Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

Dakinkat is back on-line!  Now if I can just get my internet back, we may have a full complement of writers by the beginning of the Democratic Convention. Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

I have to hand it to President Obama. He had to be angry about Clint Eastwood’s disrespectful performance at the RNC last Thursday, but he’s not going to give Mitt Romney the satisfaction of showing it.

USA Today: Obama, a ‘huge’ Clint Eastwood fan, not offended by skit

“He is a great actor, and an even better director,” the president said in an interview with USA TODAY aboard Air Force One, on his way to campaign rallies in Iowa Saturday. “I think the last few movies that he’s made have been terrific.”

….

Was he offended?
“One thing about being president or running for president — if you’re easily offended, you should probably choose another profession.” Obama said with a smile. He said there would be no effort to counter with a similar stunt at the Democratic National Convention, which opens in Charlotte Tuesday.

“I think we’ll be playing this pretty straight,” he said.

The WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart asked DNC executive director Patrick Gaspard about if Eastwood presentation was “disrespectful.” Here’s the response:

“First, Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair and then Mitt Romney gave an empty speech,” Gaspard replied. “So, I’m going to focus on Mitt Romney [and] his lack of clearly delineated plans for middle-class Americans.” But Gaspard, who was Obama’s political director in the first half of the term, had more to say.

This was not Clint Eastwood’s convention. It was Mitt Romney’s. He hired these Hollywood consultants to reinvent himself and all I saw, yet again, was the same guy who was a private-sector outsourcer, a failed governor of Massachusetts and now an extreme right-wing candidate for the presidency. So, I’m going to focus on that.

I guess Romney wasn’t really all that proud of the Eastwood skit after all. According to ABC News Eastwood was left on the cutting room floor during production of the RNC promotional video.

A video mash-up of speakers from last week’s Republican National Convention does not include an appearance from the “mystery RNC speaker,” Clint Eastwood.

The two-and-a-half minute video posted today to the Romney campaign’s YouTube account features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, VP nominee Paul Ryan and of course, Romney himself, but it leaves out Eastwood’s controversial speech.

Interesting.

Joe Biden went on the attack yesterday.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, vice president Joe Biden attacked Mr Romney’s international agenda as laid out in last week’s convention address, suggesting that it put him out of step with the US’s priorities overseas.

“He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home. He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home,” Biden told supporters.

He added: “He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”

Biden also ripped Paul Ryan’s speech.

He…noted Ryan had not told the complete story when he talked about a General Motors plant that closed in Janesville, Wis., his hometown.

“What he didn’t tell you was that plant in Janesville actually closed while President Bush was still president,” Biden said.

Later, in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, Biden again challenged Ryan’s criticism of Obama.

“He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing,” Ryan said of Obama during his acceptance speech in Tampa.

Biden was having none of that telling.

“What he didn’t tell you is he sat on that commission,” Biden said to laughter.

“I love these guys. Oh, I love these guys, how they claim to care about the deficit,” Biden went on. “Ladies and gentlemen, the thing I most love about them is about how they discovered the middle class at their convention. Isn’t that amazing? All of a sudden their heart was bleeding for the middle class.”

Rahm Emmanuel was out defending his former boss. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, framed Mitt Romney Sunday as a backward-looking candidate, blistering his acceptance speech as laying “out the policies of Ground Hog Day.”

Emanuel discussed the upcoming Democratic National Convention with David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he was introduced as an “architect” of Obama’s first term policies.

“If people want to know about the first term? Very simple. General Motors is alive and well. And Osama Bin Laden is not. And that’s what got done,” Emanuel said.

Emmanuel also criticized Romney’s acceptance speech as “weak.” From The Hill:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said Mitt Romney’s convention speech was “devoid and vacuous” and allowed for Clint Eastwood’s appearance to claim the spotlight.

President Obama’s former chief of staff said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that there was “nothing memorable about Mitt Romney’s speech” in Tampa.

“Not a memorable line, not a memorable philosophy,” Emanuel said.” “There was nothing there.”

I strongly recommend this piece at HuffPo by Sherman Yellin: Why Mitt Romney IS NOT Like a Bad Haircut. I can’t do it justice with an excerpt. Please click on the link and read it. It’s not very long.

In other news, there’s a story coming out soon in Vanity Fair about how Scientology auditioned women to be Tom Cruise’s next wife–and Katie Holmes wasn’t their first choice.

In the October issue, Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth reports that in 2004 Scientology embarked on a top-secret project headed by Shelly Miscavige, wife of Scientology chief David Miscavige, which involved finding a girlfriend for Tom Cruise. According to several sources, the organization devised an elaborate auditioning process in which actresses who were already Scientology members were called in, told they were auditioning for a new training film, and then asked a series of curious questions including: “What do you think of Tom Cruise?” Marc Headley, a Scientologist from age seven, who says he watched a number of the audition videotapes when he was head of Scientology’s in-house studio, tells Orth, “It’s not like you only have to please your husband—you have to toe the line for Scientology.” Both Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz ran afoul of Scientology and David Miscavige, according to another former Scientologist. “You can’t do anything to displease Scientology, because Tom Cruise will freak out,” Headley says.

According to Orth, Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born, London-raised actress and Scientologist, was selected and dated Cruise from November 2004 until January 2005. Initially she was told only that she had been selected for a very important mission. In a month-long preparation in October 2004, she was audited every day, a process in which she told a high-ranking Scientology official her innermost secrets and every detail of her sex life. Boniadi allegedly was told to lose her braces, her red highlights, and her boyfriend. According to a knowledgeable source, she was shown confidential auditing files of her boyfriend to expedite a breakup. (Scientology denies any misuse of confidential material.) The source says Boniadi signed a confidentiality agreement and was told that if she “messed up” in any way she would be declared a Suppressive Person (a pariah and enemy of Scientology).

I’m looking forward to reading the entire gossipy article!

In other Scientology news, there’s a new movie out that is supposedly based on Scientology, The Master.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson acknowledges that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was the inspiration for the title character in `’The Master,” but says the focus of the film is the relationship between a charismatic spiritual leader and his troubled follower, not the movement itself.

The movie, set in the 1950s, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader who captivates a tortured but sympathetic World War II veteran portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix.

….

Anderson sought to quickly dispel any speculation about the film’s influence on his friendship with Tom Cruise, who starred in Anderson’s 1999 film `’Magnolia” and whose Scientology beliefs are well-documented.

`’We are still friends. I showed him the film, and the rest is between us,” Anderson said.

In other cult news, Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon has died.

The Universal Peace Federation said on its website that Moon died early Monday morning of complications related to pneumonia. He was 92.

“Our True Father passed into the spiritual world at 1:54 AM Monday, September 3rd, Korea time,” a message on a Unification Church English-language website said.

Ahn Ho-yeol, a church spokesman, said Moon’s funeral will be held Thursday, with “individual prayers” planned for the three days until then.

“Rev. Moon died from overwork, from frequent trips aboard, including to the U.S., and from morning prayers which caused respiratory disease,” Ahn said.

I posted this on yesterday’s morning thread, but I think it bears repeating: Private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney under investigation for tax strategy

New York’s attorney general is investigating whether executives at Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, improperly avoided paying $200 million in federal income taxes, according to a report by The New York Times.

More than a dozen firms are under investigation by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, who has subpoenaed documents that would show whether some fund management fees were converted to fund investments. Profits on investments are taxed at a much lower rate than management fees, which count as earned income.

Hundreds of pages of leaked financial documents from Bain Capital that have been posted online indicate at least $1 billion in executives’ management fees were converted to investments, whose capital gains are taxed at 15 percent, instead of the 35 percent paid on earned income in the top tax bracket.

According to the documents, executives could take money that would have been paid to them for managing investment funds and put the money into the funds, instead. The executives could pick and choose which companies to invest in, within a given fund, and were not required to invest the value of their fees for the entire life of a fund. They could decide whether to convert fees to investments on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

Today’s WaPo also has a story on Bain Capital and Romney’s taxes: Mitt Romney exited Bain Capital with rare tax benefits in retirement

Before Mitt Romney retired from Bain Capital, the enormously profitable investment firm he founded, he made sure to lock in his gains, both realized and expected, for years to come.

He did so, in part, the way millions of other Americans do — with the tax benefits of an individual retirement account. But he was able to turbocharge the impact of those advantages and other tax breaks in his severance package from Bain in a way that few but the country’s super-rich can ever hope to do.

As a result, his IRA could be worth as much as $87 million, according to his estimates, and he can continue to earn tax-advantaged income from Bain more than a decade after he formally left the firm.

If Romney wants to demonstrate his honesty, he can always release those secret tax returns.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Saturday Reads: Posh Fundraisers, Bizarre Cults, and More

Good Morning!!

I have some excellent reads to share with you today.

Tomorrow is a big day for Mitt Romney. He’ll be in the Hamptons attending a series of fund raisers hosted by members of the top 1% of the top 1%, and he’s expected to collect $3 million by the time it’s all over.

Mr. Romney is expected to pull in $3 million from an event at the Creeks, the estate of Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire financier and Revlon chairman, where tickets range from $5,000 for lunch to $25,000 for a V.I.P. photo reception. Another will be held at the home of Clifford M. Sobel, an ambassador to Brazil under President George W. Bush, and a final dinner will take place at the Southampton estate of the billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, where the going rate for entry is $75,000 a couple and $50,000 a person….

At Mr. Koch’s estate, the guests will be treated to one-of-a-kind scenery as they wait for face time with a possible president. Tucked into the Southampton dunes, Mr. Koch’s home is valued at about $18 million by the real estate Web site Zillow, which reports that it has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Its backyard is the sea.

But the jewel of the day is Mr. Perelman’s. With 9 fireplaces, 40 rooms and an expansive wine cellar, his estate makes the Koch spread look modest by comparison. Sitting on 57 acres, it was built for the painter Albert Herter in 1899, and when it last went up for sale in 1991 (for $25 million), The New York Times described it as “the largest and most spectacular estate in the Village of East Hampton, with more than a mile of frontage on Georgica Pond and a view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.” That article also said that an American Conifer Society Bulletin — for tree enthusiasts — had called its grounds “the eighth wonder of the horticultural world” and “the most outstanding private conifer collection in the United States, a living work of art.”

I wonder how that will go over in Ohio? The article says that Obama is skipping the ostentatious Hamptons fund raisers this year, but it provides descriptions previous ones hosted by Democrats. The Dems definitely attract better musical artists. But Republicans say they don’t need entertainment–they’re already excited by the prospect of throwing Obama out of the White House.

Justin Rubin of MoveOn.org has a piece at HuffPo about the Koch fundraiser. Some “progressives” plan to crash the party.

Mitt Romney may want to hide his Koch problem with the help of his super PACs, but all the cash in the world won’t be enough to stop our people power from exposing the truth. More than 7 million MoveOn members will be working hard every day between now and November to pull back the curtain and expose Romney’s 1% habit.

This Sunday, we’re staging our latest intervention. As Romney’s limo pulls up in front of David Koch’s Hamptons estate — where each $50,000 ticket will cost more than most people make in a year — our members will be there to greet him. We’ll band together with organizers and allies from a diverse array of groups united by our concern about the pernicious effects Koch cash is inflicting on our democracy.

No intervention is complete without a banner, and MoveOn’s 99airlines plane will be at the Hamptons fundraiser too, flying a banner overhead that points out the simple truth: “Mitt Romney has a Koch problem.” As more Americans find out, Romney’s Koch problem will just get worse.

At the Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains How the Richest 400 People in America Got So Rich. As you might have guessed already, they didn’t do it by actually, you know, working hard.

The New York Daily News has learned that Romney is already practicing for the first presidential debate, which is still 13 weeks away.

Romney sources told the Daily News that during a three-day retreat he hosted late last month for big-time Republican contributors and party mandarins at Park City, Utah, the candidate also found time to squeeze in the first two rounds of what staffers call “debate prep.”

Romney convened six to eight campaign aides around a conference table at the elegant Chateaux at Silver Lake. They sorted through a variety of topics sure to come up in the three Presidential debates, like the state of the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and kicked around the best “test responses” to questions they expect Obama and debate moderators will toss at the ex-Massachusetts governor.

More such encounters are expected over the summer, but what one source called “podium practices” with an Obama surrogate won’t happen for awhile — mainly because Romney doesn’t care for them all that much.
“There will be some role-playing but not as much as other Presidential candidates,” a Romney adviser said. “The traditional model doesn’t fit his style.”

Why doesn’t he just keep repeating that same non-response he used yesterday? That way he wouldn’t have to take a stand on anything.

If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, please go check out Joseph Cannon’s post on Romney’s ties to “Spooks and Death Squads.” I don’t know how else to express my reaction: I was gobsmacked by it!

If you’re fascinated by cults, as I am, you should read this lengthy article from the Hollywood Reporter on Katie Holmes’ breakup with Tom Cruise and her desire to keep her daughter away from Scientology. Here’s just a teensy taste:

Unlike [Nicole] Kidman, who kept quiet during her divorce from Cruise and has rarely commented publicly about it since, Holmes already has made a statement of sorts by filing her petition in New York and saying she wants full legal custody and primary residential custody of their Suri.

“Katie could blow Scientology wide open,” says [Marty] Rathbun, who was in the church for 22 years before leaving in late 2004. Rathbun, who calls himself an “independent Scientologist” and writes a candid blog popular with former members, was Cruise’s auditor and handled Cruise’s divorce from Kidman.

“If Tom’s smart, he won’t fight her on anything, even custody. He should just try to settle his way out of it,” says Rathbun. “She could press this sole-custody issue and litigate it, and that would be the biggest nightmare in the Church of Scientology’s history. It would be a circus they couldn’t survive.”

And speaking of cults, Alternet explains Mormon underwear–who isn’t curious about that?  Are Mormon Underwear Magic Between the Sheets?

It’s hard to get a balanced sample from active Mormons, because the Garments, as I said, are sacred, and catering to the curiosity of prurient outsiders would violate a covenant sworn during the same temple ceremony in which a Mormon gets authorized to wear the Garment. Unfortunately those who have been fantasizing about a romp in which layers of white cotton create the perfect sense of mystery (or bondage), exMormons offer few words of encouragement. Discomfort seems to be the predominant theme.

I was continuously battling wedgies–often in public; how the people would stare as I would try to wrestle crumpled material out of my crack. Lady DB

If you have ever worn the modern ones you should appreciate the distance these have come. When I first got married they came in a one piece get up with a wide neck so you could step into them. The back had a split crotch (not the kind in kinky panties) but this huge wide sloppy split that would separate under your clothes, leaving a draft in your nether region much of the time. The little panel they sew into the ladies special part was so poorly designed that it would roll and twist till you felt like you were skewered by a roll of old toilet paper. Insanad

Of all of the things about Mo-dom, the thing I miss the least is the underwear. Zapotec

Theologically, Mormon undergarments are said to be symbols of a covenant between God and the believer. Initiates pantomime their own death should they violate this sacred trust. The underwear have sacred symbols drawn from the Masonic Order into which Joseph Smith was initiated shortly before he proclaimed God’s desire that people wear the Garment. True believing Mormons avoid allowing Garments to touch the ground. They may cut off and burn the symbols when a Garment itself is worn out.

There’s much much more info at the link.

At Truthdig, Robert Scheer writes about the LIBOR scandal: The Crime of the Century.

Forget Bernie Madoff and Enron’s Ken Lay—they were mere amateurs in financial crime. The current Libor interest rate scandal, involving hundreds of trillions in international derivatives trade, shows how the really big boys play. And these guys will most likely not do the time because their kind rewrites the law before committing the crime.

Modern international bankers form a class of thieves the likes of which the world has never before seen. Or, indeed, imagined. The scandal over Libor—short for London interbank offered rate—has resulted in a huge fine for Barclays Bank and threatens to ensnare some of the world’s top financers. It reveals that behind the world’s financial edifice lies a reeking cesspool of unprecedented corruption. The modern-day robber barons pillage with a destructive abandon totally unfettered by law or conscience and on a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend.

How to explain a $450 million settlement for one bank whose defense, in a plea bargain worked out with regulators in London and Washington, is that every institution in their elite financial circle was doing it? Not just Barclays but JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and others are now being investigated on suspicion of manipulating the Libor rate, so critical to a $700 trillion derivatives market.

Read the rest at the Truthdig.

I hope you found something here that appeals to you. Now what are your reading recommendations?