TPM Cafe: Opinion

The FX series Justified, loosely based on the late Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a Deputy U.S. Marshal in eastern Kentucky. At first glance, Raylan brings to mind cowboys of lore: he wears a Stetson and has the fastest draw east of the Mississippi. But Raylan is a cowboy in corrupt, modern settings, who chooses to extract justice in ways that get him in trouble and leave his morals shaded grey. He has a weakness for women and children in need, and they seem equally drawn to him, especially women. Raylan doesn’t go long without companionship, and his girlfriends form a pattern: blonde women with just enough moral shadiness of their own to activate Raylan’s white knight syndrome.

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Last week at CPAC gave Rep. Paul Ryan yet another opportunity to play his favorite game, “Paul Ryan Cares About Poverty.” This one went even worse than usual.

Ryan told a story in his speech about a boy who was sad that he got the free school lunch, instead of having a bag lunch from his parents, and blamed “the left” for the boy’s “empty soul.”

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It is a sign of how far right the Republican Party has moved that New York Timescolumnist Ross Douthat describes Rep. Paul Ryan as a "moderate."

In his column on Sunday, "Four Factions, No Favorite," Douthat looked at the likely candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Drawing on an article by Henry Olsen in the conservative journal National Interest, Douthat divides the GOP core voters into four groups: centrist ("think John McCain's 2000 supporters, or Jon Huntsman's rather smaller 2012 support"), moderately conservative ("think the typical Mitt Romney or Bob Dole voter"), socially conservative ("think Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum backers"), and very conservative but more secular ("think Gingrich voters last time, or Steve Forbes voters much further back").

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Progressives have had a lot of sport recently contrasting conservative attacks on Barack Obama as a vicious law-breaking tyrant in domestic affairs with their simultaneous attacks on him as a weak, trembling figure on the world scene. How could Vladimir Putin fail to notice that Obama has struck so much fear into the hearts of his enemies at home, who are cowering in their homes awaiting assaults from IRS agents and affianced gay people? Hard to say.

But conservative self-contradiction about Obama’s spine reflects a much broader and deeper ambivalence about whether they are winning or losing the great battle for America’s culture and political system.

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A tweet from Welsh-born comedienne Jenny Collier went viral on Friday, and not because it was funny. She posted a screen grab of an email from promoters Mirth Control that read, “Hi Jenny, I’m really sorry but the venue have decided they don’t want too many women on the bill and unfortunately we need to take you out of this one. We hope that this doesn’t cause any inconvenience.”

It makes you wonder how often men are dropped because a bill is too dude-heavy. (Hint: never.)

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Today is a good day to thank an abortion provider. In 1996, March 10th was declared National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. It’s one day, during Women’s History Month, for those of us who believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion to give thanks to those make that choice a safe one. From my time at Planned Parenthood to my current work on the board of an abortion fund, I can safely say that without abortion providers we do not have safe abortions. Considering the current climate surrounding abortion, these doctors are under assault both as supporters of abortion rights and as professionals.

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Alabama is poised to become the latest state to restrict abortions early in pregnancy — in fact, before many women know that they’re pregnant. The state House of Representatives recently passed a measure that would ban abortions from the time that a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The bill, which contains other restrictions, now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Earlier this week, while announcing a major redesign of the SAT college admissions test coming in 2016, College Board President David Coleman publicly acknowledged something most of us have known for a long time: our use of the SAT favors privileged students.

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On November 27, 1770, John Adams began the most important trial of his legal career. His clients were eight British soldiers who, when confronted by an angry gathering of Boston patriots, fired into the crowd, killing five. The soldiers were accused of murder and threatened with the death penalty. Adams was a patriot, openly and adamantly opposed to British occupation of the colonies, with no love of the British army. He took the case, which he called “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country,” because in this nation, even before its founding, every accused criminal is entitled to zealous legal defense.

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