Hey, a womb is just as good.

America's elected leaders, particularly those of the Republican male variety, have not done too well by women lately. In Congress, GOP legislators have sought to exempt religious orgs from having to offer health insurance that covers contraceptives. Mitt Romney replied lamely when confronted with Rush Limbaugh's Slutgate, and GOP lawmakers didn't exactly, ahem, rush to challenge their kingmaker. In Arizona and Kansas, Republican state legislators pushed bills allowing a doctor to lie about the health status of your fetus for fear you might opt to get an abortion. And should you make that harrowing choice, Virginia Republicans, following in the footsteps of their colleagues in a number of other states, passed a law requiring that you have an ultrasound first. They wanted it to be the kind where the doctor sticks a paddle into your vagina, but public outcry forced them to scale it back to the abdominal kind. Now, for good measure, GOP legislators are blocking the Violence Against Women Act.

We've already told you about these (pretty awesome) new laws proposed by Democratic legislators simply to mock their rivals' misogyny.

But the women behind Government Free VJJ have a different approach:

"Follow these simple steps," the website beckons...

1. Knit or crochet a vagina or uterus.
Print a message to enclose.
3. Mail it to your male Senator or Congressional Representative [links provided]
4. We're in the process of arranging hand delivery to congressional offices in Washington, until then, go ahead and mail yours in!
5. Record your items in this spreadsheet so we can track which representatives still need to receive a "gift"!
6. Don't forget to thank your representative if he respects women and supports our rights.

The crochet patterns available so far include uterus and "happy uterus." For knitters, there's a vulva, a womb (pictured), felt cervixes, and (hey, why not?)—a "snatchel."

Shahed Hussain in an FBI surveillance video

Shahed Hussain, a long-time FBI terrorism informant Mother Jones profiled last year, has surfaced again—but this time, Google appears to have foiled his effort to identify a new target. Khalifah al-Akili, a 34-year-old Pittsburgh man, says he was approached by Hussain and another informant in January. Al Akili told the Albany Times-Union that after Hussain "repeatedly made attempts to get close" to him, he googled them. He found Trevor Aaronson's August 2011 Mother Jones expose about the FBI's massive network of undercover terrorism informants and confronted Hussain on the phone. After al-Akili explicitly asked if he was an informant, Hussain hung up the phone. Now al-Akili awaits trial on a gun charge (but no terrorism charges).

Al-Akili says became suspicious of Hussain because he was friendly, dropping in at al-Akili's house and, after al-Akili lied that he had a sick family member, dropping off a get-well card.

Hussain's involvement in two previous FBI counterterrorism cases led to convictions: James Cromitie, a 45-year-old former Walmart stocker from Newburgh, New York, was sentenced to 25 years in the headline-making Bronx synagogue plot. Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain of Albany, New York, an imam and pizza shop owner respectively, were each sentenced to 15 years for, among other charges, conspiracy to provide support to a terrorist organization with which Hussain claimed to have connections.

Rush Limbaugh.

My new book, Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party, which comes out Tuesday, generated a burst of media attention on Monday. Huffington Post published an excerpt in which House Speaker John Boehner flees the Grand Bargain deficit-reduction talks with President Obama after House GOP colleagues warn Boehner that House majority leader Eric Cantor is poised to lead a mutiny against the speaker. Politico summed up a few of the more gripping moments in the book, including a meeting in which Obama expresses frustration with the Fox News-driven political culture. (Drudge linked!) Mediaite also picked up this Fox News tidbit, and Fox News' Bret Baier pushed back. USA Today zeroed in on a portion of the book in which Obama compares himself to the protagonist in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post dissected the book's account of Obama's pivot toward deficit reduction. Paul Krugman responded to Sargent's post.

And then there was Rush Limbaugh. Referring to a Washington Post article published this past weekend on the collapse of last summer's Grand Bargain talks (casting the Post piece as more negative toward the president than it was), the recently-besieged talk show host suggested that my book was part of some dark conspiracy related to that article. "The plot thickens," he huffed. I believe he's suggesting that a book a year in the making (which has a slightly different take on that episode) was cooked up and released this very week to counter a newspaper story. But it's hard to tell. At least he didn't call me a slut.



I'm not even sure if I understand the attacks on the Obama administration's energy and environmental policies from Mitt Romney at a speech in Chicago on Monday (via TPM). First, there was this line, which is an oft-repeated fallacy among Republicans:

And the government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama’s regulators actually did just that.

The Obama administration did no such thing. The Department of Energy is merely following through with the phase-out of inefficient bulbs under new standards set as part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. It doesn't "ban" Edison's incandescent bulbs—it only requires that they be as energy-efficient as alternatives now on the market. Oh, and it was President George W. Bush who signed that bill into law. But Republicans have been flogging the bulb issue for three years, so I'm not surprised that Romney brought it up.

It's this later line from Romney's speech I find rather confusing:

President Obama hopes to erase his record with a speech. In a recent address, he said that, “We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs."
The reality is that, under President Obama’s administration, these pioneers would have found it much more difficult, if not impossible, to innovate, invent, and create.
Under Dodd-Frank, they would have struggled to get loans from their community banks.
A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their "dust pollution."

The last line repeats the false allegation that the Obama EPA is regulating dust. It's not. Nor does it plan to any time soon. But what does that have to do with the Wright brothers? Is he referring to "crop dusters," the small planes used on farms? If so, he really must have no idea what they are, because the "dust" that he refers to is usually pesticides or fertilizers, not actual dust. I'll take this as an indication that Romney has never been to an actual farm.

Rick Santorum and Dan Savage.

RealClearReligion posted an interview with Rick Santorum on Monday in which the reporter asked the candidate about Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist who held a contest in 2003 to redefine the word "Santorum." Savage started the contest after the Pennsylvania senator controversially said the "definition of marriage" never included "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." The winning redefinition in Savage's contest for Santorum was, famously, "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex."

Savage's redefinition took hold, so much so that his "Spreading Santorum" site quickly became one of the top three Google search results for Santorum's name. It's since dropped to the eighth result, but the GOP contender still has a major Google problem.

Asked what he'd say to Savage if the two met, Santorum replied:

I would tell him that I'm praying for him. He obviously has some serious issues. You look at someone like that who can say and do the things that he's doing and you just pray for him and hopefully he can find peace.

I emailed Savage to see what he had to say about that. He wrote back:

Rick Santorum thinks that women who have been raped should be compelled—by force of law—to carry the babies of their rapists to term, he thinks birth control should be illegal, he wants to prosecute pornographers, etc., etc., basically the guy wants to be president so that he can micromanage the sex lives of all Americans...and I'm the one with issues? Because I made a dirty joke at his expense eight or nine years ago and it stuck? I'm the one with issues?


Rick can pray for me. I'll gay for him. And we can call it even.

military spending charts

The International Institute for Strategic Studies

This chart from the International Institute for Strategic Studies—part of the think tank's recent report, "Military Balance 2012," more or less speaks for itself. Supporters of American militarism will look at this and say, "Well, we're spending a smaller proportion of our GDP on warfare than some of these other countries." But look at those countries: They're tiny, and they also happen to reside in a less-than-stable Middle East.

Even if they weren't, I don't buy the whole GDP thing. So we're rich. Does that really mean our military needs to be completely out of proportion with the rest of the world's armies? Would someone care to explain the logic on that? Because this is military imbalance.

To quote the soldier-scholar Andrew Bacevich from an interview I did with him in 2008: "Rather than becoming better at waging imperial wars, we need to move to a nonimperial foreign policy. That argument is not a moral argument—although you could make a moral argument—but a pragmatic one, that the prospect of more such wars is gonna bankrupt us."

US Army soldiers conduct a night raid mission during Emerald Warrior, near Hattiesburg, Miss., on March 5, 2012. The primary purpose of Emerald Warrior is to exercise special operations components in urban and irregular warfare settings to support combatant commanders in theater campaigns. Emerald Warrior leverages lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and other historical lessons to provide better trained and ready forces to combatant commanders. Photo by the US Army.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters marked the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street by attempting to retake Zuccotti Park. By the end of the night, 73 had been arrested and the park forcefully cleared. In scenes that recalled the early days of the movement last fall, citizen journalists captured the New York City Police Department roughing up dozens of apparently peaceful activists. One of them, Craig Judelman, posted a bloody photo of himself on Facebook with the caption, "just got punched in the face like 5 times by NYPD." Journalists J.A. Myerson and Ryan Devereaux have good summaries of other alleged brutality, including officers throwing punches, "rubbing" a boot on someone's head, dragging a woman by the hair, and breaking a guy's thumb. Many other incidents were caught on tape. Here are some of the most disturbing: 

Kristin Brenenman/Flickr. Original photograph by Jeff Widener, Associated Press.Kristin Brenenman/Flickr. Original photograph by Jeff Widener, Associated Press.

On the presidential campaign trail, Rick Santorum has never shied away from calling out the bluster of his fellow Republicans, chief among them Newt "Moon Base" Gingrich. "Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich," Santorum deadpanned at a January presidential debate. Casting Newt as a loose-lipped gaffe machine, Santorum said, "I don't want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and worrying about what he's going to say next."

Yet Santorum himself is no stranger to overblown campaign talk. In a previously unreported radio interview from April 1994, then-Rep. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) argued that supporting his underdog US Senate campaign and voting for him in the election was "every bit as important" as the bold Chinese protester who, in June 1989, blocked a column of military tanks near Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the site of student protests against China's Communist ruling elite.

Santorum's remarks were included in tracking documents compiled by Sen. Harris Wofford, the Democrat who Santorum narrowly defeated in his 1994 Senate race. Here is Santorum's full statement:

"...What you have to do is recognize that when you get up in the morning, you look in the mirror, you're looking at the person who really bears the moral responsibility for the future of that country, so your children can be safe and prosperous and free, and unless you take that responsibility seriously, you have no one to blame for the Roberta Achtenbergs being in the White House than yourselves.

You've gotta take that responsibility seriously, and the work you do, if it just means going out to vote, if it means passing the word onto friends and neighbors about what you've heard on this program, the work that you do is every bit as important as the guy who stood in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square when it comes to the future of our civilization in this country, and I don't know if I can say it any more strongly than that."

Here's the transcript itself:


Suffice it to say that comparing voting for Rick Santorum with the act of defiance by Tiananmen's "Tank Man," as he's known, far surpasses any of Newt Gingrich's bombast. The Tank Man shuffled left and right to block the tanks' forward progress, then clambered on top of the first tank, stuck his head inside, and reportedly said, "Why are you here? My city is in chaos because of you." Tank Man could've easily been shot or run over; one theory about his fate holds he was killed by a government firing squad weeks later. He etched his name, if anonymously, into the history books with one of the most iconic protests in the 20th century.

The Tiananmen line was one of many hyperbolic one-liners uttered by Santorum during his 1994 campaign. As Mother Jones reported, Santorum made welfare reform a pillar of his Senate bid. His welfare stump speech often targeted single mothers, and he claimed they were "breeding more criminals" and that lawmakers were needed who weren't afraid of "kicking them in the butt." In another grandiose touch, Santorum argued that the single mother problem posed an existential threat to the United States itself. At a February 1994 Clairtown, Pennsylvania, town hall, he said, "We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms."

The boys in the backroom?: photoillustration by Adam WeinsteinThe boys in the backroom?: photoillustration by Adam WeinsteinIn its latest story on Team Romney's nomination machinations, the Washington Post dropped a minor bombshell: Some scary/funny names of possible members in a President Mitt Romney cabinet.

The far ranging article, "Romney advisers try to lay groundwork for united GOP against Obama," details how the Romney camp has been working overtime to court Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention and a heavyweight among evangelical conservatives. Land told the paper that Romney's advisers have been in constant contact. What did they talk about?

Land said he recently told them that Romney could win over recalcitrant conservatives by picking Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) as his vice presidential running mate and previewing a few Cabinet selections: Santorum as attorney general, Gingrich as ambassador to the United Nations and John Bolton as secretary of state.

Rubio's been bandied about as a veep candidate, though he's kind of a yawner...when he's not legislating ladies' uteruses and keeping bad company, that is. The other members of this Land dream team sound like specters from a liberal's sweaty Jungian nightmare. (I, for one, am haunted by neoconservative handlebar mustaches.)

Then again, bluster is cheap on the campaign trail. Land—who laments America's "God-sized problems" (and who gave us a shoutout as an anti-Christian "leftist magazine" in his recent book)—is a culture warrior angling for some added clout in the Republican party. His fantasies don't necessarily become realities—like when he championed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants a few years back. So don't start hoarding birth control and mustache wax quite yet. But don't be surprised if Romney dangles a few Cabinet spoils before the right, if that's what it takes.