On May 8th, voters in North Carolina will decide the fate of Amendment One, a viciously anti-gay measure put on the ballot by the GOP nut jobs in the legislature. It's so poorly written that it will have an impact beyond same-sex couples. We've been writing about this campaign extensively at AMERICAblog Gay.
Actually, North Carolinians are already going to the polls. Early voting began last Thursday.
There's a broad, very active coalition of over 100 organizations, including the NAACP, fighting the amendment. And, here's been a groundswell of opposition to Amendment One, from unlikely sources. The CEO of Duke Energy, a fortune 500 company, blasted it -- as did the former GOP mayor of Charlotte, Richard Vinroot, who did a video against Amendment One with a former Democratic mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt.
Last night, the campaign to defeat Amendment One held a conference call to discuss its t.v. ads, which began airing today. On the call to discuss the ads and the strategy for the next two weeks were the media consultants, Mark Amour and Chad Griffin (who will soon be President of HRC), producer Dustin Lance Black and the pollster, Josh Ulibarri from Lake Research. Our side did some pretty intense research to figure out the messages that moved voters. And, these ads, according to testing, worked. One other thing, Dustin Lance Black said, with which I agree, is that before major donors go the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and spend $100,000 on VIP parties and functions, they need to donate to defeat discrimination in NC now. After all, even President Obama is against Amendment One.
Here are the ads from Protect All NC Families:
The other side start airing its ads today, too. They are using the same consultant, Frank Schubert, from Prop. 8 and the Maine marriage campaign. So, we're expecting the usual lies (in fact, the leader of the anti-marriage side in Maine, who works for the Catholic Bishop, basically admitted his campaign lied in 2009, "We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous.")
The campaign against Amendment one is Protect All NC Families and the website is here. Already, the campaign has raised $600,000 online -- far more than expected. Thanks to everyone who made that happen. And, you can still donate to buy more air time here.
The campaign is also running an aggressive field program, focusing on get-out-the-vote. And, there are lots of other allies doing their own outreach via radio and mail. More from North Carolinian Pam Spaulding on some of the grassroots efforts here.
If you family or friends there, urge them to vote early AGAINST Amendment One. And, if you live there, vote now.
Click here to view this media
Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, discussed how the Secret Service can make sure the behavior that took place Colombia doesn?t happen again, admitting to CNN?s Candy Crowley on Sunday that ?you can?t legislate people not being stupid.?
?You don?t necessarily change behavior, but you certainly set the tone of what you want,? Cummings said. In response to Sen. Harry Reid?s comments that what the agents did was stupid, Cummings added: ?You can?t legislate people not being stupid, but certainly you can uphold the high standards of this organization? We?re going to make sure that it remains the great organization that it is.?
Republicans and their allies like Joe Lieberman are dying to pin this scandal on President Obama. We know how the GOP loves a good sex scandal if it involves a Democratic president.
Full transcript below the fold.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which this week has had its hands full.
CUMMINGS: We've been busy.
CROWLEY: Yes you have. And not in great ways.
The Secret Service scandal with the prostitutes, you know, almost two dozen we're told and almost a dozen Secret Service men, do we now know the scope of what went on?
CUMMINGS: Candy, we don't know the full scope. The Secret Service, I believe, they're investigating themselves and they're doing I think a very good job. And they acted on it very quickly. They got in there within a matter of a few hours, got those folks out of there, took away their security clearance, and suspended them. Now we know that six of them are gone, and others are being investigated.
So -- but -- and they have it -- and the thing that Director Sullivan has assured us of is he will go wherever the evidence leads. And he has expanded his investigation from the initial 11, and that's why the most recent person who came up on Friday I think it was has been included.
So I think we're going to have to wait and see.
CROWLEY: And it is your understanding it's exactly what we've been told, which is a group of Secret Service men sort of barhopping, picking up women along the way, prostitutes along the way, coming back to the hotel, and it all came to light because of a dispute over money and how much they'd be paid.
CUMMINGS: That's exactly right.
CUMMINGS: And it's a sad situation, but, you know, our committee, the Government Reform Committee, we take this very seriously. This is our watch. The Secret Service is a phenomenal organization. It's an elite force.
And I have said to the director, look, it's not only important that you be excellent, but we also don't want people to even imagine, imagine that they can pierce the shield of the Secret Service because that's --
CROWLEY: Is that what bothers you most?
CUMMINGS: Not the most but it bothers me a lot because I know that there are a lot of folks who are perhaps looking for opportunities to do harm to the president or others that the Secret Service, you know, guard.
And you never know what they think that is a moment of weakness, Candy, that's the time that they may think that they can act. But I want to make sure that we get this matter resolved. I want it resolved fairly, I want it thoroughly investigated, and make any changes that might be necessary.
CROWLEY: How do you change the behavior of folks? I mean, in some ways you -- you know, Senator Reid said this is just stupid, you know, and it's hard to fix stupid.
CUMMINGS: Yes, well, I think that you don't necessarily change behavior, but you certainly set the tone of what you want, and when --
CROWLEY: Surely they must have known that going down to Cartagena in advance of the president to set up security down there and movements down there, you probably shouldn't get drunk and pick up prostitutes.
CUMMINGS: Exactly right, and I think we have some bad actors here. I don't think that we judge the Secret Service by its weakest link. They are gone, half of them, and I think others will be leaving shortly.
So, you know, you can't, you know, legislate people not being stupid, but certainly you can uphold the high standards of this organization. Keep in mind, the Secret Service has been around since 1865, and we're going to make sure that it remains the great organization that it is.
CROWLEY: So you're suggesting that the other -- there are now another six that are still on leave or have been suspended, whatever we call that, that you suspect may well resign or be --
CUMMINGS: I would not be surprised.
CROWLEY: OK. And let me ask you, will higher heads roll? That is, we know the supervisors that were down there and involved in this are gone, but what about the Secret Service director? How do you feel about him, because very often, when these things happen, GSA, something else you have been involved in, the head goes.
CUMMINGS: Yes. I'm very confident that what happened here was limited to these folks, but we'll find out. But the thing that impressed me about Sullivan is that he acted quickly. Keep in mind, the head of the region down there in South America was on that situation immediately.
CUMMINGS: Got those folks out there immediately. And she, of course, was acting on behalf of Sullivan. So I think Sullivan has done a very good job. A lot of us on Capitol Hill, most of us have a lot of confidence in him, both sides of the aisle, by the way.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you as a final question, you have mentioned a couple times that folks in your district ask you with regularity about the safety of this president.
Do you have more concerns with the safety of this president because he's African-American than you would have had for, say, George Bush or those that --
CUMMINGS: First of all, let me say I have concern about all presidents and everybody that the Secret Service guards.
CUMMINGS: But the fact is that African-American people have always expressed concern to me about this president. They see, Candy, folk around this president with guns strapped on their legs. And they say, you know, how can that be?
And they're just -- they worry. They're concerned, but, again, I believe that the Secret Service is going to get through this. I think this is a time that they have to take a look at themselves.
By the way, the other thing we're doing is we're also going to be taking -- our committee is going to be looking at DOD. We're sending a letter to them, trying to figure out what role they played in all of this, too.
CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much, Congressman, for stopping by. We really appreciate it.
CUMMINGS: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
It seems that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) might have been overreaching when he promised to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. While Walker has spent the last twelve months slashing state budgets and busting unions, Wisconsinites have been dealing with the consequences. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Walker’s state saw the largest decrease in jobs over the last year, dropping nearly a full percentage point:
Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 45 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 4 states, and was unchanged in Alabama. The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in North Dakota (+6.5 percent). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.9 percent).
This just adds more evidence to an already existing trend: states with the most drastic budget cuts are seeing the most job losses. Budget slashing at the state level is stalling growth and reducing GDP.
Supplementing that argument are the employment totals for just the month of March. Ohio, which is led by austerity-happy Gov. John Kasich (R), lost 9,500 jobs. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) saw his state drop 8,600 jobs. And Wisconsin dropped 4,500 last month.
The era of austerity clearly hasn’t worked. Instead, these statistics show that conservative budgets have made things worse in the states where they were supposedly going to turn economies around.
by Catherine Woodiwiss
Speaking at the National Cathedral yesterday, famed environmental writer Wendell Berry delivered a clear message for Earth Day: We have a moral obligation to protect the environment.
Berry, a living legend in the environmental movement, addressed a crowd of nearly 200 faith leaders, community organizers, farmers and environmentalists at the Cathedral yesterday.
?The idea of the intractability of problems is wrong. Don?t get into this with a goal or a schedule. You must do it because it is right ? because it is right, or it [your fight] will never last,” said Berry.
Author of over 80 novels, short stories, and essays, and poems, Wendell Berry has been a tireless advocate for localism and environmental stewardship for nearly 50 years.
He famously coined this brilliant twist on the Golden Rule: ?Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.?
On Sunday, Berry was honored as a ?Steward of God?s Creation? from the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCCC). Several major players working to elevate the interfaith-energy movements were on hand to help celebrate Berry’s work, including climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Earth Day Network board member Gerald Torres.
?To measure the power of [Berry?s] words, look what they have wrought,? said McKibben. ?He raised the gospel of things like local food ? [how special it must be] to see signs that that world is now taking shape.?
Torres agreed, also tipping his hat to the long tradition of faith-based environmentalism. ?We can say that the best way to celebrate faith, and faith in our future, is to protect the Earth.?
Earlier Sunday morning, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, Executive Director of the Christian environmental education organization Blessed Earth, hosted a conversation with Berry in the Cathedral sanctuary. Berry pulled no punches for destructive environmental practices like mountain top removal. ?People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped,? he warned. ?By influence, by power, by us.?
Sunday?s activities at the National Cathedral were coordinated by NRCCC and Blessed Earth. This was the first of several events on environmental issues organized by the faith community during Earth Week.
Catherine Woodiwiss is a Special Assistant with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress.
I will absolutely go see Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s new movie about a New England summer camp set in 1965, both because the goodwill that Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums garnered have yet to die, and because the movie reminds me of novels like Edward Eager’s stories of magic or Elizabeth Enright’s books about precocious young children creating their own worlds:
Anderson’s movies, for me, have always been about the gap between the worlds that privileged people want to build for themselves to live in and their ability, whether psychologically or materially, to maintain those worlds. The gap between Max Fischer’s attempts to build a paradise for himself at his private school in Rushmore and the reality of his grades and his status at the school, especially given his lies about his sexual success and the fact that his father is a barber, was evident almost from the beginning of the film. The Royal Tenenbaums is about the compromises made by ever single member of a privileged New York family over a short period that forces their reconciliations and reckonings. They’re both movies in relatively realistic broad settings that are made surreal by the way their main characters approach them.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, about an arrogant oceanographic explorer, follows the same themes, but less successfully. Whereas in previous movies, Anderson’s heroes like Fischer or Royal Tenenbaum are forced to let go of the women they’ve become fixated on, and become better men for the adjustment of their self-images to more realistic proportions, Steve Zissou sacrifices the son he abandoned and then treated callously and gets his wife back anyway. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fundamentally different kind of movie, an adaptation of a children’s book, the kind of literature that encourages children to dream beyond their capacities so they’ll grow, and that gets followed by the kind of literature that involves reconciliation to reality and limitation.
Moonrise Kingdom looks like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox in that it involves an inherently precious setting, rather than a relatively mundane one that privileged people are trying to elevate because it doesn’t feel special enough to them. And it’s definitely a story about children as much as it is about adults. Beyond that, I’ll be curious to see how it turns out. Anderson can be alternately tough and soft on spoiled people (sometimes he’s able to be hard on even his flakiest characters because he has so much affection for his them). I think one of the reasons I’m still so interested in his career is because it’s still not clear where he stands on his selfish, self-made creations.
On March 19, Washington, DC-based campaign finance compliance specialist David Satterfield filed a statement of organization for a new Super PAC named “Freedom Fund for America’s Future Inc.” The form did not name anyone else associated with the committee and included the URL for the group’s virtually-empty website.
On April 13, the group filed a quarterly disclosure statement listing no expenses or contributions through March 31, 2012. Three days later, it filed an amendment, revealing a $5,000 in-kind contribution of legal services from a Harrisburg, PA political consulting firm.
After the quarterly filing period was over, the group sprung into action. Last Thursday, it reported to the Federal Election Committee that it had spent $145,000 on a media buy aimed at opposing candidate Tom Smith. Friday, it reported another $30,145. Both payments went to a political ad firm which also is working for the Welch campaign. The firm’s managing partner claims there is a firewall between its work for Welch and its super PAC work for the anti-Smith Super PAC.
Watch the Freedom Fund for America’s Future Inc. attack ad against Smith:
Though the ad ends with a disclaimer that “Freedom Fund for America’s Future is responsible for the content” of the spot, Pennsylvania voters have no way of knowing that that means. The group has not disclosed a single contributor to the $175,000-plus ad buy. The group has not identified a board of directors or a chairman — only the little-known Satterfield. The group did not respond to multiple requests by ThinkProgress to identify the sources of its funding.
Because the group is a Super PAC, it will have to disclose its donations eventually (unlike 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS). But on a quarterly filing schedule, voters may not know the source of these contributions for months. And, with the primary tomorrow, that will be of little value to the citizens hoping to evaluate the credibility of people behind the ad before they case their ballots.
In his controversial 5-4 majority opinion in the Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations.” But with a Federal Election Commission not enforcing existing disclosure laws and Congressional Republican opposition to any legislative remedies, Freedom Fund for America’s Future’s example is clear evidence that voters no longer even have that.
Last week, we noted that Mitt Romney’s new foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell had a colorful life on Twitter, often dispensing biting comments about political opponents, and women in particular. Grennell has since scrubbed much of his online presence, deleting over 800 tweets and taking down his person website. Now, Buzz Feed’s Andrew Kaczynski points out (on Twitter) that Grenell edits his own Wikipedia page. The edit page shows that most of the edits have to basic biographical information, such as his job history. But the editing suggest someone concerned about their public perception online, and thus someone who should probably have known better than, or saw nothing wrong with, making derogatory comments about MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s femininity, for example.
President Yahy Jammeh of The Gambia opened the 2012 legislative year with a condemnation of homosexuality, chastising Great Britain and the United States for threatening to withhold financial support if the country continues to persecute and incarcerate gay people:
JAMMEH: If you are to give us aid for men and men or for women and women to marry, leave it; we don?t need your aid because, as long as I am the President of The Gambia, you will never see that happen in this country. One thing we will never compromise, for whatever reason, is the integrity of our culture, our dignity and our sovereignty. [...] Sometimes you hear of a lot of noise about the laws of this country or my pronouncements; let me make it very clear that, if you want me to offend God for you to give me aid, you are making a great mistake; you will not bribe me to do what is evil and ungodly. I made it very clear, and I will make it very clear to this august body again that every country, every society, every culture has its own natural dos and dont?s.
If Tuesday brings victory for Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, it'll finally be official:
In an interview with ABC News in Scottsdale, Ariz., RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said that ?Tuesday is going to be very important? as the committee moves to ?further accelerate the communication between the RNC and Governor Romney?s campaign.?So, congratulations, GOP. You just won yourself the father of Obamacare.
While Priebus said the RNC would continue to ?show respect? for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, Tuesday?s primaries will pave the way toward a ?complete and total merger between the RNC and the presumptive nominee.?
That means continuing to link up fundraising ? a process that has already started ? as well as integrating the RNC and the campaign?s communications shops, their political, ground and get-out-the-vote operations.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism is out with their latest report on news coverage of the primary campaign, and the big headline is that, surprise surprise, the tone of coverage varied pretty much exactly with whether candidates were winning or losing. Does that mean reporters had a pro-Romney bias when he was winning primaries, and a pro-Santorum bias when he was winning primaries? Of course not. It shows, instead, just how ridiculous most discussion of ideological bias is.
I spent many years designing and executing this kind of study, and hands down, the most difficult thing to assess in an objective, reliable way is whether coverage is "positive" or "negative" for a particular figure. There are some stories that are obviously damaging ("Candidate Caught Smoking Crack"), which can be "negative" even though they are reported in a completely neutral way. There are some stories that are obviously helpful ("Candidate Wins Primary By Large Margin"), but which are also simply factual. And there are many, many stories in between, where a hundred shades of gray can determine how the events and the interpretation of those events colors the way the story could be read and understood by its audience. It isn't impossible to come up with a coding system that will allow you to classify every story (PEJ uses a combination of software and human coders), but any system that is repeatable will also miss a lot of the subtleties that give reporting its color.
In any case, the PEJ data show once again that the biggest bias of all in campaign coverage is the bias toward discussion of strategy and tactics and away from the substance of policy. Sixty-four percent of the coverage during the primary was about campaign strategy, while 9 percent of the coverage concerned domestic policy, and a whopping 1 percent concerned foreign policy. And as for the coverage of President Obama:
In Obama?s case, his negative coverage was driven by several factors. One was the consistent criticism leveled at him by each of the Republican contenders during primary season. The other involved news coverage of issues?ranging from the tenuous economic recovery to the continuing challenges to his health care legislation?with which he was inextricably linked. An examination of the themes in Obama?s coverage also reveals that the coverage placed him firmly in campaign mode. His coverage that focused on the strategic frame exceeded that relating to policy issues by 3:1.
Will the conservatives who regularly complain about "liberal bias" in the media now say that the media are biased against Obama? Of course not?as far as they're concerned, "bias" can be easily identified as any coverage that is unfavorable to people and ideas they like, so negative coverage of Obama is by definition objective and fair. But the truth is that there were perfectly defensible reasons for Obama getting coverage recently that portrayed him as facing difficulty, and equally defensible reasons he has gotten better coverage at other times. And none of it has to do with ideology.