Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

A series of terrorist bombings took place in Brussels, Belgium early this morning just days after the capture of Salah Abdeslam, the last surviving member of the group that perpetrated the attacks in Paris last November. This is a breaking story.

NPR: Terrorist Bombings Strike Brussels: What We Know.

At least 26 people are dead and more than 100 wounded, after explosions struck Brussels during the Tuesday morning rush hour, Belgian officials say. Two blasts hit the international airport; another struck a metro station. Belgium has issued a Level 4 alert, denoting “serious and imminent attack.”

“What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said at a midday news conference Tuesday. He added that there were many dead and many injured.

Citing Minister of Social Affairs and Health Maggie De Block, Belgian media say 11 people died in the airport attack. Transit and other officials say 15 people died at the metro station. Those same sources say there were 81 injured at the airport and 55 hurt in an attack on a train near the Maelbeek station.

French President Francois Hollande says, “terrorists struck Brussels, but it was Europe that was targeted — and all the world that is concerned.”

Obviously, the number of dead and injured could go up as authorities learn more. See live tweets with photos at the link.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 22: Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. At least 13 people are though to have been killed after Brussels airport was hit by two explosions whilst a Metro station was also targeted. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – MARCH 22: Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. At least 13 people are though to have been killed after Brussels airport was hit by two explosions whilst a Metro station was also targeted. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

Slate is posting updates on a live blog.

Three explosions rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning, killing more than two dozen people and injuring an untold number of others, according to local authorities and reports from the ground. While the cause of the blasts—two at the city’s airport and then one in its subway system about an hour later—remain unknown, officials are treating them as acts of terrorism. The carnage comes only days after Belgium police arrested Salah Abdeslam, the man believed to be the sole remaining survivor of the 10 men who carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris this past November that killed 130 people.

The latest update says “several of the apparent attackers may still at large.”

Metro train after Brussels attack

Metro train after Brussels attack

CNN reports: Brussels eyewitness: ‘A lot of people were on the floor.’

Jef Versele, from the Belgian city of Ghent, was making his way to check-in for a flight to Rome at Brussels Airport Tuesday morning when he heard a loud noise emanating from several floors below him.

“At first I was not aware that it was a bomb,” he told CNN. “I had the idea that an accident had happened in a food court or something like that.”

The explosion set off a panic, with people screaming and running through the terminal, before it was followed by a second explosion, “which was in my eyes much more powerful than the first one.”

The second blast, which blew out windows at the airport and brought ceiling panels down, left people collapsed on the floor and triggered even greater panic.

“It was quite a mess,” he told CNN.

He said although he was two floors above the source of the explosions — at least one of which was a suicide bombing, according to Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw — many people around him were injured by the blast. He said there about 50 to 60 injured on his level of the airport, while the scenes on the lower levels were worse.

“A lot of people were on the floor. They were injured,” Versele said. “I think I was lucky, I was very lucky. I think I have a guardian angel somewhere.”

More eyewitness accounts at the link. Brussels is now on lockdown, according to the Boston Globe, which is also posting live updates.

U.S. President Barack Obama tours Old Havana with his family at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 20, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama tours Old Havana with his family at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 20, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Obama is still in Cuba with his family, but he has been briefed on the attacks in Brussels. The Washington Post: Obama to address the Cuban nation in historic Havana visit.

President Obama will address the Cuban people directly Tuesday, delivering a speech that will be televised live on state television.

The address in Havana’s newly renovated Gran Teatro, before an audience of invited guests of the U.S. and Cuban government, is the keystone event in Obama’s two-and-a-half-day visit to the island. His top advisers said it represented his best chance to outline his vision of the future to ordinary citizens here, and to Cuban Americans at home.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Monday the speech was “important because it’s the one chance to step back and to speak to the Cuban people, and all of the Cuban people,” including “Cubans in the United States.”

One of Obama’s overarching goals in fostering a diplomatic thaw with America’s longtime adversary, Rhodes said, was “reconciliation of the Cuban American community to Cubans here on the island.”

Still, even the speech’s setting spoke to the ongoing challenge the United States faces when it comes to engaging in a public dialogue in Cuba. American officials had originally hoped to do the address in an open-air setting, which would have allowed more ordinary citizens to attend. Instead, the national theater accommodates roughly 1,000 people, and the two governments evenly divided the tickets.

And even as the president seeks to highlight how his approach to Latin America has paid dividends, a series of blasts at Brussels’s airport and a metro station Tuesday served as a powerful reminder that terrorism overseas continues to threaten global stability. The apparently coordinated strikes have killed at least 26 people.

Back in the USA, Arizona is holding a presidential primary today and there will be caucuses in Idaho and Utah. (In Idaho, the Republicans have already voted.) On the Democratic side, Arizona, with 75 delegates, is the biggest prize.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

NBC News: Clinton, Sanders in Primary Showdown for Arizona’s Latino Vote.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Guadalupe Arreola can’t vote in the Arizona primary Tuesday because she is undocumented, so she has spent the last few weeks encouraging Latinos who can to vote for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. On Sunday, she hosted a phone bank at her house. More than 50 people showed up.

“There are people who still don’t know Bernie Sanders, and I want to raise awareness of who he is,” said Arreola, whose daughter Erika Andiola is Sanders’ Latino media spokeswoman.

Martin Hernandez said he likes Clinton’s stance on a number of issues important to Latinos, including healthcare and immigration. An organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, hesaid he especially likes that that she seems to understands the needs of Latino workers.

“I want somebody in the presidency who is going to help workers, especially those in our immigrant community,” he said. “They are the ones who face the most abuse. Many of them are underpaid and their rights are violated by their employers.”

Arreola and Hernandez represent the split that exists among Latino Democrats in Arizona on whether Sanders or Clinton should be the Democratic nominee for president. Both candidates have the backing of prominent Latino leaders, some of whom have appeared in television and radio ads being broadcasted across the state.

I’m not sure if NBC is just trying to make the primary look close or not. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Clinton is leading Sanders in Arizona 53-23, but FiveThirtyEight says there hasn’t been enough polling for them to project a winner. From everything I’ve heard, I think Hillary will win Arizona, and Sanders could win the Iowa and Utah caucuses.

Horrifying photo of Donald Trump at a rally in Salt Lake City.

Horrifying photo of Donald Trump at a rally in Salt Lake City.

However, there’s a wild card in Utah, according to Al Giordano (from privately distributed newsletter). He says that more and more Mormon women are voting Democratic, and it’s possible they could caucus for Clinton. Mormons absolutely hateand fear Donald Trump, so Giordano argues that it’s even possible that Utah could turn blue in November if Trump is the GOP nominee.

From McKay Coppins (who is a Mormon) at Buzzfeed: Mormon Voters Really Don’t Like Donald Trump — Here’s Why.

So far in 2016, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have proven to be one of the most stubbornly anti-Trump constituencies in the Republican Party — a dynamic that will likely manifest itself in Utah’s presidential caucuses next week.

National polling data focused on Mormon voters is hard to come by, but the election results speak for themselves. Even as Trump has steamrollered his way through the GOP primaries, he has repeatedly been trounced in places with large LDS populations.

In Wyoming, the third-most-heavily Mormon state in the country, Trump was able to muster just 70 votes in the low-turnout Republican caucuses there — losing to Ted Cruz by a whopping 59 points.

In Idaho, the country’s second most Mormon state, Trump lost the primary by 18 points.

And in the Mormon mecca of Utah, the most recent primary poll has Trump in third place — more than 40 points behind Cruz and 18 points behind Kasich.

The pattern holds at the county level as well. As New York Times data journalist Nate Cohn illustrated, the larger the proportion of Mormons in a given county, the worse Trump has generally performed in the primary contest there.

Much more at the link.

Mitt Romney will caucus for Ted Cruz in Utah.

Mitt Romney will caucus for Ted Cruz in Utah.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Why Utah hates Donald Trump (Hint: it’s not just about Mormonism).

Donald Trump is getting crushed in Utah.

First, the state’s adopted son, Mitt Romney, went gunning for Trump for weeks on end, and eventually revealed that he was backing Ted Cruz in the upcoming caucuses. Utah is adjacent to Idaho and Wyoming, where Trump has seen two of his biggest losses so far, both to Cruz. In a poll from Y2 Analytics released over the weekend, Trump comes in third, 42 points behind Cruz. (If Cruz wins more than half of the votes in the state, he gets all of the state’s 40 delegates.)

What’s even more remarkable, though, is that another poll suggested that Trump would lose to either Democrat in Utah in the general election. Utah is, of course, one of the reddest states — if not the reddest state — in the country. “Any matchup in which Democrats are competitive in the state of Utah is shocking,” Brigham Young University’s Christopher Karpowitz said to the Deseret News about that result.

Why? Mormon voters, of course; but polling (see lots of graphics at the link) show that people of any religion who are regular church-goers are more likely to be anti-Trump.

What may be prompting the stiff resistance to Trump, then, isn’t just that Utah is home to a lot of Mormons — it’s that those Mormons are more religious and that religious voters are more likely to view Trump with hostility.

The good news for Trump is that most of the states with the largest groups of regular churchgoers have already voted. Most are in the Bible Belt, as you might expect — a region where Trump did very well. Political beliefs are more complicated than they might appear at first glance. Sort of like religious ones.

It’s an interesting wild card, and something to keep an eye on. I’d certainly expect Jewish voters to be frightened by Trump’s strong-man campaign.

So . . . lots of things happening around the world today. What stories are you following? Dakinikat will post a live blog this evening for us to discuss primary and caucus results.


Paul Ryan’s “Reason and Science” Arguments Against Abortion

During last night’s vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked an infuriatingly simple-minded question, and she got an embarrassingly simple-minded response from Republican candidate Paul Ryan. The question:

“We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion,” she said. “Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that.”

Frankly, I couldn’t care less what either candidate’s personal views on abortion are, much less how their religious beliefs inform those views. But I’m glad Raddatz at least asked one question about women’s reproductive rights, even if she asked it stupidly. Here’s Ryan’s response:

RYAN: Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Can anyone point to either reason or science in that response? He’s telling millions of American women that he will work to deny their rights to control their bodies and plan their lives because he and his wife were thrilled by an ultrasound image of something that “was in the shape of a bean” and had a heartbeat. Sorry, that’s not science and it’s not reason. It’s sentimentality about a personal experience, not a justification for using the legal system to deny other people the right to personal autonomy.

And let’s not forget that, while Ryan is spouting the Romney line (until the next shake of the Etch-a-Sketch) that there should be exceptions for “rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” Ryan himself believes there should be no exceptions, because he sees rape and incest as just alternative “methods of conception.”

When Joe Biden noted that Ryan personally supports making abortion a crime with no exceptions, Ryan responded:

RYAN: All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

At least he’s consistent. I’m convinced that most of these “pro-life” right wingers actually agree with Ryan on that. At least he has the guts to come out and say it, although the Romney people must have been freaking out about it.

Then Raddatz asked another question:

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

You can’t see it in the transcript, but there was a long pregnant pause (no pun intended) before Ryan figured out what to say next. That pause should tell any woman watching that a Romney/Ryan administration would be a danger to her health and freedom.

RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.

Now how could it happen that “unelected judges” could have no say about anti-abortion legislation? Surely Ryan knows that any piece of legislation is subject to review by the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court. There is only one way judges would not be able to review anti-abortion legislation, and that is if there were an amendment to the Constitution banning abortion. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both endorsed the notion of a “personhood” amendment to the Constitution, and Ryan has actually sponsored a number of such initiatives.

Finally, as Amanda Marcotte notes at Slate, Ryan even managed to bring it up during his abortion response, although Raddatz didn’t ask about it:

RYAN: What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

Marcotte writes:

The only remarkable thing about the exchange is that contraception is now such an important target for the anti-choicers that Ryan brought the subject up, even though Raddatz didn’t ask about it, pivoting quickly from abortion to talk about the Catholic Church’s issue with contraception: “Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.” As with abortion, Ryan’s religion teaches that contraception is wrong, though, when pressed, he wasn’t as eager to suggest that what is taught in the pews should be enforced by the law. Instead, he spoke of “religious liberty,” by which he means giving the employer the right to deny an employee insurance benefits she has paid for because he thinks Jesus disapproves of sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

Ryan and Romney may be reticent now, but we know based on their past behavior that both of these men treat women as breeders–receptacles for incubating embryos and fetuses. As a Mormon leader, Romney even tried to convince a woman whose doctor had told her she would probably die if she carried her pregnancy to term that she should give birth anyway. From the book The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman:

In the fall of 1990, Exponent II published in its journal an unsigned essay by a married woman who, having already borne five children, had found herself some years earlier facing an unplanned sixth pregnancy. She couldn’t bear the thought of another child and was contemplating abortion. But the Mormon Church makes few exceptions to permit women to end a pregnancy. Church leaders have said that abortion can be justified in cases of rape or incest, when the health of the mother is seriously threatened, or when the fetus will surely not survive beyond birth. And even those circumstances “do not automatically justify an abortion,” according to church policy.

Then the woman’s doctors discovered she had a serious blood clot in her pelvis. She thought initially that would be her way out—of course she would have to get an abortion. But the doctors, she said, ultimately told her that, with some risk to her life, she might be able to deliver a full-term baby, whose chance of survival they put at 50 percent. One day in the hospital, her bishop—later identified as Romney, though she did not name him in the piece—paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. “As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”

….The woman told Romney, she wrote, that her stake president, a doctor, had already told her, “Of course, you should have this abortion and then recover from the blood clot and take care of the healthy children you already have.” Romney, she said, fired back, “I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t say that. I’m going to call him.” And then he left. The woman said that she went on to have the abortion and never regretted it. “What I do feel bad about,” she wrote, “is that at a time when I would have appreciated nurturing and support from spiritual leaders and friends, I got judgment, criticism, prejudicial advice, and rejection.”

Personally I have never heard or read about either of these men expressing even the slightest concern for a woman who must choose between the life she has planned for herself–perhaps education and a career, or simply the freedom to choose whether to have children at all–and devoting the next 20 years of her life to raising a child. I’ve never even seen any evidence that Ryan or Romney has any understanding of the horror of rape or incest or the struggle to choose whether to risk one’s life to bear a child.

Furthermore, their attitudes toward women and reproductive rights are not based on anything resembling reason or science. Their beliefs are based on religion and outmoded and offensive views of women as objects with little autonomy–at best they see women as second class citizens who are unable to make rational, moral decisions and at worse they see women as the property of men with no right to freedom of choice.


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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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?


Are Mitt Romney’s Lies Supported by Mormon Church Leaders?

Mormon temple in Belmont, MA, completed in 2000

I realize that’s a provocative title, but please stay with me. I’ll get to the point after some background.

I’ve been reading the new biography of Mitt Romney, The Real Romney by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. I bought the book after reading a lengthy excerpt published by Vanity Fair, which focused heavily on Romney’s treatment of women when he was a powerful leader in the Boston Mormon church. I wrote about this in a Morning news post at the time.

I was disappointed to discover that the book itself is somewhat of a fluff piece–Boston Globe reporters Kranish and Helman put as positive a spin as possible on Romney’s history and his activities as a church and business leader. However, by reading between the lines and googling names, places, and incidents from the book, I’m still getting some useful information about “the real Romney.”

One prominent Mormon woman quoted in the book is Judith Dushku, associate professor of government at Suffolk University in Boston, and incidentally the mother of actress Eliza Dushku, who played Faith in the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and has appeared in a number of popular Hollywood movies.

Judith Dushku with daughter Eliza

Judith Dushku is a self-described feminist and a long-time contributor to the Mormon feminist magazine Exponent II. It was in this magazine that an anonymous author published the story of the Bishop Romney’s cruel treatment of her over a life-saving abortion. From the Vanity Fair article:

In the fall of 1990, Exponent II published in its journal an unsigned essay by a married woman who, having already borne five children, had found herself some years earlier [the late 1970s] facing an unplanned sixth pregnancy. She couldn’t bear the thought of another child and was contemplating abortion. But the Mormon Church makes few exceptions to permit women to end a pregnancy. Church leaders have said that abortion can be justified in cases of rape or incest, when the health of the mother is seriously threatened, or when the fetus will surely not survive beyond birth. And even those circumstances “do not automatically justify an abortion,” according to church policy.

Then the woman’s doctors discovered she had a serious blood clot in her pelvis. She thought initially that would be her way out—of course she would have to get an abortion. But the doctors, she said, ultimately told her that, with some risk to her life, she might be able to deliver a full-term baby, whose chance of survival they put at 50 percent. One day in the hospital, her bishop—later identified as Romney, though she did not name him in the piece—paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. “As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”

Romney would later contend that he couldn’t recall the incident, saying, “I don’t have any memory of what she is referring to, although I certainly can’t say it could not have been me.” Romney acknowledged having counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in exceptional cases, in accordance with church rules. The woman told Romney, she wrote, that her stake president, a doctor, had already told her, “Of course, you should have this abortion and then recover from the blood clot and take care of the healthy children you already have.” Romney, she said, fired back, “I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t say that. I’m going to call him.” And then he left. The woman said that she went on to have the abortion and never regretted it. “What I do feel bad about,” she wrote, “is that at a time when I would have appreciated nurturing and support from spiritual leaders and friends, I got judgment, criticism, prejudicial advice, and rejection.”

Judith Dushku had a number of run-ins with Mitt Romney during his years as Stake President and Bishop in the Boston Mormon community. In fact, Dushku confronted Romney over the incident described above, after which he “broke off their friendship.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Mostly Mitt

Good Morning!!

A few months ago, there was quite a bit of talk about a BBC story on Alessio Rastani, a self-described “independent trader,” who indicated he couldn’t care less what the European financial crisis did to people’s lives. For him it was all about making money and another recession would enable him to make plenty. Andrew Leonard of Salon tied the story together with and article in Der Spiegel on a Swiss study of traders. The results showed that these people

behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test.”

Particularly shocking for [Thomas] Noll [researcher] was the fact that the bankers weren’t aiming for higher winnings than their comparison group. Instead they were more interested in achieving a competitive advantage. Instead of taking a sober and businesslike approach to reaching the highest profit, “it was most important to the traders to get more than their opponents,” Noll explained. “And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents.”

Using a metaphor to describe the behavior, Noll said the stockbrokers behaved as though their neighbor had the same car, “and they took after it with a baseball bat so they could look better themselves.”

The researchers were unable to explain this penchant for destruction, they said.

Yesterday, Dakinikat sent me a Bloomberg article by William D. Cohan about a British academic’s “theory” on the causes of the financial crisis: Did Psychopaths Take Over Wall Street Asylum?

It took a relatively obscure former British academic to propagate a theory of the financial crisis that would confirm what many people suspected all along: The “corporate psychopaths” at the helm of our financial institutions are to blame.

Clive R. Boddy, most recently a professor at the Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University, says psychopaths are the 1 percent of “people who, perhaps due to physical factors to do with abnormal brain connectivity and chemistry” lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people.”

As a result, Boddy argues in a recent issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, such people are “extraordinarily cold, much more calculating and ruthless towards others than most people are and therefore a menace to the companies they work for and to society.”

Of course this isn’t a scientific study, but it certainly makes intuitive sense. Boddy blames changes in corporate culture for the problem.

Until the last third of the 20th century, he writes, companies were mostly stable and slow to change. Lifetime employment was a reasonable expectation and people rose through the ranks.

This stable environment meant corporate psychopaths “would be noticeable and identifiable as undesirable managers because of their selfish egotistical personalities and other ethical defects.”

For Wall Street — a rapidly changing and highly dynamic corporate environment if there ever was one, especially when the firms transformed themselves from private partnerships into public companies with quarterly reporting requirements — the trouble started when these charmers made their way to corner offices of important financial institutions.

There they supposedly changed many of the moral and ethical values that previously had guided businesspeople. This theory seems somewhat flawed, since it doesn’t explain how these men differed from the 19th century robber barons. But I haven’t read Roddy’s original articles. Perhaps he explains this inconsistency in his argument. I would argue that these kinds of people have always been involved in business and probably in politics too.

Case in point: Mitt Romney. I urge you to read the new article about Romney in Vanity Fair: The Meaning of Mitt: The Dark Side of Mitt Romney. The article is based on a new book about Romney by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, The Real Romney. There’s no way I can briefly summarize the piece or excerpt all the important parts. The article focuses on Romney’s attitudes toward family, his deep involvement with his Mormon religion, and his business career. If you read it, you’ll recognize characteristic signs of the psychopath–coldness, calculation, lack of empathy for others, self-involvement. The only thing missing is the charisma that these people often have.

There are multiple examples of Romney’s insensitivity toward women and women’s autonomy in the article, and his career as a corporate raider and junk bond pusher are described in detail. I’ll give you just one shocking example of Romney’s attitude toward women’s rights in his role as “spiritual leader.”

Peggie Hayes had joined the church as a teenager along with her mother and siblings. They’d had a difficult life. Mormonism offered the serenity and stability her mother craved. “It was,” Hayes said, “the answer to everything.” Her family, though poorer than many of the well-off members, felt accepted within the faith. Everyone was so nice. The church provided emotional and, at times, financial support. As a teenager, Hayes babysat for Mitt and Ann Romney and other couples in the ward. Then Hayes’s mother abruptly moved the family to Salt Lake City for Hayes’s senior year of high school. Restless and unhappy, Hayes moved to Los Angeles once she turned 18. She got married, had a daughter, and then got divorced shortly after. But she remained part of the church.

By 1983, Hayes was 23 and back in the Boston area, raising a 3-year-old daughter on her own and working as a nurse’s aide. Then she got pregnant again. Single motherhood was no picnic, but Hayes said she had wanted a second child and wasn’t upset at the news. “I kind of felt like I could do it,” she said. “And I wanted to.” By that point Mitt Romney, the man whose kids Hayes used to watch, was, as bishop of her ward, her church leader. But it didn’t feel so formal at first. She earned some money while she was pregnant organizing the Romneys’ basement. The Romneys also arranged for her to do odd jobs for other church members, who knew she needed the cash. “Mitt was really good to us. He did a lot for us,” Hayes said. Then Romney called Hayes one winter day and said he wanted to come over and talk. He arrived at her apartment in Somerville, a dense, largely working-class city just north of Boston. They chitchatted for a few minutes. Then Romney said something about the church’s adoption agency. Hayes initially thought she must have misunderstood. But Romney’s intent became apparent: he was urging her to give up her soon-to-be-born son for adoption, saying that was what the church wanted. Indeed, the church encourages adoption in cases where “a successful marriage is unlikely.”

Hayes was deeply insulted. She told him she would never surrender her child. Sure, her life wasn’t exactly the picture of Rockwellian harmony, but she felt she was on a path to stability. In that moment, she also felt intimidated. Here was Romney, who held great power as her church leader and was the head of a wealthy, prominent Belmont family, sitting in her gritty apartment making grave demands. “And then he says, ‘Well, this is what the church wants you to do, and if you don’t, then you could be excommunicated for failing to follow the leadership of the church,’ ” Hayes recalled. It was a serious threat. At that point Hayes still valued her place within the Mormon Church. “This is not playing around,” she said. “This is not like ‘You don’t get to take Communion.’ This is like ‘You will not be saved. You will never see the face of God.’ ” Romney would later deny that he had threatened Hayes with excommunication, but Hayes said his message was crystal clear: “Give up your son or give up your God.”

Not long after, Hayes gave birth to a son. She named him Dane. At nine months old, Dane needed serious, and risky, surgery. The bones in his head were fused together, restricting the growth of his brain, and would need to be separated. Hayes was scared. She sought emotional and spiritual support from the church once again. Looking past their uncomfortable conversation before Dane’s birth, she called Romney and asked him to come to the hospital to confer a blessing on her baby. Hayes was expecting him. Instead, two people she didn’t know showed up. She was crushed. “I needed him,” she said. “It was very significant that he didn’t come.” Sitting there in the hospital, Hayes decided she was finished with the Mormon Church. The decision was easy, yet she made it with a heavy heart. To this day, she remains grateful to Romney and others in the church for all they did for her family. But she shudders at what they were asking her to do in return, especially when she pulls out pictures of Dane, now a 27-year-old electrician in Salt Lake City. “There’s my baby,” she said.

The information the authors provide about Romney’s career at Bain Capital is just as revealing of Mitt’s insensitivity and lack of empathy. Here’s just a brief quote about Romney’s attitudes toward capitalism.

Romney described himself as driven by a core economic credo, that capitalism is a form of “creative destruction.” This theory, espoused in the 1940s by the economist Joseph Schumpeter and later touted by former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, holds that business must exist in a state of ceaseless revolution. A thriving economy changes from within, Schumpeter wrote in his landmark book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, “incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” But as even the theory’s proponents acknowledged, such destruction could bankrupt companies, upending lives and communities, and raise questions about society’s role in softening some of the harsher consequences.

Romney, for his part, contrasted the capitalistic benefits of creative destruction with what happened in controlled economies, in which jobs might be protected but productivity and competitiveness falters. Far better, Romney wrote in his book No Apology, “for governments to stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in a free economy.” He acknowledged that it is “unquestionably stressful—on workers, managers, owners, bankers, suppliers, customers, and the communities that surround the affected businesses.” But it was necessary to rebuild a moribund company and economy. It was a point of view he would stick with in years ahead. Indeed, he wrote a 2008 op-ed piece for The New York Times opposing a federal bailout for automakers that the newspaper headlined, let detroit go bankrupt. His advice went unheeded, and his prediction that “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if it got a bailout has not come true.

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Anyone who still sees Romney as the “reasonable” Republican candidate needs to read this article. I knew that Romney had been involved in Mormon Church leadership, but I had no idea how deeply he was involved and how committed to his religion he is. And yet, he’s probably going to be the Republican nominee, facing a weak, unpopular Obama. We’ve heard about a meeting of Conservatives to discuss possible alternatives, but Politico reports that GOP elites are saying Romney probably can’t be stopped.

We’ll see. There’s nothing more dangerous than a Newt scorned, and South Carolina looks to be unfriendly to Mitt. But the next challenge for Romney is New Hampshire, where he leads by double digits. Can Santorum and Gingrich knock him down a peg? Only time will tell.

So….. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share.


Michele Bachmann Shares Lead in Iowa with Mitt Romney

You’ve probably heard the news that Michele Bachmann is in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney in the Iowa Register’s GOP presidential poll.

The Des Moines Register’s poll is the first measure of likely GOP caucus-goers.

So far, Mitt Romney is leading the pack with 23 percent. But Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is just one point behind him with 22 percent.

Hermain Cain finished a distant third with 10 percent. Then its former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, both with 7 percent.

Minnesota’s former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who’s focused so much of his campaigning in Iowa, finished sixth with 6 percent.

Rick Santorum finished with 4 percent and Jon Huntsman is the top choice for 2 percent of the potential caucusgoers.

Nate Silver argues that Pawlenty still has a chance:

…the horse race numbers need to be interpreted cautiously. Instead, I’d pay just as much attention to the impression that voters have of each candidate.

You have to dig down to find those numbers, but they are much better for Mr. Pawlenty: some 58 pecent of voters view him favorably, versus 13 percent unfavorably. The figures for Mr. Romney, by contrast, are 52 percent favorable but 38 percent unfavorable.

Put simply, there is considerable upside in Mr. Pawlenty’s numbers — and some downside for Mr. Romney, who is effectively competing for the votes of perhaps only 50 or 60 percent of the voters in the state because of his relatively moderate positions.

Unfortunately, Pawlenty’s real problem is that he booooorrrrring. Besides, he’s a right-wing “Christian” too.

So basically, unless Sarah Palin jumps into the race, Romney and Bachmann are the only viable candidates for the Republican nomination. I think Bachmann will beat Romney in the Iowa Caucuses for three reasons:

1) Bachmann’s far right evangelical “Christianity” trumps Romney’s Mormonism.

2) Bachmann is a compulsively hard worker and true believer; Romney doesn’t know the meaning of hard work, and he has no moral values or ideology.

3) Michele Bachmann was born in Iowa.

The good news is that Bachmann probably can’t beat Romney in New Hampshire, but you never know.

In an interview today Bachmann explained that

her bid to unseat President Barack Obama shouldn’t be viewed as “anything personal” against the Democrat but says he’s “just wrong” on his policies for America….
[T]he Minnesota congresswoman also said she doesn’t foresee problems moving from frequent naysayer to the country’s proposer-in-chief. She says voters can expect her to propose an economic agenda that includes cuts to corporate taxes and phase-outs of taxes on inheritances and investment earnings.

Bachmann’s nothing-personal message departs from her 2008 comments questioning whether Obama had “anti-American” views. She has said she wishes she framed her criticism differently.

Well, that’s darn sporting of her. I guess Obama can breathe a sigh of relief now.