On Friday, in an attempt to demonstrate once more that he's a totally normal humanoid with wide-ranging cultural interests, Mitt Romney published a playlist of his favorite music from the campaign trail. The mix, which you can find on his Facebook page and the music app Spotify, includes a mix of country, oldies, top-40, and whatever you'd call Kid Rock.
It also includes "The M.T.A.," a song by the Kingston Trio that has likely never appeared within a 40-track radius of Kid Rock. It goes a little something like this:
This was one of my favorite songs growing up, with the unintended consequence being that I developed an acute and highly irrational fear of subway turnstiles (something I'm sure Romney and I have in common). The thought of Romney blasting the Kingston Trio's rendition of "M.T.A." on his campaign bus, feet tapping, head bopping, over and over and over again, actually makes him seem kind of—what's the word here—human.
I'd just add that "M.T.A." (otherwise known as "Charlie on the M.T.A.") is a song about a Boston man who embarks on what is supposed to be a smooth and uneventful ride, gets in over his head, becomes trapped, and is forced to have his wife try to bail him out. She fails and he's then doomed to spend the rest of his life trapped in an endless loop, eating sandwiches. So there's that.
Update: Here's the full mix.
I am a Man of Constant Sorrow — The Soggy Bottom Boys
Read My Mind — The Killers
December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) — Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
The GOP candidate wants government out of housing and Fannie and Freddie eliminated—but bought his first home with a government-backed mortgage.
Andy Kroll and Tim MurphyMar. 9, 2012 7:00 AM
2012 GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum wants the government out of every aspect of Americans' lives—especially the housing market. He pledges to eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin government housing giants that help guarantee 90 percent of all new mortgages in America. He wants to "let capitalism work" and allow the housing market to "find its bottom." Only then, he says, will the recovery begin. It's a plan that would make Adam Smith proud.
Yet Santorum wasn't always so opposed to government intervention in housing. In a deal that's gone unreported during his presidential run, Santorum bought his first house in 1983 with a cut-rate government-backed mortgage, according to records compiled by the campaign of Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Penn.), who Santorum defeated in 1994. He received his loan through a state program to boost homeownership among low- and middle-income families. Santorum, in other words, benefited from a program whose missionmirrored that of Fannie and Freddie, the companies he now rails against and wants to dissolve. (Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley did not respond to a request for comment.)
Santorum, then a law student and a Pennsylvania state Senate aide, landed the mortgage through a program run by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). He used the $41,600 loan to buy and renovate a three-story brick house in Harrisburg, the state capital. According to a 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer story, the interest rate on the government-backed mortgage was 13.08 percent—more than 3 percentage points lower than the market rate at the time.
The PHFA's loan program was the first of its kind in the state. State bonds backstopped the mortgages, only lenders approved by Fannie and Freddie could issue them, and families earning more than $35,000 did not qualify, according to PHFA records. (Santorum's income totaled $27,000 the year he got the loan.) The loan's promise of a low, fixed interest rate was so enticing to working and middle class homebuyers that, as the Inquirer noted, the PHFA's board decided not to publicize the program, fearing a "potential problem" like a mad rush on the day the loans were made available.
Leo Linbeck is the donor no incumbent is safe from.
Tim MurphyMar. 8, 2012 7:00 AM
Leo Linbeck III
If you're a deep-pocketed political donor, contributing vast sums of money to advance your own ideology is just what you do. Pouring money into TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of politicians you thoroughly and completely disagree with? Not so much.
But the Campaign for Primary Accountability isn't your typical super-PAC, and its top donor, Houston construction magnate Leo Linbeck III, isn't your typical conservative sugar daddy. While groups like American Crossroads and Priorities USA have sprouted up in the last two years to boost specific values and candidates, the CFPA has a different goal entirely: electoral mayhem.
Led by Linbeck, the group's aim is to use the power of the purse to do what political parties and state redistricting panels won't—make congressional races competitive again. CFPA, which has raised $1.8 million to date, is targeting at least 10 Republican and Democratic incumbents in half a dozen states, with plans to increase that number over the next few months. And it's starting to work. The group has taken credit for the Super Tuesday defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) and the retirement of another Republican, Dan Burton of Indiana.
"It's not just a matter of 'Hey, they've been there a long time, let's get rid of them,'" Linbeck says. "It's more like they've been there a long time and they're disconnected from the voters in their district, and they would win without some other force coming in. Well, we're that other force."
The criteria is straightforward. For CFPA to take action, it looks at four factors: The district must be solidly red or blue ("We're not looking to swing power from one party to the other," Linbeck says); the challenger must be credible and capable of standing on his or her own; the current incumbent must be entrenched—no freshmen; and their own private polling has to show that there's actually a chance their candidate could win.
You may have missed it amid Newt Gingrich's ruminations on algae and the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio, but there was a Super Tuesday result with serious ramifications for progressive politics: In the Democratic primary in Ohio's 9th Congressional District, Rep. Marcy Kaptur knocked off Rep. Dennis Kucinich by double digits, putting the political future of one of Washington's loudest liberal voices in serious doubt. Again.
Kucinich, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008 largely on an anti-war platform, was drawn out of his old Cleveland district during the state's redistricting process (the state lost two seats after the 2010 census), ending up in a primary against Kaptur, a 15-term Democratic incumbent. The resulting, excessively gerrymandered 9th district hugs Lake Erie, stretching from Toledo, where Kaptur lives, all the way to Cleveland, Kucinich's home. (Shira Toeplitz notes, "The district is connected by a bridge that's only 20 yards wide, as well as by a single beach at one point.") Kucinich took his best shots at Kaptur—alleging, for instance, that her campaign had illegally stolen all of his yard signs. But he faced a different set of voters, most of whom he'd never previously courted—and not even Russell Simmons could save him:
if you're in Ohio today, please go and vote for Dennis Kucinich! we cannot lose him.
In his eight terms in Washington, Kucinich held down the far-left of the House Democratic caucus and built up his national profile in tandem. He famously called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, then took things a step further last spring, suggesting that President Obama's imposition of a no-fly-zone in Libya might also be an impeachable offense. He held out for months on health care reform because of his support for the public option.
But while Kucinich's rhetoric has been unwavering, his record of accomplishments is relatively small. Kaptur is pro-life and votes accordingly, but otherwise holds fairly conventional liberal views for a Rust Belt Democrat. She's also never traveled solo to meet with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and then defended him to her hometown paper.
The question now is what Kucinich will do next. Over the course of his career he's demonstrated a remarkable ability to come back from crushing defeats. He lost three congressional races before he was 30, and was already a washed-up ex-mayor at 35. After moving to California for a brief period of soul searching, he ran unsuccessfully for two more statewide offices, moved to New Mexico for some more soul searching—and then came home and won a House seat. If believes he still has more work to do in Washington, the odds are pretty good he'll try to find a way to stay there.
Case in point: Before opting to stay at home last year, Kucinich publicly contemplated moving to Washington state to run for a seat there. In an interview with Politico last week, his campaign spokesman, Andy Juniewicz, pointedly refused to rule out the possibility that Kucinich might exercise the Evergreen option should he come up short against Kaptur. (According to Public Policy Polling, just 22 percent of Washington state Dems want Kucinich to run for office in their state.) He has until May 18 to declare his intentions. Who knows, we may not have seen the last of Dennis Kucinich.
Are you a slut? It's a question that, to be perfectly honest, we would have felt more than a little uncomfortable asking as recently as a few weeks ago. For one, there's the word itself—as misogynistic an insult as you could conjure. And there wasn't much of a peg, what with the rest of the world focused on more pressing issues, like Israel's threats of conflict with Iran, and jokes about Mitt Romney's dog (this is a particularly good one).
But then conservative icon Rush Limbaugh—who was once caught trying to bring 29 100 mg Viagra pills with him to the Dominican Republic—spent three days ripping into Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (rhymes with "look"), calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying before Congress about birth control, and suggesting that he'd like her to send him a sex tape. The #iamnotaslut Twitter campaign went viral; Limbaugh began losing sponsors (20, at last count). And now we can't seem to talk about anything else but "sluts." Seriously, just take a look at this chart from BuzzFeed.
The national conversation about sluts of 2012 hasn't really given us much clarity—but it has given a variety of commentators a platform from which to disseminate their definition of "slut." Which, it turns out, is really, really broad. Fluke—who noted in her testimony about contraception access that she has a friend who uses the pill out of medical necessity—has been maligned for oversharing about her sex life, which she didn't even discuss on the Hill. One Georgetown law school classmate of Fluke's quoted in the National Review put it worst: "When did Georgetown Law start admitting Kardashians?"
So back to that question: Are you a slut? It's a head-scratcher, so we've put together this handy flowchart to help you out:
Here it is in chart form, for the clicking-impaired: