You are browsing the archive for 2015 February 06.

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West Virginia Republican Says Rape Can Be ‘Beautiful’ if It Produces a Child

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By David Ferguson, Raw Story

The remarks echo a string of embarrassing statements by politicians regarding women’s bodies.

A Republican state lawmaker in West Virginia said on Thursday that while rape is horrible, it’s “beautiful” that a child could be produced in the attack.

According to Huffington Post, Charleston Gazette reporter David Gutman was on the scene when Delegate Brian Kurcaba (R) said, “Obviously rape is awful,” but “What is beautiful is the child is that could come from this.”

Kurcaba made the remarks during a House of Delegates discussion of a law outlawing all abortions in the state after 20 weeks’ gestation. At 20 weeks, anti-choice activists and lawmakers allege, a fetus can feel pain and is therefore too viable to abort.

The bill was passed by West Virginia Republicans in 2014, but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Now the state GOP has revived the bill and voted to remove an exception for victims of rape and incest.

Kurcaba’s remarks echo a string of embarrassing statements by Republicans regarding rape and women’s bodies.

In 2012, Missouri’s Rep. Todd Akin said that pregnancy can’t result from rape because “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that while sexual assaults are unfortunate, the resulting pregnancy is a “gift from God.”

Libertarian favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) made statements of his own implying that women routinely fabricate rape stories in order to get abortions.

“If it’s an honest rape,” said Paul, physicians should allow the victim to abort, but otherwise, women should not be able to terminate their pregnancies just because they claim to have been raped.

Republican leaders convened an emergency meeting in 2013 urging the rank and file to stop talking about rape altogether lest it further alienate women voters, who have been abandoning the Republican Party in droves.

Nonetheless, Kurcaba — a financial advisor who was elected in 2014 — appears eager to bring discussions of rape back into the dialogue about women’s access to reproductive health care.

…read more


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“The Truth Is Unspeakable”: A Real American Sniper Unloads on “American Sniper”

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Dennis Trainor Jr., Salon

Former sniper Garett Reppenhagen wants nothing to do with a dangerous propaganda film.

Hearing Garett Reppenhagen describe how he felt the first time he shot someone is like listening to an addict talk about his first time injecting heroin. “I leveled my M-4, put him in my iron sights, and took three shots. One of them hit him center mass and he went down in the middle of the road. I had this instant sense of satisfaction, overwhelming excitement and pride. It was really kind of an ecstatic feeling that I had.”

I had just seen the film “American Sniper,” the revisionist propaganda piece of myth-making and nationalistic war porn being sold to us by Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall as an apolitical character study. I wanted to talk with an actual American sniper, and Garett was generous enough to pick up the phone. (He’s also written for Salon.)

Garett has a lot in common with Chris Kyle. Both entered the military at an older age; both spent endless hours on rooftops, in windows or in trash piles in Iraq, “doing their job”; both were in Iraq in 2004 hunting al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; and both spent time after active duty trying to help veterans.

The similarities end there.

I’ll admit, listening to Garett talk about his first kill, taking place when he was ambushed and life presented him a clear choice — kill or be killed — I’m a touch envious. Life rarely offers us such moments of clarity. As haunted as Garett and others who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder are because of events like this one, he was describing a moment so simple and so heightened because of that simplicity.

“I was training for three years to be in the moment to do that, and I did it,” Garett tells me. “It was really an ecstatic feeling that I had. I remember looking at the other guys, seeing if they saw it, because I wanted somebody else to witness it.”

In 2004, while Garett was in that life-or-death firefight, the mundane questions life …read more


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How Sick Is Fox News? They Aired Video of a Man Being Burned Alive for TV Ratings

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America

Fox was the only American news organization this week to toil in the realm of marketing an execution.

Riding a hollow premise to new uncharted depths, Fox News not only tossed aside its own clearly stated position about airing violent propaganda videos distributed by terrorists, it also became, according to The Guardian, the only American news organization this week to toil in the realm of marketing an execution.

Fox not only aired graphic images of a controversial Islamic State (ISIS) clip on its signature nightly news show, it embedded the gruesome, unedited video on its website, and provided lurid, play-by-play description of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh dying at the hands of his captures. (Shepard Smith: “Eventually the pilot collapses to his knees.”)

This is just stunning. An American news organization hosting on its website an explicit terrorist video that captures the staged execution of an innocent hostage.

How do mainstream organizations handle newsworthy acts of barbarism touted by terrorist organizations? That debate raged last summer when ISIS beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and hyped the executions via videos.

At the time, the New York Post was considered to have gone right up to edge of good taste with a front page that featured image of Foley just before his beheading, with the executioner's knife at his throat. (By contrast, the image Fox splashed on the screen Tuesday night showed the hostage engulfed in flames; in the process of being killed.) As USA Todaymedia columnist Rem Rieder noted in August, “There seemed to be wide agreement that making the images available would both dishonor the memory of James Foley and play into the hands of the Islamic State radicals by doing what they wanted.”

Why now?

Recall the words five months ago of Michael Clemente, Fox's executive vice president of news/editorial, when the beheading videos emerged: “What we try to do is use judgment so that people are informed about what actually happened while showing as little of what took …read more


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Is It Finally Beyoncé's Year? 15 Grammy Questions

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Anna Silman, Salon

Here's a quick guide to this confusing awards show.

While you probably already have your Oscar ballot filled out, the narrative surrounding the Grammys always tends to be a little more muddled. While the Oscars still have the sheen of prestige, the Grammys have long been denounced as a questionable arbiter of taste, with many viewing the annual presentation of the gilded gramophones as a cheap popularity contest at best and a ridiculous farce at worse. Add to that the bloated runtime, bizarre duets and archaic eligibility requirements, and the evening can be a lot to wrap your head around. Still, it is music’s biggest night, and you’re obviously going to be watching, aren’t you? Here are 15 major talking points to get you ready for the festivities.

1. To start with: Who are the nominees?

Good question! You can see the full list here.

2. Wait — why are there 82 categories?

Yeah… the Grammys have a lot of categories. Fortunately, only the major awards will be presented during the telecast — about 70 of them will be given out ahead of time. And the telecast will still feel too long.

3. Who is hosting?

Inexplicably, LL Cool J hosts the Grammys ever year (well, at least for the past four). He is a hilarious host. Come for the earnestness, stay for the nonstop lip-licking.

4. Could this finally be the year of Beyonce?

While it certainly seemed like last year was the year of Beyonce — recall her show-stopping “Drunk in Love” performance at the 2014 Grammys, which came just weeks after her surprise-drop — she  also wasn’t eligible for any best album nods, because the nominee eligibility period only runs through the last day of September. In fact, believe it or not, Bey has never won the album of the year trophy, Grammy’s top honor. This year, coming into the ceremony as the most nominated woman in Grammy history, it looks like she might finally have her chance to take home the big prize. Oh, and she’s performing again, too: alongside John Legend and Common in a performance of “Glory,” their Golden Globe-winning “Selma” track.

5. …read more


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Medicare and Social Security Tabs Coming Due

February 6, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

The national debt has dropped out of the headlines recently, but that doesn’t mean that it has gone away. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the debt officially topped $18 trillion. For those keeping score, that equals roughly 101 percent of GDP. In other words, we now owe more than the value of all goods and services produced in this country over a year. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt will climb to almost $27.3 trillion within the next 10 years.

Moreover, as Milton Friedman, pointed out, debt, like taxes, is just a measure of how we pay for the true cost of government, which is spending. That spending is currently on a path to reach 36 percent of GDP by mid-Century. That’s just federal spending. Throw in state and local governments and government is soon expected to consume more than half of GDP. 

As bad as these numbers sound, they actually understate the problem. That is because they don’t include the unfunded liabilities of programs like Social Security and Medicare. While those liabilities don’t show up on the country’s official balance sheet, they nonetheless represent legal obligations of the US government. Including the expected shortfall from those programs brings are true debt to an unfathomable $90.6 trillion. 

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone account for 47 percent of federal spending today, a portion that will only grow larger in the future.”

Yet, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem willing to face up to this problem. Democrats either deny that there is a problem or insist that the problem could be solved if only the wealthy paid higher taxes. But even if one thought that tax increases were a good idea, and could be implemented without killing jobs or slowing economic growth, it is simply impossible to increase taxes enough to close the budget gap. In particular, raising taxes on the wealthy falls far short of what would be required to pay for our current and future obligations.

Meanwhile, Republicans give frequent lip service to the debt crisis but pretend that you can deal with the debt crisis by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the federal budget. Certainly, there is plenty of that, but you simply cannot balance the budget by cutting the usual suspects. Foreign aid amounts to less than 1 percent of federal spending. Federal subsidies to Planned Parenthood and the Corporation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Despite Wingnut Freakout, Obama Is Right: Christian Violence Is Just as Bad as Muslim Violence

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

If anything, the president understated the case.

This week, President Obama met with Muslim leaders in a private political meeting for the first time in his six-year presidency. The meeting set off predicatable angry reactions from the political right, with Fox News's Sean Hannity even saying that he wished Obama had demanded that the leaders assembled publicly denounce radical Islam. Obama further raised the hackles of the Christian right when he said at the National Prayer Breakfast that no religion has a monopoly on violence, saying:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place – remember that  during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

The reaction to these comments was apoplectic. Rush Limbaugh called it an “insult” to Christianity; the Tea Party News Network said Obama threw “Christians under the bus”; the Daily Caller surmised that Obama's remarks were designed to “curb” criticism of Islam.

What all these critics did failed to do was actually engage with the substance of what Obama was saying. The president was not attacking Christianity, he was simply noting that just as ISIS may be using the name of Islam to rally followers to its violent agenda, extremists within the Christian faith have done same thing historically. In fact, violence has been in the mainstream of Christianity throughout history. If anything, Obama didn't go far enough in his remarks. Christianist violence isn't a relic of the Crusades. It continues today, and in many of its forms is just as violent as what we are seeing from the ISIS fighters. 

Christian Violence In The Past Century

In the Spring of 2013, renowned political scientist and Middle East historian Juan Cole decided to compare the body counts between violence committed by Christians and Muslims in the 20th century. He found that Muslim violence claimed the lives of around 2 million people, mostly during the Iran-Iraq war and the war in …read more


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We Can Live with an (Almost) Nuclear Iran

February 6, 2015 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

As negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program drag on inconclusively, calls mount for the Obama administration to abandon diplomacy. Hawks in the United States routinely excoriate President Obama for engaging in “appeasement” and advocate a return to the confrontational mode of previous administrations. Indeed, many of them demand that Washington adopt a harder-line policy than ever before, replete with a new round of tough economic sanctions against Tehran. Even some relatively moderate participants in the policy debate argue that Washington is unlikely to achieve a meaningful agreement and should, therefore, back away from the negotiations.

To his credit, Obama has thus far vigorously resisted such pressure. And for the moment, the congressional drive to sabotage negotiations by passing legislation imposing an array of new sanctions has stalled. But that may be merely a brief respite for the White House, if progress is not made toward a comprehensive settlement to replace the interim agreement reached last year.

Shrill warnings that Tehran is merely using the negotiations to stall for time while it continues to pursue a covert nuclear-weapons program are becoming more frequent. Those warnings emanate both from hawkish circles in the United States and from some foreign governments—most notably, Israel. Such critics insist that Iran is on the verge of a “breakout”—an ability to build nuclear weapons in the near future. They also argue that the Obama administration’s naïve commitment to diplomacy is giving the clerical regime breathing space to reach that goal.

Washington should make clear that it can tolerate an Iran that is one screwdriver’s turn away from a nuclear-weapons capability.”

We should view such predictions with more than a dollop of skepticism. Hawks have repeatedly predicted that Iran is on the verge of barging into the global nuclear-weapons club. Indeed, R. James Woolsey, a leading neoconservative figure and director of the Central Intelligence Agency in Bill Clinton’s administration, warned in 1993 that Iran would likely be able to build nuclear weapons in eight to ten years. Similar alarmist projections have surfaced repeatedly from the usual suspects since that time. Iran, it appears, has been on the threshold of a nuclear “breakout” for more than two decades.

Clearly, we should not succumb to yet another episode of foreign-policy hawks crying wolf. But it is not enough to remain committed to a diplomatic process for dealing with Iran. If U.S. officials do not adopt more …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Paul Krugman: Showdown in Europe Raises the Ugly Specter of Fascism

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Greece and especially Germany are playing a perilous game of chicken.

Europe is playing a dangerous game of chicken, Paul Krugman writes in his column Friday. When the European Central Bank announced that it would no longer accept Greek government debt as collateral for loans on Wednesday, the move signaled that “the moment of truth is clearly approaching.” Here's how Krugman sums up the current situation:

Germany to Greece: Nice banking system you got there. Be a shame if something were to happen to it.

Greece to Germany: Oh, yeah? Well, we’d hate to see your nice, shiny European Union get all banged up.

These fighting words are putting the whole European project at risk, Krugman warns. The standoff is also creating an opening for “sinister political forces that have been gaining influence as Europe’s Second Great Depression goes on and on,” he writes. “After a tense meeting with his German counterpart, the new Greek finance minister didn’t hesitate to play the 1930s card. 'Nazism,' he declared, 'is raising its ugly head in Greece' — a reference to Golden Dawn, the not-so-neo-Nazi party that is now the third largest in the Greek legislature.”

How on earth, and why on earth would Germany allow itself to approach this dangerous brink? The crisis arises from political pandering, in Krugman's view—German chancellor Angela Merkel's and company's political pandering, that is. Despite the clear evidence that there is no way that Greece can repay its debt, Merkel keeps up the tough, moralizing talk and even plays on stereotypes of lazy southern Europeans. Apart from the potential appeal to some of her more right-wing constituents, what could be behind this strategy? Krugman speculates:

Maybe the Germans imagine that they can replay the events of 2010, when the central bank coerced Ireland into accepting an austerity program by threatening to cut off its banking system. But that’s unlikely to work against a government that has seen the damage wrought by austerity, and was elected on a promise to reverse that damage.

The one bright spot, according to Krugman is that there are signs that the …read more


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WATCH: Jon Stewart Nails Chris Christie's 'Comfort with Corruption'

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

It turns out the everyman NJ Gov has a a taste for the high life.

“Chris Christie is the luckiest man alive,” Jon Stewart said on his show last night. Why? Because Christie just happened to have signed an executive order allowing the governor of New Jersey to have his travel expenses paid for by foreign governments, and lo and behold, Christie just took a trip to London on the King of Jordan's dime. “What a coincidence!” Stewart quipped. What are the chances?

Details emerged yesterday that Christie's posh London trip tab was some $30,000, but not to worry, taxpayers, Christie has an explanation at the ready: “I'm going to squeeze all of the juice out of this orange that I can get.”

Stewart has to hand it to the Republican presidential aspirant. At least he is honest. “‘Hey, here’s the deal,” Stewart said in his thick Tony Soprano New Jersey mobster accent. “I’m gonna get every f*cking thing I can get legally out of this office, including sh*t that I myself made legal.”

Admittedly, Christie's “comfort with corruption” could cost him, and open the door further for Jeb Bush, who, by the way, loves his family and is willing to fight anyone older, weaker and smaller who insults them.



Related Stories

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4 GOP Presidential Hopefuls Who Admitted They Smoked Weed

February 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, AlterNet

They may not want to legalize it, but some of them have certainly enjoyed it.

The next presidential election is still more than a year and a half away, but the field of Republican contenders for the nomination is already crowded. One of the issues they will be dealing with is marijuana legalization. That raises the question: Who among the field has toked up?

And that raises another question: Will these Republicans who admit (or coyly don't deny) smoking weed come out in favor of legalizing it? It's not exactly a part of the Republican platform, but the issue isn't going away.

Here are four potential Republican presidential contenders who almost certainly smoked weed—either by their own admission, by their non-denials, or according to others.

1. Jeb Bush

The former first brother and Florida governor told The Boston Globe last month that he hit the pot pipe while in prep school and it was no big deal. “I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover,” he said. “It was pretty common.”

Bush's Andover classmate Peter Tibbetts added some color. Tibbetts told the Globe the first time he smoked pot was with Bush in the woods near their dorm at Phillips Academy in Andover. He added that he and Bush listened to “Magic Carpet Ride” in Bush's dorm room while smoking hash. “The first time I really got stoned was in Jeb’s room,” Tibbetts said. “He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me.”

2. Ted Cruz

The Texas senator most often mistaken for a particularly unctuous undertaker has puffed the magic dragon, too. He hasn't said so himself, but his staff has. And they're very, very sorry on his behalf.

“Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Sen. Cruz was no exception,” a Cruz spokesman told the British tabloid The Daily Mail. “When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he's never tried it since.”

Cruz's campaign later confirmed those remarks to The Hill.

3. Rand Paul

The junior senator …read more