The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins sought to connect the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Columbia to President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell during an interview with Janet Mefferd on Monday. Perkins suggested that since Obama is ?enforcing open homosexuality in our military,? he should not have been ?upset? by his agents relying on prostitutes. “Morality is not a smorgasbord; you can?t pick what you want,” he said. “I think you?re absolutely right, this is a fundamental issue going forward because if we say ?let them do what we want,? what?s next? You cannot maintain moral order if you are willing to allow a few things to slide.”
A new study is claiming that an expensive, high-tech treatment for prostate cancer is no more effective than other options. The study examined treatment records for men who received proton beam radiation treatment compared to other therapies. The results indicated that the treatment was no more effective at stopping the cancer than the other methods examined, but did leave men at a higher risk for stomach-related side effects. One round of proton beam radiation can cost insurers $100,000, while the more-commonly used intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) costs about half that amount. According to researchers, those technologies have driven up the cost of treating prostate cancer by hundreds of millions of dollars. ThinkProgress reported in January that the Mayo Clinic had spend $360 million to build two proton beam facilities but did not cite any medical evidence to support the procedure’s effectiveness. Earlier this month, nine medical boards recommended that certain tests be used less often in an effort to rein in medical spending.
Today is Tax Day, the day on which federal and state income tax filings are due for all Americans. The complexity of the tax code makes filing taxes a headache for most individuals, who have to root through the various deductions and credits they may be eligible for.
The government spends $1.3 trillion on various tax expenditures each year, enough to fill the entire deficit in President Obama’s latest budget proposal. And while some of the popular tax credits have real benefits for low- and middle-income Americans, the vast majority of the breaks go to the wealthy. In all, tax expenditures provide an extra quarter-million dollars a year for individuals in the top 1 percent of income-earners, according to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers:
Even as many areas of government spending have been cut to the bone, our tax code remains larded up with expenditures that cost taxpayers $1.3 trillion every year. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the biggest tax expenditures apply to employer-provided health insurance, pension contributions and mortgages.
Popular as such tax breaks may be, they differ from typical government spending in that they give bigger subsidies to wealthier families. [...] Taken together, individual income tax expenditures are the equivalent of sending $686 each year to those in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, $3,175 to those in the middle fifth, and $30,714 to those in the upper fifth. The average member of the top 1 percent gets nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year — a statistic that might have proved useful for the folks protesting in Zuccotti Park.
President Obama and Senate Democrats proposed the Buffett Rule, a minimum tax on millionaires, and fought to close other tax breaks that benefit the wealthiest Americans. Meanwhile, the budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and passed by House Republicans would supposedly pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthy by ending unspecified tax expenditures, but the GOP won’t explain which breaks they have in mind.
The GOP spent the last year making the case that the nation’s tax code unfairly benefits the low- and middle-income Americans, pushing the myth that half of Americans don’t pay any taxes. But as Stevens and Wolfers note, the fact that tax expenditures disproportionately benefit the top 1 percent makes it easy to “come to the mistaken conclusion that our tax code is more progressive than it actually is.”
Yesterday, the Columbia University-based Pulitzer Prize board announced that four Associated Press journalists won the investigative reporting award “for their spotlighting of the New York Police Department?s clandestine spying program that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, resulting in congressional calls for a federal investigation, and a debate over the proper role of domestic intelligence gathering.”
The right-wing New York Post is none too pleased about the AP’s “Pulitzer for its year-long, non-stop hit-job on the NYPD?s counterterrorism efforts,” seizing on the Pulitzer board’s recognition of a public debate on when the government gets to spy on its own citizens:
Debate? There?s none on the streets of this city, where a recent Quinnipiac poll shows 58 percent of New Yorkers reject the AP?s smear that the NYPD ?has unfairly targeted Muslims,? and where fully 82 percent ? including majorities of every demographic group ? say the department ?has been effective in combating terrorism.?
The poll the Post cites did not ask respondents about the program to monitor Muslim communities solely for being Muslim (or in some cases, solely for belonging to certain Muslim sects), but the stats are by-and-large accurate: Many New Yorkers do support the NYPD’s counterterror efforts. Nonetheless, it would be nice to know what New Yorkers think about domestic spying on their neighbors solely because of their religion.
There are, however, at least some New Yorkers who object to the surveillance: some of the leaders of those communities that were targeted. Local television covered organized boycotts of interfaith meetings with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office:
Muslims, however, are not a monolith, and some Muslims did support NYPD efforts. One was Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim whose organization is dedicated to combatting extremism. But Jasser comes with his own baggage: He sits on the board of the Clarion Fund and has yet to disavow his ties to the Islamophobic organization.
The Post writes that the AP stories “never even cited a single thing the cops did that is illegal, or even ill-advised.” Finding out illegal activities needn’t be the threshold for great reporting (Does the New York Post limit itself to covering alleged crimes?). And the AP’s stories certainly have uncovered some “ill-advised” surveillance techniques that are troubling regional leaders. New Jersey Governor Chis Christie criticized the NYPD for “arrogance or paranoia” in its failure to coordinate its efforts and the top FBI official in Newark said the NYPD program is “starting to have a negative impact” because Muslim sources are pulling back their cooperation. (HT: Adam Serwer)
Normally I wouldn’t do this, but Cabin in the Woods relies so much on the element of surprise, that you should not read this post if you haven’t seen it and care about being spoiled on it.
As I wrote after seeing the movie at SXSW, Cabin in the Woods, I wrote that the movie is a fantastic extension of Joss Whedon’s long-running interests in the bureaucracy of evil and the beauty of the monstrous. The work that Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are given to do as the control room operators of the Apocalypse, the torture pornographers who happen to be humanity’s saviors, is just a delightful, funny, sensitive use of both men. And the gorgeousness of Whedon and Goddard’s monsters is something to behold?I found myself unexpectedly moved by the man with the gears embedded in his skull and the ballerina dentata that Dana and Marty encounter in the elevator.
But I was disappointed by one element of the movie, which felt to me like a bit of a regression from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the treatment of Jules, the blonde sexpot who is the first of the characters to get killed by the murderous hillbillies the friends unwittingly unleashed in the basement. Whedon told Vulture that he sees Jules’ character as an attempt to answer some of the same questions as Buffy was:
Cabin isn’t overtly a feminist work necessarily, but it is built on the same question that built Buffy the Vampire Slayer: If you have a blonde who is perfectly nice and funny, why are you intent on her coming to a bad end? What is the purpose of the final girl, as she’s called? All these people, all the characters behave a certain way, and there is a progression of what they have to do, to allow themselves to be written off as sex fiends or druggies or bullies or complete idiots in the face of true danger, and you just don’t get in the way of that. It’s about being stereotypes versus fleshed-out people. There was never a question ? the nudity had to happen, because the movie is about objectification and identification and that’s what horror is about. Drew and I were not unhappy if the hot blonde took off her shirt ? hey, we thought it was a good decision! ? but mixing titillation and mutilation started to become a very weird confluence. It’s not the same kind of pleasure for us. Those are two separate things. But that’s the foundation of what we knew was part of the film, and we were the most timid filmmakers ever about it.
But Jules’ character is the one that’s least-played with, the least-subverted, and the one we see suffer the longest. We learn that Dana isn’t really a virgin?she’s just the best the people orchestrating the sacrifice have to work with. Curt, the giant jock, turns out to be a pre-med smarty. Stoner Marty’s protected from the malign influences of the people manipulating them because the pot he’s smoking ends up inoculating him to the pheromones they’re pumping into the cabin, and he’s the one who figures out how to get them into the complex. (Holden doesn’t get much of a fair shake either, and it’s too bad that both of the characters of color in the movie are somewhat quiet and detached). But we don’t get a clear debunking of whatever stereotypes we’re supposed to have about Jules. Clearly, she’s being influenced by the chemicals, the heightened moonlight. But we don’t know what her base behavior is like, whether she and Curt were already sleeping together (though I assumed so) before the trip, why her actions here are surprising?when we meet her, after all, she’s bugging Dana to be less of a prude.
I asked Whedon about this at South By Southwest, where he seemed kind of irritated by the question, telling me that “I don’t think Jules comes off as dumb…We did want to be making that movie at the same time that we were talking about that movie and making images that were sexual and sometimes exploitive.” (After that line drew a lot of applause, he noted “I don’t think I’ve ever been applauded for exploitation before.”) I agree with Whedon that those things aren’t incompatible. And a movie is always going to offer less time to develop its characters and debunk simple tropes than a television show us. But I was sorry there wasn’t a little more detail in there, something that would have heightened the sense that even if, in the balance, the world isn’t worth saving, there’s some real pain in the loss. If anything, Cabin in the Woods feels like it’s coming from Willow before Xander talks her down at the end of Buffy season six, rather than Buffy herself.
Yesterday, the Romney campaign announced that longtime adviser Beth Myers would be tasked with vetting and recommending a Vice Presidential nominee to Mitt Romney. Apparently, to Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade, that announcement came as a clarion call.
The show’s official Twitter account posed a question for its 150,000+ followers:
romney has hired an advisor to do his VP search.who should we choose?
— fox & friends (@foxandfriends) April 17, 2012
Fox News has been criticized for years as being nothing more than an arm of the Republican Party. It?s a charge that Fox News head Roger Ailes disputes vociferously, but when his employees make statements like these, it?s not hard to imagine from where these criticisms emerge. And this isn’t the first time that Fox & Friends has run into trouble while trying to maintain any semblance of separation between themselves and the Republican Party. Last month, with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on as a guest, Steve Doocy urged his audience to “vote Republican” if they wanted a party prepared to make hard choices.
As of publication, the tweet is still accessible on the Fox & Friends Twitter page, so it?s unclear if anyone realizes exactly what the hosts are implying.
The video, which the group calls “Heidi Heitkamp – ‘Obama is Amazing,’” shows former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D), now a candidate for the open seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D), at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Heitkamp says in the video that Hillary Clinton’s Denver speech “was amazing,” adding, “and I’m sure that Barack Obama’s going to be amazing, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Watch the video:
Note: Heitkamp predicted that Obama’s speech would be “amazing.” And the NRSC presents this as Heitkamp saying “Obama is amazing” — either major sloppiness or intentional outright deception on their part.
If the NRSC hopes to make the 2012 North Dakota Senate race a referendum on whether Obama’s 2008 speech, they may be in for a rude awakening. A large majority of Americans liked it, including even Pat Buchanan, who dubbed Obama’s performance a “genuinely outstanding speech. It was magnificent,” and RNC political director, who called it “a great speech” in a memo just a few weeks ago.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde was discharged in 2008 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but will now beáreinstated to active duty. Loverde is the second of three discharged servicemembers who sued for reinstatement with support from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and law firm Morrson & Foerster. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jase Daniels was reinstated as a U.S. Navy linguist in December, and a similar resolution is expected soon for former Air Force Major Mike Almy.
ORC for CNN (PDF). April 13-15. Adult Americans. ▒4.5%.
I?d like to know whether the following statement describes or does not describe the way you feel: ?The present tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to the ordinary working man or woman.?These are good numbers for Democrats, but as Greg Sargent warns, they don't necessarily mean President Obama can ride the Buffett Rule to victory. In November, the broader issue of jobs and the economy will play a bigger role than tax policy as voters make up their minds.
Does not describe: 29
Do you consider the amount of federal income tax you have to pay as too high, about right, or too low?
Too high: 45
About right: 50
Too low: 3
But even though these numbers might not be a silver bullet for President Obama, they illustrate that Americans don't agree with a key element of Mitt Romney's argument against Obama. Romney claims that Obama has slowed down the economy through overtaxation. That claim is bogus, and these numbers show that Americans aren't buying it. Even if Democrats aren't ultimately able to convince Americans that things like the Buffett Rule are central to long-term economic growth, polls like this show the tax issue is basically dead for Republicans, and that's a big deal.
As companies cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a campaign led by ColorOfChange, Fox News has defended the conservative legislation organization, accusing ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics" and inviting ALEC supporters and officials on to defend their actions. ALEC, an organization that drafts model bills for conservative state lawmakers, has pushed for controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID laws across the country.
ALEC Is "Funded Mostly By Corporations And Conservative Foundations" And "Exists To Bring Business-Friendly State Lawmakers Together With Lobbyists For Corporations." From Fortune magazine:
[ALEC], founded in 1973 and funded mostly by corporations and conservative foundations, exists to bring business-friendly state lawmakers together with lobbyists for corporations, including AT&T (T), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). It drafts model bills related to its goals of free markets and limited government. Issues that ALEC has influenced include Arizona's anti-immigration law, tort reform in Mississippi, and the opposition to Net neutrality.
In the 2009 legislative session, by ALEC's reckoning, state lawmakers introduced 826 bills the group conceived -- 115 of which made it into law. That's quite a record, and it's going to get stronger. One overlooked aspect of the Republican resurgence has been its revolution at the state level. The GOP picked up more than 700 seats in state legislatures and now controls 25 of those bodies outright, from 14 before November. [Fortune,
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/12]
Fox's O'Reilly Asked If "Fascist" ColorOfChange Campaign Against ALEC Is "Cross[ing] Into The Blackmail Range." On the April 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly introduced a segment on ALEC by claiming that "far-left groups" are "threatening economic pain in order to intimidate American companies."O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham to further attack ColorOfChange, asking if the effort "crosses into the blackmail range" and accusing ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics." From The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: You know, this crew has been around for a while, this ColorOfChange business. They attacked Glenn Beck. They are very, very vicious in what they do. But I'm wondering if it crosses into the blackmail range.
INGRAHAM: Well, I don't think it probably does cross into that range, Bill. But just to paint the picture for people. ColorOfChange, of course, gets huge influxes of money from George Soros, ties to SEIU, ties to MoveOn.org. You know these kind of -- all these tentacles that connect these organizations. Staff, personnel, co-founders, and so forth. What they're designed to do is much what Media Matters is designed to do -- this other group -- is to basically shut down conservative speech.
Later in the segment, O'Reilly accused ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/12/12]
Fox's Kelly Hosted ALEC Communications Director To Defend ALEC-Backed Legislation. On the April 5 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly interviewed ALEC communications director Kaitlyn Buss. During the segment, Kelly didn't ask about the controversial legislation drafted and supported by the organization, instead reinforcing Buss' "point" that ALEC is "not a partisan organization." During the interview, Kelly offered Buss a chance to defend ALEC's record, asking questions such as, "They don't like your push for voter ID laws, and my question to you is what do you think of that?" and, "The group that is going after you and your supporters has come out and said that quote, 'many leading organizations have left your organization,' and I quote, 'as it moves to the extreme right.' Your response?" [Fox News, America Live, 4/6/12, via Media Matters]
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