Mediate and Raw Story have caught a fabulous, and depressing, clip montage from last night's Daily Show (in D.C. this week). It begins with some typical New York vs. D.C. chatter from Stewart's news team but, the fun begins around the 3 minute mark with clips of various tea-partiers describing the guns, axes, and muskets they're going to bring to fix Washington. Then, as Mediate's Colby Hall writes:
the heart of the segment [5 minutes in] is a rather stunning and illuminating montage of Senator McCain publicly claiming that “government is broken” in a series of clips going back to 1987. When viewed collectively, not only does one think that McCain needs to hire a new speechwriter, but that he’s been remarkably ineffective in fixing the very system in which he’s thrived. It almost seems as though if he’s not really interested in fixing it at all (or maybe “the fix” is in.)
Watch the video below, and read coverage at Mediate and The Raw Story.
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Indecision 2010 - Extreme Makeover DC Edition
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As if capital punishment didn't already look crude and barbaric, Arizona has raised the bar. Arizona executed convicted murderer Jeffrey Landrigan last night by lethal injection--using a drug in the mixture obtained in a secret overseas deal. The execution occurred just hours after the Supreme Court lifted a lower court's stay of execution in a 5-4 decision--with Kagan, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting. "There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe," read the majority opinion. This is despite the fact that all the public knows about the source of the drug, the anasthetic known as sodium thiopental, is that it's from somewhere in England. American suppliers have run low on the drug, leading to delays in the administration of lethal injections. The previous court's stay of execution had been issued because the judge felt that the unknown source of the drug meant that it hadn't been tested against U.S FDA standards--and therefore it might be "cruel and unusual" punishment. Another issue at stake was whether the anonymous UK supplier knew that it was aiding capital punishment, as the drug is often ordered for use in U.S. hospitals. But as the Guardian reports, the execution brings up more troubling issues about capital punishment. For one thing, the drug's only U.S. supplier, Illinois-based hospira, actually does not recommend its use in capital punishment. "[The drug] isn't indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support its use in this procedure," Hospira said, according the the Guardian. "Hospira has communicated with departments of corrections in the United States to advise them of this position." Furthermore, the new attention to the case reveals that the original sentencing judge has changed her mind. She felt Landigan, who strangled and killed another man in a robbery, in fact did not deserve to be killed because he had brain damage that was not brought to the court's attention at the time. Lethal injections have already been under nationwide scrutiny as to whether the supposedly humane method of execution can be botched too easily or causes excessive pain. Read the full stories at The Guardian and The AP.
The floodgates have opened. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, there's been a sharp, skyrocketing rise in highly-partisan spending from independent groups, most of them conservative, McClatchy reports today based on numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics. "Outside" spending has topped $257 million--shattering records from the last midterm electsions--with a week left to go before voters head to the polls. And in this case, conservative groups are outspending liberal groups 2 to 1. Some of the most profligate spenders on the eight wing are two Karl Rove crony groups called American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy strategies. According to the numbers: "Among outside independent groups, the conservative American Action Network is the top spender so far, at $22.7 million, followed by American Crossroads, at $18 million, and Crossroads GPS, at $11.5 million." On the left, Unions like the SEIU are also spending heavily. The dramatic uptick, of course, comes thanks to the Supreme Court.
The 2010 spending spree is shattering records thanks partly to an unusually competitive year when control of Congress appears up for grabs, but largely due to the Supreme Court's ruling last January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
As a result, viewers and voters are being inundated with ad after ad from supposedly impartial groups smearing politicians running for office. And that's a potential problem. As McClatchy's David Lightman writes:
The other question that the spending barrage raises is whether voters are being badly misinformed, confused by the barrage of charges and countercharges and uncertain whom the groups with haughty-sounding names represent.
Read more, plus see charts documenting who's spending where, at McClatchy.
You know all those nice, minimalist "green" products at the supermarket and drug-store, the ones you pay an extra buck for because at least you're not destroying Mother Earth? Well, according to a new study, they're probably ravaging the environment anyway. The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study by environmental group TerraChoice, which examines the widespread practice of "greenwashing" or re-labeling household products to make them seem more friendly to the environment. The gist of the findings, according to reporter Gwendolyn Bounds:
According to a study due out Tuesday, more than 95% of consumer products examined committed at least one offense of "greenwashing," a term used to describe unproven environmental claims, according TerraChoice, a North American environmental-marketing company that issued the report.
Some of the practices they found among the 5,000 products studied including unclear wording like "all-natural" fake looking certification designed to look like third-party approval, and outright "fibbing." "The scary thing is that manufacturers are not providing independent proof of these claims," Scot Case, who works for Underwriters Laboratories Inc, told the Journal. "The same verification we expect from accounting records, we should expect from BPA claims." So before you assuage your guilty conscience due to a "green" label, read the study and check up on which legitimate labels to look out for. You know, the ones that only 5% of green products are actually using. Read the full story at the Journal.
Change.org has found a horrifying story out of a school in Alabama, based on lawsuits filed by students. Apparently teachers, concerned that certain students were sexually harassing their peers, asked a female student to wait in the bathroom as "bait" for one of the offenders. Her teacher then abandoned her there while she was raped, leaving her utterly traumatized. Here's the report:
The teacher coerced 14-year-old B.H.J., an African-American student who had reported being repeatedly sexually harassed, into meeting her tormentor in a bathroom, assuring her that they would "catch him." But nobody followed B.H.J. into the bathroom, and nobody stopped her from being raped; the teacher simply went back to her classroom and waited. B.H.J. is reported as being severely traumatized and in an almost completely non-communicative state.
And this was the second case of female students being used as bait the group has uncovered. According to Change.org writer Alex DiBranco, at another school two girls were used as "bait" during a crackdown on consensual sexual encounters occuring on school premises. This first incident also led to a lawsuit. These kinds of shocking, egregious violations of the rights of young women come from a society that devalues teenage girls or views them as alluring objects of male sexual interest. But even more so, this kind of abusive mistreatment comes from a misinterpretation of rape and sexual assault. These teachers and administrators make a grave mistake if they're seeing the problem as being about desire and teenage sexual dynamics rather than about power, control, and pathology on the part of the aggressor. Any school efforts to address sexual aggression or harassment on campus should begin with a focus on the perpetrators, not the victims. Go to Change.org to read more about the lawsuits and take action against the school boards involved.
A female member of MoveOn who was protesting outside a Rand Paul/Jack Conway debate in Lexington Kentucky last night was attacked by a group of her opponents. The entire altercation got caught on video: she was surrounded and shoved by a group of burly men, who then-- also clearly captured on video footage--stomped on her head after she fell to the ground. The activist, Lauren Valle, had donned a blonde wig and a "Republicorp" sign to satirically mock her political opponents. She tried to approach Paul and give him an "employee of the month" award from that fictional company -- and that seems to be what set her attackers off. While outlets like The Huffington Post are saying the attack was the "apparent" work of Paul supporters, Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte and TPM's Josh Marshall interpret the video as clear evidence that it was the Paul supporters doing the shoving and stomping and holding Valle down throughout the incident -- and the footage corroborates their claim. You can see the Paul gear on her attackers and hear the chants of "Rand Paul" in the background. Watch the youtube video followed by a news report below: Valle spoke to the press before checking into the hospital. Conway reached out to Valle, but Paul merely released a statement against any expression of violence, and on appearance on FOX this morning, " stopped short" of singling out the attack on Valle.. Marcotte responded to Paul's even-Steven condemning violence on "both sides":
This is sniveling, cowardly, and frankly sick. There were no “both sides”. There was a group of large men that support Paul that attacked a single, much smaller female MoveOn activist... It’s cowardly. Of course, I wouldn’t expect any less of Rand Paul, who has above all other things during this election, proven himself to be a whiny crybaby, a coward who acts like he has convictions and then whines and runs the second anyone argues with him, and a childish brat who probably hasn’t grown up a day since his Aqua Buddha years.
Huffington Post had a lengthy follow-up with police, who confirmed that Valle is fine and that they were rather unprepared for the rowdy crowds outside the debate. Read the reports at TPM, HuffPo, and Pandagon.
Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory picks up on a video of Aaron Gouveia, the angry husband of a clinic patient who strode over to anti-choice protesters to speak his mind, and filmed their conversation. Writes Clark-Flory:
On their way in, they were confronted by images of dismembered fetuses and two women yelling, "You're killing your unborn baby!" Enraged, Gouveia decided to confront the protesters while his wife was in surgery, and he caught the whole interaction on his cellphone.
Picked up on camera are Gouveia's poignant explanation of why he and his wife, parents who wanted another child, are seeking the procedure -- as well as his opponents' rather pathetic attempts at rebuttals. He also points out to them that because of their scaremongering tactics, it's hard for women in need to find abortion providers nowadays. Read his full thoughts on the incident in his essay at The Good Men Project. If only the Democratic establishment would take a page from this justifiably enraged guy's handbook and come out swinging, verbally, against the virulent new strain of anti-abortion rhetoric emerging from the Right. Read the full story at Salon's Broadsheet.
Poor Ginni Thomas. All she wanted to do was get some closure--19 years later-- by calling Anita Hill and asking the woman who was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas to apologize. She didn't get an apology, but it looks like she sparked a media firestorm instead, opening a couple of major cans of worms for her and her husband. Both Thomases" have supremely bad judgement," wrote Maureen Dowd in the Times this weekend, in one of dozens of high-profile pieces focusing on Ginni Thomas's extreme politicking and her husband's history of ethics problems -- on top of his porn preferences. Perhaps the most salacious revelation inspired by the notorious Ginni Thomas phone message is that ex-girlfriends of Thomas are coming out of the woodwork to confirm reports of his weird sexual fetishes and inappropriate behavior towards women in the office. Meanwhile a mainstream media which had largely forgotten the Hill-Thomas scandal are dredging it up and reminding the public of the reams of evidence not included in the hearings which all point to Hill being truthful -- and Thomas perjuring himself. And it gets worse for the Thomas couple. The same media outlets are jumping all over her weird position as an extremist Tea Party fundraiser at an ultraconservative foundation funded by anonymous donors. The problem here, as Dowd notes in her column ripping into the pair: "There is no way to tell if her donors have cases before the Supreme Court or whether her husband knows their identities. And she never would have to disclose them if her husband had his way." Not only are Ginni Thomas's fundraising activities in question, but her husband's conservative activism from the bench and his troubling history of iffy ethics are under the microscope too. The Nation's Bruce Shapiro reminds us that "the Thomases' evocation of that old episode obscures an ethically challenged Supreme Court justice complicit in handing American politics over to corporations and anonymous far-right donors." And finally, after all the accusations and the questions about the pair have surfaced, there's the humor. The Thomases have been the butt of jokes everywhere from a sophisticated parody at The New Yorker's website to a spirited rant on SNL's Weekend Update. Salon's Alex Pareene runs down a list of humorous and enraged blog reactions to the phone call, noting that "If, as some people suggest, Ginni Thomas hoped to put this dark incident behind her, she failed."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi--the first woman to hold the position--has been the GOP's preferred whipping-girl for years, made into a wicked-witch "Cruela de Vil" caricature by the Right to drum up outrage, writes Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. But one thing Pelosi's infuriated critics haven't been able to touch is her ability to get the job done. Writes Power:
Nancy Pelosi will without a doubt be remembered as one of the most effective and powerful Speakers in U.S. history. Her power has flowed from an unusually adept organizational ability combined with prodigious fundraising for her members. She presided over Democratic victories in the 2006 and 2008 elections...she has overseen one of the most productive Congresses in history to include the passage of an economic stimulus package, a massive health care overhaul and financial reform.
It's Pelosi's uncompromising pragmatic bona fides, her interest in getting legislation passed and making progress over preserving her own image, that has put her politically at risk during these elections. She knew that getting health care passed might make her a target, but she did it anyway, Powers said. And if there's anyone who should be taking the heat for the Democratics choice of agenda or a particular strategy, she feels it's the White House, which she believes often left its Speaker out hustling while it retreated.
Pelosi held a very diverse caucus together under incredibly difficult circumstances. The president was frequently disengaged publicly, even on his signature health care plan. And the Senate didn’t always hold up its end of the bargain.
If Pelosi gets unseated as a result of the election, says Powers, she will go down in history not only as a trailblazer for women in politics, but as one of the best Speakers in history--something President Obama recently said as well. Even Pelosi herself seems to agree to some extent that her legacy has been misrepresented, telling Politics Daily that "we haven't really gotten the credit for what we have done." Read the full column at The Daily Beast.
California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's sons haven't been seen much on the campaign trail with mom. Perhaps that's because they'd bring too much controversial baggage into the spotlight -- a small but potent handful of arrests and high-profile scandals involving the two lads have already been made public. But today Gawker's Maureen O'Connor has an explosive rundown of a rape accusation leveled at Whitman offspring Griffith Rutherford Harsh V, known as Griff, when he was a sophomore partying at Princeton's exclusive eating clubs.  Gawker published the jpeg document of the accused's statement to Princeton's disciplinary board and an exclusive anonymous interview with a friend of the alleged victim, who didn't press charges but did show up in a banged-up condition at the school's health services, leading to the investigation. Together they paint a pretty unpleasant picture of the incident.  Writes O'Connor:
On a spring night in 2006, Griff — then a sophomore — went partying on the Street, a boozy row of private undergraduate dining clubs. As he would later tell a panel of university disciplinarians, he ran into a classmate and went home with her. They had sex. She awoke the next morning with a black eye, bruised face and, she told friends, with no memories from the previous night. According to multiple sources—one of whom was a dormitory adviser at the time—the girl told her friends Griff Harsh had raped her.
In his statement, Harsh swore he had never in any way believed his classmate incapable of consent, and that her injuries came from a trip and fall on the street. The University didn't find enough evidence to take action against Harsh, O'Connor reports. Still, the anonymous friend told O'Connor, "How somebody would think it was OK to sleep with this girl, who is bleeding from her face, is beyond me." In 2002, Princeton opened "Whitman College" a new residential college built with the help of a $30 million donation from Harsh's mom, now running for Governor touting her family-values as a selling point. Read the full story at Gawker. Read Alternet's Kelli Goff on Whitman's "delinquent" sons.