Mojo - March 2012

Dennis Kucinich Goes Down in Ohio. Now What?

| Wed Mar. 7, 2012 12:55 AM EST
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)

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:

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.

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Live-Tweeting the Super Tuesday Results

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 8:20 PM EST

Check back later for Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief David Corn's zombie-themed take on the Super Tuesday results. We're not kidding about the zombies.


(Note: Tweets are in reverse chronological order.)

Still waiting on Ohio:

While we wait on Ohio, don't sleep on the delegate race in Georgia:

With the candidates done giving speeches, all eyes turn to Ohio:

Romney takes his turn at speech giving:

Santorum takes the stage in Ohio:

Newt Gingrich delivers an epic speech:

Santorum winning award for weirdest election night event:

His old haunt of Massachusetts goes to Mitt, but he's hardly dominating the night:

Ron Paul winning the stoner, protest votes:

Santorum scores a few early wins:

The Ohio picture begins to come into focus:

Gingrich takes his home state:

The Mittster strikes first:

And we're off:

Iran War Watch: Netanyahu Gives Obama a Badass Biblical Scroll

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 3:35 PM EST
Spoiler Alert: The Jews win.

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 following will sound a lot like a scene from Kung Fu Panda. It happened during the high-profile meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday.

Bloomberg's Jonathan Ferziger has the story:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave President Barack Obama a Purim Megillah scroll, which tells the story of how Jews prevailed over a plot to kill them in ancient Persia, which is present-day Iran.

Netanyahu gave Obama the gift...during a White House meeting, two days before the Jewish holiday of Purim begins.

In case you're not familiar with the details of said Hebrew scroll: The Megillah, commonly known as the Book of Esther, is the part of the Hebrew Bible that tells the story of how a hard-partying Persian king was convinced by an evil adviser that it'd be fun to decimate the Jewish minority population in his dominion. He declares a government holiday in the month of Adar during which his subjects are given carte blanche to murder Jews and steal their property. Long-story-short, the Jews do a fantastic job of defending themselves against the state-sponsored onslaught, and then proceed to commit a hugely successful counter-slaughter of the Persians. (This bit of Biblical spin has long since found a home in the annals of fascist and far-right propaganda.)

Flash forward a couple dozen centuries, and the Jews now have something of a home-plate advantage over Persian foes: They are the regional superpower. They have backing of the only global superpower. The track record of the Israeli military—and special ops forces—has achieved a Hollywood-level of renown. Oh, and one other thing: They have nuclear bombs.

Oft-Cited Study Linking Mental Health Problems to Abortion Debunked

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 3:33 PM EST

The latest issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research includes a scathing critique of a 2009 study it published linking abortion to a variety of mental health problems. Via the New York Times blog Motherlode, the article states that the data the authors of the study relied on doesn't actually support their "assertions that abortions led to psychopathology."

That 2009 study linked conditions like panic disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, mania, major depression, and alcohol and drug abuse to women who have had abortions. The paper, from lead author Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, has been touted by anti-abortion groups and deployed to support state laws requiring doctors to warn women of potential health problems before they can have an abortion in places like South Dakota.

But the results just don't hold up, according to a critique from Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer, the director of domestic research with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group. For one thing, they report, the paper failed to factor in whether the women included in the study had exhibited those mental health problems before having an abortion. Steinberg and Finer reevaluated the data Coleman and her colleagues relied on and found that the conclusions in the paper were not supported by the data. "These deficiencies are fundamental analytical errors that were incorrectly presented in the original paper," they write, "… not a scholarly difference of opinion."

Flowchart: Are You a Slut?

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 1:20 PM EST

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:

What Do Rush Limbaugh, Mark Twain, and Sacajawea Have in Common?

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 12:21 PM EST
Rush Limbaugh

The "Hall of Famous Missourians," a series of busts in the rotunda of the Missouri state capitol, honors the state's history makers, among them native sons and daughters, from Florida, Mo.-born writer Mark Twain to St. Louis Cardinals ace Stan Musial, from Walt Disney to Sacajawea. Now, in a feat of exquisite timing, comes news of the latest addition to the Missouri citizenry's hall of fame: Rush Limbaugh.

This is not a hoax. The foul-mouthed, Viagra-popping, blowhard par excellence of the conservative airwaves will be added to the Hall of Famous Missourians in Jefferson City later this spring, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But wait—there's more:

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, confirmed Monday that Limbaugh, who, like Tilley, hails from southeast Missouri, will be honored with a place in the Hall of Famous Missourians, a circle of busts in the Capitol rotunda recognizing prominent Missouri citizens.

The statues are paid for with private funds raised by the speaker.

The unveiling is not expected until closer to the end of the legislative session in May, but, last month, a Kansas City artist published an announcement on his website indicating he was working on sculptures of Limbaugh and Dred Scott, whose landmark slavery case was heard at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis.

Rush Limbaugh and Dred Scott. Talk about a bizarre Class of 2012.

The timing, of course, couldn't be worse for state house speaker Tilley. Limbaugh ignited a national controversy when he branded Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying in support of the Obama administration's mandate (which includes a religious exemption) that health insurers and employers cover birth control. Twenty of Limbaugh's advertisers (and counting) have ditched his hugely popular radio show. Limbaugh mustered several weak apologies in recent days, but they've done little to quell the furor over his comments while doing much to show Limbaugh's ignorance of the basic facts of how birth control works.

Perhaps Limbaugh should have heeded the sly wisdom of Twain, a fellow Hall of Famous Missourians inductee, who once said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." In the case of Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh failed to do even that much.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 6, 2012

Tue Mar. 6, 2012 11:55 AM EST

US soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment perform maintenance on their tank on Fort Irwin, Calif., February 20, 2012. Photo by US Army Sgt. Zachary A. Gardner, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Public Affairs Office.

Bloggingheads: Birth Control Edition

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 11:12 AM EST

Michael Brendan Dougherty of Business Insider and I hold an all-male panel on birth control, whether Obama has the 2012 election locked up, and whether right-wing supporters of Israel are making it harder for Israel to be Zionists by insisting Israel never be criticized. 

 

Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasounds: Coming Soon to a State Near You

| Mon Mar. 5, 2012 6:16 PM EST

As my colleague Maya Dusenbery noted a few days ago, Virginia's new law requiring every woman to undergo an ultrasound before she can get an abortion is still terrible, even if women can opt-out of the transvaginal probe portion.

Most abortions take place within 12 weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. And if the woman has been pregnant for eight weeks or less, conducting an ultrasound generally requires the doctor to insert a probe in a woman's vagina in order to actually see or hear anything. Virginia is not alone in its desire to subject women to invasive probes before they are allowed to get an abortion, a legally protected medical procedure. Twenty states already have laws dictating rules for ultrasounds, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Here are seven other states that have advanced similar measures in the last year:

Alabama: State Sen. Clay Scofield offered his own ultrasound measure a few weeks ago, which included a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a $15,000 fine if doctors don't carry out the procedure. But Schofield backed off component of the bill that would have required doctors to stick a probe in women's vaginas, instead offering that a woman could undergo the "method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with."

Idaho: State Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise) has introduced yet another bill requiring an ultrasound before an abortion, expanding upon a law already in place in the state that requires doctors to offer an ultrasound by forcing them to do it and to show the woman the image. As one anti-abortion advocate in the state described it to the local press, the idea behind the law is to make women undergo the procedure because it "gives her a window into her womb."

Illinois: The House Agriculture Committee advanced a bill on February 22 that would require doctors to carry out an ultrasound and show it to the woman, unless she declines to view it in writing. And yes, you read that correctly: the "Ultrasound Opportunity Act" came from the agriculture committee. This prompted opponents to show up at the hearing wearing "Women are not livestock" T-shirts.

Kentucky: The state Senate approved a new bill requiring that a woman undergo an ultrasound before she can get an abortion, and instituting criminal penalties if the ultrasound isn't carried out. The bill is is not expected to advance in the House.

North Carolina: This law passed in 2011 was pretty much exactly like Virginia's, but as the local press pointed out, it didn't get nearly as much attention because people weren't talking about the "transvaginal" aspect. A federal judge ruled last October that doctors don't have to show women the ultrasound image, at least.

Pennsylvania: A pair of Republican state representatives introduced the "Women’s Right to Know Act," which passed out of committee last month before the uproar in Virginia prompted the majority leader to shelve it.

Texas: The Lone Star State was ahead of the curve on transvaginal ultrasounds, passing its bill in May 2011 under "emergency" status. A legal challenge to the law failed last month, and it became effective immediately.

When the US Government Can Kill You, Explained

| Mon Mar. 5, 2012 6:07 PM EST
A US Air Force Reaper armed with hellfire missiles.

On Monday, the Obama administration explained when it's allowed to kill you.

Speaking to students and faculty at Northwestern University law school, Attorney General Eric Holder laid out in greater detail than ever before the legal theory behind the administration's belief that it can kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without charge or trial. In the 5,000-word speech, the nation's top law enforcement official directly confronted critics who allege that the targeted killing of American citizens violates the Constitution.

"'Due process' and 'judicial process' are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security." Holder said. "The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

Who decides when an American citizen has had enough due process and the Hellfire missile fairy pays them a visit? Presumably the group of top national security officials—that, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, decides who is targetable and forwards its findings to the president, who gives final approval.