Late Night Open Thread: Dum Dum Dum, Dum Dum!

Good evening!

I still am unable to bring myself to write about all the horrible things I read in the news today. From Egypt passing laws that will make necrophiliacs rejoice, to the House passing Cispa and Rush calling Hillary just a Secretary, and the GOP holding preventive care hostage in the student loan wars…and other things to depressing to mention!

So I wanted to post something light tonight.  Earlier today, Boston Boomer mentioned the story of Joseph Smith, the guy who founded the Mormon religion. So I thought I would link to South Park’s take on the subject. (And as you watch it, remember this is not made up! For although it seems to be a joke, the stuff about the angel and the forest and the rest is true.)

The link to the full episode is here:

All About Mormons (Season 7, Episode 12) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

And if you do not have time to watch it, you can see the first part of the Song of John Smith here:

Joseph Smith: Part 2 (Season 7, Episode 12) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Joseph Smith: Part 3 (Season 7, Episode 12) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Joseph Smith: Part 4 (Season 7, Episode 12) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

I agree with BB, this religion is like Scientology. Which, by the way, also got the South Park treatment. What Scientologist Actually Believe (Season 9, Episode 12) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Anyway, let me take a couple of moments to bring you some funny cartoons…

Oh yeah baby!

The kind of testimony I’ve been reading about is making really dislike Edwards even more.

Another Titanic Metaphor © Pat Bagley,Salt Lake Tribune,Titanic,Iceberg,1912,Social Security,Congress,Surplus, 2033, Reform

I love the one screaming, “We’re all gonna die!”
“the Nuge” caught a lot of hell when he said at an NRA rally that he will either be dead or in jail after Obama’s victory in November. He also said at the same event that “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off.” No word on whether he was wearing animal skins and wielding a stone ax.Lots of people made fun of him for his hyperbole, rightly so. The prostitute-loving Secret Service even paid him a visit. “The Nuge” defended himself on Right Wing Radio, bemoaning, “I’m a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan Rally!”

The poor guy.

The Secret Service determined that “the Nuge” was just talking out his butt. No big whoop. They concluded there was no real threat. He was just exercising his God-given right to say creepy things about a Democratic president. Very little, if anything, should happen to him. I mean, it’s not like he’s the Dixie Chicks, who said back in ‘03, “We do not want this war, this violence, and are ashamed that the President of The United States is from Texas.” That treasonous little outburst resulted in the Chicks receiving on-air death threats, being labelled as traitors, and having their music pulled from radio play. The Chicks, though, were women and should’ve known their place. Plus, they were criticizing war (America’s pastime) and a white Republican president. They deserved what they got.
You know, I have always thought the anger towards the Dixie Chicks was ridiculous, but when you put it in comparison to Nugent…it really illustrates the hypocrisy that is the GOP.
This is an open thread….

Thursday Reads

North Dakota Badlands--where I'd like to be this morning

Good Morning!!

Like JJ, I’m a little sick of the political news these days. Plus I’m a little under the weather with a cold, so please be patient if I don’t make a whole lot of sense today.

I heard a little of Mitt Romney’s victory speech on Tuesday night, and when I got up yesterday I decided to read the transcript. The speech was every bit as vapid as I remembered.

There is not one specific policy mentioned in the speech, just attacks on Obama and promises that no one could fulfill. Romney begins by playing to the people he has been disrespecting throughout the primaries:

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.

Really? A better America with no employer-provided health care, no Social Security, no Medicare, no Planned Parenthood? Romney claims that his “success in business” has taught him how to create jobs and build a booming economy (Even though his business was buying up successful companies and bleeding them dry. And even though he didn’t do those things when he was Governor of Massachusetts.)

…you might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson. And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!

Really? The only thing I’ve heard him recommend is tax cuts for rich people and more austerity for the rest of us. What am I missing? Then he asks the Reagan question–are you better off now than you were back in 2008?

what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?

If the answer were “yes” to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.

At least Romney seems to have found a better speechwriter, but as Ezra Klein points out:

Three and a half years ago…Barack Obama wasn’t yet president. The date was Oct. 25, 2008, and Obama hadn’t even won the election yet, much less taken office.

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially began in December 2007. The worst of it came in the fourth quarter of 2008. Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009. The time frame Romney chose, in other words, thrusts the very worst of the recession into Obama’s lap despite the fact that he wasn’t even president yet. It’s like blaming a fireman for the damage the blaze did before he arrived.

As Klein says, the real question should be “are you better off now than you would have been had Mitt Romney been president?” Romney claims Obama wants the government to control our lives.

This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

We’ve already seen where this path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty. Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

That last part is what Romney seems to really need–adoration for his achievement of getting rich at the expense of all the little people who were driven out of work and into bankruptcy while Romney headed Bain Capital. Other than that, it sounds like he’s talking about the Eisenhower-Kennedy years–except in that economy the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share of taxes.

I don’t think Romney has made his case to be President, unless people just want to vote for him because he “loves America.”

The Romney campaign is synchronizing it’s work with the Republican National Committee, so I wonder if this idea came from the campaign or the RNC: Republican National Committee Files Complaint Over Obama Travel

The Republican National Committee has filed an official complaint with the Government Accountability Office over President Barack Obama’s use of official resources for campaign travel.

In a letter to the watchdog agency, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus writes to call attention “to a case of misuse of government funds benefitting “Obama for America” (OFA), otherwise known as the president’s reelection campaign.”

Priebus pointed to Obama’s current trip to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa — three battleground states — to discuss extending lower interest rates on student loans as examples of this tax-payer funded campaign travel.

“One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,” Priebus said.

“This President and Air Force One seem to have a magic magnet that only seem to land in battleground states in this country,” Priebus told reporters earlier Wednesday before the complaint was drafted.

And so on… The GAO replied to a request from Buzzfeed:

GAO Spokesman Charles Young told BuzzFeed that the watchdog agency has yet to receive the RNC letter. “But we conduct our work at the request of the Congress.”

That was a pretty good slapdown. I seem to recall George W. Bush making a lot of speeches in swing states back in 2004. I wonder if Priebus was upset about that too? Geeze.

Vanity Fair has posted video of a memorial service held for Christopher Hitchens on April 20th. Hitchens died on December 15, 2011. In his honor, I’d like to quote from one of his Slate pieces that is very relevant to the 2012 presidential race: Mitt Romney and the weird and sinister beliefs of Mormonism.

The founder of the church, one Joseph Smith, was a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities of upstate New York. He claimed to have been shown some gold plates on which a new revelation was inscribed in no known language. He then qualified as the sole translator of this language. (The entire story is related in Fawn Brodie’s biography, No Man Knows My History.* It seems that we can add, to sausages and laws, churches as a phenomenon that is not pleasant to watch at the manufacturing stage. Edmund Wilson wrote that it was powerfully shocking to see Brodie as she exposed a religion that was a whole-cloth fabrication.) On his later forays into the chartless wilderness, there to play the role of Moses to his followers (who were permitted and even encouraged in plural marriage, so as to go forth and mass-produce little Mormons), Smith also announced that he wanted to be known as the Prophet Muhammad of North America, with the fearsome slogan: “Either al-Koran or the Sword.” He levied war against his fellow citizens, and against the federal government. One might have thought that this alone would raise some eyebrows down at the local Baptist Church.

Saddling itself with some pro-slavery views at the time of the Civil War, and also with a “bible” of its own that referred to black people as a special but inferior creation, the Mormon Church did not admit black Americans to the priesthood until 1978, which is late enough—in point of the sincerity of the “revelation” they had to undergo—to cast serious doubt on the sincerity of their change of heart.

Read the rest at the link and see if you think Romney’s religion is relevant. Ross Douthat is concerned about it.

I’m going to wrap this up, because I’m really not feeling well, but I want to share a story with you from Boston. It’s a week or so old, but still worth highlighting: ‘She-Hulk’ collars alleged T creep after lewd act. It’s a about a young woman (who didn’t want her name used) riding the MBTA, minding her own business and then suddenly finding herself the object of–to put it mildly–unwanted attention.

“This guy was just being a real creeper,” she said. As she shuffled along the train, he followed her. She zoned out, listening to music, only to look up and see him standing over her.

“I looked up and felt awkward, so I looked down,” she said. She said the man was exposing and touching himself, but tried to cover himself with his shirt.

The woman — not someone to meekly let an alleged creep get away with it — shouted out what he was doing, but no one stepped in to help. She said one male passenger even shrugged. So, she said, she went into “She-Hulk” mode, lunging as the man tried to bolt at Packard’s Corner in Brighton.

She said she held the man with one hand and “berated” him while she waited for the cops to arrive. She said he looked frightened.

“He kept saying sorry, but he was just sorry for himself,” she said.

The Boston Globe had an account of the arrest of the perp, Michael Galvin, 37, of Hudson St. in Somerville.

Officers found Galvin being dragged by his apparent victim, who grabbed him by his sweatshirt as he attempted to leave the train at the stop….When she caught up to him, he allegedly said, “I think I need help, I think something is wrong with me.” The woman held him until police arrived, according to an MBTA Transit Police report released by the agency.

Police arrived and spoke to Galvin, who said his shorts fell down accidentally on the packed and jostling train, the report said.

But the woman told a different story. Galvin allegedly approached her slowly on the crowded train. She told officers that she “got a weird vibe from the guy and tried to move away but couldn’t because the trolley was so packed.”

When Galvin was near her and she looked down, she said she saw that his shorts were pulled down “just enough to have his penis exposed, and he was stroking it.”

It’s just one small win for women, but a very satisfying one, IMHO.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: The Not-Quite-Humanness of Mitt Romney

Good Morning!!

I had never seen the diagram above before until last night when I was browsing through reactions to Mitt Romney’s latest insensitive remark, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” That’s when I found the above diagram at Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia:

Hypothesized emotional response of human subjects is plotted against anthropomorphism of a robot, following Mori’s statements. The uncanny valley is the region of negative emotional response towards robots that seem “almost human”. Movement amplifies the emotional response.

The idea is you can make an emotional connection to a robot; but a robot that is very close to looking and acting human, but not quite, will elicit disgust. This could explain the reactions of revulsion that many people have toward Mitt Romney. From Wikipedia:

If an entity looks sufficiently nonhuman, its human characteristics will be noticeable, generating empathy. However, if the entity looks almost human, it will elicit our model of a human other and its detailed normative expectations. The nonhuman characteristics will be noticeable, giving the human viewer a sense of strangeness. In other words, a robot stuck inside the uncanny valley is no longer being judged by the standards of a robot doing a passable job at pretending to be human, but is instead being judged by the standards of a human doing a terrible job at acting like a normal person.

Sullivan suggests that Romney is “probing zombie territory.” I found this a very helpful way to think about the way Romney presents himself in public. He is trying very hard to act like a regular human being and he almost succeeds, but not quite–sort of like the fake humans in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


Mitt Romney is a pod person!

Another behavior I’ve noticed about Romney is his tendency to get almost manic and go way overboard–as he was doing down in Florida in his attack on Newt Gingrich and in his glee at winning the primary (only the second he has won). I mentioned to Dakinikat yesterday that I thought Romney could use some lithium carbonate to bring him back down to earth.

According to Sullivan, others are picking up on this tendency too. Sullivan links to a series of photos by Dan Amira at New York Magazine, with this introduction:

Mitt Romney came into the 2012 presidential race with a reputation as a stiff, humanoid robot. Consequently, he’s been making a concerted effort to seem more warm and friendly when interacting with voters on the campaign trail. But there’s a happy middle ground between “robotic” and “maniac on ecstasy” — a middle ground that seems to elude Romney on a regular basis.

Here’s one of the photos.

I really need to read Andrew Sullivan more often. He writes:

I was chatting with a Mormon friend the other day and asking him what Mormons make of Mitt on this uncanny valley question. The phrase he came up with is “the Mormon mask.” It’s the kind of public presentation that a Mormon with real church authority deploys when dealing with less elevated believers, talking to them, and advising them. The cheery aw-shucks fake niceness in person is a function in part, some believe, of the role he has long played in the church: always a leader.

Because, make no mistake about this: Mitt Romney is a Mormon church leader. I mentioned before that I’ve been reading The Real Romney, by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. Here’s a 2008 quote from Mitt that introduces the chapter on the Romney family history:

I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.

Mitt Romney has served his church in official leadership roles since 1977, when he became a counselor (essentially second in command) to the president of the Boston “stake.” Romney was only about 30, much younger than most who ascend to this position. But Romney was seen as special. He later became a Bishop and then stake President. As such he was in charge of “about a dozen congregations with close to 4,000 members all together.”

Romney’s great great grandfather Miles A. Romney heard Joseph Smith speak in England, and soon after emigrated with his family to the U.S. to become one of the 12 original Smith apostles. Romney’s ancesters helped to build the earliest Mormon temples, and they unquestioningly followed orders from Smith, and later Brigham Young, to marry multiple wives and travel to far away places at the whims of these church leaders. Romney’s great grandfather, Miles P. Romney along with his three wives and twenty-one children, started a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico. That is where Mitt’s dad George was born. George returned to the U.S. at age seven.

Yesterday I read quite a bit of an e-book by Michael D. Moody, who was a classmate of Mitt Romney’s at BYU. Moody’s ancestors were also among the earliest followers of Joseph Smith. Moody’s book is called Mitt, Set Our People Free! A 7th Generation Mormon’s Plea for Truth. It is written in the form of an open letter to Mitt from one who has “left the cult.” The “letter” was actually written in 2008, but Moody believes it is just as relevant today.

As undergraduates, Romney and Moody belonged to a BYU booster club, the Cougar Club (BYU didn’t permit Greek fraternities). The club raised large amounts of money for the church and the university. Moody writes that

…in 1970-71…the Cougar Club buzzed that you planned to run for President someday and it became a fait accompli by 2006. Early and aggressively, you began your long-planned push for the U.S. presidency. After making all the right business moves and a few snazzy dance steps to the political right, you were suddenly a top tier contender for the Republican nomination with significant insider support and a freshly reinvented persona.

Moody was surprised when he heard Romney repeatedly tell interviewers and supporters that he had never intended to run for office–it just happened somehow. In fact Moody can’t understand a lot of the things Romney says that he (Moody) knows to be lies.

Moody had been somewhat rebellious during his early years at BYU and ended up getting suspended and then drafted and sent to Vietnam. It was there the Moody began having contact with non-Mormons and began to learn the history of the religion that had been hidden from the faithful–like the fact that the Book of Mormon had obviously been written by Joseph Smith himself and that the book contained many sections that had been plagarized from the King James Bible.

Still, even when he came home from Vietnam, he returned to BYU, joined the Cougar Club, and gave the religion he had been born into another chance. After he graduated, Moody went into politics specifically to support Romney’s push for the presidency and to be prepared to be one of Romney’s cabinet members when the time came. He writes:

I did my duty to the Mormon Gods and ran for Governor to expand our Kingdom and help you lead the world into the Millenium. Actually…by then I had begun my long journey out of the cult.

Moody is no longer a Mormon, but he says that Mitt Romney is still a true believer. One of the beliefs that many Mormons hold is the “White Horse Prophecy.” Moody writes:

Like previous generations, we were reared to believe the U.S. Constitution needed saving, and the LDS Church would do it. We knew our reward, because of primordial valience, was a chance to play major roles in the ensuing end day events. Jesus and “God the Father” had told the prophets, and our patriarchs had told us personally. We were a special generation.

That the U.S. Constitution is in [immanent] danger and will “hand by a thread as fine as silk fiber” in the latter days before the LDS Church rides to its rescue….The Church priesthood holders (men like Romney and Moody) will sweep in like knights to save the Constitution then set it aside to reestablish the theocratic Kingdom created by Joseph Smith and nearly perfected by Brigham Young. The stated plan is to pave the way for the political Kingdom of God and Joseph Smith’s version Millenial Kingdom on Earth.

A few days ago, Salon published an article by Sally Denton, another former Mormon and author of books on Mormon history, on Mitt Romney and the White Horse Prophecy.

When Mitt Romney received his patriarchal blessing as a Michigan teenager, he was told that the Lord expected great things from him. All young Mormon men — the “worthy males” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is officially known — receive such a blessing as they embark on their requisite journeys as religious missionaries. But at 19 years of age, the youngest son of the most prominent Mormon in American politics — a seventh-generation direct descendant of one of the faith’s founding 12 apostles—Mitt Romney had been singled out as a destined leader.

From the time of his birth — March 13, 1947 — through adolescence and into manhood, the meshing of religion and politics was paramount in Mitt Romney’s life.

In the early 1960s Romney’s father George confided his political ambitions in his youngest son, then a teenager. Mitt actively participated in his father’s campaign for governor of Michigan, and during George’s three terms as governor Mitt was often in his father’s office, privy to major decisions. He attended the Republican convention with his father in 1964, and was kept abreast of his father’s failed campaign for President in 1968 (Mitt was a missionary in France).

Denton writes that [although the official church denies it] the White Horse Prophecy is “ingrained in Mormon culture and passed down through generations by church leaders…” She writes:

In this scenario, Romney’s candidacy is part of the eternal plan and the candidate himself is fulfilling the destiny begun in what the church calls the “pre-existence.”

Several prominent Mormons, including conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck [read more here], have alluded to this apocalyptic prophecy. The controversial myth is not an official church doctrine, but it has also arisen in the national dialogue with the presidential candidacies of Mormons George Romney, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and now Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney himself has dismissed this notion.

“I don’t think the White Horse Prophecy is fair to bring up at all,” Mitt Romney told the Salt Lake Tribune when he was asked about it during his 2008 presidential bid. “It’s been rejected by every church leader that has talked about it. It has nothing to do with anything.”

Maybe not, but I still want to know more about Romney’s religion. What I’ve learned already is pretty strange–that God was once a man living on another planet, that “priests” like Mitt Romney will be masters of their own planets after death and that they will be able to take as many wives as they wish in the afterlife. That Mormon women can’t get into heaven unless they are married and and their husbands help them through. That women must stay married to the same man even after death and must be prepared to make way for his multiple wives and their children in the afterlife. And BTW, did you know that Romney’s family baptized Mitt’s confirmed atheist father-in-law as a Mormon a year after he died? No wonder Romney doesn’t want to talk about his religion!

I suppose it isn’t any more wacky than a lot of the stuff in the Christian old testament, but the fact that all this nonsense was sold to people in the 19th and 20th centuries and is people like Glenn Beck are still buying it and converting in the 21st century is pretty hard for me to accept. I don’t think that’s bigotry–it’s self-preservation. We’ve already seen what can happen when fanatical fundamentalist Christians start getting control of political parties and throwing their weight around in government and the culture as a whole (Susan Kommen, anyone?).

In light of all this, I find this statement by Romney in the CNN Florida debate to be very troubling:

The conviction that the founders, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, were writing a document that was not just temporary and not just for one small locale but really something which described the relationship between God and man — that’s something which I think a president would carry in his heart.

So when they said, for instance, that the creator had “endowed us with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I would seek to assure that those principles and values remain in America and that we help share them with other people in the world, not by conquering them, but by helping them through our trade, through our various forms of soft power, to help bring people the joy and — and — and opportunity that exists in this great land.

Am I crazy to be a little concerned about this guy? This post is getting very long, so I’ll end here. But I doubt if this will be the last time I bring up the Romney/religion issue. So far Romney has been allowed to skate on this. No one wants to ask him about it for fear of being labeled a bigot. I don’t care. I just want to keep another theocratic candidate from sneaking past our useless corporate media.

So… that’s it for me and my Romney obsession. What are you interested in today?