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Pay Discrimination? Your Fault for Not Suing. (At CPAC, Carly Fiorina Explains How to Talk to Women)

Posted by guest blogger Kristen Doerer

"If you read newspapers—and I hope you don't clutter your mind with such nonsense" is how Chris Doss of the Leadership Institute opened a breakout session “Lies Told to You by Liberals.” Billed as an “activism boot camp,” the session took place on February 27, the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in National Harbor, Maryland.

I wasn’t there to see this guy—who blabbered on about how Marxists and communists had infiltrated the Democratic Party, and then the civil rights and anti-war movements. People streamed in, and quickly out, while he was speaking. No one was there to hear this guy. They were there for Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina, who made her debut at CPAC yesterday, was leading the following section, “Countering the ‘War on Women’ Lie.” By the time she walked into the room, it was packed to capacity, the seats filled with a noticeably large number of young women.

“The War on Women continues, even though it failed and fell flat for [Democrats] in 2014,” said Fiorina in her opening remarks.

This isn’t the first time Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and potential presidential candidate, has done this talk. She spoke last year at CPAC on the same topic, and, she said, she had young women telling her afterwards that she needs to educate more women about the rhetoric surrounding the War on Women that she contends does not exist.

So Fiorina created the Unlocking Potential Project, with the goal, she said, of engaging women voters in Republican politics by using their personal connections and grassroots strategies.

“Women are most persuaded by women they know,” said Fiorina. It was this notion that led her to equip women with the skills to take apart the "War on Women" rhetoric.

During the campaign for the 2014 midterm elections, Unlocking Potential deployed women—and men who showed interest—to five states, according to Fiorina: Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Colorado.

“The media has taken over the 'War on Women' rhetoric,” said Fiorina. “Women are not single-issue voters,” but the media and Democrats, she said, would have you thinking that reproductive rights is all they care about.

“Our views are as diverse as men’s,” said Fiorina, evoking the conservative notion that Democrats hold back women by assuming they are victims, while conservatives don’t pigeonhole them. “We care about all the issues.”

Carly Fiorina then dove into how the past few years under President Barack Obama—and in California, as represented by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, to whom she lost in 2010—have hurt women. “The real war on women is happening every day,” she said, in the guise of low participation rates in the labor force (forget the economy that is still recovering from the Bush crash), and her claim that, under the current system, women are being denied health-care access in hospitals. (Although Fiorina didn’t specify or elaborate on her claim, the implication was that Obamacare was somehow to blame.)

“Equal pay for equal work—it’s a good idea,” Fiorina continued. “That’s why there was a law passed in 1963” that she sees as having more or less taken care of the problem. Women just need to use the law when paid unfairly, she asserted.

Today, women don’t need another law, she said, but rather “pay-for-performance environments, not the seniority system.”

“You know who supports seniority?” she asked, rhetorically. “Unions.”

I cannot stress how, after spending a full day at CPAC the previous day with people shouting the same things at you over and over, how sane this talk could sound to some.

She then dove into the subject of abortion, and readily made it known that she is proudly “pro-life” (or in other words, anti-choice), but urged a change in demeanor when conservatives address the issue.

“We need to talk about it in a calm and respectful tone and lay out the facts.” It was exactly how she was speaking, calmly engaging her audience. Her tone was open, inviting, leveled.

“Women do not like the tone of politics. They frequently tell us that they do not like to be judged,” she continued, “We need to be empathetic and respectful. Any time a woman is in a difficult situation, she never deserves our condemnation, but she deserves our empathy.”

But when you get into these conversations with other women, she told her rapt audience, don’t assume people will know the facts. One great way to start these conversations, she said, was to ask: “Do you know what the Democratic Party platform is?”

She attacked Democratic opposition to laws that would effectively close a number of abortion clinics for not having “high enough standards.” These are laws, such as those passed in Texas and Mississippi that demand that abortion clinics meet the standards of hospital operating rooms, or that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a local hospitals—a Catch-22 if one’s local hospital is run by administrators who oppose abortion.

“Do we want higher standards for tattoo parlors than for abortion clinics?” she asked, without elaborating on the arbitrary nature of such regulation, state to state.

Armed with new talking points, the women in the room seemed empowered by her speech.

Carly Fiorina may not make it far in a bid for president, but she’s not to be overlooked. It’s likely that the GOP will use her to woo conservative women voters in the run-up to 2016.

In closing, she mixed a metaphor or two: “Women are like a pile of dry tinder, we have to engage them and they’ll stand up.”


Photo of the Day, Live Long and Prosper Edition

Leonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83. It's just impossible to overstate what a fantastic and enduring character he created in Mr. Spock. As Charlie Jane Anders writes today, before Spock, that kind of character—the emotionless alien—was a one-note character, but he managed to imbue him with a terrific range and depth, squeezing a tremendous amount out of a raised eyebrow or a single word ("fascinating"). The fact that everyone knows Mr. Spock, whether you've seen the original Star Trek or not, is a tribute to what he created. They don't come any cooler than Leonard Nimoy.

Republicans Trying to Fool Themselves into Thinking They Have a Solution to the Nightmare 'King v. Burwell' Will Unleash

For years now, Republicans have been saying they're about to unveil their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, the "replace" in "repeal and replace." And while every now and again one or a few of them comes out with a plan (of varying levels of seriousness), none of them get much support, and they quickly get put back on the shelf. But now that the King v. Burwell lawsuit threatens to take insurance subsidies away from millions of Americans, some believe they have to do something to avoid the massive political fallout that will result. Byron York reports:

"We're worried about ads saying cancer patients are being thrown out of treatment, and Obama will be saying all Congress has to do is fix a typo," said one senior GOP aide involved in the work. In recent private polling for the conservative group Independent Women's Voice, a huge majority of respondents said it would be important to "do something to restore the subsidies" in the case of a Court decision striking them down.

Hill Republicans fear such a scenario would create huge pressure on Republican governors, who originally declined to create Obamacare exchanges in their states, to change course and set up state exchanges. The result could ultimately be an Obamacare that is even more firmly rooted and difficult to repeal than it is now—all because of a Republican "victory" in court.

To avoid all that, GOP lawmakers have decided to keep the money flowing. Maybe the payments won't be called subsidies, but they will be subsidies. The essence of Obamacare—government subsidizing the purchase of health insurance premiums—will remain intact.

But York says they haven't decided on a specific plan, which makes me a bit skeptical. Whenever this group does come up with something, conservatives are going to say that it gives in to Obama and they shouldn't bail him out. There are probably even some who think that if the subsidies get taken away, Americans will realize once and for all how awful the law is.

But even putting those deluded lawmakers aside, the fact that Republicans are just now getting around to thinking about this is remarkable in itself. When they all stampeded to support the lawsuit, what did they think would happen?

If the Court rules in their favor, we're going to go through another version of the argument Republicans are now having over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The pragmatic ones will say, "Let's just take care of this now to avoid disaster, and we'll live to fight another day." The conservatives will say, "We will not abide anything that aids Obamacare! Let it collapse of its own weight!" And then someone will try to come up with a compromise that extracts a pound of flesh from the law as the price of fixing the typo. Obama will say no dice, just fix the damn thing. Republicans will say, "See, it's Obama's fault your subsidies got taken away by the lawsuit we filed and supported!" No one will buy that, it'll drag on for a while with all the polls showing Republicans are getting the blame they deserve, and eventually they'll give in and fix it.

The Real Problem With What Scott Walker Said About ISIS

Scott Walker is learning that when you want to play in the big leagues, things move pretty fast. And when you're a governor without foreign policy experience, sometimes you can get a little tripped up trying to show how what you've done in your state prepares you for dealing with international challenges. So today Walker getting criticism for saying, in his speech to CPAC yesterday (it was actually in the Q&A session) that he can handle terrorists the same way he handled public sector unions in Wisconsin. Even some conservatives criticized him for it, but what's alarming isn't that he "compared" a bunch of Wisconsinites to ISIS, which of course he wasn't trying to do. What's alarming is that he thinks that you need the same skills and approach to dealing with unhappy constituents as you do with terrorists.  

Here's what he actually said:

"I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."

Then later he tried to walk it back:

"Let me be perfectly clear: I'm just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling this difficult situation is the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with," Walker told reporters. Asked if he regretted the statement, he said, "No."

"You all will misconstrue things the way you see fit," he said. "That's the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there's any parallel between the two."

I doubt there are many limits to Walker's contempt for people who want to bargain collectively, but obviously he didn't mean to say they're like terrorists. What he did mean to say, I'm fairly certain, is that he can bring the same kind of uncompromising toughness to combatting ISIS that he brought to his successful attempt to crush the public sector unions. The unions were his enemy then; ISIS will be his enemy if he gets to be president.

And this is what we need to explore, not only with Walker but with all the Republican candidates. They'll all be eager to tell you that on this problem, Barack Obama is weak and indecisive, whereas if you're sufficiently tough, the problem can be solved. But you know who was tough, uncompromising, and brimming with the "confidence" Walker cites? George W. Bush. When it came to terrorists, you couldn't get much tougher than that guy. Heck, not only did he invade two countries, he even started a program to torture prisoners. Super-tough, am I right?

But you may have noticed that when Bush left office, there were still terrorists. Al-Qaeda had been transformed from a centrally-run organization into a network of franchises, all of which are potentially dangerous. And then out of the ashes of the Iraq War grew ISIS. For some unfathomable reason, toughness wasn't quite enough to solve the problem.

So that's how I'd pose the question to these candidates if I had the chance: You talk a lot about being strong and tough and showing resolve, and "sending messages" of strength and toughness and resolve, but George W. Bush did all those things, and yet the problem remains. So what do we do now?

CPAC 2015: Right-Wing American Dream Kind of Crappy

(Photo: C-SPAN)

(L-R) Raffi Williams of the Republican National Committee, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, U.S. Representative Mia Love and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, appear on a panel about millennials and the American dream at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 26, 2015.


Posted by guest blogger Nathalie Baptiste.

What is the American dream? Is it owning a house and having a job you love? Perhaps you want to be able to have children and send them off to school? Well, this year at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, members of the Republican Party are promising to help you make your dreams come true. On Thursday morning, CPAC—an annual gathering at which a broad range of right-wing constituencies are represented—officially started as presidential hopefuls, political pundits, conservative activists and college students filled the Gaylord National Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of the nation’s capital.

Because both political parties go through great lengths to win over the powerhouse voting bloc—millenials—it was no surprised that “Reclaiming the American Dream: Millennials Look Toward Their Future” was on the agenda. And who better to sit on that panel than U.S. Representative Mia Love of Utah?

Love never misses a chance to remind people about her parents’ humble beginnings. Jean and Mary Bordeaux immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, and Love has crafted a touching narrative about her parents’ arrival in this country with only $10 to their name. But they still managed, as she tells it, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps; it’s the Republican fairytale.

Despite having their salaries paid by tax dollars, Republican politicians are rarely shy about expressing some hatred of the government, and Mia Love is no exception. Presenting government as nothing more than a hindrance to lives of Americans, Love explained to the CPAC audience that “the American people will rise to the occasion on their own. No nanny state needed, no big government required.”

“We must advance the conservative principles that have lifted more people out of poverty and fueled more freedom and driven more dreams than any set of principles in the history of world,” Love said. Of course, if conservative policies are supposed to help Americans achieve the dream that she speaks so fondly of—I’ve got a lot of questions.

In 2013, Frank Lucas sponsored the FARM bill that would have cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $21 billion over the next 10 years. Nearly 2 million people, comprising mostly working families with children and the elderly, would have lost their food assistance.

The bill failed in the House, though—Democrats thought the cuts were too deep while Tea Party Republicans believed they didn’t go far enough. (Two million hungry people are just not enough.) The farm bill eventually passed in 2014 with “modest” cuts of only $9 billion.

How exactly does cutting food assistance for millions of food insecure Americans lift them out of poverty?

Not only do conservative policies send kids to school hungry, they send them to schools that routinely face budget cuts. On February 5, Republican Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, announced cuts to the education budget to the tune of $44.5 million dollars. Nothing says “helping children succeed” like forcing their schools to scrape for resources.

No Republican star missed their chance to criticize Obamacare. Referencing the supposed failure of the Affordable Care Act, Mia Love asked the audience to “imagine a healthcare system that is centered on service and measured by outcomes. Not dictated by Washington.” If conservatives have it their way, the Supreme Court will rule in their favor in the King v. Burwell case. According to Joshua Green, writing at Bloomberg News:

If the plaintiffs prevail, millions of people in 34 states who bought insurance on federal exchanges would suddenly lose the subsidies that make it affordable. Consequently, most would lose their coverage.

Millions of people will lose their health insurance…making them one medical emergency away from bankruptcy—or worse, death. The American dream indeed!

Christie Blusters His Way Through CPAC Appearance


(Photo: C-SPAN)


Posted by guest-blogger Rachel M. Cohen.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wasn’t going to let something like record-low approval ratings get him down as he took the stage Thursday afternoon at CPAC’s annual gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. Exuding that Sopranos-style confidence that’s earned him notoriety, Christie, sitting on the CPAC stage for an interview with conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham,  dismissed the idea that, compared to other potential presidential candidates in the crowded Republican field, he’s not well-positioned to run for president. (A January survey conducted by Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register showed Christie was the first choice candidate among just 4 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers.)

Asked by Ingraham if such numbers disturb him, Christie retorted, “Uh, is the election next week?”

He continued: “I’m not worried about what polls say 21 months before [the election],” going on to point out that he won gubernatorial races twice in a blue state when everyone thought it was initially impossible.

All right—it’s evident that Christie can hold his own through tough on-the-spot interviews questions, perhaps better than some of his competition—(think Scott Walker’s recent ‘gotcha’ gaffe). Perhaps that’s why he declined to make a speech to the CPAC crowd, preferring to do only the on-stage interview. (Other dignitaries and potential candidates delivered brief remarks, followed by an on-stage interview.) But it’s still not clear what distinguishes Christie from other more moderate Republicans like Jeb Bush.

“[I]f the elites in Washington, who make backroom deals” pick the Republican presidential nominee, then Jeb Bush “is definitely the front-runner,” Christie said. By contrast, if “the people of the United States,” looking for someone who they can actually connect with, pick the candidate, the governor said, then he will do just fine.

Meh. Though Christie likes to come off as your everyday dude, his anti-elitism shtick just doesn’t hold when one actually looks at his receipt stubs. For an ostensibly ordinary guy, the governor has a big habit of traveling lavishly, drinking fancy Champagne, and quietly dumping the expensive bills on the taxpayer. (In 2013, New Jersey residents paid over $10,000 for Christie to travel with his wife and aides to the New Orleans Super Bowl.)

It was the New York Times that first reported the story about Christie’s spending habits, and Christie made several digs,saying that he “doesn’t care at all” what the paper’s reporters have to say about him. “I’m still standing,” he boasted. He even joked that he gave up the New York Times for lent.

In an attempt to please a crowd that wasn't necessarily disposed to see him as a true conservative, Christie noted that he had vetoed funding "five times" for Planned Parenthood, and that among the people he thought should "sit down and shut up" were those in the White House.

Christie’s bluster has some appeal, but there’s only so long that he can use it to avoid owning up to some of his massive leadership failures. His state finances are out of control. New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times on his watch. The state’s pension fund has lost billions of dollars. Just 37 percent of New Jersey voters have a favorable opinion of him. And, as I wrote in the winter issue of The American Prospect, he cancelled one of the most important and desperately needed infrastructure projects in the nation—a decision that threatens the safety of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey commuters.

It’s a tough record to run on.



Photo of the Day, CPAC Edition

What's that you say? There's a biology teacher at your local high school trying to indoctrinate students into believing that the earth is 4.5 billion years old? Not to worry—AmericaMan is on his way! Good thing I wore the Sweatband of Liberty today!

John Boehner Can't Bring Himself to Rip Off the Band-Aid

Mitch McConnell knows what John Boehner doesn't, namely that when you have to do something painful, it's best to get it over with quickly. Rip off the Band-aid, chop the zombie-bite-infected leg off with one blow, just do it and move on. But we're a day away from a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, and Boehner can't bring himself to do it.

So here's the current status. McConnell decided that the Senate would take two votes, one on a "clean" DHS funding bill—i.e., one without a rider reversing President Obama's executive actions on immigration—and one addressing just those executive actions. That way DHS stays open, Republicans get to cast their symbolic vote against Obama, and everybody goes home. The funding bill is already moving through. And of course, Tea Partiers are outraged (here's one colorful post from Erick Erickson entitled "Eunuch Mitch McConnell Squeals Like a Pig"). Which, I'm pretty sure, doesn't bother McConnell all that much, because he knows what's in his party's interest and what isn't.

Boehner is still saying "nuh-uh!" But to what end? What does dragging this out actually accomplish for him? Here's a report from Politico:

Boehner is playing a game of political survival. Most of his inner circle knows that the House will be forced to swallow a clean DHS funding bill at some point. But if the speaker wants to keep conservatives from launching a rebellion, it may be too early to capitulate. Boehner is aware of the perilous situation he's facing—which is why, in private conversations with lawmakers, he's telling them to "stay tuned" without tipping his hand on his next move.

Speaking to his caucus Wednesday, Boehner said he hadn't spoken to McConnell in two weeks, an apparent attempt to distance himself from the Senate GOP leader's plan. It seemed to highlight what will likely be an unfolding dynamic in the coming Congress, particularly over fiscal matters: The Senate will be forced to cut deals on politically toxic issues, and Boehner will ultimately be forced to accept them in order to avoid potential crises.

So the outcome is inevitable, but Boehner seems to be operating on the assumption that if he holds out a while longer, the crazy caucus will be less angry with him. And when has that ever worked? We've been through this multiple times now, and at the end of it they dislike him just as much as they did at the beginning.

There are three things Boehner could be thinking. The first is that if there's a partial shutdown, the administration will give in and undo Obama's executive actions. No one is dumb enough to believe that. The second is that he or someone else will have an extraordinary flash of insight and devise a clever stratagem that will get the Republicans everything they want. That's possible in theory, but highly unlikely to say the least. The third is that this shutdown fight will end the same way all the other shutdown fights ended: with Boehner giving in and allowing a vote on a bill to end the crisis, a bill that passes with the support of Democrats. He will be decried as a capitulator and a RINO, and nothing will have changed.

But is Boehner really in a "perilous situation"? The reason he's still the speaker isn't that he's done such a masterful job of keeping Tea Partiers happy. It's that nobody else wants the job. When he retained the position in January, 25 Republicans voted for somebody else, but the votes were entirely symbolic. There's no other candidate, there's no rebellion planned. He's secure in his miserable position.

So really, Mr. Speaker, just rip off the Band-aid. Hold the vote to fund DHS. We all know how this ends.

At Colleges Across the Country, PhDs Join the Ranks of Low-Wage Workers



Posted by guest blogger Justin Miller

In college towns across America, adjunct faculty are quickly becoming the new, Ph.D.-educated working poor.

If nobody noticed that adjuncts now comprise the majority of faculty in higher education, that surely changed yesterday, on what organizers deemed National Adjunct Walkout Day. The idea was to shine light on the precarious conditions that are now the norm for most college-level instructors—terribly low pay, unpredictable job security, little-to-no academic freedom.

So yesterday, adjuncts used their vast numbers to be seen (or not seen, rather) by collectively walking out of classes they teach, participating in demonstrations, or even doing teach-ins about the state of the academy, as it were. Thousands of instructors from hundreds of institutions across the country, from Ohio State University to Central New Mexico Community College, took action. Even a school in Ireland took part.

The goal was simple: Put pressure on administrations to change their hiring practices by showing students that even as they pay more and more for tuition, the working conditions for their instructors are sinking.

Many adjuncts are forced to patch together teaching gigs at multiple institutions just to make a living. Not much of one, though: The average pay for an adjunct teaching a three-credit course is less than $3,000. Benefits are typically out of the question. Opportunities to engage in traditional faculty tasks—like curriculum development—are scant.

This is the new reality for most people trying to make a career in academia. In the United States, non-tenure-track faculty now make up more than two-thirds of the instructional workforce in higher education. Over the course of just 15 years, part-time faculty positions increased at three times the rate of full-time positions.

There’s a “national upsurge from the grassroots, which has been pushing everything along,” says Joe Berry, a contingent faculty member and organizer.

That includes pushing national unions to become active in adjunct organizing—several of which got on board with the day of action. SEIU, for one, issued a statement of support, on the heels of announcing an initiative to set a national standard for contingent faculty at $15,000 a course, including benefits.



Photo of the Day, Grumpy Speaker Edition

Speaker of the House John Boehner, showing his enthusiasm for the fact that he and his party have yet again bumbled into a shutdown crisis that they're going to lose, just like all the others.