Last month, amid escalating violence over the burning of Qurans on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich said it was time for the United States military to end its mission there. ?We are not going to fix Afghanistan. It is not possible,? he said.
The former House Speaker reiterated that sentiment after news broke this weekend that an American soldier had allegedly murdered 16 civilians in Afghanistan, including 9 children. And this morning on NBC, fellow GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum indicated that he’s leaning toward Gingrich’s view. “Given all of these additional problems,” he said, “we have to either make the decision to make a full commitment…or we have to decide to get out and probably get out sooner given the president’s decision to get out in 2014.”
But Afghan war weariness isn’t just limited to the campaign trail. Today on Frank Gaffney’s radio show, House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) — who last year called for a counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan — said the recent violence provides an opportunity for the U.S. to start “reducing the number” of troops there:
HUNTER: I think we’re getting into an untenable situation. I think we’re at the point — I don’t want to — ya know you look back at these things through history, through a matter of years and they’ll look different than they look right now with us being here.
But I will say this, if there is a time to possibly think about accelerating turning this into a counterterrorism mission, i’m not talking about leaving Afghanistan, but really reducing the number so that what we’re doing is killing the bad guys, this might be a time to look at that because…what you can’t do is be scared that the Afghan counterpart that you’re training, the Afghan major, is going to shoot you in the back the next time you turn around. That makes a counterinsurgency mission, with the number one goal of training the Afghans, our Afghan counterparts, the Afghan Army, if we can’t trust them to not shoot us in the back, that makes it pretty hard to train them.
Listen to the clip:
While Afghans also called on the U.S. to accelerate its withdrawal, the Obama administration said the massacre would not alter U.S. war plans.
A new Washington Post poll found public support for the war, even among Republicans, to be at at all time lows.
Our guest blogger is Sarah Bufkin, a former ThinkProgress intern.
Ignoring the vocal opposition of activists and labor organizers, the state senate passed an anti-protest, anti-union bill on March 7. If passed into law, the proposed measure would both make it more difficult for unions to collect dues and set exorbitant fines against many union protests against anti-worker businesses: up to $1,000 per day for those individuals charged with illegal picketing and up to $10,000 to those organizations involved with the illegal protesting.
Senate Bill 469?which GOP senators pushed onto the House?s agenda with a 34-18 vote?is sponsored by four senators who are also members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate front group that pushes “model” legislation to state lawmakers intended to push a right-wing agenda in the states. Although it’s not clear whether SB 469 is such a bill, there are reasons to fear that similar bills could make their way to other states through ALEC’s network of corporate-friendly lawmakers.
The four ALEC members behind SB 469 include Sen. Bill Cowsert (R), who works with ALEC?s Criminal Justice Task Force, and Sen. Bill Hamrick (R), who received campaign contributions from the ALEC during the 2010 election cycle even though he ran unopposed. Significantly, there are also striking similarities between sections of SB 469 and ALEC?s model Right to Work Act:
Although such a requirement may not seem particularly important, it moves more of the onus of dues collecting onto labor unions, thereby diverting more of their resources and time from pushing for greater benefits for their members.
Furthermore, the GA bill includes a section that threatens to charge protestors not only with criminal trespassing but also with conspiracy to commit criminal trespass?a highly irregular revision of the law that would label the conspiracy charge as a ?misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature? and bring harsher legal penalties for those convicted.
The addition of the conspiracy to commit criminal trespass charge follows only eight days after 12 Occupy Atlanta supporters were arrested for criminal trespass after protesting outside AT&T?s Atlanta offices. Given that AT&T is currently one of the 23 corporations serving on ALEC?s Board of Directors, some speculate the timing is no coincidence.
But regardless of where the bill originated, the proposed legislation poses a grave threat to any activists looking to change the status quo through civil disobedience. As Martin Luther King III told a crowd at a March 1 rally, the fines and penalties proposed in SB 469 would have stymied the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We can only hope that the Georgia House of Representatives will listen to its constituents instead of its corporate backers when deliberating this piece of legislation in the weeks to come.
By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
It?s an election year, so a hardy perennial is sprouting again in western legislatures: the idea that states can, and should, take over millions of acres of federally managed land. As always, these proposals are unconstitutional and doomed to failure, but not before state politicians harvest a bumper crop of right wing outrage to feed their campaigns? rhetorical war chests.
In Arizona, the state Senate last week overwhelmingly approved a bill that somehow requires the U.S. to extinguish all title to public lands in the state and transfer title to Arizona.
In Utah, a couple of days before Arizona made itself look foolish, the state legislature adopted a similar measure and set up a process for suing if the U.S. doesn?t capitulate by the end of 2014 to its demand for control of about 30 million acres owned by all Americans and managed on their behalf by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.†The legislation excludes national parks, designated wilderness areas and most national monuments.
In a state where education is chronically underfunded, the legislature has also authorized the attorney general to spend $3 million on the legal battle, a fight the legislature’s own attorney has said will likely fail. The legislation also flies in the face of public opinion in a region where 9 out of 10 respondents to a recent poll say that public lands are a key economic driver and are important to their quality of life.
John Leshy, a noted legal scholar on federal lands law who served as Interior Department solicitor during the Clinton administration, neatly summed up expert opinion on the phony issue:
Legally, it?s a ridiculous claim. It would be thrown out in federal court in five seconds. This is all about cranky, symbolic politics.?
The simple facts of the matter are that Utah relinquished any claim to those federal lands when it became a state, and under the Constitution only Congress can authorize their disposal.
The Salt Lake Tribune, an outpost of sanity in a state that seems increasingly taken over by the zany right, called the entire exercise an “embarrassing snipe hunt”:
Chance of success: Absolutely zero.†Chance of motivating the far-right base of the Republican Party, the part that actually votes in the upcoming precinct caucuses and county and state conventions: Appallingly high.
Ever since the Sagebrush Rebellion of a generation ago, right wing politicians in the thrall of mining, energy, timber and livestock interests have kept alive the fantasy of a mass takeover of federal western lands.† Not surprisingly, these delusions flourish in election years.
Republicans running for their party?s presidential nomination, including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, have been pandering to backers of this hopeless and wrongheaded cause. Romney said in Nevada he doesn?t know what the purpose is of federal land. Santorum said in Idaho the public estate should be sold to the private sector or taken over by the states. Paul in Nevada said he flat out opposes federal land ownership.
Timothy Egan, an elegant and perceptive chronicler of western life and history, shined a bright light of reason on those nutty ideas. In a New York Times piece last week he reminded the GOP that it was one of their own, Theodore Roosevelt, who saved so much of the public estate for future generations who, unlike the current crop of candidates, revere those landscapes.
The rest of us need our public land. The West is defined by new, fast-growing cities surrounded by the mountains, mesas, forests, sandstone spires and various shared settings. There is no other place in the world where urban and wild coexist over such a huge area. If you are poor, you can feel rich just minutes from the city, in your estate that is a national forest. If you ski in the high Sierra, or raft a runaway river in Utah, you are most likely doing it on land whose only deed of title is held by all citizens.
State Rep. Terry England was speaking in favor of HR 954, which makes it illegal to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks even if the woman is known to be carrying a stillborn fetus or the baby is otherwise not expected to live to term.
He then recalled his time working on a farm:
?Life gives us many experiences?I?ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive. It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.?
Suggesting that if a cow or pig can give birth to a dead baby, then a woman should too was not enough for Rep. England though. He then delivered an anecdote to the chamber in which a young man who was apparently opposed to legislation outlawing chicken fighting said he would give up all of his chickens if the legislature simply took away women?s right to an abortion.
Watch the unreal remarks, courtesy of amateur videographer Bryan Long:
Twenty-seven members of Congress have signed onto a Change.org petition asking the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to lower the “R” rating it gave to the anti-bullying documentary Bully. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) took the lead recruiting members of Congress to join the nearly 300,000 already petitioning to have the rating changed with a letter to former Senator Chris Dodd, who is now CEO of the MPAA:
Over 13 million American youths will be bullied over the course of this year alone, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in our nation. We cannot hope to control this epidemic and make our neighborhoods safer for our youth without discussing tough issues publicly and bringing them to the forefront of the consciousness of the American public.
The new documentary film Bully… offers an unprecedented look into the lives of youth being bullied and harassed…. I believe an R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is most important, and ask you to join us in calling upon the MPAA to reconsider their rating and allow access to those who need to see this film most ? today?s youth and our future leaders.
The growing list of cosigners includes: Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jesse Jackson (D-IL), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), John Garamendi (D-CA), Joe Baca (D-CA), John Olver (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) Josť E. Serrano (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Betsy McCollum (D-MN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jim Moran (D-CA), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and Dels. Gregorio Sablan (D-MP) and Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU).
The film received a “PG” rating in Canada, which means that people of all ages will be free to see it there. Katy Butler, the high school student who started the petition, explained on MSNBC today the importance of making sure young people can see and discuss the film, saying, “no one goes into schools and edits out the language that kids hear.”
That Mitt Romney has a massive war chest is obvious at this point, but on occasion, it still comes as a surprise to see how much he outspends his opponents. This chart from Buzzfeed shows the extent to which Romney has buried his competitors:
This is one reason I?ve always been reluctant to predict success for any of Romney?s competitors in the Republican primary. The ability to spend this much money is a huge advantage, and while it doesn?t guarantee victory, the only challenge could come from someone with deep pockets, deep party support, a superior organization, or both. As it stands, Mitt Romney has been the only candidate to fit either bill, which is why it?s always been safe to bet on his eventual victory.
A company spokesperson told Greg Sargent:
This is a routine communication that notifies our affiliates? traffic managers of advertisers that prefer not to be in ANY potentially controversial programs. It is prepared and disseminated on a quarterly basis.So it might be routine for a huge group of companies to decide en masse that they don't want to have controversial associations. Premiere also distributes Glenn Beck, Hannity, Michael Savage and other programs, all of which have certainly generated plenty of controversy in their time. So it stretches the limits of imagination to think that this is a routine request by advertisers. Sargent attempted to get clarification from the Premiere spokesperson on how this normally works, but hasn't received a response.
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So over the weekend, Ron Paul won his first contest, Rick Santorum gained momentum by blowing out Mitt Romney in Kansas, and yet Mitt Romney won as many delegates as Rick Santorum by winning in Wyoming along with Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But actually Ron Paul didn't win, Rick Santorum didn't get momentum, and Mitt Romney didn't get as many delegates.
First, the story of Ron Paul's "win": He narrowly edged out Mitt Romney in U.S. Virgin Islands, taking 30 percent to Romney's 26, but only took 1 of the territory's delegates to Romney's 7. Given that nobody really cares about the popular vote in the U.S. Virgin Islands, delegates are the only thing that matters. And Mitt Romney cleaned Ron Paul's clock, much to the Paul campaign's dismay.
Second, Rick Santorum blew Mitt Romney out in Kansas, getting more than 50 percent of the caucus vote and taking 33 delegates to Romney's 7. As a delegate victory, that was a pretty big deal, but despite some spin that Santorum would get momentum (for example "Rick Santorum won the Kansas Republican caucuses Saturday, giving him momentum as he and his GOP rivals sprint towards Tuesday?s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi"), it turns out nobody was paying any attention. It was a blowout that nobody cared about because it happened on a Saturday afternoon.
Third, while it's true that Mitt Romney sealed his victory in Wyoming over the weekend, it's also true that the delegate count had already been included in his totals. So while his campaign claimed that it had won more delegates over the weekend than Santorum, that was not in fact true.
Bottom-line, here's the weekend recap of delegates gained:
Even though Santorum did edge out Romney in total delegates, results like these put the lie to Santorum's claim that he'll be able to outmaneuver Romney when it comes to securing delegates. Santorum can definitely drag the nomination out, and he can force Romney to make a deal in order to get a majority of delegates, but the only remote possibility Santorum has to actually win the nomination is to consistently get more votes than Romney in state after state. And that's going to be very hard to do as long as Newt Gingrich is still in the race, and if Gingrich wins in either Mississippi (37 delegates) or Alabama (47 delegates) tomorrow, it seems hard to imagine him pulling out anytime soon.