Garance Franke-Ruta is a senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic. More
She was previously national web politics editor at The Washington Post, and has also worked at The American Prospect, The Washington City Paper, The New Republic and National Journal magazines. At The Prospect she won the 2007 Hillman Prize awarded to its group blog, "Tapped."
In 2006, she was fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass., and in 2007, a summer fellow with The Iowa Independent, based in Des Moines, Iowa.
Garance has lectured at the Kennedy School, the Harvard Art Museums, Williams College, Wellesley College, Brandeis and Georgetown Universities, and taught in Georgetown's Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program. She also has made numerous appearances on national and regional television and radio programs.
Born in the South of France, Garance grew up in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico; New York City, New York; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has resided in Washington, D.C., since graduating from Harvard in 1997.
The small-government maven may face revanchism from some House Republicans.
In a spirited exchange with NBC's Chuck Todd at the Washington Ideas Forum, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist revealed he still hasn't come up with much of an answer to the fact that American voters just went to the polls to back people who have pledged to raise taxes.
Norquist denied that his famous anti-tax pledge would complicate Republican efforts to cut a deal on the impending fiscal cliff during the lame-duck session of Congress. He also said he would continue to back House Speaker John Boehner, despite Boehner's recent openness to raising revenues.
"I support Boehner's position," Norquist said.
"Which is to bring in more revenues," Todd interjected.
"Certainly," said Norquist, adding that revenues would be higher if tax rates were lower: According to his theory of economic growth, lower taxes would increase economic growth.
"I'm all for economic growth," he said, complaining that politicians are reluctant to count growth as a revenue increase.
According to a recent report in Salon, "Norquist faces an unprecedented rear-guard attack as the congressional GOP fractures on the tax issue. Last year, there were 238 members of the House and 41 members of the Senate who had signed Norquist's pledge. This year, there are just 217 in the House -- one shy from the 218 needed for a majority -- and 39 in the Senate, an all-time low."
The House minority leader says the former candidate doubled down on those comments on a conference call with donors this Wednesday.
The real Mitt Romney has finally stood up, according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, she reflected on Romney's remarks on a conference call with donors Wednesday in which he attributed President Obama's reelection victory to "gifts" the president has given minorities and women voters in the form of government programs.
"I would say the most sincere thing that Governor Romney said during the campaign -- there's not much competition -- the most sincere thing that he said was the 47 percent," Pelosi said.
"If you saw that ... you saw passion, you saw authenticity," she continued. "That's what he really believed, and that's what he's saying now. And that's most unfortunate. But that's who he is, and that's where he revealed himself in the most authentic way. And he's sticking with that story."
The Florida Republican gives a glimpse of a way forward with Latinos. But to make it work, the GOP may have to abandon its law-and-order rhetoric.
Marco Rubio played down his political ambitions during an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum Thursday. Nonetheless, his remarks on immigration at the conference made clear why so many in his party see him as a central figure in its future.
"My trip to Iowa has nothing to do with 2016," Rubio told National Journal's Major Garrett, dismissing speculation about whether he might begin a bid for presidency two years from now. "It has to do with Governor Branstad, and I accepted that invitation when I fully expected Mitt Romney would be the next president of the United States and believed that in 2016 we'd be working for his reelection." Rubio is scheduled to attend "Governor Branstad's 2nd Annual 65th Birthday Party event!" on Nov. 17 at Adventureland Park in Altoona, Iowa.
Whether he decides to seek higher office or not, Rubio is already one of the most compelling voices on the Republican side of the aisle when it comes to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He's also clearing the way for a new Republican rhetoric on the topic.
"It's really hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth, on tax rates, on healthcare if they think you want to deport their grandmother," Rubio said. "I mean, it's very difficult to get people to listen to anything else you are saying."
Tone here is as important as policy, he said: "I think you see the change in that tone hopefully among people around the country on this issue. That you can be for legal immigration -- you don't have to be for amnesty -- but you also need to understand that we're speaking about human beings."
"And I think when you know these people, if you're in the Hispanic community, it you live where I live in the city of West Miami -- where virtually everyone is Hispanic and virtually all of my neighbors came from somewhere else not that long ago -- I mean, I know people that are in this circumstance," he continued.
"I know people who love people that are in this circumstance. My kids go to school with kids who have grandparents or uncles and aunts that are in this circumstance. You know them not as a statistic, you know them as a human being -- a walking, talking person who is in pain and who came here because they were hungry and their kids were starving and their family was, you know, hurting. And they did what any parent would do when faced with that circumstance. They did what they had to do to provide for them. You have to remember that when we talk about this."
Rubio predicted that comprehensive immigration reform might take a while to sort out. It would involved a significant reworking of the present legal immigration system as well as a new strategy for responding to the large number of undocumented immigrants already in this country. That said, there's one area where progress could come quickly, he said: a long-term solution for the so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants were born abroad and brought to this country by their parents as children and raised as English-speaking Americans.
"I believe -- and I've said this repeatedly -- that the issue of kids that are in this country undocumented is not an immigration issue, it's a humanitarian one," Rubio said. "They are more like refugees in that sense than they are like illegal immigration folks. Because they're here through no fault of their own. They're raised their entire life here and they want to go on with their future."
It's a completely different way of talking about undocumented Hispanic immigrants than one hears in other quarters of the GOP, where all the talk is about fences and laws, rather than human need and family ties. But it's also clearly a rhetorical approach that has the potential to help the party regain its standing with one of the fastest-growing groups in the country.
Senator Amy Klobuchar described the scene as a record-high number of women senators gets ready to be seated in 2013.
Getting reelected with a huge vote margin could make a senator treat a room full of people like her close girlfriends, I'd say. But the truth is probably the reverse. Newly reelected Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar's disarmingly open manner is a key part of her persona, and has helped make her a popular political figure in the state.
Either way, she drew attendees at the Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum into her confidence this afternoon when she told them about one consequence of the record number of women senators elected on November 6.
"For the first time, we had a traffic jam in the women's senator's bathroom," Klobuchar said. "There were five women in there. There's only two stalls! And I'm not going to say who -- that would be really bad for decorum. There were five of us in there, two newly elected. So, very exciting."
"The women senators' group is very collegial," she continued. "We have 17 of us now. And we have dinner every other month in the Strom Thurmond room, which is somewhat funny ... with the statue of Strom Thurmond looking down at us. And whatever is said in that room stays in that room. We never talk about the male senators! Just kidding. But it's been very -- in all seriousness, the group has worked well together. ... Mostly we have forged these relationships."
The Romney aide reflects on where things went wrong with his candidate's polling.
Kevin Madden worked on and off with Mitt Romney for six years as Romney pursued his quest for the presidency. On Wednesday, Madden, who served as Romney's traveling press secretary, sat down at the Washington Ideas Forum and graciously praised the campaign of his boss's rival. He cited President Obama's team for getting its election polling right -- and for changing the picture of who votes in this country enough that the Democratic incumbent could win.
"I don't think the Obama campaign gets enough credit for actually changing the electorate," Madden said. "I think their turnout model is extraordinary. They did very well, and they made sure they had the exact model of the electorate that they needed to win."
Romney's campaign, by contrast, "looked at a lot of the models," he said -- the 2000, the 2004, the 2008 ones -- and decided that, with the enthusiasm that the GOP had and the enthusiasm gap on the Democratic side, "we just don't believe it's going to be the same turnout and that there's going to be the composition of the electorate, it's going to look exactly like it did in 2008."
In Ohio, for example, campaign people on the ground did a kind of internal version of unskewing the public polls in order to discount for the Democratic party identification turnout advantage the polls were picking up. But in the end, those polls actually turned out to be right.
"That's unfortunate," he said. "But we just didn't believe that, that it was going to happen. And that's one of the hard things about making assumptions and guessing [about] turnout."
The president says criticism of the U.N. ambassador over her role in the aftermath of the Libya incident is "outrageous."
Update 3:12 p.m.: In his first formal meeting with reporters since his re-election last week, President Obama today lashed out at Republican senators who criticized his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, over statements she made after the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya.
Visibly angry, Obama took issue with comments made earlier in the day by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama told the White House reporters. "I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? To besmirch her reputation? It's outrageous.
"When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."
The remarks by McCain and Graham came Wednesday morning at The Washington Ideas Forum, a conference hosted by The Atlantic. In an interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News, the senators were asked whether they would oppose Rice's appointment as secretary of state, a nomination that has been rumored in recent days.
Asked if he felt she was effectively disqualified from the position, McCain replied, "Yes."
Asked if he would even support a filibuster to block her, he replied, "Yes."
McCain had earlier Wednesday laid out his opposition to Rice on CBS's This Morning, saying that her remarks in the days after the September 11 attack on the U.S. State Department mission in Benghazi, Libya -- which McCain called a consulate -- showed that she was "not qualified" to lead America's diplomatic efforts. At the Ideas Forum, McCain indicted her for "not being very bright, because it was obvious that this was not a 'flash mob' and there was additional information by the time she went on every news show ... in America." Rice, following the lead of the intelligence community, had gone on a number of Sunday talk shows and attributed the attack to outrage over an anti-Islam video produced by a Christian Egyptian expatriate based in California.
Sen. Graham said Rice's handling of the situation revealed she was "a political choice with a political narrative." He said he doubted her credibility. "I don't trust her," Graham said.
An hour later, in a separate session at the Forum, Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, pushed back at the notion that Rice is not qualified. "If the president nominates her, then she should have a hearing, and a debate in the Senate," he said. (Standard disclosure: Bennet is the brother of Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet.)
The GOP senators' remarks were part of the daylong push for a joint investigation by senators into what Graham called the "Benghazi debacle." Graham and McCain were joined by New Hampshire Sen. Kelley Ayotte at a Capitol Hill news conference on Benghazi immediately following the Ideas Forum where they continued to press their case. "There is no credibility amongst most of us concerning the administration and the numerous controversies and contradictions that have been involved in their handling of this issue," McCain said. "It is essential for the Congress to conduct its own independent assessment."
"This thing is a centipede ... another shoe is going to drop within days, I guarantee you," McCain said of the Beghazi story at the Ideas Forum.
"The American people deserve answers," he said, comparing the deaths of four Americans in the attack in Libya to Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair. "What did the president know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it?" Those were some of the key questions on which "the American people deserve answers," McCain said.
These men got it wrong. And they're not afraid to say so.
Pundit: Newt Gingrich
Prediction: "I believe the minimum result will be 53 percent to 47 percent for Romney, over 300 electoral votes, and the Republicans will pick up the Senate. I base that on just years and years of experience."
Mea Culpa: "I was wrong...I think you're going to find that, whether it's Michael Barone or Karl Rove, the whole group of us, we all thought we understood the historical pattern and the fact that with this level of unemployment, with this level of gasoline prices, what would happen....the country was looking at a different set of things than we were looking at."
Pundit: Michael Barone
Prediction: "Fundamentals usually prevail in American elections. That's bad news for Barack Obama. True, Americans want to think well of their presidents, and many think it would be bad if Americans were perceived as rejecting the first black president.
"But it's also true that most voters oppose Obama's major policies and consider unsatisfactory the very sluggish economic recovery -- Friday's job report showed an unemployment uptick.
"Also, both national and target state polls show that independents -- voters who don't identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans -- break for Romney.
"That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting -- and about their candidate -- than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.
"....Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals."
Mea Culpa: "The results are in and I was wrong when I predicted that Mitt Romney would win 315 electoral votes. For those of you who sent in nasty emails and for those who sent in reasoned arguments that I was wrong, please be assured that I will be on a diet of crow for some time."
Pundit: Dick Morris
Prediction: "A landslide for Romney approaching the magnitude of Obama's against McCain. That's my prediction.
"On Sunday, we changed our clocks. On Tuesday, we'll change our president.
"Romney will win the states McCain carried in 2008, plus: Florida, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
"In the popular vote, Romney will win by more than 5 points."
Mea Culpa: "I've got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide and, instead, we ended up with an Obama squeaker.
"The key reason for my bum prediction is that I mistakenly believed that the 2008 surge in black, Latino, and young voter turnout would recede in 2012 to 'normal' levels. Didn't happen. These high levels of minority and young voter participation are here to stay. And, with them, a permanent reshaping of our nation's politics."
The short version.
Winners: President Obama, the new crew of women senators, pro-choice women, gays, Nate Silver, fact-checkers, the emerging Democratic majority, DREAMers, Jim Messina, Joe Biden (the literal and The Onion versions), Chris Christie, Bill Clinton, Lena Dunham, pot smokers, Mother Jones, Obamacare, Medicare, community organizing, data-mining the vote, Big Bird, Super PACS.
Losers: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan's Time magazine bicep curls, Paul Ryan's budget, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, random old white men with a lot of money, Dick Morris, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi (she'll never be speaker again), Mitch McConnell, Stuart Stevens, the Tea Party, True the Vote, Wall Street, Staples, The Daily Caller, Jennifer Rubin, Republican legacies, Super PACS.
Yes, people put out false information and tweet incorrect things during major news events. There are ways to avoid being one of them.
Since Monday night's tweeting on Hurricane Sandy, there's been a great debate in social-media circles over whether Twitter is self-correcting, or whether misinformation spread there and on other social-media platforms can then flood into the real world, outside the range of any pullback. "What happens on Twitter doesn't stay on Twitter," warned Bloomberg's Jared Keller. Writing on GigaOM, Matthew Ingram had a contrary view, hailing Twitter as a "self-cleaning oven" for news. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal got into the fact-checking business here on this site, knocking down fake Sandy photos and pondering ways to counter misinformation on the viral web. And Poynter's Craig Silverman even proposed that his organization and other groups should "work together to secure a grant and test whether a centralized, non-profit organization could act as a (mis)information clearinghouse during breaking news and other big events, as well as a source of best practices for knocking down misinformation."
But I wonder almost if this is over-thinking the issue. "When we get mad at others for fooling us, we should also be mad at ourselves for fooling our readers," the Guardian's Heidi Moore wrote. She's right.
There are some best practices people on Twitter can maintain on their own to break the chain of infection of bad viral material. Call it building up information-age immunity.
1. Follow every link back through the Web to its source and evaluate the original material for yourself. This is the single most important thing you can do.
Don't retweet links you haven't clicked. Don't do this from sources you know, and don't do it from sources you don't know. Just don't do it -- ever.
If you follow the chain of information back as far as it goes, as often as you can, you'll be more accurate -- and more interesting. For example, very often a link will go to an aggregation of a story that links to another original piece that contains additional information or has a different emphasis. That original report may be more important and worth sharing than the thing you'd first considered retweeting, which summarized it. But even if it isn't, at least you'll know what you're onpassing, and who and where it came from.
The whole point of blogging and a certain kind of news tweeting is to assert individual editorial judgement over the roiling Internet and re-present information in a new way. Bloggers often make news by taking someone else's 17th graf and making it their lede, providing new avenues for storytelling and reporting. That's not curation -- that's an assertion of news judgment.
Tweeting is akin to that. Reporters tweeting pieces of their own will tweet their toplines. But sometimes their "tweetable" is down deep in the piece, and not the thing they thought it was.
2. The corollary of this for visual media is to never tweet or retweet a video you haven't watched. And if you're aggregating from a video, never use the quotes someone else has in their story about what was said in the video. Watch the video yourself -- you'll often find things that things have been elided, or small words have been dropped, in the summary reports. Sometimes it's because someone has edited from raw material into story form, making a decision about what not to include for space or emphasis reasons, and sometimes it's because reporters are human, too. No matter how well-trained they are, or how prestigious the outlet where they work, humans can make mistakes, especially when they are working fast and for an editorial product with a thin editing structure. You can protect yourself from repeating other people's mistakes by confirming everything you can against available original video sources yourself.
3. Consider the source. Your best friend during a breaking-news event is a local reporter or area expert who is independently evaluating the scene or occurrence and tweeting as they go. Agencies you've never heard of but which are important to the news event are also great. If you've never heard of someone, you can Google their Twitter handle without the @ sign and you'll often get to a real identity, as people tend to use the same handles in more than one place. From there you can get a biography and begin to evaluate credibility. If someone appears to have been a troll before they began news tweeting, approach their news tweets skeptically -- they may still be trolling. Also, if someone is purportedly tweeting news about an official agency they appear to have no relationship to, compare that information to tweets coming from the agency in question. If there's no confirmation from the agency, be skeptical.
Finally, just because a major media organization has tweeted something doesn't make it true. Sometimes media outlets are themselves aggregating something from somewhere else; this is why it's important to follow the chain of information back to the original source, if you can. When CNN tweeted that the NYSE was flooded, it was in fact tweeting the misinformation of Internet troll @comfortablysmug, as passed through the Weather Channel. This was a coup for the troll, but got the news organization in trouble.
4. Don't retweet photos that show obvious violations of the laws of physics or wildly improbably events involving animals (unless you can confirm the latter). Be cautious with tweets about areas you know nothing about that are coming from sources who are unverifiable. But do use information you're receiving outside of social media to inform your thinking on what's happening. For example, despite the real-time debate on whether they were real or not, I could tell the flooding pictures of the corner of 8th Street and Avenue C were true on Monday night because I have friends who live one block from there, have gotten to know the neighborhood, and also used to live on 7th between C and D and know how close the East River is. As well, I was getting reports from my sister uptown that there were three to five feet of water on the FDR Drive and from my parents over on the Hudson side of the city that the water was coming up over the waterfront park, over the West Side Highway and up their street. My knowledge of the geography of the city and what was happening elsewhere in it made me ready to believe there would be several feet of water at 8th and C too, no matter how shocking it appeared. Also, you can't fake the tiny little yellow "tree grows in Brooklyn" tree leaves floating in that water in one of the shots. In contrast, I held off tweeting the picture of water pouring into the World Trade Center site until I found a tweet that sourced it to the AP, because the way the water looked -- too perfect, like a waterfall -- made me suspect it. By the same token, photos that have obvious filters on them are ones that have already been manipulated and need to be considered more skeptically.
Often it's easy to second-source a user-generated image, and nothing is lost by waiting a few minutes until you can surface it. Anything that's striking is something people will photograph from multiple angles if it happens in an urban space. Something that's tweeted by multiple people from multiple angles with on-the-scene commentary is more likely to be real than something tweeted only by one person who is clearly retweeting information second-hand.
Finally, when in doubt about the provenance of a picture, you can always check where it came from using a Google Images search. To do that, go to Google, click on Images, and then upload the image in question using the little camera in the search bar. Then press search. If the photo is actually from another news event, the original source should be apparent somewhere, though you may have to scroll and click around a bit to find it.
He said he'd do it and now he has, by the power vested in him by the Constitution.
The Republican presidential campaign's plan to hold a series of "relief" events in Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin could backfire.
The images on national news television this morning are of fire, flood, wind, rain, snow -- and also New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The two leaders of states devastated by Hurricane Sandy have been making frequent press appearances to inform the public and reassure beleaguered residents that help is on the way and areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy will be repaired.
Into that mix of nonpartisan horror footage will stride Mitt Romney, a man without an elected office, looking for a way to stay relevant and appear presidential while the real president has ceased campaigning to monitor coordination of response efforts.
Romney's campaign declared Monday that it would stop campaigning "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy," as Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho put it in a midday statement. Events in Wisconsin with Romney and Paul Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida, were scrapped.
"We are also canceling all events currently scheduled for both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday," Gitcho added. "Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way. We will provide additional details regarding Governor Romney's and Congressman Ryan's schedule when they are available."
By Tuesday morning the new schedule was in effect -- and it involved a fresh array of events in swing states, this time with a hurricane theme. "Gov. Romney is scheduled to attend a storm relief event at the James S. Trent Arena in Kettering, Ohio, where he will be joined by Richard Petty and Randy Owen and help collect donations for storm-relief efforts," the Romney campaign announced. Randy Owen is a country music artist and Richard Petty is a former NASCAR driver.
Ryan, for his part, will visit two Romney "Victory Centers" in Wisconsin to "thank volunteers who are delivering or collecting items for storm relief efforts."
In the evening, Ann Romney will "attend a Victory Rally at the Temple for the Performing Arts in Des Moines, Iowa" -- an explicitly campaign-related event -- after visiting Romney "Victory Centers" in Iowa and Wisconsin earlier in the day for "Storm Relief Collection Efforts."
The danger for Romney is that by holding "storm relief" events in parts of the country rather far from the most devastated patches, and by having his wife and vice-presidential running mate go only to Republican events, he will look like he is continuing to campaign after having said he wouldn't just the day before. An even greater risk is that the Romney campaign events at these locations will inevitably appear partisan at a time when even politicians like Christie are praising the president and working with him to respond to the disaster as one unified national team. Americans like to pull together in times of tragedy and disaster; what they don't like is when politicians appear to seek advantage from their suffering without doing anything to provide substantive aid.
The first sure to be viral photo of Hurricane Sandy, posted to Twitter this morning by D.C. literary agent Howard Yoon:
Update 11:09 a.m. Jimmy Kruyne is taking credit for the stunt, tweeting out this picture. Earlier in the day he tweeted:
The news crew is down the block, Im thinking horse mask and swimming trunks?— Jimmy Kruyne (@howtoJimmyK) October 29, 2012
As Hurricane Sandy looms and flooding begins, the Republican presidential candidate's primary remarks are getting a second look.
Mitt Romney said America shouldn't be in the business of providing federal disaster relief and that it would be better for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's functions to be handled by individual states or even the private sector.
Queried directly on the topic by CNN's John King during the June 13, 2011 Republican presidential primary debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Romney said the federal government "cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids."
Here's the exact Q & A:
The Huffington Post reported that a Romney spokesperson Sunday night sought to clarify his present position: "Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters." That doesn't sound like a walk-back.
KING: You've been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I've been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it's the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut -- we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in. We cannot...
KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all. (emphasis added)
The massive storm is already leading to shutdowns and extensions at the polls.
Updated 7:38 p.m. Snow, wind and rain could keep voters in the path of Hurricane Sandy from early or in-person absentee voting, delay mail delivery of absentee ballots, and cut into early-voting days by forcing states battered by the storm to halt early balloting. Here's what we know about what's happening so far:
Connecticut: Voter-registration deadline extended.
Gov Malloy will sign an executive order tonight extending voter registration deadline to 8pm Thurs, Nov 1. Original deadline was Tuesday— Governor Dan Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) October 28, 2012
Maryland: Early voting suspended on Monday. "Due to the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has declared a State of Emergency and ordered all Early Voting Centers in Maryland closed on Monday, October 29, 2012." Early voting had only opened on Saturday, October 27.
Washington, D.C.: Early voting suspended Monday. The federal government is closed Monday for all non-emergency personnel. All Metro service for Monday -- rail and bus lines -- has been suspended. Early voting across the city had begun on Saturday, but the D.C. Board of Elections has "has suspended the operation of its early voting sites on Monday October 29, 2012 due to the forecast arrival of Hurricane Sandy."
Virginia: Kaine says to bring those yard signs indoors. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine is asking supporters to uproot campaign signs and bring them indoors so they don't become wind-borne projectiles.
The storm could potentially slow the pace of of early or in-person absentee voting in the three swing states of Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina -- and is already leading to major changes in the campaign schedules of President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Rape and abortion have become major flashpoints this election cycle because they are where two incompatible views of women's place collide.
Mitt Romney and Richard Mourdock are doubtless both hoping we're nearing the end of the news cycle in which the Indiana U.S. Senate candidate's remarks that pregnancies from rape are "something that God intended to happen" exploded into the national conversation. But if Democrats have any say in the matter, that won't be the case, as the president and his campaign have highlighted the remarks repeatedly in an attempt to create a wedge issue for women voters 11 days before an election that could be decided by the size of the gender gap.
Discussing his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest while speaking at debate against Democrat Joe Donnelly, who also opposes abortion, though with exceptions, Mourdock said Tuesday night: "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
He went on to use his opposition to all abortions, except to save the life of the mother, as a wedge to attack Obamacare for impinging on "religious freedom" by requiring insurance to cover contraception for women. Mourdock, the state's treasurer, beat incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary this past spring, and he's since received the support of both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, which he has featured prominently on his Facebook page.
On Monday, Romney released a TV advertisement endorsing Mourdock -- the only such video he has cut for a Senate campaign since being nominated as the Republican presidential standard-bearer.
Mourdock has tried to walk back his remarks to some extent while defending his hard-line anti-abortion views. "Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I don't think that anyone could suggest that. That's a sick, twisted -- no, that's not even close to what I said," he told reporters immediately following the debate, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.
"It is a fundamental part of my faith that God gives us life. God determines when life begins," Mourdock said. "I believe in an almighty God who makes those calls. ... There are some things in life that are above my pay grade."
The Romney campaign has tried to distance itself from the Indiana conservative without alienating its own base, which has left it in the awkward position of disavowing Mourdock's views without in any way stepping away from him. "Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Gov. Romney's views," Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said. "We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him."
Summarizing the views of many frustrated pro-choice women, comedian Tina Fey told an audience at a benefit for the Center for Reproductive Rights Wednesday night: "if I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I'm gonna lose my mind!"
While the Democrats push the issue to turn out pro-choice women -- President Obama tweeted about it three times Wednesday and told Jay Leno "I don't know how these guys come up with these ideas.... rape is rape," then returned to the topic Thursday in remarks and in tweets (at right) -- and the Romney campaign stands by its anti-abortion man out of its own need for the anti-abortion base to turn out on November 6, it's worth taking a step back to examine what it is we're really talking about and why it is that rape and abortion have become such flashpoints during campaign 2012.
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Coerced and not entirely voluntary mating have occurred throughout human history. I had a friend many years ago whose mother was a prize of war in a national conflict; it made for complicated family dynamics. But one sees rape, forced marriage and war go hand in hand throughout the ages, including our own; it is another form of conquest to create the next generation in your image from the bodies of the conquered. Violating women is a way of subjugating a population -- sowing fear among the women, blocking the men from access to the future, and rupturing and weakening all the social bonds that made up the society that fought and lost. But for this to work there must also be children of rape. "If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community," former head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International Gita Sahgal has explained. Women must learn to love the image of their conquerors written in the faces of the children they suckle, and to despise themselves, and their weakness. If captives come to identify with those who hold them, it is only a tale as old as our ability to survive by orienting our beings around whoever has power over us.
This is one reason Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's mid-August comments that "if it's a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" set off such a firestorm -- his beliefs showed deep biological and historical ignorance about the way rape-created pregnancies have been used to transform and dominate whole populations. But in his denial of the possibility of rape-created pregnancy he was acknowledging the truth that would erupt again into public view with Mourdock's remarks: Post-rape pregnancies are where blanket anti-abortion views become de facto support for coercive mating and the legally sanctioned denial of agency to women not only on the question of whether to have a child, but who the child's father should be.
"If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I'm gonna lose my mind!"
Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se -- the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman. It was also an honor crime, and in large parts of the world rape continues to be seen as one for which women bear primary responsibility. As such being raped is viewed as a female sexual transgression that creates a justification or even obligation for male relatives and community members to shun the assaulted, or, rarely, even avenge familial honor by killing victims.
In contemporary America we reject rape because we believe that women have rights as individuals, and our present-day understanding of rape owes much to the successful efforts of Second Wave feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s to reform rape laws and transform American thinking on the topic as part of expanding women's rights and capacity for independent living in general. The right to privacy is what created the legal framework for access to contraception in America, but the push for reproductive rights came more from a feminist demand for respect for bodily integrity and individual autonomy. This same push for individual control of anatomical processes -- and against regulations that were harming women, as those that made abortion illegal did by forcing women seeking abortions into potentially deadly facilities -- underlay the movements for abortion rights and against rape. There is "no full human dignity and personhood possible for women until we demand the control over our own bodies," Betty Friedan declared at the First National Conference on Abortion Laws in Chicago in 1969.
That rape violates women's rights is not a universally agreed-on proposition. There are cultures in which women are married off against their will to men they do not chose, and cultures in which women who are raped are salvaged socially only if the rapist marries them, thereby taking their damaged goods out of the sexual marketplace. There are cultures where grown men marry female children, and cultures where girls who have not yet learned to speak are pledged to others of their parents' choice. There are cultures where women remain property, and are bought and sold, even by their parents, because the culture accords them only sexual value.
In America, we object to and do not permit any of these approaches, because of what they violate: the right to be free from harm, the right of bodily integrity, the right to sexual autonomy, and, most importantly, the right of a woman to belong to herself and not be able to be claimed as property by a masculine act against her, or by anyone, ever.
Men fought against those who advocated women's rights for close to 500 years in the West by calling them and their vision of female access to these rights -- along with the right to be educated, critically, and to have the same suffrage and property rights as men -- a violation of nature, or even, as one late-19th century American jurist described the idea of a woman lawyer, a "treason against nature." And the critics were not entirely wrong. Women's rights are unnatural, if you think about it -- our natural lot the world over through most of documented human history has been subjection without autonomy or freedom. Coercive sexuality and rape are part of that system of subjection, and sexual coercion occurs in nonhuman primate populations, as well, where -- depending on the species -- it may well persist because it is an effective male reproductive strategy.
But what is natural and what is good and just are not the same. America itself is a rejection of nature, if you believe what many have argued, that the natural form of human social organization is the unjust rule of the few over the many, as the natural aristocracy of talent gives way to rule by heirs. America's genius has lain in moving away from the rule and exploitation of the many by the few toward a more equitable mode of social organization in the name of justice and equality and universal rights.
But as with the Divine Right of Kings that for centuries gave power to monarchs, too often we still see what is natural and avaricious and what is godly conflated.
According to Mourdock's thinking, a man who forces a woman to have sex with him against her will is a criminal, but a man who forces a woman to bear his child through forced sex should be permitted to do so, because abortion is murder and every conceived child is a gift from God.
The idea that coerced reproduction is God's will is of a piece with the belief that the subjection of women is God's will. The two ideas are inextricably intertwined historically, and the former is stubbornly resilient relic of the latter. To unpack this a bit more: According to Mourdock's thinking, a man who forces a woman to have sex with him against her will is a criminal, but a man who forces a woman to bear his child through forced sex should be permitted to do so, because abortion is murder and every conceived child is a gift from God.
Do we want to live in a country where any man at any time can decide he wants to bear children with any woman and she has no right to stop that from happening if he can overpower her by force? If we do -- and that's the society Mourdock is advocating -- then we have immediately left the society the feminists constructed and re-entered one where coerced mating is rewarded reproductively.
Women's advocates -- a group that today includes a substantial fraction of the country, whether they know it or not -- believe that women can decide on their own if they feel strong enough in the wake of a rape to care for a child that is part them and part the person who sought to depersonalize them and take pleasure in their suffering and humiliation. After all, pregnancy is no easy business despite modern medicine; giving a child up for adoption is potentially traumatic; and to unexpectedly become a single mother (80 percent of women sexually assaulted are under 30 and the average age of women at first marriage in this country is almost 27) is hugely life-altering, not to mention expensive, proposition.
In addition to increasing female autonomy, the major issue behind the drive for legalized abortion was how unsafe the procedure was on the underground market; everywhere in the world where abortion is illegal it takes place, even so. But it is often a deadly or physically damaging operation because of this. The question for feminists was how much risk and suffering women who were going to seek abortions anyway were required to undergo to obtain the relief they sought. Feminists succeeded in legalizing the procedure with a legal strategy that did not fully encompass the philosophical underpinnings of their support for abortion rights, but which made it markedly safer. Abortion-related deaths plummeted after abortion laws were liberalized in 15 states in 1970 -- declining dramatically even before Roe V. Wade was decided, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The drive to restrict abortion in the United States in recent years has done little to decrease demand but has effectively ratcheted up the misery quotient for women who seek the procedure in many states. People who share Mourdock's views believe it is right and ethical that women should suffer even more should they wish to have control over whom they bear children with.
Romney has said he supports exemptions for rape and incest in the abortion-rights rollbacks he also seeks; Paul Ryan shares the Mourdock view but as Romney's vice-presidential running-mate has said it is Romney's view that matters.
If the experience in this country with Medicaid-funded abortion in case of rape is an example -- and it may not be -- the whole issue of rape exemptions is a red herring, because the exemptions don't really work to help the women seeking abortions under them. Only 37 percent of women who quality for Medicaid funding for abortion under rape or health exemptions ultimately have procedures funded by the program.
It's all well and good to talk about respect for Mourdock's beliefs as he proclaims his ambition to impose them on people who disagree with him. But we ought also to recall the vision of women's place in the world they would to resurrect, if ever permitted to become law.
The HBO show creator and actress talks about her first time -- voting.
Well, she's certainly become "a voice, of a generation." The video "Your First Time" from the Obama campaign features Lena Dunham, creator of Girls, delivering a short monologue about losing her voting virginity.
"They've finally sunken to a new low trying to get the youth vote by comparing voting for the first time to having sex for the first time," says the RightScoop crew.
And yet, I am pretty sure the writers and readers of that site are not the Obama campaign's target demographic with this video, at this late point in the campaign cycle.
A bunch of gorgeous young women revive an old message: "You Don't Own Me."
If you followed the amazing outpouring of citizen-generated political content during the 2008 presidential contest, 2012 has been rather disappointing. Sure, there was the anonymously recorded 47 percent video released by Mother Jones, and there have been some fun videos by the Gregory Brothers. But it feels like there's been much less artist-created content this cycle -- and much more put together by people involved with campaigns for either politicians or web companies, many of which are entering the political marketplace as part of a broader branding play rather than because they have strong belief systems.
So how exciting is this new video from a bunch of gals who look like they just stepped off the set of HBO's Girls -- including that show's creator, Lena Dunham?The ladies lip-sync and vamp to the 1964 hit "You Don't Own Me" in this get out the vote PSA released Monday by Sarah Sophie Flicker, a New York-based performer with the The Citizen's Band, and others in the clip.
Amy Rose Spiegel
Arrow and Ada
Mia Moretti & Caitlin Moe
Sarah Sophie Flicker
Tracee Ellis Ross
That's not up to him to decide, really, is it?
Mitt Romney talks a lot about wanting to restore America's standing in the world and perceptions about its strength. But the reality is that the world is going to consider him on its own terms and his calls for a posture of greater American toughness -- even while continuing Obama's policies on the ground -- seem likely to rankle global leaders who are less prepared even than hardcore Democrats in America for a possible Romney win. From the Washington Post:
From Europe to China to the Middle East, perceptions of the contest have lagged behind indications that the two men are in a virtual dead heat. Obama remains widely popular abroad, and there are signs that many leaders are unprepared for a Romney presidency.
In Western Europe, few people can imagine Romney in office. In China, officials have been focused on the intrigues of their impending leadership transition, though many worry that both American candidates have been beating up on their country instead of pummeling each other. And in the Middle East, political chaos has kept many activists and officials from contemplating the election much at all....
One survey last month from the German Marshall Fund found Europeans breaking 75 percent for Obama and 8 percent for Romney....
A mid-October Emnid poll for the Bild newspaper found that 82 percent of Germans expected Obama to win, compared with 11 percent expecting a Romney victory....
In Britain, Romney is viewed as representing a party that has swung further and further to the right on social issues, thus sharing less affinity with his counterparts on this side of the Atlantic than Republicans once did. The coalition government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, has embraced the cause of same-sex marriage and vowed to vigorously combat global warming.
America's closest allies may be in for a rude awakening on November 7th, should Romney pull off a win. Their lack of preparation for a Romney presidency and sharp ideological differences with him seem likely to immediately complicate any Romney moves to do what he is saying his election would in terms of improving America's standing globally. The problem under Bush wasn't just that America was disliked by the Arab world because of the Iraq War and the administration's support for torture techniques like water-boarding -- it was that our standing with our European allies tumbled. It's hard to see how Romney could improve upon what Obama has done to repair those relationships in the near-term, given his well-demonstrated disdain for European social attitudes and economic policies, and what a shock an Obama loss would be to European citizens.
The secretary of state blasts Anne-Marie Slaughter's Atlantic article about women in the workplace.
It is a truism about the contemporary workplace that women, even feminists, who are bosses may not be any more sympathetic to their female employees' concerns for work-life balance than men because they have had to work so hard to get and stay where they are, and they hold their own capacity to burn the candle at both ends as the standard. It's also a truism that high-powered U.S. government jobs are burn-out positions that men frequently leave after two years, and that few save those with extraordinary physical constitutions and a great deal of personal help on the home front can manage some of the toughest of them for much longer.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has finally weighed in publicly on Anne-Marie Slaughter's July/August Atlantic cover story, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," and in the process reminded me of both understandings of Washington life. Slaughter's article detailed how she found "juggling high-level governmental work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible" and stepped down from her role as Clinton's director of policy planning in order to save her family. After leaving State, Slaughter wrote, she realized her complicity in the system that makes it so hard for other women to succeed:
All my life, I'd been on the other side of this exchange. I'd been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I'd been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I'd been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I'd been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).In a long article by Ayelet Waldman for Marie Claire posted online today, Clinton spoke frankly about her thoughts on Slaughter's piece:
She reminded me that she has spent her career advocating on behalf of women, that she is committed to the idea that "it's important for our workplaces ... to be more flexible and creative in enabling women to continue to do high-stress jobs while caring for not only children, but [also] aging parents." But, she said, Slaughter's problems were her own.Certainly Clinton has had occasion to whine if she wanted to, and faced a great deal of pressure to stop pushing herself forward professionally from the moment she became first lady all the way through her failed 2008 presidential primary campaign. But she didn't whine; she went on and kept going. One can see the personal necessity of the philosophy she outlines, even if she sounds dismissive of the important structural constraints on women's success that Slaughter outlined.
"Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs .... Other women don't break a sweat. They have four or five, six kids. They're highly organized, they have very supportive networks." By all accounts, this was precisely the kind of mother Clinton was to Chelsea -- hands-on, prioritizing her child, and yet ever committed to work.
Clinton has very little patience for those whose privilege offers them a myriad of choices but who fail to take advantage of them. "I can't stand whining," she says. "I can't stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they're not happy with the choices they've made. You live in a time when there are endless choices .... Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don't even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself .... Do something!"
Update 6:03 p.m. Slaughter tweets:
Hillary Clinton, for whom I have the greatest admiration and loyalty, was not talking about me when she mentioned whining. #anything4astory— Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM) October 18, 2012
Stay tuned, she says.
Update 10/19/12, 10:38 a.m. Clinton's spokesman Philippe Reines points out that Clinton was not actually speaking specifically about Slaughter in her "whining" comments, but about the character of Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye. Marie Claire is sticking with its story though, saying the quote was "part of a larger conversation about women in the workplace and striking a work-life balance."
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