The Hill reported this afternoon that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to hear more from Mitt Romney on foreign policy, particularly the Arab Spring:
“It’s an economic-driven election; I can understand his policy team saying stay on the economy,” Graham told reporters.
“I do wish Romney would speak more about how Syria and Iran, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, how all of this comes together to go one way or the other. There’s a lot going on in the Arab world right now, and I would like to hear Romney articulate his vision about how to handle the Arab Spring,” he said.
Romney toyed with talking about Syria but it seems that seeing his policy isn’t all that different from the Obama administration’s, he hasn’t been talking about it much lately.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee used to attack President Obama for “leading from behind” in Libya but Romney hasn’t touched that issue in a while either.
But Graham is right that Romney doesn’t seem to be all that interested in talking foreign policy, as one of his top advisers told the New York Times recently. So unless the trip aboard Romney is reportedly taking pans out, the South Carolina Republican might be disappointed.
It says a lot about the military that it apparently didn’t occur to anyone that men’s body armor, which female soldiers wear too (they can choose from a range of sizes), might not actually be optimized for women’s bodies or the way women move in combat. The Christian Science Monitor reports that military chemists are trying to solve a basic problem of armor design—that apparently adding curves makes armor heavier—and using Lucy Lawless’s Xena: Warrior Princess costumes as inspiration:
“It rubbed on the hips, and the vests were too long in the front, so that when you had female soldiers climbing stairs or climbing up a hill or a tree, or sitting for a long time in a vehicle, that would create pressure points that in some instances could impact blood flow and cause some discomfort,” Lt. Col. Frank Lozan, who is helping design the body armor, told the Monitor. A subsequent study by the U.S. Army found that the ill-fitting gear actually interfered with how the women were able to perform during combat, making “it difficult for them to properly aim their weapons and enter or exit vehicles.”
Now obviously, that’s an inspiration that should only be taken so literally. The ladies of the U.S. military can probably skip the leather skirts. But the point is that when you start thinking about people in roles or situations that haven’t been open to them previously, you start thinking creatively about what they’d need to succeed in those circumstances. And there’s nothing wrong with scientists looking for inspiration even in unexpected places, when linear thinking hasn’t met the needs of people they’re trying to serve.
By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Jul 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Catholic leaders are fighting against a new Obamacare policy requiring insurers and businesses to offer contraception coverage to women, even after the White House announced a compromise to protect religious institutions. Under the measure, a religiously affiliated organization like a Catholic college or hospital does not have to pay for contraception coverage if it objects to offering birth control, but its employees will still have access to birth control.
As President Obama put it during an an interview with a New Orleans TV reporter on Monday, while religious liberty is “critical,” it’s “not fair” for these institutions to deny coverage to non-Catholic employees:
REPORTER: He describes himself as a Catholic voter and wrote ‘What can you say about a healthcare bill that’ll mandate insurance companies to provide birth control, sterilization, etc. to employees of Catholic universities, hospitals and churches since this goes against the Catholic religion?’ We know there is compromising language in place. Some say it doesn’t go far enough and that the real, the much bigger issue is religious liberty, not contraception.
OBAMA: Yeah. Well it’s absolutely true that religious liberty is critical. I mean that’s what our country was founded on. That’s the reason why we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions, but we did say that big Catholic hospitals or universities who employ a lot of non-Catholics and who receive a lot of federal money, that for them to be in a position to say to a woman who works there you can’t get that from your insurance company even though the institution isn’t paying for it, that that crosses the line where that woman, she suddenly is gonna have to bear the burden and the cost of that. And that’s not fair.
Despite claims that the contraception policy tramples religious liberty and is an “unprecedented attack,” many large Catholic institutions provided contraception coverage even before they were required to do so. For example, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and DePaul University in Illinois offer employees the option of receiving contraception, joining other Catholic organizations across the country.
Many religious organizations even agree with Obama’s reasoning. After Wisconsin implemented a contraception equity clause in 2010, the Diocese of Madison indicated that it would comply with the state law, noting that while employees would be given “strong pastoral recommendations against” using the contraception benefit, employees should “use their conscience and do the right thing.”
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm
by Christina C. DiPasquale and Daniel J. Weiss
U.S. Navy servicemen and women recently debuted the “Great Green Fleet,” the first aircraft carrier strike group to be powered largely by alternative, nonpetroleum-based fuels. Despite this latest success, however, some congressional conservatives on the Senate and House Armed Services committees want to slash funding for this and other Defense Department clean energy programs. This would short-circuit investments in energy innovation that could have civilian applications and benefits, helping our nation become less reliant on oil. In addition, sole reliance on oil-based fuels subjects the defense budget to increased spending for fuel when the price of oil spikes.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus provided the leadership to build the “Great Green Fleet”—an essential milestone in the Department of Defense’s efforts to reduce its oil dependence by diversifying fuels. The development and use of alternative fuels is vital to the safety of our troops because it diversifies the fuel mix that powers their vessels, planes, and vehicles. That makes them less vulnerable to an oil supply disruption in the Middle East or elsewhere. It is also vital to the long-term fiscal health of our nation because any effort to reduce our reliance on volatilely priced fossil fuels is good for our economy. The Navy’s investment in alternative fuels to power the “Great Green Fleet” is an essential effort to reduce its oil dependence and exposure to volatile prices.
The biofuel blends used in the five-ship demonstration were 50-50 mixtures of biofuels—made from used cooking oil and algae—and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel. About 450,000 gallons of 100 percent “neat” biofuel was purchased in 2011 for this purpose.
Conservative lawmakers have opposed the U.S. military’s use of advanced biofuels, however, claiming that they are concerned about the cost of these new, nonoil fuels. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I don’t believe we can afford it.” Another critic, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), said during a hearing earlier this year that, “I understand that alternative fuels may help our guys in the field, but wouldn’t you agree that the thing they’d be more concerned about is having more ships, more planes, more prepositioned stocks?”
These arguments ignore the drain on America’s defense budget from oil price spikes such as those experienced earlier this year. The Department of Defense estimates that for every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil, the military incurs an additional $130 million in fuel costs. In fact, a Center for American Progress analysis (see table) found that the most recent oil price spike cost the Department of Defense $123 million more for oil purchases from January to May of this year compared to purchases one year ago over the same months. The 2012 price spike forced $1.1 billion more spending for oil compared to the same time in 2010.
There’s no end in sight for the strain of high oil prices on the Department of Defense. According to Energy Department statistics, world oil prices will average an estimated $145 a barrel in 2035 (in 2010 dollars), up from the current $85-to-$110 range this year. Read more
Since President Obama called, once again, for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for income above $250,000, Republicans have revived their favorite talking points about taxes and small businesses. For years, Republicans have falsely portrayed a tax increase on high-income Americans as disproportionately affecting small businesses, though there is little evidence to back up those assertions.
Case in point, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said during a speech today that half of the people affected by the increase would be small business people:
Now, let’s look at what the President wants to do. By raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000, half of those people who are going to be taxed are small business people, who have pass through entities, just like many of you, and just like I had…Why we would want to tax the very people we expect to create jobs in this country makes no economic sense.
Boehner has used variations of this lie in the past, claiming that half of the people affected by a millionaire’s tax would be small business owners. The statistic wasn’t true then, as Boehner’s own office admitted, and it isn’t true now. Far less than half of the people affected by the expiration of the upper income tax cuts get any of their income at all from a small businesses. And those people could very well be receiving speaking fees or book royalties, which qualify as “small business income” but don’t have a direct impact on job creation.
Even under Obama’s plan, high-income individuals are still receiving a hefty tax break compared to what they were paying under the Clinton administration. Republicans, meanwhile, are using small businesses as a political prop to promote the interests of the richest people in America.
A new poll from Brigham Young University actually has good news for those advocating for legal rights for the LGBT community, since it finds that a full 71 percent of Utah voters support some kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples. However, the poll’s packaging in the Mormon-affiliated Deseret News — with a headline proclaiming that a “majority of Utahns oppose gay marriage” — puts a subtle anti-equality spin on the positive results.
Since President Obama first announced his public support for same-sex marriage, dozens of polls have attempted to quantify the shifts in opinions about same-sex marriage among the American public. However, any poll can be structured and framed in a way that lends bias to the results, just as a recent Fox News poll claimed that the majority of Americans opposed gay marriage despite other polling that suggested the opposite. That Fox poll and this BYU poll used the same framing to reach similar conclusions about widespread opposition to gay marriage, even though the characterization of those who support for civil unions as those who oppose marriage equality is misleading at best.
Both the Fox News and the BYU polls asked questions in the same way that a recent CBS/New York Times poll did, forcing a choice between same-sex marriage, legal unions not called marriage, or no legal recognition for same-sex couples. However, without giving respondents the option to communicate support for both marriage and civil unions — support which often overlaps, as demonstrated by polling in Colorado that found 53 of respondents were in favor of marriage as well as civil unions — polling results are left with an incomplete picture. Similarly, forcing a choice between same-sex marriage and no legal recognition, with no civil union compromise, also provides a fuller picture of where voters stand.
The Deseret News does do a good job of noting Utah voters’ strong support for civil unions, pointing out that the BYU poll suggests Utah voters support civil unions in greater numbers than the general population does. That being the case, it simply doesn’t make sense to frame Utah as anti-equality, claiming that “72 percent of Utah voters oppose gay marriage.” Reporting on poll questions in this way is misleading, and obscures the push toward greater support for the LGBT community — including within conservative communities such as BYU — that is evident across the United States.
Mitt Romney has a way of deflecting criticism that is uniquely his. Where most politicians tend to pivot to another topic if they don’t like what someone is accusing them of, Romney takes an I’m-rubber-you’re-glue approach to attacks, accepting them as true but then simultaneously making the same accusation of his opponent.
Just today, the Romney campaign has started reflecting back allegations of outsourcing by saying that, in fact, President Obama was the one who really outsourced jobs. This is just the latest maneuver of the sort. Here are the top six times that Romney has had a “I Know I Am But So Are You” moment:
1. Mitt Romney “offshores” jobs, but Obama outsources. When the Washington Post ran a story depicting how Mitt Romney sent jobs overseas during his time at Bain Capital, the Romney campaign rushed to specify that he had “offshored” jobs, not “outsourced” them. But now, the campaign is saying that it was in fact Obama who outsourced jobs, since the Recovery Act funded US-based renewable energy projects by companies that also did work overseas. Those claims have been debunked previously as patently untrue.
2. Romneycare’s individual mandate is constitutional, but Obamacare’s isn’t. Mitt Romney’s spokespeople have argued that the individual mandate is an “unconstitutional penalty.” Romney called it a constitutional tax. But whatever it’s called, he wants to be clear that Obama is raising taxes and Romney, when he passed a nearly identical bill in Massachusetts, was not. (He did, however, briefly say it was a tax then too)
3. Mitt Romney got two degrees from Harvard, but Obama “spent too much time” there. Mitt Romney got two degrees — a JD and MBA — at Harvard; President Obama only received his JD. But Romney told his audience at a rally earlier this year that Obama “spent too much time at Harvard.” This argument tries to frame Obama as the out-of-touch elite, despite the fact that Romney is the millionaire son of a governor.
5. Romney says he shouldn’t be held accountable for inheriting a recession in Massachusetts, but holds Obama accountable for 2009 job losses. In 2006, when job creation was incredibly slow in Massachusetts under a Romney governorship, he asked constituents to understand how hard it is to pull a state out of a deep recession. But the Romney campaign still blames Obama for job loses that occurred in the early days of his administration.
6. Mitt Romney’s big houses are a sign of success, John Kerry’s big house shows he’s rich and out of touch. In 2004, when Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was the Democratic candidate for President, Romney went on the attack, joking that he didn’t know why Kerry would want to be president since “he would have to move into a smaller house.”
A report released late last month by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lowenstein Clinic at Yale Law School documents ongoing abuse and trafficking of workers hired by U.S. Government contractors to support the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The civilian workforce comes mostly from developing countries and performs low-wage services like construction, transportation, security, and food services.
Tens of thousands of Third Country Nationals (TCNs) are hired yearly through contractors to support the military and are subject to a variety of abuses, including illegal recruitment, trafficking, and forced labor. Vulnerable workers, many of whom make less than $1 per day, are targeted by recruiting agents who promise exorbitant salaries and often lie about the location and type of work the recruits will preform. Then, when the workers arrive in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are subjected to appalling work and living conditions, including twelve- and fourteen-hour work days, seven-day work weeks, no vacation, low salaries, squalid living conditions, confinement, and inedible food.
Because TCNs often have to borrow money to pay recruiting fees, they comprise a uniquely vulnerable group. They remain in Iraq or Afghanistan even when abused with impunity in the hope that they will eventually be able to pay off recruiting fee debts, which are subject to interest rates as high as 50 percent per year, and protect their families from retribution. The report describes individual instances of abuse such as the following:
Thirteen men from Nepal, promised jobs in hotels in Jordan, were instead sent to work for a government contractor in Iraq. Twelve of the men were kidnapped by insurgents and executed. The thirteenth man was prevented from going home for fifteen months.
In 2008, 1,000 South Asian workers protested outside of Baghdad. They had been confined to a windowless warehouse without pay or work for three months.
Another group of workers incurred debts up to $5000 for jobs that never materialized, and were forced to live in huts made out of tarp and pieces of carpet. The workers had no access to food or water.
While the United States has a zero-tolerance policy toward human trafficking, existing measures are failing to curb the entrapment and abuse of foreign workers. “Accountability exists in theory but not in practice: to date, the U.S. government has yet to fine or prosecute a single contractor for trafficking- or labor-related offenses,” the report states. The ACLU recommends making changes to prevention, investigation, and prosecution policies in order to protect workers.
I’m not sure I expect better from comedian Daniel Tosh, but this story of a woman who saw him on a bill at the Laugh Factory (where, it should be noted, she got through a Dane Cook set just fine, lest anyone want to accuse her of oversensitivity) and ended up having to hear him talk about how hilarious it would be if she got gang-raped is…dispiriting:
So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”
Now, I don’t know what jokes Tosh was telling specifically, but judging by, say, this routine, where the joke is that his sister gets raped after he replaces her pepper spray with silly string and her reaction is that he pulled a good one, I’d imagine it wasn’t particularly thoughtful or analytical:
Ditto with this “Acme Rape Trap” routine:
Heckling is, of course, a legitimate part of something that does happen during* comedy performances (though more so in clubs like the Laugh Factory than in a major auditorium), and heckling someone on the substance of their jokes is obviously a notch politer than simply telling someone that they’re terrible, or unfunny, or unattractive, or to get lost. A good comedian is an alchemist who can turn heckling into a transformative extended riff. Here it sounds like Tosh just doubled down on the same points he was making rather than actually responding, or providing an example of a rape joke that his heckler might find funny, undermining her objection. As I’ve written before, I think there is a case to be made that rape jokes that make fun of perpetrators can be very funny. Tosh didn’t go there, though. He just took the quickest route to run his heckler out of the club, and in using an image of her getting raped to mock and intimidate her, kind of made her point instead of his own. If rape was just hilarious and uproarious and trivial, it wouldn’t be a very effective rhetorical or literal weapon. Tosh isn’t just failing at civility here. He’s being a bad comedian.
*Thanks to the comedians who pointed out that heckling is less common than it’s sometimes portrayed to be. I regret the mischaracterization. The point I wanted to make is that is that the writers’ remarks weren’t entirely bizarre and a professional should have been prepared to respond to them.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) made headlines recently by concluding that fossil fuels received far more global subsidies than renewable energy in 2010. However, it appears that the IEA survey only included data from the countries with the largest fossil fuel subsidies, which are mainly developing countries whose economies largely depend on fossil fuel production. National Geographic’s The Great Energy Challenge also includes fossil fuel subsidy data from developed countries (Figure 1), bringing the total global value close to $500 billion for 2010.
Bear in mind that exactly what is defined as a “subsidy” can be rather subjective, so these are just rough estimates.
It’s worth noting that this trend is changing. For example, in the USA in 2011, fossil fuel subisidies in the form of tax breaks were down to $2.5 billion while renewable energy and energy efficiency programs received $16 billion in subsidies. Even many developing countries like Iran (with the largest orange circle in Figure 1 at over $80 billion in 2010 fossil fuel subsidies) dramatically reducing their subsidizing of fossil fuels (in 2011 Iran’s subsidies were down to $20 to $30 billion).
Nevertheless, despite the movement in the right direction, global fossil fuel subsidies are still much higher than renewable energy subsidies, despite the fact that fossil fuels and associated technologies have been established for decades to centuries. Fossil fuels also receive another massive subsidy which is rarely taken into account in these types of calculations – carbon emissions.