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Archive for April 10th, 2012

It Was Nice We Had This Time Together

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Goodbye, Rick Santorum By ANDREW ROSENTHAL

 

Rick Santorum announcing the suspension of his candidacy for the presidency Tuesday in Gettysburg, Pa.

Rick Santorum never had a chance. The Republican leadership and many Republican primary voters are borderline delusional, but they don’t have a death wish.

That’s not to say I wasn’t glued to the television when Mr. Santorum announced on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the race — or rather, “suspending” his campaign, which means he can go on spending his donors’ money. As I watched him wander off into the vast wasteland of presidential also-rans, I asked myself what, exactly, the man formerly best known for comparing gay sex to man-on-dog sex had accomplished.

Mr. Santorum showed that he could appeal to the far right, and the way far right, and the way, way far right, and that he could use that base to make things really hard for Mitt Romney. And he illuminated the dark heart of the G.O.P., the part that thrives on fear and xenophobia and intolerance. Mr. Santorum said on Tuesday that this was “as improbable as any race you’ll ever see for president.” Seems about right to me.

He also proved that he has a remarkable ability to spout absurdities — some of which, arguably, rival the aforementioned man-on-dog comment. So I decided to honor Mr. Santorum with a fond retrospective of his lowest moments.

Throwing up: I’ve got to start with Mr. Santorum saying that John F. Kennedy’s seminal speech on the separation of church and state made him “almost throw up.” Mr. Santorum completely misrepresented Mr. Kennedy’s speech; he claimed that the slain president had opposed talking about religion “in the public square.” What he actually said was that he would not be bossed around by the pope or the Roman Catholic Church.

Natural instincts: The candidate said women should not serve in combat because men’s “natural instinct” to protect women might prove too distracting.

Trashing higher education: He called President Obama “a snob” for urging students to attend college. Emphasizing higher education, he said on ABC’s “This Week,” “devalues the tremendous work that people who, frankly, don’t go to college and don’t want to go to college because they have a lot of other talents and skills that, frankly, college — you know, four-year colleges may not be able to assist them.”

Questioning the president’s faith: Mr. Santorum rarely missed an opportunity to play to those who doubt Mr. Obama’s Christian faith. “I believe the president is a Christian,” Mr. Santorum said once on “Face the Nation,” before adding, “He says he’s a Christian.” In January, at a campaign event in Florida, a woman said that the president “is an avowed Muslim and my question is, why isn’t something being done to get him out of our government?” Mr. Santorum was not going to let that pass. He looked the woman in the eye and declared: “Believe me — I’m doing everything I can to get him out of the government.” He later explained that he’s under no obligation to correct supporters.

No right to choose, no matter what: In January, Piers Morgan asked Mr. Santorum what he would do if one of his daughters had been raped, was pregnant and was “begging you to let her have an abortion.” His response: “I would do what every father would do – try to counsel your daughter to do the right thing.”  But he didn’t stop there: “I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life and accept what God is giving to you.” He said his daughter ought “to make the best out of a bad situation.”

This list is far from comprehensive. Share your favorite Santorum moments in the comments.

 

© 2012, agentleman.

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Written by agentleman

April 10th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Its Romney Vs. Obama: Healthcare Round Two

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Rick Santorum Drops Out: GOP Presidential Candidate Suspends 2012 Campaign Sam Stein

In a surprise decision Tuesday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) announced that he is suspending his presidential campaign, all but putting an end to the Republican primary.

“We made a decision to get into this race at our kitchen table, against all the odds, and we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race is over for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting,” Santorum said during an address in Gettysburg, Pa.

During his 14-minute speech, Santorum notably did not endorse Mitt Romney.

The Pennsylvania Republican had taken a break from the campaign trail for several days to tend to his ailing daughter, Bella. He had pledged to continue campaigning through the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. But the combination of his daughter’s sickness and recent poll numbers showing him possibly losing his home state apparently prompted the early departure.

According to Yahoo! News, Santorum called Romney earlier in the day to inform him of his decision to suspend his campaign. The former senator also made a call to campaign operatives to relay his decision.

Santorum’s decision removes any lingering doubt that Romney will end up the Republican presidential nominee. The former Massachusetts governor held a seemingly insurmountable delegate lead prior to Santorum’s departure, though his campaign was planning on spending between one and two million dollars against Santorum in Pennsylvania.

UPDATE: 2:35 p.m. — RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has responded to Santorum’s decision:

“Today, Senator Santorum has made a commendable decision. He has decided to put his country, party, and desire to defeat President Obama ahead of any personal ambition. I applaud his decision and congratulate him on the campaign he has run.”

The Romney campaign has also released a statement:

“Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran. He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation. We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity.”

Newt Gingrich weighed in during a press conference on Tuesday:

“I think it makes it clearer that there’s a conservative, named Newt Gingrich, and there’s Mitt Romney,” he said, according to Justin Sink of The Hill. “I have a great, great respect for how hard Rick worked, he was the personification of courage.”

UPDATE 3:10 p.m. — Shortly after the senator finished speaking, Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley explained the decision in a short phone interview with the Huffington Post. The senator came to the conclusion that he should suspend his campaign last night, Gidley said, noting that while his decision was largely driven by concerns over Bella’s illness, there were political factors as well.

Cash was always a problem, though Gidley said that the campaign was “okay with money.” Gingrich’s presence in the primary also presented obstacles.

“We needed Newt to step aside a long time ago,” Gidley had told MSNBC earlier.

 

But one of the lesser-discussed concerns was the structure of Texas’ primary. Santorum had been pushing to have delegates assigned on a winner-take-all basis, but it increasingly appeared that his demands would not be met.

 

“Texas had to be winner take all,” said Gidley. “That would have been very, very helpful. Obviously, that is 155 delegates sitting on the table, and we know there have been some … within the conservative movement trying to get that accomplished. But that was becoming increasingly difficult.”

Asked how much should be read into the absence of Romney’s name from Santorum’s speech, Gidley replied: “nothing.”

 

“Governor Romney has called Rick and asked for a meeting to discuss an endorsement,” he explained, “but we will see how that goes in the next couple days.”

© 2012, agentleman.

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April 10th, 2012 at 12:56 pm

A Bit Of Nasty Toward Pakistani Women

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KARACHI, Pakistan — Fakhra Younas went under the surgeon’s knife 38 times, hoping to repair the gruesome damage inflicted by a vengeful Pakistani man who had doused her face in acid a decade earlier, virtually melting her mouth, nose and ears.

The painful medical marathon took place in Rome, a distant city that offered Ms. Younas refuge, the generosity of strangers and a modicum of healing. She found an outlet in writing a memoir and making fearless public appearances. But while Italian doctors worked on her facial scars, some wounds refused to close.

On March 17, after a decade of pining for Pakistan, a country she loved even though its justice system had failed her terribly, Ms. Younas climbed to the sixth-floor balcony of her apartment building in the southern suburbs of Rome and jumped. She was 33 years old.

News of her death filtered back to her home city, Karachi. And by the time her coffin arrived for burial, a storm of outrage had been whipped up — one framed by a glittering Hollywood success.

On Feb. 28, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Karachi filmmaker, won Pakistan’s first Academy Award, for “Saving Face,” a documentary that focuses in gritty detail on victims of acid violence like Ms. Younas. Despite the film’s disturbing topic, the Oscar gave Pakistanis a welcome shot of national pride, while focusing attention on a social ill.

Acid is the preferred weapon of vindictive men against women accused of disloyalty or disobedience. Common in several Asian countries, acid attacks in Pakistan grew sharply in number in 2011, to 150 from 65 in 2010, although some advocacy workers said the increase stemmed largely from better reporting.

The death of Ms. Younas galvanized the Pakistani news media. In Parliament, lawmakers vowed to take action, while one political leader called for a criminal investigation into the case to be reopened. But legal experts were skeptical that would happen, because the man Ms. Younas long accused of the attack — her ex-husband, Bilal Khar — was acquitted at trial nine years ago.

Unlike most men accused in acid attacks, Mr. Khar comes from a wealthy, powerful background. His family owns vast swaths of rich farmland in Punjab Province; his father, Mustafa, is a former provincial governor; his first cousin Hina Rabbani Khar is Pakistan’s foreign minister. In recent weeks, Mr. Khar appeared on television several times to defend his reputation. “My hands are clean,” he said during one broadcast.

The appearances won him little public sympathy, with critics saying that the case exemplified how Pakistan’s rich frequently evade justice. Yet there was a ringing contrast between the howls of condemnation and the virtual silence that greeted Ms. Younas after she was attacked a decade ago. And it raised a question: When this clamor has receded, will Pakistan’s next acid victims stand a better chance of obtaining justice?

Deep-rooted social prejudice and misogyny were part of her story. Born to a heroin-addicted mother on Napier Road, Karachi’s red-light district, by puberty Ms. Younas was a working “dancing girl” — a euphemism for prostitute. She had a son when she was 15. Then, in 1997, at 18, she achieved the vice girl’s version of the Pakistani dream: she married a client, Bilal Khar, who came from the other side of the tracks.

But the marriage collapsed after three years, amid allegations of domestic violence, and Ms. Younas fled to her mother’s home on Napier Road. She was sleeping there in May 2000 when two men burst into the apartment; one cast a bottle of liquid over her face and chest. Ms. Younas struggled and screamed, but it was too late: the acid fused her lips, melted her breasts and destroyed one eye. During a three-month stay in a hospital, she came close to death.

“She had two little holes for her nostrils, and her mouth was so melted that only a straw could fit in,” said Tehmina Durrani, a prominent Lahore figure who championed the case. Ms. Durrani had her own reasons for tackling the Khars — she had divorced Bilal’s father, Mustafa, and had written a searing memoir of the marriage titled “My Feudal Lord.”

Other Pakistanis, however, showed little interest in the case. Newspapers, even liberal ones, gave the story scant coverage. Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government dragged its heels over issuing a passport to Ms. Younas, concerned that the case would hurt Pakistan’s image.

© 2012, agentleman.

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April 10th, 2012 at 10:40 am

A Good Week For Freedom

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6 Reasons the Koch Brothers Had a Very Bad Week By Adele M. Stan

An FBI investigation, a new documentary, and a negative court ruling: here’s a look inside the Kochs’ worst week in a while.

Were there a way for a few billion clams to wipe a week off the calendar, one imagines that Charles and David Koch, the multibillionaire principals of Koch Industries, would like to see the final week of March 2012 vaporized, at least in the public mind. For the Kochs, it was a week of bad news: a new documentary about their political activity and corporate negligence was making a splash — on the same day a story broke announcing an FBI investigation of two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political ground organization they founded and fund. (Full disclosure: AlterNet is a supporter of the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed, and I appear in the film.)

Things got even worse the next day, Friday, March 30, when the billionaire brothers learned that a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain non-profit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list, and the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer, who wrote a devastating profile of the brothers last year, reported on the Kochs’ involvement in a barrage of anti-Obama ads sponsored by a tax-exempt non-profit called the American Energy Alliance, which may also now be required to reveal its donor list.

On the very same day, another federal court struck down portions of Wisconsin’s controversial law that stripped collective bargaining rights from most of the state’s public employees — a law championed by Americans for Prosperity, and rammed through the state legislature a year ago by the AFP-supported Gov. Scott Walker. Here, we take a closer look at the Kochs’ very bad week.

1. An FBI Investigation

Just hours before the premiere showing of Koch Brothers Exposed in Manhattan on Thursday, March 29, the Miwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Daniel Bice broke the news that the FBI was investigating possibly illegal activity by two groups led by Mark Block, former director of the AFP Wisconsin chapter, during his stint as campaign manager for former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. (The Hermanator famously referred to David Koch as his “brother from another mother” at an event hosted by the oil baron in Washington, DC, last year.) Among documents Bice uncovered last year was a profit-and-loss statement for Prosperity USA, a nonprofit group headed by Block, which details travel costs for a visit last year with David Koch and Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips in Washington, DC.

While that’s not proof of wrongdoing, it is proof of David Koch’s link to Block, a shady character who has been prosecuted in the past for violating Wisconsin election law.

The Journal Sentinel reports: “FBI agents have been talking to donors and other individuals connected with Prosperity USA and Wisconsin Prosperity Network,” both non-profits founded by Block while he was at the helm of AFP-Wisconsin. (AlterNet has published several reports involving the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, here,  here and here.)

In correspondence with the Center For Public Integrity’s iWatch News last year, AFP spokesperson Levi Russell acknowledged that “there were financial dealings with Prosperity USA and/or the Wisconsin Prosperity Network.”

2. Revelation of Koch Involvement in Group Running Anti-Obama Ads

Already, March 29 was looking like a tough day for the Kochs when Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel burst forth with an article revealing the involvement of the Kochs in an organization, the American Energy Alliance, that launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against President Barack Obama on Friday. The ads put forth the specious claim that the president’s policies are driving up gasoline prices.

According to Politico:

The group launching a $3.6 million ad campaign hitting President Barack Obama on gasoline prices has deep ties to the billionaire libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch.

[...]

The groups are run by Tom Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Pyle regularly attends the mega-donor summits organized by the Koch brothers, including the 2012 winter summit in Indian Wells, Calif., where the Kochs raised more than $150 million to be directed to groups ahead of the general election.

[...]

The ads come after the Kochs’ primary political group, Americans for Prosperity, earlier this year launched a $6 million ad campaign calling out Obama over the now-defunct, government-subsidized maker of solar power components, Solyndra.

The following day, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer followed up with a closer look at the American Energy Alliance:

So who is behind the advertising campaign to push the line that Obama is to blame? Bill Burton, senior strategist at the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA believes that it comes from a familiar source. “The Koch brothers and other oil barons are using profits from high gas prices to fund false political attacks benefitting Governor Romney,” he says.

[American Energy Alliance Communications Director Benjamin] Cole retorts that there is “not a single penny of Koch money” paying for the two-week ad campaign. But he declined to confirm or deny reports, including one by Politico, that the Koch brothers, whose privately owned conglomerate, Koch Industries, is a major domestic-oil refiner, have steered funds to both the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research. A spokesperson at Koch Industries did not respond to questions on the Kochs’ ties to the groups.

3. Federal Court Sets Stage for Revelation of Americans For Prosperity Donors

The Koch brothers are notoriously secretive about where they put their money when it comes to their influence on the political process. Their vehicles of choice are a particular sort of nonprofit organization — those that fall under either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Service tax code. Under current Federal Election Commission regulations, organizations sponsoring so-called “issue” ads — even those with with the (c)(3) or (c)(4) designation — have not been required to reveal their donors. Americans for Prosperity, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the American Energy Alliance all fall under one of these designations. In her report on the anti-Obama ads discussed above, Mayer explains it on the New Yorker‘s Web site:

Technically, the ads have been produced and aired by the Washington-based American Energy Alliance, a 501c-4 social-welfare organization under the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code, whose activities, under the law, have to be largely non-political. This group shares office space and personnel with a sister organization, the Institute for Energy Research, a 501c-3, whose tax status is typically reserved for charities. Its activities have to be strictly non-partisan and non-political.

Even though the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity are rather blatantly political in their activities, lax enforcement has allowed the groups to get away with their ads and political rallies while shielding their donors from disclosure.

A decision made on Friday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia could change all that, laying before the eyes of the world the extent of the Koch brothers’ spending through such organizations.

As the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal reported:

Friday’s court ruling could reverse a trend started by the FEC rules, and aggravated by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, that led to an explosion in undisclosed contributions to electoral efforts. The percentage of independent spending that went undisclosed jumped from 1 percent in 2006 to 43.8 percent in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Advertisements falling under the rubric of “electioneering communications” include those run against President Barack Obama by the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity, both non-profits linked to the Koch brothers. All ads run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are classified as “electioneering communications.” The ruling would require for the first time that contributions to these groups, and many more, be disclosed.

The FEC, whose nondisclosure rules were challenged by Rep. Chris Van Holland, D-Md., could appeal the ruling if four of the six FEC commissioners vote to do so.

4. Recall This: A Legal Defeat for Koch-Funded Wisconsin Gov. Walker

Just as the date was being set for a recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a federal court struck down portions of the anti-labor law that all but ended collective bargaining for the state’s public employees. When first introduced in the state legislature, the anti-union measure sparked an uprising in the Dairy State last year that led to an 18-day occupation of the state capitol building. Walker was elected in 2010 with a substantial assist from the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity (then under the leadership of Mark Block, now a person of interest in the aforementioned FBI investigation). Judge William Conley took aim at several portions of the law: those that forbade the automatic deduction of union dues from public employes and demanded yearly union elections. Such provisions treated certain groups of public employees differently from others with similar jobs, apparently according to their loyalty to the governor.

From Amanda Terkel’s report on Huffington Post:

The court ruled that the state cannot prevent public sector unions from automatically deducting dues from workers’ paychecks and cannot require them to be recertified annually.

The law, known as Act 10, requires most public sector unions to hold annual votes on whether a majority of its members want to recertify the union. It also took away the rights of some unions to automatically collect dues from members’ paychecks.

The court kept most of the law in place, but it ruled that the state did not have the power to pick and choose which unions could deduct dues. Under Act 10, only “public safety unions” — those representing firefighters and police officers — could continue to take out payments automatically.

AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld explains the loyalty issues involved:

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Conley, which struck down those sections of the law, held that the legislature had the right to deny union bargaining rights, so long as that policy was applied evenly across all state employee unions–not just the ones opposing the governor’s or his party’s policies. In Act 10, Walker generally exempted state police and public safety unions from the bargaining and dues-collecting restrictions.

“The Act’s treatment of the Capital Police, who endorsed the governor’s opponent, in comparison to its treatment of state vehicle inspectors, who endorsed the governor, best illustrates this suspect line-drawing,” Conley wrote, saying that targeting of some unions violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

5. ‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ Debuts

If you’re trying to keep a secret — say, one about the amount of money you’re investing in organizations that put out disinformation in order to sway the political process in your favor, or maybe one about the cancer affecting nearly every family in a neighborhood downriver from your paper plant — a documentary raising questions about these things is never a good day. On Thursday, March 29, filmmaker Robert Greenwald unveiled a feature-length film, Koch Brothers Exposed, at a screening co-sponsored by AlterNet and Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation.

But given all the other fires that had popped up in Kochland — the court ruling against Scott Walker, the FBI investigation of Mark Block, the Politico report on the Kochs’ support of the American Energy Alliance, and the New Yorker‘s exploration of the Alliance’s Koch links — you’d expect that public relations wizards for the Kochs and their proxies would be falling all over themselves issuing statements and doing spin-control on these developments. Instead, radio silence:

From Politico:

A spokesman for the Koch brothers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

From the New Yorker:

A spokesperson at Koch Industries did not respond to questions on the Kochs’ ties to the groups.

The Kochs’ political operatives were hardly more responsive. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in its report on the FBI investigation that involves the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity:

Block did not return texts, emails or calls asking for comment on Thursday.

From the Huffington Post, in its report on the court decision against parts of the Scott Walker anti-union law:

Walker’s office did not return a request for comment.

Instead, the PR professionals at Koch Industries focused on filmmaker Greenwald, posting an attack on him on their Web site, and complaining of “harassing phone calls” from Brave New Foundation staffers who were requesting comment on the documentary, and making a big deal of a bad joke made by one of the staffers after he thought he had hung up. When a behemoth corporation — in this case, the second-largest privately held corporation in America — uses its corporate Web site to attack an individual the way Koch Industries went after Greenwald on Friday, there’s usually a bit more to the story. In this case, it appears the public relations geniuses at Koch were hoping to deflect attention away from the Kochs’ very bad week.

 

© 2012, agentleman.

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