Monday Reads: GOTV (GET OUT THERE AND VOTE)

Good Morning!

It’s still hard for me to believe that adult women in the US could not vote less than 100 years ago.  This is something to think about as we approach election day tomorrow.  I can’t remember when an election was this important for women.  There are many women running for office while women’s rights have been under continual assault for two years now.  This is the first time in years–make that decades–that we’ve had one presidential candidate that refuses to go on record about equal pay for equal work and the Lily Ledbetter Act.  The choices couldn’t be clearer.

This issue is over 100 years old. Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1889 as the candidate of the National Equal Rights Party.  She had to petition to become the first woman to appear before the Supreme court in 1879. All of this was decades before women could even vote.  She was also a victim of systemic voter fraud.

It’s seems hard to believe that after so many years of fighting to get this far we have to fight candidate-after-candidate running for the Republican Party to stop the assault on the rights of women and the rights of minorities in this country.  This is what you get when religious fundamentalists are allowed to ramrod their beliefs in to law.  Religious fundamentalism is a threat to democracy all over the world.  The only way to secure the blessings of liberty for all of us is to vote them out and keep them out.  Theocracy Watch has an excellent history of how the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good reads there if you’d like to see exactly how it happened.

Here’s one dangerous state amendment in Florida which is billed as a “religious” freedom mandate but is really a way for churches to get their hands on state money and to project their values on every level of government. Florida’s Amendment 8 will likely show up in a state near year if it hasn’t already.  It mandates taxpayer support of religious institutions.

“Under Amendment 8,” observed Sha­piro, “religious groups would have not only the right to seek taxpayer funding but the power to demand it in certain cases. Religious schools and other ministries of any and all religions could tap the public purse – my tax dollars and yours – and use those funds to promote their faith.”

He added, “Don’t buy the line that Amendment 8 is about protecting ‘faith-based’ social services. Those programs are in no danger. Religious groups in Florida can get tax funds to provide services to those in need – so long as they don’t use public funds to preach or proselytize.”

Shapiro opined that Amendment 8’s supporters also want to gain a foothold for school vouchers in the state. Currently, two provisions of the Florida Constitution have been interpreted to ban voucher subsidies for religious schools. If Amendment 8 passes, one of them will be removed.

Said Shapiro, “Some politicians are trying to use ‘religious freedom,’ which most Floridians fully support, as a cover for their agenda. They’d like to force all of us to subsidize various religions, whether we believe in those faiths or not. They want to give religious institutions special privileges.”

Minnesota is voting on Same-Sex Marriage on Tuesday.   An amendment to the state’s constitution will ban same sex marriage in that state if passed.

For most gay Minnesotans, particularly those who would like to marry longtime partners, passage of the constitutional amendment would put that dream further out of reach. Defeat of the measure would by a welcome but largely symbolic victory for gay couples because the state’s current gay marriage ban would still be in effect, denying same-sex couples who consider themselves married in all but name the same protections and privileges as legally married couples.

That means worrying about things like being denied hospital visits to an ailing partner; being unable to honor a loved one’s wishes after death; or being excluded from parenting rights in cases where an unmarried person adopts the child of a partner. Gay rights supporters say those are just a few of the legal privileges they are denied or may have to fight to assert because of their inability to marry.

During the long campaign over the constitutional amendment, the group working to pass it has stressed that it’s not trying to hurt gay couples. “Everybody has a right to love who they choose,” says the narrator in a commercial from Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of religious and socially conservative organizations.

The group contends that male-female marriage is a centuries-old societal building block that benefits children, and that redefining it in law could lead to intrusions on religious liberty and the right of parents to control influences on their children.

Further information on other state ballot initiatives can be found at this link.  California is voting on labeling of Genetically modified food.  Arizona has an initiative that tries to block federal access to state natural resources.   It’s important to read up on what might show up on your ballot given ALEC and the republican party’s need to decimate local governments, economies, and lives. Oregon and several states have marijuana initiatives.  Most states have ballot initiatives that impact natural resources and wildlife.

For many folks, the issue is going to be access to their right to vote.  Just think, Constitutional Amendments and the Voting Rights Act have secured our right to vote.  Many states are trying to suppress the popular vote among the elderly, women, and minorities.  Stories of rampant voter suppression are coming from all over the country.  The one thing I always bring to the polls with me is banned now in New Mexico.

From New Mexico, Community Journalist George Lujan writes in that the Secretary of State has banned the League of Women Voters’ voting guide at early voting locations. The League’s guide is nonpartisan, and has been used to educate voters for years. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the guide, on the pretext that it amounts to electioneering, is now banned.

George also writes in that voters received deceptive phone calls informing them that early voting had ended in Doña Ana County, despite the fact that early voting continues.

Follow that link above to the Nation to get a state by state account of state-level incidents that are either supported by Republican groups or Republican elected officials.  Here’s the latest offense.  Many polls in Florida have been closed early or shut down due to bomb threats.  It seems ONE southern Florida County will have its election times extended  and it’s a GOP stronghold.

Last night, voters in Miami-Dade County were forced to wait in line up to six hours to vote. In some precincts voters who arrived at 7PM were not able to cast their ballots until 1AM.

In response, Republican-affiliated election officials in Miami-Dade have effectively extended early voting from 1PM to 5PM today by allowing “in-person” absentee voting. But this accommodation will only be available in a single location in the most Republican area of the county.

Nearly every city within 5 to 10 miles of this location — including Hialeah, Miami Springs, Sweetwater and Miami Lakes — has a substantial Republican voter registration advantage.

The most populous city among those is Hialeah where Republicans, powered by a large Cuban community, have an overwhelming registration advantage of nearly 20,000 voters. There will not be an opportunity for in-person absentee voting in downtown Miami or South Dade, where there are heavy concentrations of Democratic voters.

The decision to make the accommodation available was presumably made by Miami-Dade Election Supervisor Penelope Townsley. She is registered with no party affiliation but was appointed to her position by Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Mayor Gimenez did not request Gov. Rick Scott extend early voting throughout Miami-Dade county. Further, according to Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter for CBS News in Miami, the decision to have in-person absentee balloting was made last night but not announced publicly until 9:30AM this morning.

As the election season draws to a close, we’re beginning to see desperate campaigns do desperate things. Romney continues to harp on the President as an angry black man seeking revenge.  Romney has the misguided notion that he some how is entitle to do and say what ever he wants to on the way to his anointment.  That Romney sense of entitlement has never ceased to shock me.  Romney twists other’ people’s words worse than his own.

In the final stretch of the campaign, suddenly there is a new storyline, with Mitt Romney harshly criticizing President Obama for telling a crowd of supporters that voting would be their “best revenge.” It all began when a crowd in Springfield, Ohio responded to Obama’s mention of Romney and Republicans by booing. The president tried to quieten them down, essentially saying their jeers were pointless. “No, no, no—don’t boo, vote! Vote! Voting is the best revenge.” (Video after the jump.) Romney seized on the remark: “Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you: Vote for love of country,” he told a crowd of supporters. He also released an ad about the remarks (watch after the jump). The message? As the conservative site Daily Caller succinctly puts it: “Romney is finishing his 2012 race by calling for love, change and hope, while President Barack Obama’s deputies are struggling to explain his call for ‘revenge.’”

It was an adlibbed line that for conservatives insist highlighted the worst of the president. “He really does think that opposing him is somehow dirty pool, and that ‘revenge’ is the appropriate treatment for those who fail to bow to the mighty Barack,” writes John Hinderaker in Power Line. Yet for others, the way in which the Romney camp rushed to seize on what was obviously a play on the familiar saying “living well is the best revenge” is “one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate” Romney has displayed in the past, writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In the Atlantic, James Fallows wonders whether it’s even “conceivable that [Romney] actually believes Obama was talking about revenge-voting as if it were basically like ‘revenge sex?’”

Obama was merely encouraging people to go to the polls, yet Romney somehow twisted the words, even if he left a basic question unanswered: Revenge for what? “Suddenly, we are in the rhetorical space of class warfare,” points out The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson. Although talking of revenge may be a new twist, it’s merely another way in which Romney has accused those who oppose him of resenting his success.

Meanwhile, poll-after-poll shows a gender gap, a Hispanic Gap, a black gap, and an age gap in voting patterns.  It’s hard not to notice that every one recognizes what’s at stake.  The Romney way-back machine takes most of us back to places that most of us fought to get out of.  Be sure to hang on as we live blog the returns tomorrow and the latest in voter suppression efforts today.  This pretty well sums up the Romney future for all of us:  Romney staff refusing to let frostbitten children leave PA rally.

This is happening right now at Mitt Romney’s rally in Pennsylvania.  Apparently it’s freezing, and Romney’s staff is refusing to let rally-goers leave. People are begging reporters for help.

Absolutely incredible.

No, it’s quite credible.  This is a group of people that wants complete control of what goes on in every American Woman’s Uterus.  This is a group that will say anything–including scaring workers about their jobs–to score political points.  This is a group that sends its VP candidate to re-rinse clean pots over the protests of charity owners and pays for a few boxes of canned goods over the requests of the Red Cross just to provide photo ops.  This one man’s sense of entitlement and republican ideology will always leave all of us frostbitten in the cold.  Just VOTE for any one but a Republican this election.  It is important. I don’t want to see us all out there on the melting ice floes with endangered polar bears.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Know your Right Wing Christofascists!

Here’s a list of the 10 Most Dangerous Religious Right Organizations in the country.  These folks are determined to undermine the US constitution that prevents mixing of specific religious doctrines with US law.  These people don’t want freedom for their religious practices.  They want the US government to enshrine their petty theocratic agendas into law and to persecute the unbelievers.

1. Jerry Falwell Ministries/ Liberty University/Liberty Counsel

Revenue: $522,784,095

2. Pat Robertson Empire

Revenue: $434,971,231

3. Focus on the Family (includes its 501(c)(4) political affiliate CitizenLink)

Revenue: $104,463,950

4. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund)

Revenue: $35,145,644 

5. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lobbying Expenditures: $26,662,111 

6. American Family

Association

Revenue: $17,955,438

7. Family Research Council

Revenue: $14,840,036  (includes 501­(c)(4) affiliate FRC Action)

8. Concerned Women for

America

Revenue: $10,352,628  (includes 501­(c)­(4) affiliate CWA Legislative Action Committee)

9. Faith & Freedom Coalition

Revenue: $5,494,640

10. Council for National Policy

Revenue: $1,976,747

The Christian Right has basically infiltrated the Republican Party and is most evident as “Teavanagelicals”.

ON AN INSTITUTIONAL LEVEL, the merger of Christian Right and Tea Party interests is remarkably advanced. The alliance has served as the very foundation stone of theFaith and Freedom Coalition, the latest venture of that intrepid politico-religious entrepreneur, Ralph Reed, which has sprouted chapters in many states, most prominently Iowa, where it sponsored the first candidate forum of the 2012 cycle. There is even a term to describe this new strain of conservatism: the “Teavangelicals,” a subject of a recent broadcast by Christian Right journalist David Brody, which, among other things, examined the conservative evangelical roots of major Tea Party leaders. Most recently, a host of organizations closely connected with the Christian Right and “social issues” causes have signed onto the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge,” the Tea Party-inspired oath that demands a position on the debt limit vote that is incompatible with any bipartisan negotiations.

But this convergence between the two groups goes well beyond coalition politics and reflects a radicalization of conservative evangelical elites that is just as striking as the rise of the Tea Party itself. Indeed, the worldview of many Christian Right leaders has evolved into an understanding of government (at least under secularist management) as a satanic presence that seeks to displace God and the churches through social programs, to practice infanticide and euthanasia, to destroy parental control of children, to reward vice and punish virtue, and to thwart America’s divinely appointed destiny as a redeemer nation fighting for Christ against the world’s many infidels.

As an illustration of this phenomenon, it’s worth unpacking a few lines from a recent missive by televangelist James Robison, the convener of two recent meetings of Christian Right leaders in Texas to ponder their role in 2012, and also of a similar session back in 1979 that helped pave the way for Reagan’s conquest of conservative evangelicals. Says Robison:

There are moral absolutes . No person’s failure reduces or redefines the standards carved in stone by the finger of God and revealed in His Word. We must find a way to stop judges and courts from misinterpreting the Constitution and writing their own laws.

“Activist judges” who have developed and applied protections for abortion rights, non-discrimination, and church-state separation have long been a bugaboo for the Christian Right. But Robison appears to be extending this traditional list of evangelical grievances, adding his blessing to the Tea Party’s objection to the string of Supreme Court decisions that enabled the federal government to enact New Deal programs like Social Security that protect people afflicted by personal “failure” from the consequences of their actions.

They have more impact than just trying to deny the civil rights of GLBT, the reproductive rights of women, and the suppression of religious minorities in the US.  They have a global agenda  that is as much of a terrorist movement as any religious extremist movement abroad.  They support governments that believe in not only persecuting but killing GLBT citizens with money and other resources.  They actively support militia’s that kill and maim GLBT citizens and non-believers and work to keep women’s status as property and breeding chattel.

In recent weeks, police have descended on the Harare offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), seizing the group’s publications and computers as evidence, they claimed, in an ongoing investigation. The police sought to also arrest staff, but the organization’s lawyer has kept them free for now.

The gay rights activist organization is — absurdly — accused of seeking to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government and teaching people to commit acts of sodomy.

This police activity underscores the effort of the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF ruling political party to incite anti-LGBT hatred in mobilizing its base for elections next year. Mugabe faces a challenge from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi, who recently adopted a pro-LGBT rights position.

In one raid, police forcibly entered GALZ premises and began arresting advocates gathered to discuss the draft constitution under debate. The draft includes anti-gay provisions shaped with help from the US-based Christian right group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) through its Zimbabwe office. The proposed provisions explicitly prohibit homosexuality and, mimicking American efforts, define marriage as between a man and woman.

Some activists were injured trying to escape over a security fence armed with an electric razor wire. Those caught — 31 men and 13 women — were arrested, bundled into police vehicles, and kept in filthy cells for what GALZ staffer Miles Rutendo remembers as “a night in hell.” Police beat and stomped on the backs of gay rights advocates forced to lie on the wet floor. One victim passed out and was rushed to the hospital.

The physical and mental abuse did not end with their release. In a country where LGBT people suffer brutal harassment, these activists’ sexual preference was exposed to neighbors, families, and workplaces. Their families forced some from their homes. Whether any lose their jobs remains to be seen.

Additional, rallies have been held through out the US that are well within in the boundaries of first amendment free speech rights but definitely fall into the hate speech realm.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins topped a full day of speakers at “The America for Jesus 2012″ prayer rally.

Robertson, a former Republican candidate for president, called the election important, but didn’t mention either major political party or candidate by name.

“I don’t care what the ACLU says or any atheists say. This nation belongs to Jesus, and we’re here today to reclaim his sovereignty,” said Robertson, 82, who founded the Christian Coalition and Christian Broadcasting Network, and ran for president in 1988.

Organizers plan another prayer rally Oct. 20 in Washington, D.C., two weeks before President Barack Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential election.

Perkins asked the crowd to pray for elected officials including Obama.

“We pray that his eyes will be open to the truth,” Perkins said.

A number of event organizers, though, have been vocal critics of the Democratic president.

Steve Strang, the influential Pentecostal publisher of Charisma magazine, which was distributed at the rally, recently wrote in a blog post that America is under threat from a “radical homosexual agenda.” He also said Obama “seems to be moving toward some form of European socialism. Speaker Cindy Jacobs has blamed a mysterious Arkansas bird-kill last year on Obama’s repeal of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Speakers throughout the day condemned abortion, gay marriage and population control as practiced by Planned Parenthood. Christian rock music filled the historic mall as speakers challenged the crowd to overcome the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and slothfulness.

Yup, these are the same folks we’ve been fighting since the 1980s.  It’s going to be a continual fight to keep theocracy out of our state, local, and federal government and to stop the hate-filled agendas of  these religious extremists.


Thursday Reads: Happy Animals, Dickish Theocrats, Jurassic Fleas, and ET’s

Good Morning!!

I thought I’d start out with something upbeat. How about some photos of happy animals? Buzzfeed has 26 of them. Here are some of my favorities:

How can you not smile at those? Check out the rest at Buzzfeed, and don’t miss the joyful anteater!

Now let’s get to the news. I thought Michigan was a winner-take-all state, but I guess not. The Santorum campaign claims the result was really a tie, because Willard and Rick the Dick will each get 15 delegates from Michigan.

While there has been no final determination of who won how many delegates in Michigan on Tuesday, current results suggest both candidates won seven of the state’s 14 congressional districts, each of which award two delegates to the winner. In addition, Santorum adviser John Brabender said the state’s two at-large delegates are likely to be split between Romney and Santorum because the vote was so close.

So I guess it’s winner-take-all by district? I don’t understand the GOP delegate system at all.

“It’s highly likely this is is going to end up being a tie, based on the data that we have,” Brabender said. “I don’t know how you look at that as anything besides this being a strong showing for Rick Santorum and anything short of a disaster for Mitt Romney.

“If we can do this well in Romney’s home state, this bodes well for Super Tuesday.”

Romney won the popular vote in the state by about 3 percentage points, according to the latest tally.

The final delegate totals haven’t been determined yet, according to the WaPo article.

According to numbers whiz Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics, Odds of a Brokered Convention Are Increasing

We’re finally close enough to Super Tuesday to get a sense of how the overall delegate count might work out in the GOP primary. The end result: Assuming that none of the four candidates drops out of the race, it looks increasingly as if no one will be able to claim a majority of the delegates. The candidate with the best chance is Mitt Romney, but he probably wouldn’t be able to wrap up the nomination until May or even June. The other candidates will probably have to hope for a brokered convention.

Trende lays out the Super Tuesday math state by state. Check it out at the above link. Can you believe Super Tuesday is less than a week away? I can’t decide if I should vote on the Dem or Repub ballot. I guess I’ll decide at the last minute. I don’t think Elizabeth Warren has any real competition, but I’ll need to find out for sure.

Ed Kilgore had an interesting post yesterday at Political Animal. Rick Santorum lost the Catholic vote to Romney in Michigan 44-37. I guess Rick has the Bishops but not the rank and file Catholics who like to plan their families. Kilgore:

Immediately there was speculation that Rick’s visceral dissing of JFK’s church-state relations speech might have contributed significantly to this result, or had perhaps cost him Michigan altogether.

That was my initial reaction, too, until I started wondering: why did we all assume Santorum had an advantage among Catholics in the first place? …. as I and others have amply documented, the idea that Catholics are more conservative than Americans generally, even on “social issues,” is pretty much a myth. But you had to figure that the kind of Catholics who choose to vote in Republican primaries are pretty significantly correlated with “traditionalists” like Rick, right?

That’s actually not so clear at all. The last contest with exit polling by the networks was Florida. There Santorum won 13% of the overall vote, but just 10% of Catholics; Mitt Romney ran a bit better among Catholics than he did overall. Now maybe you could say Florida’s heavily Latino Catholic vote is atypical. What about South Carolina? There Santorum won 17% of the overall vote, but just 15% of Catholics. Again, Romney performed a bit better among Catholics than among voters generally.

It doesn’t really surprise me. I wonder why Kilgore didn’t break down the gender numbers? I’ll bet Catholic women didn’t care for Santorum’s act.

The New Civil Rights Movement blog has more interesting details on which population groups voted for Rick the Dick and which ones preferred Willard.

Speaking of dickish theocrats, Darrell Issa may have topped Rick the Dick Tuesday at the latest War on Women hearing in the House. From the estimable Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches:

One of the strangest moments at yesterday’s very strange hearing on whether a regulation duly promulgated under a law passed by Congress was “executive overreach” and an infringement of religious freedom was when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Not Catholic) asked to have the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae entered into the Congressional Record.

His point, obviously, upon questioning the now-ubiquitous Bishop William Lori of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was to show the authoritative (or rather, authoritarian) roots of the Catholic opposition to “artificialqui” contraception.

There it is now, part of the Congressional Record! A document few Catholics follow, and which provoked dissent from (believe it or not) American bishops when Pope Paul VI issued it in 1968.

I’m really starting to tire of bishops testifying before Congressional hearings and now we have quotes from Papal Encyclicals in the Congressional Record?! WTF?

Via Think Progress, disgusting misogynist pig Rush Limbaugh opened his bit yap yesterday and

called Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student whom House Republicans wouldn’t let testify at a contraception hearing last week, a “slut” and a “prostitute” today, because, Limbaugh argued, she’s having “so much sex” she needs other people to pay for it:

LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.

You can hear the clip at Media Matters if you are so inclined. I decided not to listen.

Also at Think Progress, check out Alyssa Rosenberg’s Pop Culture Guide to the War on Women.

In science news, an article in Nature reveals that Dinosaurs had giant fleas–about an inch long!

Female (left) and male fleas from the Jurrassic Period

Primitive fleas were built to sup on dinosaur blood in the Jurassic period, more than 150 million years ago. The potential host–parasite relationship has been uncovered thanks to a set of beautifully preserved fossils found in China.

Today, the varied group of parasitic insects known as fleas frequently infests mammals and birds. But little is known about their origins. The flea fossil record consists mainly of modern-looking species from the past 65 million years, and the identity of possible fleas from the Cretaceous period (145 million to 65 million years ago) has been debated by experts. But Michael Engel, a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and his colleagues have now extended the history of the parasites by at least 60 million years. Their work is published online today in Nature1.

Engel and his co-authors studied nine flea specimens from two sites: the 165-million-year-old Jurassic deposits in Daohugou and the 125-million-year-old Cretaceous strata at Huangbanjigou, both in China. The insects were not quite like fleas as we now know them. Whereas modern fleas range from 1 to 10 millimetres in length, the Jurassic and Cretaceous species were between 8 and 21 millimetres. “These were hefty insects as far as fleas are concerned,” says Engel.

If you’re more interested in futuristic science, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is going “live on the web.”

Announced at a technology conference in Los Angeles, the site Setilive.org will stream radio frequencies that are transmitted from the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Allen Telescope Array in Northern California.

Participants in the project, being run by Jillian Tarter of the Seti Institute’s Center for Seti Research, will be asked to search for signs of unusual activity in the hope the human brain can find things automated systems might miss.

“There are frequencies that our automated signal detection systems now ignore, because there are too many signals there,” Tartar told BBC News.

I think just about anyone can volunteer to help sort out unusual frequencies from radio and TV signals.

Finally, Davy Jones of the artificially created ’60s group The Monkees died yesterday of a heart attack at 66. From TMZ:

An official from the medical examiner’s office for Martin County, Florida confirmed with TMZ they received a call from Martin Memorial Hospital informing them that Jones had passed away.

We’re told Davy suffered the heart attack at a ranch near his Florida home, where he was visiting his horses. Davy began experiencing distress while he was sitting in his car, and that’s where a ranch hand found him.

The ranch hand told Sheriff’s detectives … the singer began to complain that he was not feeling well and was having trouble breathing. Paramedics were called and Jones was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities say there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

Here’s one of the group’s classic bubblegum hits. RIP Davy Jones.

That’s it for me. 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?