We are finally on to the second round, where I expect far closer contests than we (mostly) had on the first round. The bracket is here. I won't do full writeups of these contestants this round. You can go back and read them if you need the broader context.
1. GOP DEBATE AUDIENCE BOOS GAY SOLDIER
Original writeup here.
2. RICK SANTORUM THINKS BARACK OBAMA IS A SNOB FOR WANTING PEOPLE TO GO TO COLLEGE
Original write up here.
The decision is between the moment we confirmed that Republicans only care about the troops when they shut up and die for the latest conservative pet war, and learning that Santorum gets his Obama information from wingnut email forwards and thinks education like his (undergraduate degree from Penn State, MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, J.D. from Dickinson) is only for snobs.
Update: "Sweet" 16? I changed the headline to better reflect the nature of this contest.
A huge majority of Colorado voters support a bill to allow same-sex civil unions. At least six Colorado House Republicans and the House Democratic caucus ? a clear majority in the chamber ? back the legislation. Three House committees have endorsed the measure. The Senate has already passed it multiple times and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has promised to sign it.
But one man stands in the way of the bill’s passage: Romney-endorser and ALEC member Speaker Frank McNulty (R). After employing filibuster tactics last week to run out the clock on the bill without letting it have a floor vote, McNulty lamented reaching “an impasse” that required him sacrificing dozens of other bills. Incredibly, he blamed Senate Democrats for not getting the bill to the House early enough in the process ? though that delay had come at the behest of a House Republican supporter. Gov. Hickenlooper called McNulty’s bluff last week, ordering a special session to give full consideration to civil unions and several other bills killed by McNulty’s parliamentary games.
McNulty announced he wanted the special session ? which began today ? to last just three days. Even though the bill has already cleared three committees, McNulty declared this afternoon that he would send civil unions to yet a fourth committee ? the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, which has no jurisdiction over the matter. McNulty chose this committee as the apparent burial ground for the bill; none of the members of the Republican majority on the committee are supporters.
Even worse, he released a statement blasting Gov. Hickenlooper’s decision to allow the House the time McNulty had earlier lamented it needed to consider civil unions and other bills.
Make no mistake about it. Gov. Hickenlooper has called this Legislature into an expensive special session for the sole purpose of dividing Coloradans. Instead of using his authority and his bully pulpit to unify Coloradans behind a pro-growth agenda of economic recovery and job creation, he is using his authority to tear Colorado apart. Again. That’s where his priority is.
What had been a regular legislative session defined by remarkable bipartisan progress turned bitter and cold when Democrats brought the work of the state House of Representatives to a grinding halt by demanding that a bill creating same sex marriage [sic] in Colorado be prioritized and forced to the front of the line. It is unfortunate it happened, but it did.
Gov. Hickenlooper’s special session will not result in one more job being created, or making gasoline any cheaper.
Unlike President Obama, Gov. Hickenlooper and their campaign operatives, Colorado families aren’t preoccupied with promoting a divisive social agenda – because they have more pressing concerns.
After obstructing civil unions and other legislature, McNulty shows considerable gall, blaming others for his obstruction, and considerable ignorance, suggesting voters do not care about expanding civil rights for all Coloradans.
The House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee meets later today ? seemingly to kill the civil unions bill. The voters of Colorado meet in November and observers expect they will likely respond by killing his one-seat GOP House majority and ending his reign as Speaker.
In their first debate, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and his Democratic competitor Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, clashed over the budget debate that is dividing Congress. Among the issues debated, Walsh and Duckworth accused each other of trying to destroy Medicare.
Duckworth correctly pointed out that approving Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget proposal would end Medicare as we know it, but Walsh insisted that passing massive tax cuts for the rich would help save Medicare, according to the Chicago Sun-Times:
Duckworth continued: ?You are on the front lines, giving money to people who don?t need it. Why are you so obsessed with ending Medicare? You call it a ?Ponzi scheme.??
?Tammy, I want to save it!? Walsh interjected. ?Every Republican and Democrat in D.C. knows it?s gone in 10 years. What do you propose to do??
?I propose to end the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to pay for it,? Duckworth said.
?Oh, Holy Cow, I would much rather be standing with a plan than with a president who has ignored Medicare,? Walsh told Duckworth. ?If you?re going to continue down this road as the president is and say, ?I?m just going to ignore Medicare,? you, my dear, are ending it as we know it. And that is so wrong.?
Ryan’s budget plan would dramatically reshape Medicare and charge seniors more: led by Ryan, House Republicans voted to cut funds to Medicare, Medicaid, and other social programs so that they could protect defense spending. The Washington Post reports that Ryan’s plan is still a difficult issue on the campaign trail as Democrats continue to attack Republicans for supporting the plan.
But even if it may be proving a difficult topic for congressional Republicans, likely GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has staked out the same budget plan as Ryan.
Earlier today, before the prisoners accepted the deal, the New York Times reported on the concessions made by Israel to the hunger-striking prisoners:
Israel had accepted three of the prisoners? main demands: to restrict the military courts? ability to extend the terms of some 300 inmates being held without charge or trial under what is known as administrative detention; to end the solitary confinement of 17 prisoners who have been kept in isolation; and to permit family visits for prisoners in the West Bank who come from Gaza.
Prisoner Khader Adnan sparked the mass protest of around 1,600 prisoners after he refused food and was released 66 days later. Last week, the Israeli HIgh Court rejected appeals from two prisoners who went even longer and are reportedly in danger of death.
The hunger strikes stoked fear in Israel because of protests in their support; prisoner deaths could inflame this movement. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour covered the hunger strikes and other non-violent pro-Palestinian activism on her CNN show last week:
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to end detentions without charges, a practice some Israeli figures have admitted is often unnecessary.
Apparently, bad ideas are contagious.
On the heels of a disastrous billboard campaign from the Heartland Institute that linked people who understand climate change with serial killers, an organization in Colorado has released its own tasteless campaign comparing President Obama and other Colorado politicians with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The billboard campaign was rolled out at 28 locations around Colorado by the conservative organization Compass Colorado.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims that the Holocaust was a myth, believes that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, and has bragged about how effective Iran is in recruiting suicide bombers who “enlighten our future.”
President Obama has said that “this country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. A strategy that?s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
According to Compass Colorado, that belief in clean energy is egregious enough to compare Obama to a dictator who promotes mass murder.
When the Heartland Institute attempted the same kind of campaign, the fallout was swift — with 11 corporations pulling support from the organization. Ahmadinejad doesn’t have the same kind of lurid cultural relevance that Ted Kaczynski or Charles Manson have in America, but the attempt at shock value is no different than Heartland’s.
And just like Heartland, Compass Colorado is patting itself on the back for such a ridiculous campaign.
Who decided this was a good idea?
The federal government delivered $410 million to California in the foreclosure fraud settlement. That money is supposed to go to homeowners, but many states have raided the funds for their own budgets. So this was an inviting target for Jerry Brown.[...]
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I've seen a fair amount of discussion about the financial wisdom of the Empire in Star Wars building the Death Star. What all the analysis seems to miss, though, is how incredibly cheap such a device would be to build for an advanced civilization. People[...]
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Rep. Paul Ryan re-introducing his path to a difficult reelection campaign for a lot of Republicans.
(Jose Luis Magaua/Reuters)Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and his kinder, gentler approach to ending Medicare as we know it is no more popular in 2012 than it was in 2011. Which is a problem for House Republicans who voted for it and are now running for reelection. Consider Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY-25) and the convolutions she had in explaining the Medicare vote she took at a town meeting.
?What?s proposed, and I say that?proposed, not the law?is that those who are 54 and younger would have a different Medicare plan,? she said. ?It would look different than it looks now. But for those who are 55 years and above, Medicare remains the same. I again go back to this ? there are no cuts for those who are on Medicare.?Her defenses, in order: 1) it's not law! We all voted for it but that doesn't mean we actually want it to be law; 2) we're not going to take Medicare away from you, just your children and grandchildren; and 3) the Senate will never pass it anyway, so this really isn't a real issue to be scared of, and you shouldn't blame me for voting to end Medicare as we know it because, even though I voted for it, it's not going to happen and isn't that a relief. Oh, and yeah, look over there! Obamacare! Scary!
Buerkle urged the mostly older voters in the audience not to fear the GOP plan, especially, she said, because the Democratic-controlled Senate will never pass it. Instead, she urged her constituents to be afraid of President Obama?s health-care law, which she called an ?imminent threat? and ?our biggest challenge,? because it would cut Medicare funding, slash money given to local hospitals and allow unelected government officials to make health-care decisions.
Compelling stuff. Nonetheless, it's what the Republicans have chosen, again, to run on for 2012. So it would be a really good time for Democrats to make a campaign pledge of no benefit cuts to Medicare, or Social Security.
"You can't be serious ... can you?"Byron York previews how Romneyland will respond to the Obama campaign's Bain attack:
How will Romney respond? The Romney campaign has given some broad hints lately. First, the campaign has carefully scrutinized Romney's entire record at Bain and believes it is a strongly positive one overall. But that is the big picture -- there are individual instances in which Bain investments failed. Given that, look for the Romney campaign and its surrogates to counterattack by focusing on an instance in which Barack Obama, in essence, took over a company and laid people off in an effort to save the larger enterprise.As crazy as that argument sounds, York may very well be right. In fact, earlier this year, it's exactly the case that Romney himself made:
That was, of course, the auto bailouts, and while Obama often cites his success in "saving" the car industry, few remember today how many (non-union) workers lost their jobs in the Obama administration's handling of the matter.
"In the general election, I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try to save the business," Romney said on CBS's "This Morning."As Greg Sargent points out, this is a really strange argument for Romney to make: His goal was profit, not job creation. That's not inherently bad; Romney was a private citizen. But it's not at all like what Obama did, which was try to save an industry that had been crippled thanks to a private sector run amok.
"We also had the occasion to do things that are tough to try to save a business," Romney said. "We started a number of businesses, invested in many others and, overall, created tens of thousands of jobs."
The biggest problem with Romney's counterattack, however, is that while everybody agrees that saving the auto industry was a good thing?hell, Romney himself is even trying to take credit for it?nobody in their right mind thinks it was good for the economy when Mitt Romney and Bain Capital made millions of dollars while putting GST Steel out of business. People don't have a problem with successful businessmen: They just don't like it when somebody like Mitt Romney makes huge profits while destroying companies.
To put it simply: The auto industry is still here, GST Steel isn't. Mitt Romney got rich from what he did, President Obama didn't. That's not a contrast that works well for Mitt Romney. And even if it weren't such a bad contrast, even if the core analogy that Romney is trying to make actually held up to scrutiny, he'd still be saying that President Obama did the right thing by saving the American auto industry. And that would raise another question: If Mitt Romney thinks President Obama is doing such a good job, why is he running the first place?
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The National Rifle Association and the assorted far-right gun nuts who make up the gun lobby, as we recently pointed out, really are creating an extremely problematic environment for any post-election America in which Barack Obama has won re-election -- because, thanks to their fact-free and irresponsibly inflammatory attacks on Obama, they've once again convinced a significant segment of the American populace that Obama is secretly plotting to take their guns and their freedoms away.
On the ground, this is playing out in predictably unhealthy ways too -- namely, as the SPLC's Hatewatch recently noted, through skyrocketing weapons and ammo sales:
A hard-hitting propaganda campaign unleashed this year by Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, may be convincing Americans that President Obama will crack down on gun ownership if he?s re-elected and becomes a lame duck.
Skyrocketing sales of guns and ammunition, along with some shortages due to stockpiling, are reported by many U.S. shops.
?People are worried about a second Obama presidency,? Simon Wallace, sales manager at Merchant Firearms in Phoenix told Hatewatch. Merchant is one of many gun shops that started seeing demand increase around the first of the year. There are shortages of all types of weapons and ammunition, Wallace said.
One sign of the current panic is the number of FBI background checks for prospective gun owners. The background checks hit an all-time high in 2011 ? about 16.5 million. In the first four months of this year, according to the FBI, there were about 6.3 million checks ? on track to shatter last year?s record.
... ?There?s a lot of free-floating fear,? Molchan said in an interview with Hatewatch. ?At one end of the spectrum, you have the survivalists and the stockpiling.?
?It?s definitely the election year," Jason Hanson, a former CIA officer and personal security specialist, told FoxNews.com. "People feel that Obama will serve second term and with it their gun rights with taken away, so they are stocking up.
?They?re also worried that the economy is not getting any better and that they need to protect themselves,? Hanson added.
What's also striking is the lengths to which these Obama haters will go to rationalize their obvious paranoia, built on the comical argument that the very fact that Obama hasn't done anything even remotely gun-related in his first term is certain proof that he's secretly conspiring to lower the boom on unsuspecting Americans in a second term, as in this ABC News report:
"He's never been pro-gun," says Cris Parsons of President Obama. Parsons, 31, owns a Texas gun purveyor called the Houston Armory. So far, Parsons insists, Obama has been "pretty coy" about his antipathy toward guns--and he likely will remain so during the campaign. To do otherwise would "upset a lot of people."
But if Obama wins a second term, he'll have "nothing to lose," says Parsons.
Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws, including "Gun Laws of America," says gun owners are worried that the president, as a lame duck, will clamp down as never before on gun ownership.
Parsons says about 40 percent of Armory customers cite this fear as their reason for stocking up on guns and ammo now, before the election.
The soaring guns-sale figures are being bolstered by the gun lobby's remarkable success in passing a succession of laws in a variety of states loosening the ability to obtain to a concealed-carry permit, so now a buttload of people are loading up on weapons:
Conceal-carry permits are now allowed in 49 states (Illinois and Washington D.C. do not have conceal-carry laws), and ?Stand Your Ground? laws are on the books in 21 states. In Florida, police have cited the state?s seven-year-old ?Stand your Ground? law in deciding not to charge George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, last month. The law says citizens do not have to retreat before using deadly force against attackers. The Justice Department and FBI now are investigating the killing, and a state grand jury is being convened.
However, the real driver has been the Rabid Right's unceasing demonization of Obama. As a result, the gun nuts at Ammo.Netnow gloatingly call him "the Greatest Gun Salesman in America". Chiming in with his own brand of hearty agreement is that voice of moderation, Ted Nugent:
President Obama is single handedly responsible for the ongoing record setting avalanche of gun and ammunition sales all across America. This is because rank and file Americans do not trust the president and his clear and present anti-gun team.
Nugent concludes that he can predict Obama's lame-duck agenda because he, like all Democrats, just hates America:
The bottom line is simply this: Americans know that most Democrats despise guns almost as much as they despise wealthy people, success, small government, low taxes, and lunches made by moms for their school-age kids.
Did we happen to mention that these people are insane? Maybe we should mention it again.
Like Ted, I happen to be an experienced gun owner. Unlike Ted, guns are not a stand-in for my penis. My sexual identity is not bound up with my shotgun. The way I was raised in a gun-owning family was that guns are tools to be used at the appropriate times, not toys to be played with. I don't think Ted and his NRA buddies got that memo.
More to the point, I think we all dread the day that guys like Nugent and the rapidly growing nutty conspiracy contingent of the American Right obtain more and more weapons and ammo and then decide they need to use it. Anyone experienced with guns knows that not only do they possess the ultimate power -- the power to end another person's life -- but also guns invite you to wield that power, if only as a means of intimidation. In the hands of wise and thoughtful people, that is not a problem.
But these are anything but wise or thoughtful people.
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