2012 - %3, September

Mitt Romney: A Man for All Reasons

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 9:36 AM PDT

Via Reddit, here's an epic comment responding to my post yesterday about Mitt Romney's endlessly evasive positions on guaranteeing health coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Enjoy:

Vote Romney! He'll repeal Obamacare, the whole thing, but he'll keep some parts, like preexisting conditions, but actually he won't, he'll keep it but not in the law.

He likes Roe v Wade, but is pro-life, but he won't pass a law against abortion, but he supports laws against abortion, but not if it's rape, but only if it's not secretly not rape. And he'll nominate pro-life judges, but he won't ask judges if they're pro-life before nominating them.

Also he'll cut taxes on rich people (sorry, "job creators") and raise taxes by eliminating loopholes, but not loopholes on "job creators," but also not loopholes on poor people or the middle class, and not loopholes on corporations (who are people (actually let me clarify, they're not people (except for purposes of campaign contributions))). He's not going to get into details because if he did his opponents would just use them to attack him.

He's in favor of a strong dollar, so he'll stop China from manipulating the currency to maintain a strong dollar, which is causing a big debt, which he'll make smaller by cutting taxes and cutting spending, except on military, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare which he'll spend more on. He's against cutting Medicare, because that's what Obama is doing and he'll repeal Obama cutting Medicare, but he'll cut Medicare (sorry, "entitlement reform"), but not Obama's cutting Medicare different cutting Medicare. And the older generation is running up the deficit at the expense of younger people, which he'll fix by cutting benefits for younger people (it's not cutting Medicare, it's just having Medicare give out less money than before). And he's in favor of the individual mandate, which is why he'll repeal it once in office. And he didn't want to bail out GM, because he secretly did want to bail out GM. But three things he'll NEVER DO are "apologize for America," let cancer patients smoke weed, and release his tax returns.

Vote Romney!

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Romney Endorses Birther-Curious Congressman

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 9:21 AM PDT

Mitt Romney's Friday endorsement of proudly anti-immigrant congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) has raised eyebrows given Romney's struggles with nonwhite voters. (Most recently, King has accused of minority college students of feeling sorry for themselves.) But there's another reason why Romney's public embrace of King is noteworthy: Steve King is a total birther.

Via ThinkProgress, here's what King told a tele-townhall in late July:

We went down into the Library of Congress and we found a microfiche there of two newspapers in Hawaii, each of which had published the birth of Barack Obama. It would have been awfully hard to fraudulently file the birth notice of Barack Obama being born in Hawaii and get that into our public libraries and that microfiche they keep of all the newspapers published. That doesn't mean there aren't some other explanations on how they might've announced that by telegram from Kenya. The list goes on. But drilling into that now, even if we could get a definitive answer and even if it turned out that Barack Obama was conclusively not born in America, I don't think we could get that case sold between now and November.

King, who is locked in a tight reelection fight with Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, received a glowing endorsement from Romney on Friday at an event in Orange City, Iowa. "This man needs to be your congressman again," the GOP presidential nominee said. "I want him as my partner in Washington, DC."

Trying to Figure Out Bob Woodward

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 9:00 AM PDT

A friend of mine, who reads First Read so I don't have to, passes along the following item about Bob Woodward's new book on the debt ceiling debacle last year:

What’s particularly striking about the new Bob Woodward book is that, unlike his past works, he’s making an argument rather than trying to recreate and report on a past event and letting others draw the conclusions. Woodward’s argument here: Obama didn’t lead in the debt-ceiling debate. Woodward told ABC, per Political Wire: "President Clinton, President Reagan. And if you look at them, you can criticize them for lots of things. They by and large worked their will," Woodward said. "On this, President Obama did not." He added, "Now, some people are going to say he was fighting a brick wall, the Republicans in the House and the Republicans in Congress. Others will say it's the president's job to figure out how to tear down that brick wall. In this case, he did not." Does the Woodward book on such an ugly inside the Beltway fight have legs in the swing states in these final days? We’ll see.

This prompts the following question: what's up with Bob Woodward, anyway? Woodward is more conservative than me, but I don't really get the sense that he's especially in the tank for either Romney or Obama. He was certainly plenty critical of George Bush. So how can he say stuff like this? How can he seriously entertain the idea that anything could have persuaded Republicans to deal with taxes as well as spending?

I have no idea, really, but my theory is that he's just stuck in the past. He's never really internalized the Gingrich revolution and what it's done to the GOP over the past couple of decades. This is peculiar in the extreme since Woodward, more than almost anyone, has been reporting on this stuff in agonizing detail the entire time. If anyone should know what's going on here, it's him.

And yet, he seems to still be living in some nostalgic past where Tip and Ronnie sat down to hash things out over a beer or two and always ended up saving the world. I'm not quite sure what else it could be.

You can criticize Obama for his performance in the debt ceiling fight. You can pick out specific offers and counteroffers and withdrawn offers and say that Obama misplayed things. That's fine. But at the end of the day, there's really no question about two things. First, Obama was willing to make some fairly substantial spending cuts, including cuts to entitlement spending, that would have enraged his base. Second, John Boehner was completely and absolutely unable to get his caucus to agree to so much as a dime in tax increases. Like Woodward, I'd like to think that there was some way for Obama to tear down that brick wall. But is there any evidence that such a way existed? Any evidence at all?

Mitt Romney's Secret Plan for Afghanistan

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 8:19 AM PDT

Here is Mitt Romney on Meet the Press yesterday, responding to criticism that he failed to say even a single word about Afghanistan in his acceptance speech:

I find it interesting that people are curious about mentioning words in a speech as opposed to policy. And so I went to the American Legion the day before I gave that speech. I went to the American Legion and spoke with our veterans there, and described my policy as it relates to Afghanistan and other foreign policy and our military. I've been to Afghanistan, and the members of our troops know of my commitment to Afghanistan and to the effort that's going on there. I have some differences on policy with the president. I happen to think those are more important than what word I mention in each speech.

And here is the sum total of what Romney said about Afghanistan in that speech:

Of course, we are still at war in Afghanistan. We still have uniformed men and women in conflict, risking their lives just as you once did. How deeply we appreciate their sacrifice. We salute them. We honor them. We respect and love them.

That's why I refer to this as a "secret plan," to go along with Romney's secret plans about taxes and budgets and preexisting conditions. Romney wants us to believe he's got some kind of detailed, deeply-considered plan to change our course in Afghanistan, but if he does, he's refusing to let any of us know about it. Apparently it's a secret.

Via Josh Gerstein, who has more.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 10, 2012

Mon Sep. 10, 2012 7:35 AM PDT

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan--Paratroopers with 3rd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Brigade, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, switch security shifts early in the morning, Aug. 30, 2012 , in a compound in Mulakala, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Study: No Negative Impact From DADT Repeal

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 6:53 AM PDT
Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. giving a presentation on DADT repeal training.

A new study on the impact of repealing the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy found no negative impact, despite dire warnings from supporters of the ban on allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly

The study, which was conducted by the pro-repeal Palm Center and was first reported on by Lila Shapiro of the Huffington Post, found no negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, retention and recruitment of servicemembers, and morale. The Palm Center conducted "in depth interviews" with 62 active-duty servicemembers as part of the study, which mirrors recent findings by the Pentagon itself. In May, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, commenting on DADT's repeal, told reporters: "It's not impacting on morale. It's not impacting on unit cohesion. It is not impacting on readiness." He added, "very frankly, my view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it."

The Palm Center also attempted to contact opponents of repeal, including 553 of the 1,167 retired military officials who signed a letter saying ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would "break" the military, as well 22 "known public opponents of DADT repeal." In both cases, the vast majority those who had opposed repeal declined to be interviewed.

Among those contacted by the Palm Center was Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose final, angry jeremiad against repeal on the Senate floor warned that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would "harm the battle effectiveness which is so vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military."

There's no evidence that the Republican establishment has changed its position on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, despite the fact that opponents' dire predictions have not yet come to pass. The 2012 GOP platform states that "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." The language suggests the GOP is still committed to reinstating Don't Ask, Don't Tell despite the absence evidence that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly has had any negative consequences at all. 

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Please Give Us Some of Your Money

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 4:21 AM PDT

Officially, I think we should all be more focused broadly on deception by politicians, not narrowly on lies. However, as many of you have pointed out, for fundraising purposes Mother Jones is pretty clearly focused on lies. And why not? If you got your facts from Fox News or the GOP, you'd think President Obama was raiding grandma's Medicare in order to give welfare to illegal immigrants who came to destroy America through same-sex marriage.

Luckily, you don't have to get your facts from the conservative noise machine. Mother Jones is here to fact-check the politicians, and when we expose lies, our stories are picked up and amplified by mainstream media outlets across the nation. As you know, however, MoJo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and our journalism is mostly funded by donations. So if you happen to know any billionaires and can persuade them to throw us a million or two during this week's fundraising drive, that would be great.

But if you're not on a first-name basis with any billionaires, how about tossing ten or twenty bucks to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund instead? That's what we're really after anyway. Or even a C-note if you can swing it. It helps keep Mother Jones going, and that means that it helps keep this blog going too. Here's how to donate online:

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The Music Tapes Join the Circus

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT
The Music Tapes

The Music Tapes
Mary's Voice
Merge

To enter the world of Julian Koster is to take part in a surrealist circus. "We think this fall is a perfect way for the 'traveling imaginary' to make its way out into the world," the visionary behind experimental pop group The Music Tapes announced to his fans on Kickstarter last month. He was referring to the band's ambition following the release of its third album, Mary's Voice: To travel the world performing in a circus tent complete with whirring and fantastical attractions.

It's the sort of thing to be expected from Koster and his ever-evolving psychedelic cabaret. The Music Tapes, one of the projects that blossomed out of the cult-worshiped music collective Elephant 6 in the late '90s, cart around a seven-foot-tall metronome for their shows, spin folky yarns about sideshow performers who can swallow cities, and serenade audiences with lullabies over the musical saw. Mary's Voice might be the Tapes' most accessible album yet, but it hardly conveys the magic of seeing them live.

David Byrne and St. Vincent's Stellar Collaboration

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

David Byrne and St. Vincent
Love This Giant
4AD/Todo Mundo

Nearly three years ago, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and St. Vincent's Annie Clark agreed to play a benefit show together in New York; by the time they were done, they were plotting a collaborative album. Clark told Pitchfork "I think I've reached the pinnacle of who I want to work with," and indeed, it's hard to think of a more exciting combination of artists. Byrne's music tends to be more overtly bizarre, while Clark's demure appearance and lovely voice give temporary cover to the creepiness in much of her music, but both traffic in finding the strange in the mundane via sophisticated, often surprising lyrics and intricate arrangements of sound. So a collaboration made perfect sense. The album cover, released months ago, featuring the artists stiffly posing in formal black-and-white attire with distorted facial features and unnaturally protruding bones, hinted at the grotesque beauty contained within

Quick Reads: "The End of Men" by Hanna Rosin

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women

By Hanna Rosin

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

In her 2010 cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Hanna Rosin dropped a bomb: Women, she declared, are taking over. Rather than focus on disparities in child care, pay, and power positions, her follow-up tours Rust Belt towns, where women are becoming the main breadwinners; Wall Street, home to a rising breed of "killer" female traders; and pharmacy schools, where women are poised to dominate a traditionally male career. Backed by workforce stats, her stories forge a convincing case that modern female aptitudes give women the advantage.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.