Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ignited massive protests when, last February, he sprung a surprise attack on the public-sector unions in his state. Later, Walker claimed his anti-union "budget-repair bill" was no surprise at all, and that he'd campaigned on those controversial reforms, including eliminating collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers. PolitiFact Wisconsin rated that claim "false."

Now, a new video unearthed by a liberal Wisconsin blogger shows Walker, then a gubernatorial candidate, saying he would negotiate with state employee unions over changes to their pension benefits. In an interview a week before the November 2010 election with the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern, Walker was asked if he'd use collective bargaining to get unions to potentially pay more into their pension plans. "Yep," Walker said in response, nodding. Referring to changing pension benefits, he added, "You still have to negotiate it. I did that at the county as well."

Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown student, a "slut" for her public advocacy in support of the Obama administration's rule compelling employers and insurance companies to cover birth control in their health care plans. Fluke thought that kind of language was out of bounds, and said so. Over at National Review, Kathryn Jean-Lopez posts an "alternate perspective" from Angela Morabito, one of Fluke's classmates.


Like Rush Limbaugh, Morabito (and possibly Jean-Lopez) appears to believe the amount of birth control you need is related to how much sex you have:

No one forced Sandra to come to Georgetown. And now that she has, Sandra does not have to depend on the university health plan. She could walk down the street to CVS and get some contraception herself. Or, go to an off-campus, non-university doctor and pay for it out of pocket. (Or, you know . . . maybe not have so much sex that it puts her in financial peril?)

Limbaugh is apparently not the only person on the right who appears to be clueless about how birth control actually works. Except for the morning after pill, how much birth control you need has nothing to do with how often you have sex. Fluke's testimony is focused on alternative medical reasons for taking contraception, of which there are many, but like Limbaugh, Morabito spends a great deal of effort pontificating about Fluke's sex life and implying she is promiscuous. Instead of the word "slut," however, Morabito goes with the classier "When did Georgetown Law start admitting Kardashians?" and posits that "Sandra doesn’t even speak for all skanks! She only speaks for the skanks who don't want to take responsibility for their choices."

Fluke never mentions her own sex life in her testimony, so people attacking her for doing so lack even the flimsiest of pretenses. They're speculating about Fluke's sex life because they think the most effective way to silence her is through a sustained carpet bombing of sexist stereotypes.

Kathryn Jean-Lopez doesn't speak for everyone at National Review, however. Though her colleague Jason Lee Steorts does not endeavor to correct the misconceptions about birth control in Morabito's piece, he nevertheless responds that, "Maybe [Morabito] was trying to be funny, but instead she conveys arrogance, condescension, and a total lack of manners." Steorts argues that conservatives should stick to their arguments regarding religious freedom. I don't find those particularly persuasive either, but it says something that so many people can't seem to resist getting personal when it comes to Fluke.

President Barack Obama at the 2012 AIPAC policy conference.

Are the United States and Iran on a collision course over the Middle Eastern country's controversial nuclear program? We'll be posting the latest news on Iran-war fever—the intel, the media frenzy, the rhetoric.

On Sunday, President Obama delivered his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in Washington, DC. Though he condemned the recent "loose talk of war," Obama used the 34-minute speech as an opportunity to talk tough on Iran and to reject containment policy:

I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests... And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

The president gave the much anticipated speech one day before his high-profile meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—a meeting during which the Israeli leader is expected to further pressure the White House on upping the war rhetoric. During the speech, Obama did not specify what lines the Iranian government would have to cross to provoke an American military operation. (Click here for a complete transcript.)

Rick Santorum.

Last week, we reported that over a two-year period, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum had run up nearly $100,000 in medical bills beyond what his private insurance paid for to care for his disabled daughter, Bella, who was born with the usually fatal genetic disorder Trisomy 18. On Sunday, Santorum acknowledged his insurance plan's failings, and said that the bills were a huge burden for his family, though he did it in the context of explaining why his personal charitable contributions were so low. He told Fox News host Chris Wallace:

"I was in a situation where we have seven children, one disabled child who we take care of, and she's very, very expensive," he said. "We love her and cherish the opportunity to take care of her, but it's an additional expense. We have to have around-the-clock care for her, and our insurance company doesn't cover it, so I have to cover it."

Wallace continued to hammer Santorum about his charitable contributions, but it would have been a perfect time to ask Santorum a more relevant question, which is: Given your huge medical expenses that aren't covered by your good, private insurance plan, how, specifically, would the health care law you've vowed to repeal make your situation worse? And a follow-up: Isn't it possible that Obamacare might save you a lot of money and make your life better?

These are questions Santorum still hasn't answered, despite having told Glenn Beck recently that both he and his wife decided he should run for president specifically to kill President Obama's health care reform bill. It's unlikely that any of Santorum's Republican opponents are going to raise the issue, but there's another debate scheduled for March 19, sponsored by NPR, PBS and the Washington Times. Perhaps one of the moderators will take the opportunity to quiz Santorum about the huge disconnect between his own personal experience with the health care system and the policies he wants to push on the rest of us if he's elected.

Soldiers from the 44th Medical Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, are greeted by family and friends as they return from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan to Fort Bragg on March 1, 2012. Photo by Sgt. Jessica M. Kuhn/XVIII Abn. Corps PAO.

Warehouse workers picketing outside Schneider facilities in Mira Loma, California

As if running around a warehouse 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, in sweltering heat, to move an absurdly large quantity of dildoes, toilet paper, and baby food—as Mac McClelland did while working for an onine shipping giant—weren't bad enough. Try doing it for less than minimum wage.

Workers at a Walmart warehouse in the Inland Empire in Southern California were sometimes paid as little as $3 to $4 an hour, according to former crew leader Jorge Soto, who says he was ordered to falsify employees' time sheets to cheat them out of fair pay. Workers at this warehouse and two others in the area have filed a lawsuit that claims, among other things, that they were forced to sign blank time sheets which supervisors would then fill in with less than half of the time actually worked, according to a new investigation by Lilly Fowler for the nonprofit news organization FairWarning.org.

The final version of Virginia's bill allows women to opt for a jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound instead of a transvaginal one.

Virginia's controversial mandatory ultrasound bill is now headed to Gov. Bob McDonnell's desk. While the final version of the bill allows women to opt out of having an invasive transvaginal ultrasound—the provision that drew a national spotlight in the last couple weeks—don't be fooled: It's still a burdensome law.

The original bill would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo whatever kind of ultrasound gets the best image of the embryo or fetus. In the early stages of pregnancy—when the vast majority of abortions occur—that's typically a transvaginal ultrasound, which is far more invasive than the abdominal kind (think jelly-on-the-belly). That requirement was scrapped at the eleventh hour, after a deluge of national attention. Abortion rights activists said mandating such an invasive procedure amounted to "state-sanctioned rape," a comparison that clearly struck a nerve: Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show took cracks at the bill; more than a thousand women gathered in silent protest outside the state capitol. Eventually, McDonnell backtracked on his initial support, stating last week, "No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure."

The public outcry against Virginia's bill appears to have caused other state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Idaho to back down as well—at least when it comes to the transvaginal requirement. It seems Virginia Del. Dave Albo isn't the only one to discover that "transvaginal" can be a rather radioactive term. But while it's tempting to view this new aversion to forced vaginal probing as a partial victory, abortion rights advocates are quick to point out that Virginia's final bill—and others like it—is still terrible. Here are five reasons why:

  • It's medically unnecessary. Although many doctors do perform an ultrasound before an abortion, it's not considered medically necessary in the first trimester—and requiring them leaves no room for the doctor's discretion or the patient's choice. Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation told TPM, "Really the abdominal versus transvaginal ultrasound issue is a distraction, one that has gotten a lot of publicity." And since abdominal ultrasounds typically can't even get a good image in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, Sean Holihan of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia explains, the new law is essentially "telling women to go and pay for a completely useless procedure."

Are the United States and Iran on a collision course over the Middle Eastern country's controversial nuclear program? We'll be posting the latest news on Iran-war fever—the intel, the media frenzy, the rhetoric.

The Pakistani government is moving forward with plans to construct a pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Iran. The multibillion-dollar project has been kicked around for six decades, with both parties now shooting for a December 2014 completion date.

For some reason, the State Department really isn't too fond of this:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has threatened Pakistan with sanctions if the country continues with plans to build a natural gas pipeline to Iran. The U.S. is moving to squeeze Iran financially in a bid to force it to drop its nuclear program. But Pakistan has been unwilling to line up behind the U.S., saying it needs Iran, a neighbor, to help it meet a massive energy shortage.

Mrs. Clinton told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee Wednesday that sanctions could be triggered if Islamabad presses ahead. As Pakistan’s economy already is in dire straits, the sanctions could be "particularly damaging" and "further undermine their economic status," Mrs. Clinton said.

Pakistan's top bureaucrat in the Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, Muhammad Ejaz Chaudhry, said the pipeline was crucial for Pakistan's energy security – the longstanding Pakistan position. But he added that Pakistan was "committed not to create any problems."

Despite the possibility of rough sanctions, Pakistani officials confirmed this week that the pipeline deal is still a go. "We are a sovereign country and we will do whatever is in the interest of Pakistan," Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani affirmed during an online Q&A.

Any potential sanctions targeting Pakistan's fragile economy would be in sync with the Obama administration's approach to pressuring the Iranian regime—economic sanctions recently imposed on Iran are harsher than they have been in decades, and international sanctions are taking a serious toll on the country's central bank and oil sales.

So in case you were wondering, yes, there are indeed other ways in which the US-Pakistan relationship can get even lousier.

Yesterday, we published a blog post indicating that the Nebraska Legislature had revived a bill extending "justifiable homicide" protections to the unborn, after several abortion rights groups contacted Mother Jones about this development; however, further reporting shows that the state has not revived the law. The groups were looking at outdated information from 2011 (first reported here at Mother Jones, in fact).

The post has been removed, and we regret the error.

Sgt. Craig McComsey, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard, serving with the Zabul Agribusiness Development Team, keeps a close watch from the roof of the district center, Shah Joy, Afghanistan. Photo by the US Army.