Posted on January 18, 2012 in Countdown
The Quick Rundown
So Jon Huntsman, who was recently endorsed by Arab American Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), dropped out of the race over the weekend, and in turn decided to endorse Mitt Romney, the ever-more-solidified frontrunner of the GOP field. Meanwhile, Former Arab American New Hampshire Governor John Sununu is heading down to South Carolina in what Politico takes to be an “unmistakable sign that the Romney camp is looking to intensify its assault on Newt Gingrich.” Really? Is Gingrich not doing enough damage to himself? If you haven’t heard, his decision to stick by his comments about the need to get African Americans off of food stamps drew the wrath of Al Sharpton, and his labeling of Obama as “the food stamp President” has been called “crazy” by the White House. Yes, Gingrich is so pleasant, even Sarah Palin would vote for him.
Will Stephen Colbert Join the Race?
After finding out that he was doing better than Jon Huntsman in the South Carolina polls, Comedian Stephen Colbert decided to form an exploratory committee to consider joining the race. He has even taken credit for driving Huntsman to throw in the towel, and his Super PAC (run by Jon Stewart) is running hilarious ads attacking Mitt Romney for being … a “serial killer” (seriously, watch it). A second ad just came out urging South Carolina voters to vote for Herman Cain (but why, we wonder, would comedians ever want Cain to get more media attention?). We at Countdown don’t really care whether Colbert makes the ballot in South Carolina. We’re just dying for him to be allowed to join the debates. Can you imagine an exchange between Colbert and Newt? Yes, we can’t stop smirking at the thought either.
Show Me the Money
Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner, has thus far been coy about releasing his tax returns. Despite being pushed to release them, including by Governor Chris Christie, the best he has done so far is a “probably,” sometime later. Does the fact that he would like to wait until he secures the party nomination indicate that his tax returns might hinder this pursuit? We don’t know, but what we do know is that Romney pays taxes at the modest 15% rate because of what the Huffington Post describes as a “loophole in the tax code.” We won’t bore you with tax details (you can read them on your own), but we would like to mention that Romney, in his own words, also gets “speakers fees from time to time, but not very much." How can a speaker of his prominence get so little in speaking fees? Oh, “not very much” is like $375,000 in the course of one year. Meh, just pocket change. Leave it to Mitt “I’m just a regular guy and the new $4.39 Carl’s Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwich is delicious” Romney to explain how little $375,000 really is.
It’s Called “The Golden Rule” For Heaven’s Sake
Regardless of whether we manage to live by it consistently, treating others the way you want to be treated is the kind of axiomatic elementary moral principle that doesn’t require much persuasion. Or so you’d think! When Ron Paul suggested over the weekend’s Republican debate that we should treat other countries the way we would like to be treated by them, he was booed. That’s right; the “golden rule” was booed by an audience presumably made up of normal people. There is only one plausible explanation: this audience grew up reading a special copy of the Bible; one where “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is followed by an asterisk that leads to a footnote disclaimer: “Unless you’re America, then you’re exceptional and can do whatever you want unto others.”
Land of the Free? Mmmm… Not Quite
Conventional wisdom has it that our rights were undermined under President George W Bush and then restored under President Obama. After all, it was under Bush that the PATRIOT Act was enacted, indefinite detention in Guantanamo practiced, and waterboarding carried out. It was also candidate Obama who promised to end the use of torture, to close Guantanamo, and to restore our liberties. But has President Obama really delivered us from the dark direction we were sliding down? Not if you consider the recent Washington Post article, entitled “10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free.” The article notes that under the current President, our government continues to have the power to assassinate U.S. citizens, detain terrorism suspects indefinitely, carry out warrantless searches, use secret evidence in trials, and so on. The President undoubtedly deserves props for ending the use of torture, but let’s not pretend that our civil liberties are in a healthy place. More importantly, let’s make sure this issue gets raised in the 2012 election.
SOPA & PIPA Are Here
Speaking of freedom and liberty, have you noticed anything weird while surfing the web today? If you attempted to go to Wikipedia, you will have noticed that the site is blacked out in protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If you went to Google, you would’ve noticed the black tape over the word “Google” in protest of the same legislation. So what are PIPA and SOPA? They are pieces of legislation whose idea of fighting piracy, their critics argue, is to impose massive restrictions on blogs, search engines, payment processing companies, and social media sites to block access to pirated materials. And why should the average web user be concerned about this? Well, to name just one reason, because this would make the crime of streaming copyrighted material punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
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