Josh Glasstetter's blog

Gina Raimondo's Curious Speech at the Manhattan Institute (VIDEO)

Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo appeared at the Manhattan Institute on Thursday to receive that organization’s Urban Innovator Award. Raimondo was being recognized for her efforts to reform the state’s public pension plans. While Raimando is not the first Democrat to receive the award, her appearance at the right-wing think tank is likely to raise eyebrows back home because of what she said and where she said it.
For instance, in response to a question from Charles Brunie – a founder of Oppenheimer Capital and former chairman of the Manhattan Institute – Raimondo seemed to indicate that she’s open to privatizing, or selling outright, state assets. She also suggested that, due to her private sector background, she outworks lawmakers and other public servants and employees at the state house.
To be sure, the substance of Raimondo’s speech was the importance of core government services and the need to sustain them financially for future generations. She highlighted Rhode Island’s pension reforms as proof that government can work and closed by arguing that the debate over whether government is too big should be supplanted by a debate over whether government is effective. However, the venue for her speech raises questions.
The Manhattan Institute, perhaps best known as the “brain trust” of the Giuliani administration in New York, has a long history of working to privatize, undermine, and cut public schools, social services, and public transportation. These are the very services that Raimondo cited as essential in her life and to all citizens of Rhode Island.
More broadly, the Manhattan Institute pushes a right-wing agenda that is only partially obscured by the intellectual veneer it projects on its work. Whether it’s equal rights for gays and lesbians, immigration reform, equality between men and women, or affirmative action for minorities, the Manhattan Institute is working against it. In fact, the think tank’s best known “scholar” is Charles Murray, co-author of the discredited Bell Curve, which claimed a genetic link between race and IQ – e.g. blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.
It is unclear what Raimondo hoped to accomplish by accepting the award. The motivations of the Manhattan Institute, however, are far less opaque. Their aim is to cut government spending on social programs – not to make it more effective – but rather to achieve their utopian free market vision of society. Partnering with a Democrat like Raimondo enables them to put forward a reasonable, bi-partisan face. The day after her speech, no less than the Wall Street Journal editorial page – no fan of Democrats or government – heaped praise on the treasurer for leading the Rhode Island “miracle.”
You can watch selected clips below and the full speech on the Manhattan Institute’s Public Sector Inc. website.
Intro video featuring Dick Cheney praising the Manhattan Institute’s “fresh thinking”:

Raimondo on getting locked in the state house:

Raimondo Q&A with Charles Brunie:

Raimondo on the importance of government:

VIDEO: Bill O'Reilly Hits Community Organizer with Umbrella, Tries to Get Him Arrested

Anyone who has watched the footage of Bill O’Reilly’s infamous meltdown on the set of Inside Edition knows that the Fox News personality has a hot temper. But you would expect the Fox News personality, who has sent his producers to literally stalk people like Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel, to have a relatively thick skin and be able to keep his composure in public. Not so, it turns out.
Check out this video shot last night by Branden Lane and first posted by Jack Long:
Bill O’Reilly, reportedly walking out of a Newt Gingrich fundraiser held last night in DC (see update below), is asked by Wisconsin community organizer Branden Lane if he attended the fundraiser. O’Reilly ignores him and then, with no prompting, strikes Lane with his umbrella. He then says, “Hey, sorry about that.” O’Reilly, with Lane following at a distance, then walks with his now-broken umbrella over to a Secret Service officer outside the White House. Incredibly, you can hear O’Reilly say that he wants to press charges against the man he just struck.
It’s a good thing for Lane that he caught O’Reilly’s temper tantrum on tape, otherwise he could have ended up in prison, falsely accused of assault. As for O’Reilly, it’s revealing that he not only struck Lane – on tape no less – but then sought to press false charges. Will there be consequences?
UPDATE: TPM reports that O'Reilly was staying at the same hotel as the Gingrich fundraiser but did not attend.


Gates Foundation Raises Eyebrows with Grant to Right-Wing Lobbying Group

“We don’t want to be part of the controversy.” That’s what Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, told NPR when asked why the foundation’s work on reproductive health avoided support for abortion care. While this was a grave disappointment to global women’s health advocates, it wasn’t altogether surprising. Despite the Gates Foundation’s staggering wealth and influence and willingness to try new – sometimes controversial – approaches, it steadfastly steers clear of political fights.

That’s why a recent award of $376,635 to a right-wing lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is raising eyebrows, and more, in progressive and philanthropy circles. Knowingly or not, the Gates Foundation has just stepped on a political landmine.
ALEC is engaged in all of the fiercest political fights of our day – working hand-in-hand with companies seeking to roll back healthcare reform, environmental protections, workers’ rights, corporate accountability, and taxes on the wealthy. The Gates Foundation, which is “dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy and productive life,” should know that those aims are incompatible with ALEC’s efforts to undermine Americans’ health, safety, and economic security to benefit the bottom line of its corporate backers.
The stated purpose of the Gates Foundation grant to ALEC is “to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.” On the face of it, this pales in comparison to ALEC’s other education work, which promotes large-scale voucher and privatization schemes that would destroy, not improve, the public education system.
Interestingly, Lee Fang recently reported in The Nation on the various ways that the Gates Foundation and ALEC are working – independently – to promote for-profit distance learning. These programs typically undermine public schools while benefiting technology and software companies, including Microsoft. The educational value of such programs is also highly contested.
But the bigger issue here is that the Gates Foundation – a grant-making behemoth – is legitimizing ALEC and all of its egregious lobbying by directly supporting a portion of the group’s work. One can only hope that the Gates Foundation staff responsible for the grant were narrowly focused on education policy and unaware of ALEC’s broader agenda. Either way, the foundation seems headed into the middle of a controversy, which is remarkable for an organization that took pains to avoid “the controversy” in the reproductive health arena.
For a primer on ALEC, see People For the American Way’s recent report:
When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.


VIDEO: Does Bob Marshall Agree w/ Rev. Ellison that Haitian Earthquake Was God's Punishment for Voodoo?

Rev. Joe Ellison introduced Del. Bob Marshall last week as a "warrior who will fight for our cause." Ellison – with Marshall at his back – agreed with Pat Robertson and said that the Haitian earthquake was God's punishment for practicing voodoo. Two minutes later, Marshall said that disabled children are God's punishment for abortion.

Here's the video of Ellison's comments on Haiti and introduction of Marshall:

"From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth."

Does Marshall stand behind Ellison and his remarks on Haiti? Or will Marshall blame the Washington Post for first reporting Ellison's comments, just as he has blamed the Capital News Service for first reporting his own?

It is not an accident that Marshall and Ellison echoed one another and Pat Robertson. They all believe that God exacts vengeance on those who do not follow their peculiar and ultraconservative interpretation of the Bible.

Ellison may like to believe that Robertson's comments merely "angered a lot of the so-called, in my opinion, liberals." But the truth is that Americans overwhelmingly reject such views, just as they reject Marshall's views on disabled children and abortion – including a not-so-liberal Governor named Bob McConnell.

And for those of you who missed it, here’s the video of Bob Marshall claiming that disabled children are God’s punishment for abortion:

Video of Bob Marshall Proves He Said What He Meant, Meant What He Said

Watch Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall claim at an anti-Planned Parenthood press conference that disabled children are God's punishment for abortion:

After his remarks set off a national controversy, Marshall tried to claim that he had somehow been misunderstood:

A story by Capital News Service regarding my remarks at a recent press conference opposing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood conveyed the impression that I believe disabled children are a punishment for prior abortions. No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion[.] I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created[.]

But the video speaks for itself. Marshall explicitly stated that he believes God punishes women who have abortions by giving them disabled children. And then he backed up his claim with what he evidently considered to be evidence (and the gentleman to his left nodded in agreement).

Marshall is entitled to his offensive views, but he should not run from them.

It's worth noting that Marshall has a history of saying offensive things – or being “misinterpreted.”

He said this about abortion in the case of rape: "[T]he woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman."

And he said this about contraception: "[W]e have no business passing this garbage out and making these co-eds chemical Love Canals for these frat house playboys in Virginia."

Marshall was not the only one at last week’s press conference to say something completely ridiculous and offensive, or as Marshall calls it – creating a “misimpression.”

Rev. Joe Ellison said he agrees with Pat Robertson’s comments that Haitians brought the recent devastating earthquake on themselves by striking a deal with the Devil and practicing voodoo:

From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth.

And let’s remember. These guys aren’t just some sideshow attraction in Virginia’s state capital. They hold sway with top Virginia Republicans, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, and are making gains in their war on the reproductive rights of Virginia women.

Dead-Ender's Game: Sci-Fi Writer Joins Board of National Organization for Marriage

Orson Scott Card, author of the popular sci-fi novel Ender’s Game, has joined the board of the National Organization for Marriage. You may have heard of NOM recently thanks to its misleading “Gathering Storm” TV ad campaign which attacked equal rights for gays and lesbians.

We think that Card, who turned into a reactionary crank somewhere along the way, will be a good fit for NOM. Both have ample experience with alternate realities, and that should prove useful in explaining why committed same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

But Card’s recent writings have been outlandish even by the standards of NOM. Last July in the Mormon Times he appeared to advocate overthrowing the government if Prop 8 failed (h/t Box Turtle Bulletin):

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. […] American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

While it’s clear that Card is a fiction writer through and through – albeit unintentionally – we’d like to know if NOM shares his radical views.


Smear Job on David Ogden Comes up Short

The Senate is currently debating the nomination of David Ogden to be Obama’s Deputy Attorney General. That, in itself, is telling. Ogden was expected to sail through the confirmation process, but by last week there was talk of a full-on filibuster.

It’s not easy to disrupt the confirmation of a widely respected attorney with previous government experience and bipartisan backing. It takes big lies and a big megaphone. But the Religious Right and its Senate allies managed just fine.

To hear Senator Orrin Hatch talk about it, you’d think that Obama had actually nominated Larry Flynt to be Eric Holder’s deputy: “The pornography industry is excited about Mr. Ogden’s nomination.”

But that’s nothing. Here’s how the executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition summed up Ogden: “He will be a great ally for advocates for death and homosexuality inside the Justice Department.”

Bear in mind, they’re talking about a man who enjoys the backing of the National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Officers, Fraternal Order of Police, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and many others. He even won the support of Republican Senators Specter, Graham, and Kyl in committee.

Ogden’s right-wing antagonists don’t care about any of that. They’ve latched onto a handful of cases involving abortion and obscenity from his many years as a corporate lawyer and have distorted them beyond all recognition. Ogden, for instance, represented the American Library Association in its fight against overzealous internet filtering and the American Council for the Blind over whether the Library of Congress should make a Braille version of Playboy, as was the practice for other popular periodicals.

These cases had very real First Amendment implications. But never mind that. His old casework is enough for the Traditional Values Coalition to call him a “pro-pornography zealot.” Concerned Women for America has even speculated that his nomination might mean that the “United States will also fund the international production and distribution of pornography.”

These smears reached hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of Americans via right-wing cable news, talk radio, and blogs. Senate conservatives took notice, hence the five ‘no’ votes in the committee and the grumbling about a filibuster. In fact, Senator Majority Leader Reid was forced to file cloture on the vote.

Ogden will surely be confirmed when the Senate finally votes on his nomination today (around 2 pm). But the outlandish rhetoric from the far right and the willingness by conservative Senators to play along are sure signs of what’s to come.

National Lampoon's Creationist Vacation: Book Your Trip Today!

It’s almost March and you haven’t made your Spring Break travel plans, have you? Well not to worry, the Creation Studies Institute can help:

If you’ve never been on an Ice Age Fossil Adventure, it apparently looks like this (judging from the brochure we received in the mail):

In between wooly mammoth sightings, you’ll stand around in a river and learn “how to collect and interpret Florida fossils using a biblical framework.” Just imagine the shock and wonder on your children’s faces when they learn, according to CSI, that fossils prove the world is only 6,000 years old:

Even though this is an oversimplification and there are anomalies in the fossil record, the lack of intermediates in the fossil record and the abrupt appearance of virtually every major living creature, fully formed in the fossil record confirm the record of the Word of God recorded in the book of Genesis.

While an evolutionist looks at this evidence and sees a slow progression of life morphing itself into other, higher forms of life, the Creationist sees exactly what would be expected as a result of a worldwide cataclysmic flood such as the Flood recorded in the days of Noah.

The Ice Age Fossil Adventure is happening this March and April, and there’s still time to book the family adventure of a lifetime!

But sorry ladies! You'll have to work on your tan somewhere else:

Have fun, and be careful out there:

Child Porn Bust at the Family Values Network

The Smoking Gun has the sordid details:

A Fox News producer who covered Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign for the cable network is facing child porn charges after federal agents discovered photos and videos on his computer depicting "children under the age of ten being sexually abused by adult men and women."

Virginia GOP Chair goes all Cro-Magnon on Darwin, on his birthday

Yesterday was the birthday of Lincoln and Darwin, and Virginia GOP chairman Jeff Frederick couldn't pass up the opportunity to go all Cro-Magnon on the father of modern biology.

Frederick obviously put a lot of thought into his assault on evolution and created a foolproof (or so it seemed) plan -- put Darwin up alongside Lincoln and let the people see Darwin for the monster he was.

First he talked about Lincoln; it went haltingly but we got his point:

"Abraham Lincoln is best know (sic), as you all well know, for freeing the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation affirming in his Gettyburg (sic) Address in 19, I'm sorry, 1863..."

Then on to that bad, bad man:

"Darwin however is best known for the theory of evolution, arguing that men are not only, quote, are only, not, not created, but they are not equal, as some are more evolved... Darwin's theory was used by atheists to explain away the belief in God."

I can only imagine what this guy has up his sleeve for Galileo's birthday, but it's really a shame that Frederick knows so little, perhaps nothing, about the man he's attacking.

He could have learned a lot from this recent piece marking Darwin's bicentennial:

"While many of his contemporaries approved of slavery, Darwin did not. He came from a family of ardent abolitionists, and he was revolted by what he saw in slave countries[.] 'It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty.'"

But anyone who's familiar with Frederick knows that this kind of thing is par for the course -- Karen Tumulty captured him in his element last fall:

He climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon," he said. "That is scary." [...] "And he won't salute the flag," one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, "We don't even know where Senator Obama was really born."

It's pretty clear in which direction Frederick is taking the Virginia GOP. No wonder the party has continued to lose ground under his tenure.

But maybe I'm being too hard on Frederick. He is after all facing a strong challenge to his chairmanship from this gentleman:

[Note to interested readers: you too can look like the guy above by shopping here]

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