Mitt Romney must be pissed off that the Obama campaign doesn't give him any credit at all in their latest ads, a pair of 30-second spots airing in five states touting the president's leadership in the recovery of the American auto industry. In one ad set to air on Friday, Ohio auto parts factory worker Brian Slagle credits President Obama for putting him back to work after he was laid off in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Americans are too fat, experts say. The debate on gay marriage suggests we may be growing fat-headed as well.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics predict 42 percent of the population will be obese by 2030, with 11 percent severely obese, at health care costs of $550 billion.
How do we set the price of moral obesity, as reflected in the uproar over the President?s conversion into a supporter of gay marriage?
Just as we have been stuffing our bodies with too much poor nourishment and exercising them too little, are we doing the same with our minds and hearts?
In this election year, opinions are as ubiquitous as fast food and most are just as nourishing. Political debate swerves from contraception to the sanctity of marriage in an eyeblink, although neither subject is on the legislative agenda after a meaningless North Carolina vote Tuesday.
Yet, a New York Times editorial asserts that the President ?took the moral high ground on what may be the great civil rights struggle of our time? while otherpundits calculate both the timing and political impact of his coming out on the issue.
Where is all this litmus-testing on issues great and small taking America? What was wrong with the Presidents previous ?Yes, but? position on gay marriage? What?s next on the agenda for splitting us into ?for? and ?against? factions?
Human beings have doubts, ambivalence, uncertainties, zigzags, and, yes, prejudices on many questions. That?s what makes them human.
In his ?evolving? on gay marriage, Barack Obama was being human but, in today?s political climate, that apparently is not enough. As someone who shares his previous position and is not ready to embrace his new one, I find this kind of all-or-nothing imperative saddening.
I would vote for him in November against robotic Mitt Romney for many reasons, but it would be heartening to see the President less susceptible to being pushed into the political twilight zone in which his adversary lives.
In the long run, moral obesity is as big a threat to the body politic as diabetes is to individual Americans. A diet of more straight talk and less calculation is indicated.
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Three weeks ago, The L.A. Complex debuted on the CW to the lowest ratings for a broadcast drama, ever. It’s too bad, because this spiky little Canadian show about a group of actors, comics, producers and dancers who live in the same run-down Los Angeles apartment complex is great fun, an improvement both on standard aspiring-starlet stories like Smash, and on theoretically sophisticated takes on modern romance.
Smash‘s biggest problem all season has been that the competition between Ivy and Karen hasn’t felt realistically heated. With Ivy’s experience and her resemblance to Marilyn, it seems obvious that she’d be cast in the lead and Karen was the understudy. The show’s had to spend a lot of time giving Karen chances to sing and showing audiences reacting to her like she’s the Best Thing Ever and giving Ivy the silliest drug problem on television since Saved By The Bell to gin up any sort of drama.
The L.A. Complex, on the other hand, has conflicts that are actually rooted in Hollywood double standards. Abby Vargas, a young aspiring actress who’s been living in her car and making a lot of other bad life decisions, ends up competing with Raquel Westbrook, an older actress on the downswing played with a beautiful bitterness by Jewel Staite. When Abby beats out Raquel for a part, it turns out to be not much of a prize at all: her big break turns out to be playing a dead hooker on a crime show where her lines and her pay cut get cut correspondingly. The fights are so big because the stakes are so small, as when Nick Wagner, an aspiring stand-up comic whose material is flopping finally gets applause by viciously insulting a more successful female comic with whom he had an embarrassing one-night stand.
The relationships have the same kind of heft that Smash, which has recycled through tired affairs, starlets sleeping with directors, and the standard idiot pop-culture move of someone proposing after cheating, lacks. Sure, when Abby sleeps with Connor, the most successful actor of the bunch who’s beginning to shoot his new pilot, we’re not surprised when she catches him sleeping with someone else. But L.A. Complex, rather than making the arc solely about her naivete and vulnerability, has focused on Connor’s self-hatred and destructive tendencies. Other than Rescue Me, there’s not another show that’s dared to depict a male character self-harming, a practice typically reserved in pop culture to signify female teenaged angst (Jess’s cutting joke on the season finale of New Girl was an uncomfortably off moment, I thought).
The show’s subverted our expectations in other ways, too. When Alicia, a talented young dancer, clicks with a former child star who covers for her at her job at a strip club so she can make auditions, we expect to see them date. In a subsequent episode, he sets up for what seems like it might be an entirely-too-soon proposal. Instead, he asks her to make a sex tape with him to jump-start both their careers. And once they’re shooting, he’s shy, and awkward, obsessed with lighting and unable to actually get started. It’s Alicia who takes the lead in a moment that’s neither do-me feminism nor slut shaming: this is the best of the bad options, and she’s making the most of it.
And perhaps the best part of L.A. Complex has been that it’s put a gay couple with actual sexual chemistry on television. Brian Stelter wrote at the New York Times yesterday that pop culture appears to have accepted gay couples completely. But the truth is that’s more narrow that it seems: television loves married, settled gay couples, but it doesn’t actually treat gay people like straight people, giving them heated romances, sex scenes, and love interests with whom they have actual sexual chemistry. On Modern Family, established couple Mitch and Cam have essentially no physical sparks whatsoever?the show even had an episode that attempted to explain that the couple isn’t fond of public displays of affection as a way to explain away their lack of heat. I love Happy Endings, which gave schlumphy Max a hot love interest in the form of James Wolk, but the show still stopped far short of their bedroom door. Even Game of Thrones, which gave its gay king and loyal knight and lover hot makeouts wouldn’t go where it’s gone with almost everyone else on the show, and let them have on-screen sex.
But on The L.A. Complex, gay men get treated like everyone else. When Tariq Muhammad, an up-and-coming hip-hop producer gets assigned to work with superstar rapper Kaldrick King, the older man spends a day testing Tariq as they meander through Los Angeles. And at the end of that day, Kaldrick makes a veiled invitation to Tariq. The staredown between them before they kiss and fall into bed is one of the more sexually charged moments to appear on television this season. As commercial as it is, that moment does something that almost no pop culture does: treats gay people as if watching them fall in love and have sex is as interesting and as natural as seeing them as sexless, domesticated marrieds.
The number of Americans working has dropped by 4.4 million since the beginning of the Great Recession, but the number of older Americans in the workforce rose more than 25 percent over the same time period, the New York Times reports. There are now a record 7.2 million Americans age 65 and over in the workforce, double the number 15 years ago. The increase has been driven, at least in part, by a need for income after 401(k)’s were decimated by the financial crisis, an increase in the Social Security retirement age, and the decrease in the number of workers who retire with pension benefits.
Last year?s string of heartbreaking suicides by young members of the LGBT community who had been bullied by their classmates led hundreds of celebrities, sports teams, politicians and ordinary citizens to record ?It Gets Better? videos. Even President Obama recorded one.
One politician who has not: Mitt Romney. And one of the reasons Romney has been silent on the issue of bullying may be because he has apparently engaged in anti-gay bullying himself.
The Washington Post is out with a front-page story looking back on Mitt Romney?s days at a prestigious preparatory school in Michigan, and the opening anecdote details a dark moment during Romney?s high school career:
John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn?t having it.
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school?s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber?s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
Jason Horowitz spoke with five students who attended Cranbrook School at the same time as Romney, and all of them independently recalled the same story. Mitt Romney was asked about the Post’s story during a live radio broadcast with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, apologizing before explaining that he didn’t remember many of the details of what took place: ?Back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that…I don?t remember that incident,? Romney said, laughing. ?I certainly don?t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.?
It seems odd that Romney would not recall such a bizarre event, especially since so many other students who were asked about it painted clear pictures of what transpired, but perhaps such “hijinks and pranks” were so frequent he has simply lost track of them all.
The article never discloses whether the victim John Lauber was actually gay, but a separate incident, in which Romney ridiculed a closeted gay classmate by sarcastically praising him with ?atta girl!? comments, paints a troubling picture for the Republican Party?s presumptive presidential nominee. To date, Romney has not stepped forward to support any bills that seek to protect LGBT students from the kind of bullying that Romney himself participated in while in high school.
But the presumptive Republican nominee has made it clear where he stands on LGBT rights today, 50 years after the incident. Just this week he again affirmed his position that gay couples should not receive equal recognition under the law as straight couples do.
This all stands in stark contrast with President Obama, who less than 24 hours ago became the first sitting occupant of the Oval Office to endorse same sex marriage.
Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner reports that Richard Mourdock, who recently defeated Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) in a Republican primary, named Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) as the person he would like to “mentor” him if he is elected to the Senate. Lee believes that national child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution.
More domestic drilling does not make America less susceptible to global supply disruptions or protect consumers from gasoline price volatility, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO report reviewed different policies intended to make the country more energy secure, concluding that the only effective tool for shielding businesses and consumers from price spikes is to use less oil.
Because oil is sold on the global market, CBO concludes that increasing domestic oil production would do little to influence rising gas prices in the U.S.
These findings back up historical experience. According to an analysis of 36 years of gasoline prices and domestic oil production conducted by the Associated Press, there is zero statistical correlation between increased drilling and lower prices at the gas pump.
The CBO report creates a dilemma for drilling proponents. Even if increased drilling did substantially lower gas prices — which it has not – the agency says those lower prices would actually make the country less secure from price shocks:
Policies that promoted greater production of oil in the United States would probably not protect U.S. consumers from sudden worldwide increases in oil prices stemming from supply disruptions elsewhere in the world, even if increased production lowered the world price of oil on an ongoing basis. In fact, such lower prices would encourage greater use of oil, thus making consumers more vulnerable to increases in oil prices. Even if the United States increased production and became a net exporter of oil, U.S. consumers would still be exposed to gasoline prices that rose and fell in response to disruptions around the world.
In contrast, policies that reduced the use of oil and its products would create an incentive for consumers to use less oil or make decisions that reduced their exposure to higher oil prices in the future, such as purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles or living closer to work. Such policies would impose costs on vehicle users (in the case of fuel taxes or fuel-efficiency requirements) or taxpayers (in the case of subsidies for alternative fuels or for new vehicle technologies). But the resulting decisions would make consumers less vulnerable to increases in oil prices.
The solution is clear: the only way to make America more energy secure is to use less energy.
Even Mitt Romney understood this in 2007 when he admitted that “these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay” and advocated 50-mpg fuel efficiency standards, public transportation, electric vehicles, and renewable alternatives.
However, today, Romney champions opening up virtually every possible area of the U.S. to oil drilling — disingenuously claiming it will make consumers more secure.
“The best thing we can do to get the price of gas to be more moderate and not have to be dependent upon the cartel is: drill in the gulf, drill in the outer continent shelf, drill in ANWR, drill in North Dakota, South Dakota, drill in Oklahoma and Texas,” Romney said at a recent campaign stop.
Even as the analysis piles up showing that increased domestic drilling is not an effective solution to high gas prices or energy security, political leaders continue to repeat these false claims.
We need creative, proven ideas to help us make America more efficient and less dependent on oil — not a hollow Drill-Baby-Drill mantra that does nothing to address the problem.
Celebrating a Socialist Victory over plutocratic austerity in the place where the 99 percents of the 18th century released political prisoners, singing an anthem that gloats over the execution of aristocrats - what more could you ask?
Place de la Bastille, May 6, 2012. Crowd singing the French National Anthem as François Hollande prepares to take the stage.
As noted a couple of months ago in Mitt Romney's proposal for Pentagon spending is a ridiculous joke, the all-but-crowned GOP presidential nominee has for years proposed that the Pentagon get a budget amounting to 4 percent of GDP. Last October, he spoke at the Citadel and added some specifics. CNN has finally gotten around to pointing out that the Romney plan would pile an additional $2.1 trillion onto Pentagon spending over the next decade if the extra percentage of GDP were added gradually. If his plan were in place right now, it would add $100 billion to the 2013 budget, a boost of 20 percent to core Pentagon spending, and $2.3 trillion over 10 years.
Coincidentally, that's just about how much an innovative new survey released Thursday found that Americans said they would like to see cut from the budget, 20 percent.
The survey was conducted by The Center for Public Integrity. R. Jeffrey Smith is CPI's managing editor for national security:
According to the survey, in which respondents were told about the size of the budget as well as shown expert arguments for and against spending cuts, two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats supported making immediate cuts ? a position at odds with the leaderships of both political parties.While Romney's views, and those of House Republicans, are far out of sync with these results, the respondents also didn't agree with President Barack Obama's approach of maintaining something fairly close to the current level by reducing the growth in inflation-adjusted Pentagon spending over the next 10 years. His proposed spending for 2013 cuts just $7 billion from the core Pentagon budget, less than 2 percent. The survey found that about three-fourths of respondents wanted immediate cuts in spending. And even more, 85 percent, wanted deep and immediate cuts in spending for continuing U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
The average total cut was around $103 billion, a substantial portion of the current $562 billion base defense budget, while the majority supported cutting it at least $83 billion. These amounts both exceed a threatened cut of $55 billion at the end of this year under so-called ?sequestration? legislation passed in 2011, which Pentagon officials and lawmakers alike have claimed would be devastating.
?When Americans look at the amount of defense spending compared to spending on other programs, they see defense as the one that should take a substantial hit to reduce the deficit,? said Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), and the lead developer of the survey. ?Clearly the polarization that you are seeing on the floor of the Congress is not reflective of the American people.?
While Republican respondents in the survey indicated they want smaller cuts than Democrats, they still want deep reductions in Pentagon spending.
Made clear by the survey, which ought to be no surprise: People react differently depending on how the information is presented. But one thing stood out no matter how various issues were approached:
By far the most durable finding?even after hearing strong arguments to the contrary?was that existing spending levels are simply too high. Respondents were asked twice, in highly different ways, to say what they thought the budget should be, and a majority supported roughly the same answer each time: a cut of at least 11 to 13 percent (they cut on average 18 to 22 percent).To politicians trembling at the thought of being painted as weak on defense because they seek a reasonable budget for the Pentagon, these results ought to provide some campaign ammunition at odds with what they usually are saddled with.
Mitt Romney and other conservatives, including former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who has supported the idea of "4% for Freedom," and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who wants to keep Pentagon spending cuts to a minimum, are far out of step with the public in this matter.
Come 2013, when Barack Obama settles in for his second term, he should do some evolving on how much the United States really needs to spend on defense compared with what the military-industrial-congressional complex keeps telling us that we should, that we must, spend. The CPI study provides evidence that he would be far from alone if he chooses to give the MICC a substantial haircut.
In the upcoming Texas Democratic primary, I’m voting for Lissa Squiers in the 7th Congressional district. (Above is a photo of Ms. Squiers noting something that I’m certain was important.) The incumbent in this race is Republican right-wing extremist John Culberson. Ms. Squiers is an energetic and progressive local Democratic leader who will work hard [...]
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