A state trial court in Montana struck down that state’s ban on prescription birth control coverage for teenage women covered by the state?s health insurance program for low-income young people. In his opinion striking down the law under “the right of privacy and the rights of persons not adults set forth in the Montana Constitution,” Judge James Reynolds explained that ?[t]he state has failed to provide a compelling state reason for this exclusion . . . as the court determined and as the state itself declared: reducing teenage pregnancy (is) a compelling state interest.? This interest, however, is harmed, not helped, by a law hindering sexually active individuals’ access to birth control.
Today's contest closes out the first round. Phew! The bracket is here. Today's winner will draw a tough second-round match?Rick Perry's "oops" moment.
1. HERMAN CAIN WAXES POETIC ON POKEMON
When Herman Cain announced his speech, he shared with the six people in attendance his life philosophy, which he said he gleaned from the closing song to the 2000 Olympics:
?Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It?s never easy when there?s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There?s a mission just for you and me.?Then, in an August debate, he attributed them to, believe it or not, a "poet":
A poet once said, 'Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the lineWas that poet e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath or Langston Hughes? Nope, it was Pokemon.
When first confronted about the source of his life philosophy, Cain insisted that he hadn't been watching Pokemon videos! But on that last day of his campaign, he finally came clean:
I believe these words came from the Pokémon movie. ?Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It?s never easy when there?s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There?s a mission just for you and me.?Laugh all you want, but the words were appropriate as the movie follows a narrative eerily similar to Cain's presidential bid:
Ash Ketchum must gather the three spheres of fire, ice and lightning in order to restore balance to the Orange Islands.Just replace fire with "9," ice with "9," and lightning with "9," and replace Orange Islands with "Cain's bank account," and the similarities are almost spooky.
But as funny as it is for a presidential pretender to be quoting bad Japanese anime in his speeches and debates might be, what's even funnier is that this was Cain's source material:
2. MITT ROMNEY DOESN'T CARE ABOUT POOR PEOPLE
Worst presidential candidate ever?
I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.Everything Mitt Romney says reinforces one of two narratives: that 1) he's a rich elitist fuck who is out of touch with the concerns with regular Americans, or that 2) he's a callous bully.
Romney managed a two-fer with that quote, reinforcing both narratives in a single sentence.
Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is planning to formally oppose the Common Core Standards, which set benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math at each grade level. Though ALEC misleadingly describes the Common Core as a ?federal intrusion? into state education, these standards were actually created and voluntarily adopted by a consortium of states to improve our failing and fragmented education system. By opposing the Common Core, ALEC is choosing to promote local control at the expense of preparing students to be college- and career-ready.
Understanding the importance of the Common Core requires acknowledging the problems with our current education system — an area where ALEC has turned a blind eye. In 2011, only 35% of eighth grade students scored at the ?proficient? level or above in math, and only a third of eighth grade students scored at the ?proficient? level or above in reading on the nation?s reading and math report card.
These low achievement levels are not always obvious because states like South Carolina currently set their own standards and assessments. This results in a patchwork education system where students could perform well on their state test but not on the nation?s reading and math assessment.
Source: New America Foundation
Now more than ever, we need a shared set of high standards so that students will be prepared for college and the workforce. States recognize the severity of the problem and almost all have now voluntarily adopted the Common Core, with some encouragement from the Obama administration and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Some states like Massachusetts even incorporated additional state standards when it adopted the Common Core in order to increase academic rigor.
Improving student achievement requires debate over truly complex and challenging issues — but deciding whether to have a shared framework for student skills is not one of them. While groups like ALEC might claim that they ?promote excellence in nation?s education system,? their opposition to the Common Core reveals that their real agenda is simply to push for local control above all else. Click here to see a list of companies that have recently stopped supporting ALEC.
Oh Lord, I see the Romney campaign hasn't gotten any better at this whole "connecting with the common folk" thing. Their first-pass response to the Romney bullying report:
I'm not sure the results are necessarily going to be to the Romney campaign's liking, although I'm sure they'll screen them as best they can. Here's fellow Cranbrook classmate Michael Barone, now at the American Enterprise Institute (because apparently this school is the training ground for children of the wealthy to become governors and/or obnoxious conservative think-tank assholes), giving a rousing endorsement of Mitt earlier this year:
"I have to say that I've always had trouble taking him seriously as a candidate because I have this memory of him as a 14 year-old boy, um, who was kind of a jerk, the way most 14 year-old boys are. Myself included."Truer words were never spoken, no doubt.
Campaign for a Fair Settlement hopes to mobilize the 11 million underwater homeowners in America as a constituency that will be heard throughout the election. Some of those underwater homeowners will be at the protest tonight.And provided that Los[...]
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There's some stiff competition, of course (cough McCain 2008 cough), but Mitt Romney's presidential campaign might just be the most incompetent in recent history.
Not only does Romney have the remarkable gift of gaffe, but his campaign seems determined to paint him in the worst light possible when it comes to marriage equality. Yesterday, after President Obama announced that he supports marriage equality, Mitt Romney refused to respond when asked about it, only to later confirm that, yes, Mitt Romney is a homophobic bigot, but at least he thinks that it's "a very tender and sensitive topic."
Apparently, the brain trust at Mittbot headquarters slept on it and decided that this "tender and sensitive topic" will be a major campaign issue. Speaking with Chuck Todd on MSNBC this morning, Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the campaign, explained how Team Mitt thinks campaigning on a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality is a swell idea:
TODD: Will you guys campaign on this, campaign on this issue of marriage?That's funny, because yesterday, Mitt Romney said that the states should be making decisions about which rights to deny to gays and lesbians. Which, of course, was a reversal of his earlier support for a constitutional amendment, made clear when he signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge last year, in which, among other things, he pledged to fight for a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.
GILLESPIE: Sure, I think it?s an important issue for people and it engenders strong feelings on both sides. I think it?s important to be respectful in how we talk about our differences. But the fact is, that?s a significant difference in November. [...]
TODD: What is it that he will ? so he will actively push for a constitutional
GILLESPIE: His view is that, given the nature of states sanctioning gay
marriage, and the full faith in credit ? clause in the Constitution that a federal marriage amendment should be enacted. But I think that the truth is, when you look at this election, Chuck, I think most people are focused on jobs and the economy and the cost of energy, and health care, the impact of the Obamacare bill ? I?m not diminishing this, it?s an important issue, but it?s not the most determinative issue that you have out there that most people are talking about.
Oh, but now, forget that "leave it to the states" thing because Romney will be running on this "important issue." As long as he doesn't actually have to talk about it.
Do authorities have a lead on one of the biggest unsolved heists of all time?
Law enforcement officials today searched the Manchester, Connecticut home of Robert Gentile, a 75-year-old alleged mobster and a man they believe has information about the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art theft, in which 13 masterpieces were stolen.
Gentile, a reputed associate of Boston capo Robert Luisi, was arrested in February for possession and sale of prescription painkillers. A subsequent search of his home by FBI agents turned up what a federal judge described as a "veritable arsenal" including pistols, a shotgun, silencers, ammunition, and brass knuckles, according to The Hartford Courant. Weapons charges were filed against Gentile last month.
In March, a federal prosecutor acknowledged the Isabella Stewart Gardner connection in court.
"The government has reason to believe that Mr. Gentile had some involvement with stolen property out of the District of Massachusetts," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said, according to the Courant.
Gentile's attorney, A. Ryan McGuigan, said his client knew nothing about the artwork.
"What is happening, Your Honor, is that the government is asking you to set a punitive bond, to keep him uncomfortable, to torture him," McGuigan said in court. "He unfortunately doesn't have the information that the government is looking for. But the government believes he does."
More than 20 law enforcement agents were back at Gentile's house on Frances Drive today, and were seen processing evidence under a canopy set up on the front lawn, the Courant reports.
"They have brought with them a ground-penetrating radar device, as well as two beagles and a ferret, to look for what they say are weapons. But we all know what they are actually looking for -- and they are looking for the paintings," McGuigan told The Boston Globe.
Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut, could neither confirm nor deny to TPM that the search was related to the stolen artwork.
The heist took place on the night of March 18, 1990, when two thieves dressed as Boston police officers entered the museum, tricked and tied up two security guards, and then made off with thirteen works of art. Among the works were Vermeer's The Concert, Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee, his only known seascape, and five drawings by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas.
Reports peg the total value of the stolen work at around or over $500 million. According to the museum, which continues to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works, the theft "remains the single largest property theft in recorded history."
The Courant reports that during the 1990s, Gentile was associated with a Boston mob crew "that at least one FBI informant has linked to the Gardner heist." People know Gentile, meanwhile, told the paper that Gentile did have knowledge about the artwork, he would have tried to trade it for the $5 million reward.
Gentile plead not guilty to the charges against him on April 23, and is being held without bail.
The Romney campaign is asking old prep school friends to speak out in his defense, say he didn't beat up gay kids, etc. [...]
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enlargeCredit: Aron MichalskiThis week The Guardian reported on a memo reviewed by American Tradition Institute Senior Fellow John Droz, Jr., who also serves on the Board of Directors of NC-20, an advocacy group dedicated to denying the science around climate change and sea level rise in North Carolina. Droz is also a registered speaker at the Heartland Institute's upcoming International Conference on Climate Change.
The purpose of the memo was to develop and outline a strategy to attack wind power as a viable energy substitute. Wind power proponents point out that there is no shortage of wind, it's easily harvested, inexpensively converted to electricity, and is a sustainable alternative to coal and other fossil fuel energy generation methods. Hence, a memo outlining a PR campaign with these goals in mind:
In order to accomplish that goal, the memo suggests "joining forces with some already established organization where there is substantial commonality and commitment." Such organizations include Heartland, CEI, Cato, Manhattan Institute, Americans for Prosperity, ALEC. In addition to the PR campaign, Droz suggests a grassroots effort to provide materials to local groups, document templates for them to file with the state utility commission, and development of negative catch phrases for wind energy. I'm certain Frank Luntz is already on that for them.
The first step, according to Droz, is to create a national organization to create some science and messages. That means finding a celebrity spokesman, coordinating with public schools, sponsoring science fairs with incentives to steer students away from wind because "it doesn't meet the criteria we set up (poster contest, essays, etc.)
Augmenting the public school effort, Droz suggests creating a dummy business to go into communities considering wind development to set up 400-foot billboards with anti-wind ads.
But he doesn't stop there. This is, after all, to be a wholehearted smear effort. Half-hearted efforts won't do. He wants a social media campaign, an exposé book, and responses like this:
...for instance when a company places a seal showing wind power was used to produce the product, we automatically assign a tax wasting symbol to the product and recommend a boycott on the website. When a company uses wind power as marketing tool, or illustration such as a toy manufacturer showing turbines on the box, we automatically contact them to tell them we will list them on the web as actively participating in disinformation by favorably showing wind turbines.
And still more:
Take zoning boards to court to rezone as industrial land to create chilling effect on signing contracts. Also sue for property value loss to small land holders, and use all legal cases to create media poster child effect. Sue states regarding RPS. Sue state utility commission who don't do their job. Etc.
At the heart of their effort will be the ever-revered junk science:
The science committee will be responsible for assembling a directorate of scientists with the proper credentials to be accepted by main stream media. Those credentials are also important in making the scientific material harder to target and more difficult to tear down by the opposition. This committee will coordinate with the directorate to develop a highly respectable collection of scientific white papers and reports that are consistent in their approach to supporting the messages chosen as most likely to succeed.
And the groups they will use as "grassroots" include:
The networking committee will be responsible for coordinating the response of networked groups with like-mind on our message. These will include the tea party, anti-tax leagues and utility rate groups as well as government watch-dog, anti-waste groups.
Finally, the lobbying strategy at the national level:
In this example, the group policy committee has identified that a particular bill providing funding for the opposition has been advanced to committee for a hearing. Policy committee has asked for a coordinated effort to stop the progress of the funding measure.
- First, the lobby committee uses their contacts to begin a campaign from the inside against the bill with phone calls and private meetings. They meet with several staffers who suggest that the bill is being supported because it has been moved as green legislation and several committee members are afraid to oppose it on that basis.
- The lobby committee reports this to media and science for further action.
- The media committee decides to use a full page advertisement in the Washington Post as a method of communicating the 'not so green truth' to congress, and at the same time coordinates a special interview and story from a scientific point of view that illustrates the dirty side of the industry.
- At this same time, the science committee holds a press conference to announce that the industry is using dishonesty and "greenwashing" as a cover for what amounts to corporate welfare. The message is also repeated in Wash Times, WSJ, Fox and other sources.
Right there you have a great blueprint for astroturf, right? Got the lobby committee, the media committee and the science committee all ready to use their outside friendly press and television sources to spread the word. As the grassroots (also astroturf) is brought into play, the echo chamber is complete and the nonsense takes hold as fact, courtesy of a well-coordinated national and local campaign. In the words of the author himself:
The coordinated effort stretches across multi-channels and multi-voices, and appears to come from as many as a dozen separate sources, but the message is the same and stays on point.
Because of course we know it doesn't really come from as many as a dozen separate sources, but only one source for one purpose: to profit oil and coal companies.
American Tradition Institute
The American Tradition Institute is a think tank established in 2009 in the tradition of all of the other right-wing think tanks, but with a particular focus on climate change denial. They claim to be funded by nothing but grassroots donations but all of their 2010 funding came from four sources, two of which are related to one another. The Institute for Southern Studies found that it had ties to the Koch brothers, Art Pope, and other conservative donors, though ATI denies any association with the Koch brothers.
ATI is the successor entity to a non-profit organization founded in Colorado called the Western Tradition Institute. According to the Institute for Southern Studies, WTI was involved in efforts to solicit unlimited contributions "to support pro-mining, pro-logging and pro-development candidates in Montana." Contributions were made and then passed along "to a sham political action committee [Coalition for Energy and the Environment] that in turn ran attack ads against Democrats."
According to the 2010 990, ATI received $40,000 from its affiliated 501(c)(4) organization, American Tradition Partnership, $5,000 from the Atlas Economic Research Institute, $5,000 from Doug Lair and $135,000 from the Lair Family Foundation.
In April, 2011, ALEC's task force on Energy, Environment and Agriculture met and revised their operating principles. One of the key changes was to eliminate language which included wind and solar energy, reverting all of the language back to fossil fuels and only fossil fuels. In August, 2011 the EEA Task Force met again and heard a presentation from Dr. Robert Bradley from the Institute for Energy Research on the "mirage of green energy" and the continued need of fossil fuels."
In May, 2012, ALEC's EEA Task Force will convene once again. As part of their agenda, they will consider model legislation entitled the "Electricity Freedom Act," which repeals state state renewable energy mandates requiring utilities to provide a certain percentage of their power via wind and solar power.
I'd say their effort is well underway, wouldn't you? Take for example, these developments reported in The Guardian article in the anti-wind power crusade:
- A new $6m election ad buy by the ultra-conservative group Americans for Prosperity attacking Barack Obama's support for wind and solar power.
- An email and telephone campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Tax Reform to repeal or alter clean energy mandates requiring electricity companies to get a share of their power from renewables.
- Putting forward Alec-drafted bills overturning those measures in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Montana and Washington state.
Droz, in the telephone interview, confirmed that he had enlisted support for telephone campaigns from Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks ? both of which have received funds from the Koch family. He also appeared at an anti-wind forum sponsored by the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina last December.
By the way, corporate members of ALEC's EEA Task Force include Koch Industries, Occidental Petroleum, British Petroleum, Exxon-Mobil, and more.
The value of this memo is that it confirms everything we've always known but haven't been able to prove about how these groups mount their astroturf campaigns. It's how they win. This particular PR campaign included a cost estimate of $750,000 for the national effort alone. Sure, take nearly a million dollars and throw it at propaganda, lobbying and astroturf groups and something is bound to stick, just by virtue of repetition.
Now that we know what it looks like, it's time to start fighting back. I'm sure they'll retool this campaign a little bit, but it's too late, because we're onto them.
It's almost as though the Red States prefer keeping their population uneducated and in their (economic) place. For all of the griping about "northeast pinko socialist liberals" or whatever other silly remarks the GOP churns out, it's hard to argue against the real world trend of economic mobility there. Red State socialists and Blue State capitalists. If you want real opportunity to...