and those who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The "chained-CPI" approach changes how the Consumer Price Index is calculated, so that a person 65 years old today would earn $560 a year less in Social Security benefits once they turn 75. Benefits would be cut by nearly $1,000 a year once they turn 85. Instead, I have proposed legislation to base Social Security cost-of-living adjustments on a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, a measure that would increase benefits because it would take into account the real-life impact of rising health care costs and prescription drug expenses paid by seniors.

While we often take Social Security for granted, we must not forget that Social Security today is providing dignity and security to tens of millions of Americans. It is a program that is working and working well. We must stand up today, on the 77th anniversary of this enormously important program. We must pledge to continue the fight against the right-wing Republicans, some Democrats and their wealthy backers who want to destroy the program.

Thank you for all that you do.


Senator Bernie Sanders

No War With Iran

 Don't attack IranThere's no good reason for the United States or Israel to bomb Iran in the near future. And a host of prominent American and Israeli defense officials have catalogued a litany of reasons why it would be deeply unwise and counterproductive to do so.1

But that hasn't stopped top Israeli politicians from irresponsibly suggesting that Israel is preparing to launch a unilateral attack in the near future — whether the United States likes it or not.2
The aim of this talk is clear: to push President Obama either into abandoning diplomacy with Iran (which puts us on a path to war) or else publicly breaking with Israel (a move seen as politically damaging in the context of his re-election campaign).3
To his credit, President Obama is clearly not rushing to start another war.
But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran and follow a path that would make war inevitable.
Members of Congress — including many Democrats who seem to have learned nothing from the catastrophic mistake and tremendous moral failure that was the war in Iraq — are actively trying to limit President Obama's ability to negotiate with Iran.4
And they are making common cause with warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush) who want diplomacy to fail.
In an election year, when many of President Obama's traditional allies are either opposed or highly skeptical of his strategy, President Obama must know that Americans support diplomacy that can prevent an unnecessary war.
This is especially true now that Israeli politicians are seeking to use the presidential election as a vehicle to pressure Obama to adopt a more belligerent foreign policy toward Iran.
The more we can do to demonstrate support in the United States for diplomacy, the more leverage we give to the president to reject the calls for war.
Make no mistake, if Israel attacks Iran, it will set the entire Middle East on fire, send oil prices through the roof and our economy off a cliff, and drag the United States into another costly and unnecessary war.
Those who would welcome a war with Iran are trying to suggest that the window for a diplomatic solution is rapidly closing.
But both American and Israeli intelligence services agree that Iran neither has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb nor currently has the capacity to do so.5 So there is no short-term imperative to wage war.
While there is no easy solution to the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy in good faith and give diplomatic solutions the time they need to bear fruit.
President Obama has created the space for a meaningful attempt to resolve this situation diplomatically. We need to speak out to give him the political support to continue down this path.
Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out against war with Iran
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager 
CREDO Action from Working Assets