TPM News

Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, says his Playgirl photo shoot will be done "tastefully."

Johnston made the remarks last night, the New York Daily News reports, at an event where he received an award from a pornography group:

Johnston received an award Wednesday night from Fleshbot, a sex site, for crossing over from being a pop culture star to a sex star.

But Johnston said he doesn't consider Playgirl to be pornography. He said it's "art."

"We're going to do it tastefully," he said. "And I don't think I'm going to embarrass anybody."

It's official: Marco Rubio is The Next Big Thing for conservatives. Earlier today, Lisa De Pasquale, the director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, announced that Rubio will be the keynote speaker for next year's CPAC conference.

It's hard to overstate the importance of a CPAC appearance for a conservative politician. The annual conference of young conservatives draws thousands of right-wing activists and media outlets, offering the keynote speaker a national platform to address the future of the Republican party's conservative base. The conference will kick off early next year.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates has threatened to fire Pentagon employees who are leaking details of President Obama's deliberations on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Gates addressed the leaks today in a press briefing while flying to Wisconsin, according to an article in the Pentagon's own American Forces Press Service.

"I am appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on," he said.

From the article:

Gates said he has little doubt that some of those leaks have come from within the Defense Department. "If I found out who" was involved, he said, "it would probably be a career ender."

The official line from the White House and Pentagon is that Obama remains undecided on how many troops to send.

He also condemned leaks on the Ft. Hood shootings, saying: "Everybody out there with their own little piece of the action" doesn't understand how it fits into the big picture.

"Everybody out there ought to just shut up."

Another d'oh to add to the pile at the Washington Times: A newsroom source tells TPM that the Bloomberg terminal screen in the newsroom says something along the lines of "service canceled for non-payment." Apparently, the source tells TPM, Bloomberg is just one of many vendors that hasn't been paid in months.

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Estimates of the size of the investment scheme allegedly carried out by politically connected Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein have now soared to $1 billion, up from $500 million, which was up from $100 million. Meanwhile, Rothstein is still free and was even taped Monday having a lunchtime cocktail at Fort Lauderdale's Capital Grille.

Civil charges were brought in the case Monday by the IRS and authorities have seized his 87-foot yacht and several sports cars, but Rothstein, who was a top moneyman for Gov. Charlie Crist known for his expensive tastes, has not been charged criminally.

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The Stupak amendment has touched off a furious argument among Democratic politicians and elites--one that could tank the entire health care reform project if it's not resolved by the time legislation comes up for a final vote in the House.

For the most part, the argument has been about justice. The Stupak amendment would forbid anybody who receives new government health insurance subsidies from buying policies that cover abortion. So why should women's health care be treated differently than other kinds of health care? Is it fair to prevent women, forced into the health care market, from buying any insurance policy she wants, even if they have some government assistance?

But somewhat less prominently, these same combatants have been at odds about what the practical effect of the Stupak amendment would actually be. There's substantial lack of clarity on that score--many say it's likely that there will be no abortion coverage in the exchange at all, and others hypothesize that, over time, the norms in the exchange will come to dominate the norms across the insurance market. At this point, that's all theoretical. But there is at least some data on the immediate practical implications of the Stupak amendment: It will, at least, directly and immediately impact a small, but growing number of poor and middle-class women.

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The D.C. city council is weeks away from possibly passing a law that would legalize gay marriage in the city. Though controversial with some religious groups in the city, council sources and gay rights advocates say the law is destined for passage in the nation's capital, and supporters here expect to see the first legally recognized same-sex weddings in D.C. by spring. But today, the Washington-area Catholic Archdiocese told the city that legalizing gay marriage will cost D.C. the social services and charity work the church offers to help the city's homeless and other low-income populations.

Some are calling the threat the strongest stand against same-sex marriage taken by the Catholic church anywhere in the country.

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Even though it's cold outside, flip-flops are back in season.

As Evan reported earlier this week, the RNC is exploiting tensions within the Democratic party to compare wavering senators with Sen. John Kerry, using his "I voted for it before I voted against it" video.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is the next target.

Mike Steele:

"Ben Nelson has taken part in the classic Potomac two-step of telling his constituents one thing in Nebraska and doing another thing back in Washington, D.C. Ben Nelson's double-speak has not gone unnoticed by voters in Nebraska and now it looks like Nelson may take this double-speak on health care reform one step further by voting for government-run health care before voting against it. Politicians cannot have it both ways - just ask John Kerry. Nebraskans can spot a phony politician when they see one and they know that any vote to move the Democrats' health care bill forward is a vote for a government-run health care experiment."

Ad after the jump.

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The Boston Phoenix reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will step into the Massachusetts special Senate election, endorsing Rep. Mike Capuano:

Capuano is considered a top Pelosi lieutenant -- he headed her transition team when the Democrats took the majority in 2006 and made her Speaker.

Nevertheless, it was unknown whether Pelosi would publicly endorse Capuano, against a woman opponent. Pelosi has been a strong advocate of increasing the number of women in elected office; Martha Coakley would be only the 18th woman in the current US Senate if elected.

A new Suffolk poll has state Attorney General Martha Coakley in the lead with 44% in the Democratic primary, which will be held on December 8, followed by Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca with 17%, and Capuano at 16%.

Calls to Pelosi's office and Capuano's campaign were not returned.

Late Update: It's official, with the Capuano campaign putting out a press release. Pelosi praises Capuano's work in passing the health care bill through the House -- a subtle rebuke of Coakley's statements that she would have voted against the bill because of the Stupak Amendment, which has become a big issue in the race: "Saturday the House of Representatives passed a historic health care bill that was a great victory for the American People. Mike Capuano not only cast a courageous vote for this historic legislation, but was a constructive force in improving this bill and moving it to the Senate."

The full press release is available after the jump.

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