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Rush Limbaugh’s Cowardly Attempt to Apologize, Still Misrepresents the Issue

3:40 pm in Politics, Republican party, Uncategorized by Scarecrow

At his website, Limbaugh has issued what pretends to be an apology.  But he still misrepresents what Ms. Fluke said and denies his own complicity and that of other Republican spokesmen in insulting and demeaning not just Ms. Fluke but all women.  He then attempts to evade responsibility for his own demagoguing on an issue he now claims should not be part of political discussion.  Hiding for three days behind a claim it was all meant to be humorous — a cover for Rick Santorum, who said Rush is just an entertainer — is cowardly.

A Statement from Rush

March 03, 2012

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Update: via ThinkProgress, Carbonite, one of Rush’s sponsors, just announced that despite the apology, they are withdrawing from further sponsorship. From the CEO’s statement:

We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.

CNN’s Erick Erickson: Insulting Women Is Not Enough, Let’s Lie About What They Said

3:39 pm in Republican party by Scarecrow

More. (photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

There have been a disturbing number of instances in recent years when the level of political discourse coming mostly from the right has been so depressing that all you could do is weep for your country, if not the species.

Today’s example is the hate-filled debate between the GOP’s ugly faction and its cowardly faction over whether it’s okay to insult and slime any woman who has the courage to speak out on why health insurance should cover something so totally accepted and important to women as contraception.   That’s right, the Republican party is actually having a debate about this.

An ordinary citizen, a young woman was asked to testify at a Congressional hearing on what should be covered by employer-provide health insurance, but House Republican Darrel Issa prevented her from speaking on the absurd grounds that in a hearing about reproductive and related health services, a woman had nothing to contribute.   So Democrats held another hearing to allow her to speak.

That exchange might have ended the woman’s involvement in our story, but instead her willingness to speak publicly enraged the misogynist element of the GOP, led by Rush Limbaugh.  Limbaugh has now called the brave woman who represented millions of other women a “slut,” a “prostitute” and someone who should just film and distribute sex videos for men like Rush to ogle.

Now at this point, every decent person on the planet, not just the women, should be calling for Rush’s oral castration.   But while Limbaugh’s sponsors started pulling their ads, [more here] the self-styled half sensible remnants of the GOP have only weakly criticized Mr. Limbaugh, and then pulled their punches.

Carly Fiorina says Limbaugh’s remarks were “insulting”, but then she tried to distract from that by calling the whole issue a “distraction,” as though the bullying, misogyny and moral depravity of the Republican Party’s leading spokesmen is not a central issue of this era.  Rick Santorum volunteered that Rush’s comments were “absurd,” but it’s okay, because Rush is an “entertainer.” Bravely spoken; does this suggest that a true conservative thinks it’s merely entertaining to call women sluts?  The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives couldn’t do much better, noting only that Rush’s atrocious comments were “inappropiate.”   Gosh, that’ll sting. [Update: per MSNBC, the courageous Mitt Romney says "it's not the language I would have used."]

Having heard from the cowardly half of the GOP, we’re now getting responses from the vicious and stupid half.  Today, CNN commentator and right wing blogger Erick Erickson defended Limbaugh, explaining that while Rush’s comments were  indeed “insults,” they were nevertheless justified, because after all, the previously unknown woman had testified that she “wanted the tax payers to pay her to have sex.”  What?

That total fabrication and vicious smear apparently started with a writer for CNS, who in addition to being either incompetent or dishonest has private insurance confused with government payments.  His lie was then repeated by Michele Malkin and now today by Erick Erickson:

So of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. He was using it as a tool to highlight just how absurd the Democrats’ position is on this. It’s what he does and does quite well. And in the process he’s exposing a lot of media bias on the issue as people rush out (no pun intended) to make Sandra Fluke a victim of his insults and dance around precisely what is really insulting — her testimony before congress that American taxpayers should subsidize the sexual habits of Georgetown Law School students because, God forbid, they should stop having sex if they cannot afford the pills themselves.

Now we could stop here and remark on the GOP’s depravity of insulting and viciously defaming ordinary women, or any citizen, merely for testifying before Congress.

But we pause in our description of the sewer to which the GOP has descended to remind our readers that this whole issue began with whether private insurers should be required to include coverage for contraceptive and related health services in private insurance offered by private employers.  And so it’s helpful to remember that employer-provided “benefits” are ultimately offered in lieu of higher wages/salaries; in that sense, whatever health coverage the insurance provides is ultimately paid for by the employees.

In other words, women who use such services ultimately pay the premiums (and co-pays, deductibles, etc.).  And since the vast majority of American women use covered contraception sometime in their lives, that means that women covered by insurance are paying for a service they almost universally use.

But in the Erick Erickson’s world, that means that all these “slutty” women are asking taxpayers to pay them for having sex. [Update: Fox News Bill O'Reilly just repeated the same lie.  So the memo's gone out; tell the lie about government paying for sex.]

You can’t get any dumber, meaner or dishonest than the defenders of today’s GOP.   I say, build the moon colony; I’ll pay taxes to send them.

The Contraception First Amendment Fight Is Not About Freedom of Religion

7:42 pm in Religion, Republican party by Scarecrow

The Catholic Bishops, Republican Party and GOP presidential candidates have managed to convince much of the national media that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion is at stake in the Administration’s proposal requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for contraception services.  They’ve got it backwards.

Spokesmen for the Bishops claim that the rule deprives all Catholic employers, not just Catholic churches and institutions, of their religious freedom. Some go further by arguing the insurance rule shouldn’t be imposed on any employers, because that would force people who disapprove of contraception to pay into insurance pools that then provide coverage for contraception.

This is a very cynical con, a bait and switch that needs to be called out.  So let’s start with the foundation.  The First Amendment to the Constitution says this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Catholic Bishops and GOP politicians now exploiting the issue repeatedly claim that the provision implicated is the prohibition against the “free exercise” of religion.  But as you can see, there are two prohibitions here: the second is the “free exercise” clause; the first is against the “establishment of religion.”  It is this “establishment clause,” not the “free exercise” clause, that is really at stake, but it’s not the  Administration that’s causing this.

The Bishops spokesmen’s constant invocation of “freedom of religion” and GOP faux hysteria about a “war against religious freedom” are ways to convince us this is the correct framing.  Obscuring that this is really about the “establishment clause” is the political bait and switch the Bishops and GOP are now using to con the media and the American people.

We should first recall that the Supreme Court has never held the prohibitions in the First Amendment to be absolute.  We have freedom of the press, but a newspaper can’t lawfully libel someone.  Similarly we have freedom of speech, but you can’t defame someone, and governments can adopt laws limiting speech like “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowed theater” or inciting a riot and even prescribe rules on the time and place where “free speech” can occur.   We also respect “freedom” of religion, particularly as to beliefs, but government can still pass laws preventing religious organizations from exploiting child labor, or sacrificing virgins or your first born child, or conning the congregation into drinking poisoned Kool-aid, even if that’s claimed to be a religious ceremony.

Notwithstanding the language, “Congress shall make no law . . .”  it has always been permissible under the Constitution for government to enact reasonable labor protections and health and safety rules that affect everyone, including employees of religious institutions.  That’s why no one is surprised that half the US states already have rules requiring insurers to cover contraceptive services for almost everyone, and the Supreme Court is fine with that.  Some states may exempt church employers, and others not; but that is a matter of accommodation, it’s not because it is constitutionally required.

In short, there is nothing about the proposed Administration insurance rule that violates the “free exercise” clause.  And no one, least of all this Administration, is in a war against religion or religious freedom; those, especially GOP candidates, who say otherwise are simply nuts or shameful demagogues.

What’s happening here is that the government has chosen to adopt a rule relating to health care.  Proponents often say this, and some media may dismiss this as ducking the religious issue, but it’s not.  It’s consistent with what we’ve done for decades.  Contraception is about health care, mostly women’s health care, and sometimes life-saving health care; but it’s clearly health care.  When government addresses contraception, it does so for health reasons, not religious reasons.  Government can adopt rules to protect women’s health and safety without violating the First Amendment.

What about the “establishment clause”?  This is how the bait and switch happens.  The Catholic Bishops do not believe contraception should be used; it shouldn’t be available at all.  They don’t mean just unavailable to Catholics; they mean not available to anyone. They want the legal rule to be: no contraceptives for anyone, so no insurance coverage for contraception services for anyone.

Religious freedom says they are free to believe contraception is wrong, that it violates their religion.  Government can’t force them to believe otherwise; it can’t force them to exercise a religion they don’t believe, except that government can, for health and safety reasons, require everyone to obey reasonable rules to protect peoples’ health and safety, even if some believe such regulations are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

Religious freedom doesn’t mean the Catholic Bishops, or any other religious leaders, have the right to impose what they believe on everyone else.  When we cross over to the realm of what the rules should be for everyone, and the pushing is coming from a religious purpose, it’s more likely we’re talking about that other clause, the establishment clause.  And that’s exactly where the Bishops are.

Those who oppose any contraception insurance coverage want to prevent the government from having a rule that requires contraception, or have it adopt a rule prohibiting the coverage of contraception.  And they want this not for health/safety reasons, but for declared religious ones.  In other words, they want a government rule that imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else.  That’s not about the “free exercise” clause; that’s “establishment of religion.”

It is the Catholic Bishops and the GOP politicians exploiting this who are pressing to have government violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.   And that’s the real Constitutional violation at stake here.

(h/t to Digby on the Boies video)

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GOP Debate Candidates Can’t Answer Fla. Woman Who Asks for Health Insurance

8:31 pm in Politics, Republican party by Scarecrow

Don't ask Mitt how to solve Florida's uninsured problems (photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

During Thursday night’s GOP debate, a woman from Florida told the candidates she’d lost her job and with it her health insurance.  What would each of the candidates do to get her covered or otherwise provide the health care she needed?

You had to listen carefully, but the effective answer they all gave her was, “this is your problem, not ours.”

Let’s first recall that this woman is not alone.  Millions of Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance.  That was happening before the recession but has become much worse during the recession.  That may be because they lost their jobs and can’t afford COBRA coverage, and the government’s stimulus subsidies for COBRA have expired, or because, even if they still have jobs, their employer stopped providing coverage because of its rising costs.  Or they may have lost effective coverage, because even if they have a job, their employer-provided coverage is so weak or so costly with deductibles, exclusions, and co-pays that they’ve effectively lost affordable, meaningful coverage. In the meantime, those on the individual “markets,” which are dominated by highly concentrated oligopolies, are confronted with insurance premiums they simply cannot afford.

As FDL’s Jon Walker has noted, America now has the highest percentage of uninsured in decades, and that’s not going to change unless/until the Affordable Care Act kicks in by subsidizing private insurance and providing millions with access to expanded Medicaid. So unlike many of the debate topics, this woman’s question was extremely relevant to literally tens of millions of Americans.

The answers she/we heard cannot have been reassuring.  Mitt Romeny said he’d adopt policies that would lead to her getting a new job.  Okay, maybe that happens in a couple years or so, or maybe not.  But even when, pre-recession, we had much lower unemployment, we still had tens of millions of people without insurance, and those who thought they had insurance were often ambushed by insurance company rescissions, exclusions, denials and then refusals to re-insure those with pre-existing conditions.  Millions of people faced these problem before the ACA and before the recession.

Moreover, if these Republicans were successful in repealing the ACA and block-granting Medicaid, as the GOP-Ryan Plan they all eventually suppported provides, then the woman would not be able to get either subsidized private insurance on a health care exchange or government-provided Medicaid.  In Florida in particular, the Governor and state legislature have been particularly vicious in cutting funding for hospitals and providers that treat Medicaid patients, and the GOP-stifled Congress has refused to consider expanded Medicaid beyond the original stimulus, so it would be even less likely this woman could get coverage there.

What’s left?  Read the rest of this entry →

Governance As Bain Capitalism, Where American Workers Become Mitt’s Dog

10:29 am in Economy, Politics, Republican party by Scarecrow

The wealthy keepers of the Republican Party are in full panic mode since Mitt Romney foolishly put his brand of American capitalism on trial. Yes, he did it to himself. As soon as Romney made the ridiculous claim that his success at becoming rich from leveraged buy outs was his main qualification to be President, it was certain that his even dumber rivals would ask whether Mitt’s brand of capitalism was good for America or instead, “vultures” who were “looting” companies, enriching themselves and firing hapless workers.

Aware of the danger to the rigged game that makes a few fabulously wealthy at the expense of the many, the GOP’s financial elites must now invent fantastic narratives to defend “creative destruction”. This comes at a time when sensible voters are realizing they constitute the destruction part. What Romney helped create and successfully, ruthlessly, exploit was the enrichment of a favored few, including himself, while he and his friends became indifferent to the destruction of the middle class and American labor.

Of course, the questions Mitt himself raised are exactly what the country should be debating. After Wall Street’s self delusion and greed tanked the economy, throwing millions out of work and into fraud-laden foreclosures, the number one economic issue of our times should be whether the malefactors of wealth through financial engineering should be allowed anywhere near governmental power over the economy. Anything but a resounding “Are you nuts?!” is preposterous, so the next governance question is how do we exorcise these demons from the body politic.

The malefactors manipulated political influence in successive administrations via the heavily bribed corporate wings of both parties to bail themselves out with zero accountability. That they show little remorse and only token concern for their millions of victims only amplifies the issue’s primacy.

However he may resemble Gordon Gekko, you would think a man as clever or cynical as Romney would realize his becoming rich by putting corporate profits ahead of people while exacerbating the shameful disparity in income and wealth could become an automatic disqualification to lead a nation desperate to move in a different direction. But of course with enormous greed come enormous ego and equally enormous indifference to those who get strapped to the roof of the Mitt family wagon. As we watch Mitt-like GOP governors extend the destruction, it’s clear American labor is now Mitt’s dog.

It’s both amusing and appalling to hear Romney try to change the subject. He first whined that his rivals were attacking free enterprise or capitalism itself, and that would be “a terrible mistake for the party [no kidding!] and the country [hardly].”  Next he hid by saying this was just like Obama bailing out the auto industry, which of course Mitt had opposed. Even the Obama people could distinguish between actions designed solely to profit investors and those intended to save a strategically important American industry, its jobs and the economy. Private interests are not the same as public interests, but that’s what we should be clarifying this election. Too bad neither party seems to grasp this.

There’s a spate of right wing op-eds today asking whether Romney’s business experience qualifies him to be President. At WaPo, Robert Samuelson starts his column with that question, but then he ducks the answer when the examples from the Mitt era at Bain suggest it might not even have been a net good for business. Oh, my. So he just stops writing.

The Times David Brooks is even more embarrassed by the question and the evidence that drives the answer, so he too ducks. He diverts our attention by claiming that what we really need is not so much the CEO in politics but a President from the aristocratic class who looks to [Brooks'] God for guidance on how to govern America. I thought that was what Mitt and most of the GOP contenders were claiming for themselves. If only a just goddess actually used Zeus’ thunderbolts . . .

That leaves us with Paul Krugman’s dismissal in America is not a corporation.

But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.

More from the LA Times: Private Equity: Bad Rep, but Is it Deserved?

Oh My! CNBC’s Jim Cramer Goes Anti-Rick Santelli Over GOP Clown Debate

7:13 am in Economy, Republican party by Scarecrow

I don’t know what got into Jim Cramer.  Apparently, he must have thought the GOP Clown Car debate CNBC inflicted on its viewers involved a group of grown ups discussing serious economic and financial issue in a serious way.

Did he not know, before last night, that this group of GOP specimens includes some of the silliest, most clueless, confused, misinformed and/or intellectually challenged/dishonest bunch of charlatans ever assembled by a national political party?  Was he really surprised to learn these clowns perfectly reflect what the Republican Party has become, that they have nothing useful or even coherent to say about any of the nation’s real problems?

Europe is teetering on the edge of a financial collapse so serious it’s likely to cause a recession or worse there and drag the US back into it here.  Sounds like a serous topic, right?  And part of the reason is Europe’s leaders became enthralled with the same dishonest deficit/debt hysteria that afflicts the GOP and most of the Congressional Democrats, not to mention the President and his not-the-Chief of Staff corporate bagman.

Much like the US, Europe is burdened with incompetent political and economic leadership, epitomized there by a depressingly (literally) irresponsible European Central Bank. Collectively, they’re strangling their own economies in the absurd belief that if you punish and impoverish the debtors that buy your stuff, creditor nations that sell them that stuff will be just fine.

Sensible people understand the ECB’s abdication of its core responsibilities — e.g., lender of last resort in a financial crisis — will hasten collapse in Europe.  So naturally, half of the GOP’s clowns want to abolish the central bank here or “hurt” the Fed Chairman if he does something sensible to help the recovery, and the ones who know this is wrong are too cowardly to explain why that’s nuts.

It’s possible that Huntsman understands part of this — but he will never let on and it doesn’t matter for Mr. 1% anyway — and that Romney, in wandering between positions, misunderstands the rest but will take whatever position his audience needs to hear.  But it’s not credible that anyone else on that stage, including half of CNBC’s questioners — Rick Santelli! –  grasps what’s happening in Europe or here.

The GOP’s proposals are a mindless collection of talking points and pointless initiatives that at best would do nothing except give money to friends but collectively would make things worse.  In the meantime, their colleagues in Congress doggedly refuse to even debate even modest proposals that might actually help the unemployed and rescue homeowners and drowning states.

But this is not news.  We’ve known for some time that the GOP has become hopelessly corrupt, confused, corporatized, criminal and captured by teh stupid.  The one thing it’s definitely not is conservative.   It’s destructive of everything, and that means they’re dangerous. Even George Will knows this.

The Republican party should be abolished for the good of the country, and it’s astonishing that Jim Cramer is just discovering this.   Will Maria now admit it too?