The Illinois Department of Revenue has announced that same-sex couples in civil unions will be able to file their taxes jointly starting next year. Unfortunately, because of the state’s flat tax, couples filing jointly won’t actually save any money. Plus, they will still have to file their federal taxes separately because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents the IRS from recognizing their unions.
My friend Elana Levin forwarded me the results of a writing contest with a noble goal ? “bringing women?s and human rights values into mainstream culture” ? and a weird way of going about achieving it:
How often have you been enjoying a book, movie, play, or TV episode?when all of a sudden things take a turn for the sexist, misogynist, needlessly violent, or worse? Have you ever wished you could jump into a story, shout at the characters, grab the pen (or keyboard) of the writer, and make it turn out the way you think it should?
Now you can! Breakthrough presents #Rewrite the Ending, our Bell Bajao campaign?s first-ever fiction (re)writing competition. Your job: take a work of fiction ? a novel, movie, epic myth, opera, poem, TV episode, short story, play, or anything else that inspires you (or makes you nuts) ? and rewrite the ending to erase the sexism, highlight human rights, and win yourself some great prizes.
Part of my issue here is that I’m just not that fond of the idea that art should exist to serve fans’ desires, however noble they may be. I’m fine with creators hiding Easter eggs for readers and watchers, and I think it can be totally appropriate to acknowledge common fan conceptions about a work or fan campaigns on on a work’s behalf. But that’s an entirely different thing from bending the curve of your plot or the conception of your characters in a direction that fans will find most satisfying. If that was the main obligation of artists, we’d have awfully homogenous storytelling ? all couples would get together immediately, no one would ever die, and much more page and screen time would be dedicated to angsty hookups. Artists have a right to the facts of their characters and to carry out their visions of them within their own work. Art, as with life, is in part about not getting everything you want, and with reconciling yourself to that fact.
But more to the point, I don’t really want sexism to disappear from fiction, and I certainly don’t think we get to a point where the default in our culture is less misogynist by going back and redacting sexist (or racist, etc.) plot points and characters from our fiction. First, making sexism and the other isms visible is absolutely critical to getting something done about them. Not everyone is going to read about Robert Baratheon’s sexual assaults on his wife and go out and join Take Back the Night, but art can show people who don’t experience sexism directly the costs it exacts on the people who do. And it can put behavior in contexts that make clear how ugly it is: sexual harassment or domestic violence may seem like a series of isolated incidents or a slow grind when it happens in real life, but condense a pattern of escalating behavior into two hours or 400 pages, filter out the filler, and it may be harder to deny. Wishing that sexism was gone doesn’t make it so in art or in life.
And second, fiction ought to be a place that we can confront things that would be dangerous to us if we encountered them in real life, and where people get to make best-case arguments for positions we would hate to see carried to their logical conclusions if they had the force of law or norm. I don’t like the Twilight books, but if they’re the best argument in favor of women focusing exclusively on marriage and family, than I am more than happy to wade aggressively into that debate. I think Tucker Max is pretty gross, but if I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is the best manifesto a bro can hope for, it’s a useful sorting mechanism between people who have warped values and priorities and those who don’t. The answer here is not to hope that Bella Cullen throws off her vampire husband and gets a PhD in English literature, but to provide powerful and compelling alternatives. To get all Saul Bellow in this joint, “There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.” Does that mean we’ll suffer major bewildering culture fails along the way? Absolutely. But the real way to win is to join the battle of ideas, not to change the conditions in which it’s fought.
Unsurprisingly the results of the contest aren’t actually that funny, or that much of a narrative challenge to the works they’re critiquing. Yes, it’s creepy to do sexual things to people who aren’t conscious, but give me an actual rewrite of Sleeping Beauty over a lecture. Snow White in armor is a better rebuke to Snow White in the glass coffin than Snow White the lit professor. The Giving Tree telling off the boy isn’t nearly as weird and spiky a rewrite as Amy Winfrey’s “The Muffin Tree,” in which the tree poisons its ungrateful beneficiary.
So far, the Justice Department has received more than 1,000 emails and calls on its hotline where people can report concerns about Alabama’s harmful immigration law. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and Assistant Attorney General Tony West were in Alabama on Monday to sift through the complaints and to meet with Alabamians about the law. “The more we hear, the more concerned we are about the impact of Alabama’s immigration law on a wide range of federal rights,” said Perez, who leads DOJ’s civil rights division. His department is investigating civil rights complaints about HB 56 separately from the ongoing legal challenge against the extreme law. Perez said he continues to be concerned about students dropping out or not showing up for school, racial profiling, and employers not paying their immigrant employees.
Over the past year President Obama has lost support across the board with all partisan sub groups, but the relative drop in support was largest among "pure independents" according to Gallup's polling.[...]
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Climate advocacy hasn't made me rich as fast as Rick Perry promised it would, so I need to shop green on a budget and practical advice is hugely valuable. What's worth buying the organic version of? What's not? (Answer: Kraft Organic Process Cheese Loaf.)
Wake Up World has a rundown of 7 foods worth spending a little extra on to get the most nutrition and avoid unwanted extras like pesticides, weed killers and artificial hormones. It's a good one to bookmark for future reference, along with the New York Times' 5 "strategic" organic foods. Two foods on both lists: Milk and potatoes.
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Sorry, Mitt: The fall of Cain is boosting Newt (Phelan Ebenhack & Chris Keane/Reuters)
PPP's Tom Jensen:
If Herman Cain really ends up dropping out of the race Gingrich's surge should continue in the next few weeks, unless/until something starts happening to erode his popularity. Why? Because Cain's supporters absolutely love Gingrich. And they absolutely hate Mitt Romney.
Our last national survey found that Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters was 73/21. Meanwhile Romney's was 33/55. That's the same basic trend we've seen in every Republican primary poll we've done in the month of November. On average in 7 polls we've done this month Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters is 69/22. Romney's average is 31/57. In other words Gingrich's net favorability is 73 points better with Cain supporters than Romney's.
And that translates into real votes:
On average across six polls we've asked a second choice question on this month 37% of Cain voters pick Gingrich to only 13% for Romney. In fact Romney isn't any more likely to be the second choice of Cain supporters than Michele Bachmann (14%) or Rick Perry (12%).
Although she didn't go into detail, Ann Selzer, the pollster behind the Iowa Poll, says much the same thing is true in Iowa, where Newt Gingrich would get the biggest boost, followed by Rick Perry.
None of this is that big of a surprise. It's been clear for quite some time now that Mitt Romney has a polling ceiling?and that he hasn't figured out how to move past it. That doesn't necessarily mean he's doomed. But it does mean his Not Romney problem, illustrated in the charts below, is real.
The global contagion is spreading so quickly, it could strike the United States before yearend.
It’s the same contagion that began over two years ago in Greece … that hit Ireland and Portugal last year … that slammed into Italy last month … and is now striking down a fifth country: Spain.
Think Spain is too small to be a major factor in our markets? Think again!
Spain’s economy is double the size of Greece’s, Ireland’s and Portugal’s COMBINED.
Spain’s total debts, including mortgages and commercial loans, are large enough to bankrupt all of Europe.
Even if the United States manages to escape a direct contagion attack for a while longer, the impact of Spain’s . . . → Read More: Contagion Spreading FAST! No More Time To Wait!
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Raise your hand if your 15 minutes are almost up (Jason Reed/Reuters)Herman Cain lied about the $80,000 settlements that were paid out to keep two different women quiet about their sexual harassment claims against him.
When he was accused of sexual assault, his best defense was to launch a website attacking his accusers for their financial troubles and promoting the conclusions of a crackpot "private investigator," who used his fancy machine to deduce, from watching TV, that Herman Cain was innocent of all of the many charges made against him.
And all of this was perfectly okay with conservatives.
Like John Derbyshire:
Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? Is there anyone who doesn?t know it?s all a lawyers? ramp, like ?racial discrimination?? You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up. Is this any way to live?
And Laura Ingraham:
?We have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. It always ends up being an employee who can?t perform or who under-performs and is looking for a little green,? she said on her show.
And BFFs Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter:
Hannity told Coulter: ?Do you realize as friends, the conversations and the things we joke about on a regular basis?do you realize in any work environment??Because people are humorless. And I?m not saying real sexual harassment doesn?t occur. That?s not it.? Coulter replied: ?But they don?t care about real sexual harassment.?
Fox host Sean Hannity, a prominent Cain booster, said the renewed scandal ?chipped away at his likability? and ?created doubt in people?s mind whether or not, quote, another shoe will drop.?
And of course they're throwing in a little revisionist history while they're at it:
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham ? who initially called the disclosure that Cain had been accused of harassment an attempt to ?put this man in ? the back of the bus? ? said on Fox Tuesday that the 2012 race had ?passed him by.?
?The campaign seems to have passed Herman Cain by, right? He?s slipped precipitously in pretty much every poll,? Ingraham said, adding that Cain ?never really set up the kind of organization? needed to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Republicans were only too happen to brag about Herman Cain when he was riding high. The multiple accusations from multiple women were the fault of the liberal media. Or Rick Perry. Or humorless gold-digging women. Anyone but Herman Cain.
But now? Now that his numbers are down and the oh-so-fickle base has moved on to the next Not Romney, those allegations of sexual assault may have been easily dismissed, but a consensual extramarital affair is just too much.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared on Fox News that White?s charge was ?the most damaging allegation that has been made, to date? about Cain.
Ah, yes. An allegation that Herman Cain tried to force a woman to blow him in exchange for a job is not nearly as bad as an allegation that he had an extramarital affair. Besides, we all know Republicans hate to make a federal case out of one innocent blowjob, right?
Obviously, sexual assault is just a joke among friends, but a consensual affair? Totally unacceptable. It's the other shoe, the nail in the coffin, the bridge too far. Sure, Republicans were willing to stand by Herman when it was "just" a little inappropriate groping between a powerful CEO and the women who worked for him, but adultery between two consenting adults is too low, even for Republicans.
Which is why they're finally ditching sexual predator and wife-cheater Herman Cain to flock to their next savior: sexual predator and wife-cheater Newt Gingrich.
Remember when Republican senate candidate Joe Miller hired a security team for that ill-fated campaign event at a public school last fall? Well, as it turns out, the head of the security team was moonlighting as a confidential informant infiltrating the Alaska militia movement for the FBI, in an effort that eventually helped lead to the arrest of Schaeffer Cox and his followers on weapons charges and an alleged plot to kill state officials.
TPM has been reporting on members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia -- including leader Cox, married couple Lonnie and Karen Vernon, and Coleman Barney -- who were arrested in March and charged with conspiring to kill Alaska State Troopers and other state officials. Though the state recently dropped the conspiracy charges, each still faces a number of federal weapons charges.
In an arraignment Monday, Cox, Lonnie Vernon and Barney pleaded not guilty to the weapons charges, which include possession of a grenade launcher. Cox said he was pleading not guilty as a "general assertion of actual innocence on all counts."
Local media outlets in Alaska have for some time concluded that Bill Fulton, the head of the army surplus store and bail bonds agency Dropzone Security, was one of the two confidential informants for the FBI. And as TPM reported earlier this month, Cox himself named Fulton as the informant in his motion to dismiss the charges, claiming that Fulton was the one advocating for violent action against the government (more on that later). But in filings last week, the U.S. Attorney's office named Fulton as one of the informants for the first time.
TPM readers may remember how in October of 2010, Alaska senatorial candidate Joe Miller hired Bill Fulton and two of his Dropzone Security employees to be provide security for a town hall event in an Anchorage public school. Dropzone was an army surplus store that doubled as a bail bonds agency, among other things.
At the event, Fulton and the others handcuffed and detained Alaska Dispatch journalist Tony Hopfinger for alleged trespassing and assault, after an altercation between Hopfinger and the security team. Hopfinger contended he was just trying to question and video Miller.
No charges were filed over the incident, but afterward it was reported that Fulton seemed to have ties to the Alaska Citizens Militia and was even known as the "supply Sergeant" on the group's Google Forum.
Fulton would frequently post on the site under the username "bob bob," but would sign his posts as "DropZone Bill." In one post from January 2010, Fulton wrote: "I should hope that the militia is not involved with establishing any form of government moral or otherwise. It is the purpose of the militia to defend the people and the state. I believe our job is to be shooters, elected politicians get to deal with the government establishment portion of the pie." In an October post he organized a meeting of militia members at his store.
After the Miller incident, Fulton denied that he was a member of the militia. He confirmed to TPM that he was a regular poster on the forum, though said it was for business purposes, and that his store has "a very small customer base," so sometimes he has to drum up business. Occasionally, he said, he would post on the site to "stir 'em up when we're having a slow month."
But now it's clear that it was more than just business. In the days following the March arrests of Cox and his cohorts, Fulton gave his attorney Wayne Anthony Ross power of attorney over his assets, including his store, and then seemingly disappeared. Ross then signed the store over to David Giles, which Giles rebranded as 907 Surplus.
"I don't know and can't say the extent of his involvement, if any, at this time, but he's not a defendant," Ross said in April. Giles told TPM then that he had not heard from Fulton, and had no idea where he was. Calls to Fulton's home at the time went to a busy signal.
On March 14, three days after the arrests, posters on the Alaska Citizens Militia message board speculated about what happened to Fulton.
"Bill you ok?" David Luntz asked. "Chime in."
"Last I heard, DZ was having problems with bad press," poster Linton Daniels offered. "If I was in Anchorage, I would go by an check on him."
Kath McCubbins-Carlson wondered: "Was he a plant all this time?"
At the time, Norm Olson, the founder of the ACM, was not sure what to think. "I really don't know. I can only speculate," he told TPM when asked about Fulton's disappearance. "He's gone, his business has been turned over to someone else,
his house is empty...To quote the Warden in Shawshank Redemption: '. . .he up and vanished like a fart in the wind.'"
"There was an unnamed "confidential source" who testified at the Federal Grand Jury," Olson added. "We'll probably never know for sure just who it was, but Fulton's disappearance does raise questions."
Federal documents released earlier this year revealed that the FBI made the Cox arrests with the help of two informants on the federal payroll. In July, Gerald Olson was revealed to be CS-1 when his sentence for second-degree theft charges was reduced as a reward for his help in bringing about the arrests.
Fulton was named by Cox in a filing earlier this month that asked for a dismissal of the charges on First Amendment grounds. Cox claimed that Fulton "kept pushing and pushing the question 'what my plan was' and that his men were being mobilized to attack the government."
"Fulton was extremely angry with me when I told him I had no plan to attack the government," Cox said. "Fulton said that he had spent a lot of money to get his men ready for the war in Fairbanks."
In a motion to join the motion for dismissal, Coleman Barney's attorney Tim Dooley writes: "It would be useful if the government could point to any speech of Cox or Barney that was not protected first amendment speech. But the government cannot do that."
"The only persons advocating for killing anyone were the confidential informants for the government," Dooley added. "The only persons advocating a 'war' were the confidential informants for the government."
The U.S. Attorney's office filed a response to this motion last week. "The First Amendment's protections do not extend to investigations of individuals and their speech concerning possession of silencers, hand grenades, conspiring to possess same," the response says. "Nor is it protective of possessing a fully automatic machine gun or of a co-conspirators statements and acts in plotting to murder a federal district court judge and his family members."
The filing goes on to describe how by May 2010, the FBI had the two confidential informants placed within Cox's circle. Olson was giving the FBI information about Cox's actions against the state, including an account of a December, 2010 "common law court" held by Cox in the backroom of a Denny's, that "acquitted" Cox of spousal abuse charges and a weapons charge.
In early February 2011, court documents allege, Cox told Vernon and Olson to go to Anchorage to attend a militia convention and acquire C-4 explosives and as many pineapple hand grenades as possible. On around February 5, Vernon allegedly contacted Fulton about getting the grenades, and he and Olson met with Fulton at the convention. Neither Fulton nor Olson knew that the other was working for the FBI at the time, according to court documents.
In another conversation, Olson and Barney allegedly discussed acquiring gun silencers from Fulton: "Olson said Vernon had ordered a silencer, but that Vernon didn't trust Fulton. During a conversation about the reliability of Fulton, Olson said to Barney and Cox that he would take it (the suppressor) if Vernon wouldn't. Cox then replied that he (Olson) would not get stuck with a silencer as they are easy to move and are in high demand."
The U.S. Attorney expressed disbelief in the filing at Cox's claim that Fulton was the one planning an attack on the government on Cox's behalf: "A military-surplus store owner was going to lead an attack against the government because of Cox's problems with Children's Services. Does this claim make any sense at all?"
Joe Miller spokesman Bill Peck told TPM that Miller had no knowledge of Fulton's role with the FBI. "The only time Fulton's security team was asked by the campaign to work an event was the Anchorage townhall in October of 2010," Peck said. "Joe actually wasn't involved with that decision. A campaign staff member organized the townhall and asked Fulton's team to come."
Miller himself has been drawn into the Schaeffer Cox story independently of Fulton, after Justin Elliott of Salon wrote about a conversation he had with Cox last September. Elliott quoted Cox as saying at the time: "I know Joe Miller pretty well. It's a small state. I've known him, I know his kids," he said, adding: "He's a good guy and we're buddies."
Miller distanced himself from Cox in a statement at the time, saying he "became acquainted with Mr. Cox through Republican Party politics, not unlike many other State leaders. Mr. Cox offered no tangible support to Miller's run for the US Senate; he was neither a campaign contributor nor volunteer; and, save for public forums during the campaign, has had no contact with Mr. Miller subsequent to his run-ins with the law early last year."
When asked about the revelations about Fulton, Norm Olson, the founder of the Alaska Citizens Militia, this time told TPM he had been suspicious of him the whole time:
Although some seemed to be dazzled by Fulton's ability to move inside the militia, I was suspicious of his generosity. I suppose he was disappointed with me since I drove away from his place of business with truckloads of equipment but never "played the game." The ancient warning about "Greeks bearing gifts" is still good advice today. Sometimes things are just too good to be true. Whenever I've been offered large sums of money, I demand that it be given anonymously. When it comes to equipment, I always want to find out what's in the boxes. In this business, one cannot be too careful."No, Bill Fulton was no surprise," Olson told TPM. "The surprise I acknowledge is how blind various small groups of militia can be to the more-than-obvious attempts by the federals to entrap them. I wish they'd call me before letting the Trojan Horse inside the walls."
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Ed Schultz spoke to Wisconsin Democratic Party State Chairman Mike Tate about their success in collecting over 300,000 signatures already in the effort to recall Governor Scott Walker.
Activists pushing to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced on Monday evening that they have collected more than 300,000 signatures for the effort in just 12 days.
To trigger a recall election, Walker's opponents -- coordinated by the group United Wisconsin -- need to collect 540,208 valid signatures by Jan. 17, which is 60 days after the campaign launched. Organizers said they are aiming for 600,000 to 700,000 signatures.
"Scott Walker has taken to the airwaves, supported by millions in corporate cash, to defend his record of job loss and full-scale assault on Wisconsin's institutions and values," United Wisconsin Executive Director Meagan Mahaffey said in a statement. "But all over Wisconsin, the people are seeing through Walker's deceptions and are moving to take our state back."
In the first 96 hours of the recall effort, United Wisconsin and its supporters collected more than 105,000 signatures from all 72 counties in the state.
An election could occur as early as March 27, although it will likely be later if Republicans challenge the petition signatures or file lawsuits.
The Walker recall is the next step in a campaign to oust state Republicans who pushed forward controversial budget legislation stripping collective bargaining rights from state employees. In August, Democrats recalled two Republican state senators from office, but they fell short of the three needed to take control of the chamber.
There have been only two successful recall elections in history, one against California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and one against North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921.
No Democrat has stepped forward yet to announce a challenge to Walker in a potential recall race. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said the party won't put a candidate forward until early 2012 in order to keep the fight focused as a referendum on Walker.
Here's more from Brad Friedman from last week with what some of those working to get Walker recalled have been putting up with -- Supporters of WI's 'Recall Walker' Effort Reportedly Receiving Death Threats.