2012 - %3, August

GOP Platform: Bring Back DADT, Ban Same-Sex Marriage

| Wed Aug. 29, 2012 10:38 AM EDT

According to its platform, the Republican Party wants to reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell, prevent same-sex marriages from being recognized by the federal government, and stop efforts to prevent gays and lesbians from being persecuted in Africa.

But that's okay, they're being super-polite about it. 

The GOP platform for 2012 calls for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and affirms the party's support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in the states. (The Obama administration has ceased to defend the law, arguing that part of it is unconstitutional.) Unironically railing against "government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects," this section of the platform also states that "the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard" through "laws governing marriage." However, at the end of the paragraph explaining the party's position, the platform states, "We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity." So instead of same-sex marriage rights, same-sex couples will get "respect and dignity," which is apparently not something they're supposed to expect normally. 

Likewise, in the section on "Supporting Our Troops, Standing By Our Heroes," the platform authors use the phrase "respect and dignity" before decrying "social experimentation," in the military. For anti-gay activists, "social experimentation" is a euphemism for allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly without fear of being discharged because of their sexual orientation. "The members of our military should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity," the GOP platform reads, "We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness." Part of the GOP's extension of "utmost respect and dignity" for servicemembers includes preventing the government from acknowledging gay and lesbian servicemembers. "We affirm the cultural values that encourage selfless service and superiority in battle, and we oppose anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intra-military special interest demonstrations," the platform states, an apparent reference to the Department of Defense's decision to recognize LGBT pride month this year and allow some servicemembers to participate in LGBT pride events in uniform. Because of current law, military families headed by same-sex partners are denied the same benefits as heterosexual couples. Retaining this disparity is another part of the GOP's "respect and dignity" agenda for gay and lesbian servicemembers, as the party's support for the Defense of Marriage Act is reiterated in this section. 

As I reported yesterday, the GOP platform also decries efforts by the Obama administration to oppose laws in African countries that criminalize homosexuality. Some of the legislation being proposed would include prison time and even execution as punishment for homosexuality, but the GOP platform says the Obama administration of "imposing" the "homosexual rights agenda" on "the peoples of Africa" by trying to change them. The GOP's "respect and dignity" agenda for gay people apparently doesn't include preventing them from being executed or imprisoned outside of the US. 

That's not to say the GOP platform completely ignores civil rights in the context of the LGBT rights movement. On the contrary, it expresses deep concern for the rights of anti-gay rights groups. "We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights," the platform reads. 

In the Republican platform, opponents of same-sex marriage have civil rights that must be defended. Gays and lesbians on the other hand, get "respect and dignity," and little else.

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CHARTS: US Overseas Arms Sales More Than Tripled in 2011

| Wed Aug. 29, 2012 6:05 AM EDT

In 2011, the United States experienced its biggest year ever in weapons exports: According to an annual study by the Congressional Research Service [PDF] released earlier this week, the US overseas weapons sales jumped to $66.3 billion last year (77.7 percent of the $85.3 billion global market in 2011), from $21.4 billion in deals in 2010. 

In just one year, the US more than tripled its revenue in arms deals with foreign countries. The $66.3 billion also sets a new cash total record, easily surpassing the previous record of $31 billion in sales in fiscal year 2009.

If you're having trouble putting those hefty sums in perspective, $66.3 billion is amounts to an extra $9.50 in lunch money for every man, woman, and child alive today. And if you're still having some trouble putting this in perspective, here's a pie chart that shows just how much our global share in arms deals with developing countries ticked up in that one year:

 

Yep. That's us, on the right, doing a reverse-Pac-Man-death on overseas arms transfer agreements between 2010 and 2011.

The uptick was mostly fueled by demand in developing countries, which accounted for over $56 billion in sales from the US. Here are two more charts illustrating in constant dollars how America definitively pwns all others in flooding the arms market in the developing world:

 

Illustrations by Dave Gilson

 

Much of the surge was driven exclusively by the ongoing freak-out over Iran: Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (all Persian Gulf allies or partners of the United States) in particular started buying missile defense systems, fighter jets, and other hardware from the US at record levels, just in case Iran ever goes nuclear and tries to throw its weight around West Asia and the Gulf. Saudi Arabia's $33.4 billion deal included dozens of F-15 fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters. The UAE threw down $4.5 billion for a missile shield and other toys.

And in case you were wondering: In arms sales to both developing and developed nations, our closest competitor is Russia, which came in at a total of $4.8 billion in 2011—roughly 7 percent of what the United States hauled in that same year:

Want to Avoid a Thirsty Future? Eat Less Meat

| Wed Aug. 29, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Every year, Americans eat 200 pounds of meat each—equal to a little more than two McDonald's Quarter Pounders, per person, per day. That's about twice the global average; but now the rest of the globe (led by China) is catching up fast.

Except it's highly unlikely that Americans will be able to maintain anything close to current levels of carnivory by 2050, or that people in China, India, and other developing nations will be able to enjoy current US-style diets. There are a number of ways to reach this conclusion—for example, meat production is a massive generator of climate-changing gases—but here's one that seems pretty fundamental: There just isn't enough water.

In a new report—which makes bracing reading in this season of widespread drought, severe crop losses, and high food prices—the Stockholm International Water Institute does the math (hat tip to Grist's Philip Bump):

Corn on "Hardball": Ann Romney Tries to Sell Her Husband

Wed Aug. 29, 2012 2:49 AM EDT

David Corn and Joy Reid joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss Ann Romney's speech at the Republican national convention.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Small Businessman Who Hit Obama at GOP Convention Got $850,000 in Government Loans

| Wed Aug. 29, 2012 1:33 AM EDT

At the Republican national convention on Tuesday, nearly every speech invoked—in an unfair, out-of-context manner—President Obama's statement that successful small business owners benefit from government investment in roads, bridges, and education. Republicans have repeatedly used Obama's line "you didn't build that," excluding the crucial context, to imply that Obama believes that entrepreneurs didn't build their own businesses.

One small business owner tapped by the Republican National Committee to speak at the GOP's "I Built That"-themed convention Tuesday was Phil Archuleta, owner of P&M Signs in New Mexico. "President Obama talks like he supports small businesses, but his actions are destroying us," Archuleta told the thousands in attendance Tuesday night. "His administration is putting us out of business. It is our turn to put them out of office!"

But Archuleta's business, like those of several other business owners at the GOP convention, benefited greatly from government help. Through the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency, Archuleta secured an $850,000 Small Business Administration loan guarantee to build an 11,700-square-foot building for his company.

The Minority Business Development Agency's website also says that Archuleta worked with the US Forest Service, to which he supplies signs, and a Department of Energy laboratory to develop environmentally friendly sign materials. So not only did Archuleta build new infrastructure for his business with a government loan, he collaborated with government agencies to improve the quality of his product.

Archuleta's small business, in other words, directly contradicts the GOP's "I built that" nonsense. The Republican National Committee has trotted out business owners to highlight Obama's and the government's supposedly harmful effect on businesses. In Phil Archuleta's case, government has had the opposite effect.

LA Times Gets It Right on Welfare Attack

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:41 PM EDT

I don't know yet if this headline from the LA Times will show up in their print edition tomorrow, but it's about time reporters and copy editors started putting this stuff front and center. It won't stop until politicians start paying a very visible price for spouting these lies.

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Ann Romney and Chris Christie Fight Over Love

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:29 PM EDT

Ann Romney at the Republican National Convention tonight:

Tonight I want to talk to you about love. I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago. And the profound love I have, and I know we share, for this country. I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it — the love we have for our children and our children's children.

....It's the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We're the mothers, we're the wives, we're the grandmothers, we're the big sisters, we're the little sisters, we're the daughters.

Chris Christie, 20 minutes later:

The greatest lesson Mom ever taught me, though, was this one: she told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. She said to always pick being respected, that love without respect was always fleeting — but that respect could grow into real, lasting love.

Now, of course, she was talking about women. [Rimshot!]

But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership. In fact, I think that advice applies to America today more than ever. I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved.

According to Ann Romney, it's all about love and all about our nation's great women. According to Christie, love has paralyzed us and, anyway, it's only for the womenfolk. Is it any wonder that Ann Romney looked distinctly frosty throughout Christie's speech?

On a more substantive note, did anyone else notice that even Ann Romney was almost entirely unable to humanize Mitt? She talked about the things he had done, but hardly at all about the kind of person he is. There was a brief reference to Mitt being "warm and loving and patient" — and helpful to friends in trouble — but after that it was all about Mitt being hardworking and successful. In other words, pretty much the corporate drone we all think he is. I doubt very much that this really helped the Republican cause with women much.

Barack Obama Did Sort of Run a Lemonade Stand

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 8:41 PM EDT

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was reading from the GOP script on Tuesday when she told a mostly-full Tampa Times Forum that President Obama "never even ran a lemonade stand." It was a point the Republican party chairman, Reince Preibus, had made just a few hours earlier: "President Obama's never run a company," Preibus told the assembled delegates. "He hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand."

It's a compelling line designed to hammer home Mitt Romney's core message—the President has never worked a real job and he doesn't know anything about business. The problem is it's entirely false.

As Politifact detailed in 2009, in response to a similar allegation from MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Obama held a number of retail and food service jobs as a teenager in Hawaii—including scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, which technically doesn't serve lemonade but it does have a pink rasberry lemonade sorbet: 

1975 or 1976 — ice cream scooper, Baskin-Robbins — Honolulu — Obama claims to have lost his taste for ice cream during this, his first job, the duration of which is not publicly known.

Date unknown — deli counter clerk, business name unknown — Honolulu — Obama had a summer job at a deli counter in Hawaii, making sandwiches, his spokesman said during the presidential campaign.

1980 — gift shop sales clerk, business name unknown — Honolulu — Obama worked at a gift shop in Hawaii selling island souvenirs the summer after his freshman year at Occidental College in California.

As Politifact noted, Obama held private-sector jobs as an adult as well, including posts at a Chicago law firm and a New York City company that helped American companies do business abroad—exactly the kind of experience Romney is accusing Obama of lacking. It's a myth that hasn't received as much attention as Romney's debunked charges about Obama's welfare policies, but in accusing the President of being coddled and oblivious, it's no less pernicious.

"Fuck You, Tyrants!": Ron Paul Supporters Rebel on Convention Floor

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 7:38 PM EDT

Mark Carducci, a Nevada delegate and Ron Paul supporter, furiously reacts to a controversial rules change rammed through by the RNC.

A minor revolt broke out on the floor of the Republican Party's presidential convention Tuesday afternoon and evening. Ron Paul delegates from several states erupted into protest over a controversial change to the party's rules to block future insurgencies mounted by outside candidates like their hero. Paul supporters also freaked out over the convention's refusal to recognize about two dozen Paul delegates and for refusing to treat Paul like a serious candidate for the nomination.

During the roll call of the states, the Paulites were irate, screaming at the podium, as convention secretary Kim Reynolds declined to read out the delegate votes for any candidate other than Romney. "The Republican Party is so afraid of Ron Paul that they won't repeat his name," shouted Jim Ayala, a Nevada delegate and Paul supporter wearing an Oath Keepers T-shirt.

Minutes earlier, the Paulites were enraged when the convention adopted the new set of rules on a voice vote during which the Paul backers out-shouted the other delegates. One Nevada delegate and Paul supporter, Mark Carducci, thrust two middle fingers into the air toward RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), screaming "Fuck you, tyrants!" (That's him in the above picture.)

The Republican National Committee had altered the convention rules to bind delegates in future elections to vote for the candidate who wins their state's primary or caucus. This change would hurt outsider candidates like Paul, who collected 158 delegates during the Republican primary season. The RNC also refused to recognize Paul's delegates from Maine, and this incensed his many supporters, leading to a nasty yelling match on the convention floor immediately before Mitt Romney's nomination. "Seat them now!" the Paulites yelled.

Roger Leahy, an Iowa delegate and Paul supporter, says he and other Paulites had pleaded with Reynolds to recognize Paul during the roll call, but she would not. "This is the Republican steamroller," Leahy said.

All this led to the unseated Maine Paul delegates storming out of the convention together. And a pack of angry Paul fans all clad in white ballcaps left the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Romney campaign and the RNC had hoped to avoid this kind of floor flight, large or small, during the convention. But once it was done, the convention proceeded and Romney was nominated, to polite applause.

Following the dustup, Yelena Vorobyov (pictured below), a 30-year-old Paul delegate from Apple Valley, Minnesota, was eager to vent. Barely taking a breath, she said: "This is just evidence of the manipulation of the Republican Party. They're not even allowing us to bring signs in, but they brought in their own [pro-Romney] signs. We couldn't nominate Ron Paul. The 'no' for not passing the rules was louder than the 'aye' and they ruled in favor of the rules. They're cheating. The Republican National Committee is not transparent and does not have integrity. They stole votes. They stole delegates. They refused to send buses for our delegates. It's a totalitarian process. This is not democracy. It's a really sad day for us. I've worked for Republican candidates since I was 16. We believed the Republican Party had more integrity. Boy, did they prove us wrong."

Yelena Vorobyov, one of Ron Paul's 33 Minnesota delegates, had to make her own sign on the floor, and she was damn mad. David CornYelena Vorobyov, one of Ron Paul's 33 Minnesota delegates, had to make her own sign on the floor, and she was damn mad. David Corn

How a Category 1 Hurricane Like Isaac Can Do Plenty of Damage

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 7:32 PM EDT
Waves crashing on Orange Beach, AL.

Update 8/29 2:15 EDT: Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast early Wednesday morning. Wind speeds have slowed, but the storm moving at just 6 miles per hour is expected to dump rain up to 20 inches of rain over the next day.

New Orleans' federal levee system, given a $14.5 billion upgrade post-Katrina, has held back the storm surges so far.  Storm surges as high as 12 feet did overtop a local levee in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, flooding the area and leaving dozens stranded on their roofs. More than half a million Louisiana residents are also without power. Isaac is expected to weaken as it continues inland, with rain continuing for another day.

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Exactly seven years to the day since Katrina hit, Hurricane Isaac is set to make landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi Wednesday morning. Isaac didn't rain too hard on the GOP's convention parade in Tampa, but the slow-moving and large Category 1 hurricane can still do a plenty of damage as it heads up the Mississippi.

For starters, the area covered by Hurricane Isaac is huge. The storm's outer edges are raining down on Florida and North Carolina, some 200 miles from the eye of the hurricane. The hardest hit areas along the Gulf will likely be dumped with over 24 hours of heavy rain. Earlier today, President Obama signed a declaration of emergency in Mississippi. Offshore oil rigs, which have reported wind speeds of 90 mph, are also being evacuated.

High winds create the biggest threat to coastal regions: storm surges. The crests of water pushed ashore by hurricane winds flood and destroy all property in their path. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier tweeted out a specific warning explaining the danger of storm surges.

In 2005, storm surges caused by Katrina overwhelmed the levee system, wrecking catastrophic damage across New Orleans. Isaac doesn't have the Category 5 intensity of Katrina, but even a Category 1 hurricane can do plenty of damage. For example, Hurricane Claudette in 2003 battered the coast of Texas for more than 24 hours, causing $180 million in damage. Aside from storm surges, long and heavy rain from Hurricane Isaac can cause flooding on its own.

Storm trackers might want to check out Google's Hurricane Isaac crisis map, embedded below. The full map has links to government announcements, hurricane information, and geotagged user videos.