Under the guise of “enhancing support,” administrators at the University of Notre Dame made it clear last week that they are not making any serious changes to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning members of its campus community. Students, faculty, and staff have spent the spring demanding that “It needs to get better,” but according to a news release, the university is not adding sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, nor is it taking steps to allow a student gay-straight alliance to form on campus ? which it has previously rejected 15 times.
Instead, administrators merely committed to more “ongoing dialogue,” falling back on the university’s 15-year-old “Statement of Inclusion,” which recognizes gays and lesbians as members of the community but offers them no legal protections. Vice President for Student Affairs Rev. Thomas P. Doyle tried to make it sound like the campus environment had dramatically changed in the interim:
DOYLE: The University has made significant progress over the past 15 years in its support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning students, but we?ve always emphasized the desire to continuously improve and to be responsive to student concerns. The conversations between students and the administration both recently and over the past several years have been very important.
This is unhelpful pandering. Conversations only lead to change if the invested parties listen to each other, and Doyle’s remarks demonstrate that administrators are clearly not listening to the community’s concerns. Notre Dame trustees last voted against adding sexual orientation protections fifteen years ago, and in those fifteen years, nothing has changed. In fact, the status quo dates back to 1977, when trustees expressed concern that non-discrimination protections could inhibit the university’s ability to “make decisions that are necessary to support Catholic Church teaching.”
Administrators claim they are committed to “improving awareness.” Perhaps they had best begin with their own.
Federal election law requires candidates to disclose not just the names and addresses of all donors contributing more than $200 to a candidate, but also (where possible) the donor’s employer and occupation. Of the more than 750 donations received by Richard Mourdock’s primary campaign for Indiana Senate to date, one stands out. Earl Pendleton Holt, whose three reported contributions to Mourdock total $1,000, identifies himself as a self-employed “slumlord.”
Holt’s candor — be it serious or self-deprecating — is refreshing. Indeed, he has listed the same occupation on contributions this cycle to Senate hopeful Ted Cruz (R-TX), Congressional hopeful and former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI), and unsuccessful Presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). But the interests of scores of other donors to Mourdock’s campaign — and its “independent” supporters — may be less obvious.
Tuesday’s closely watched Indiana Senate Republican primary will not just determine whether six-term Sen. Dick Lugar or state Treasurer Mourdock will face Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) this November. It will also mean the end of a $4.4 million independent expenditure war between a wide array of Super PACs and 501(c)(4)s — the largest amount of any non-presidential race so far this cycle. Though Lugar’s campaign, at of the last reporting period, had outspent Mourdock’s $6.6 million to $2 million, Murdock’s haul fundraising is impressive for a primary challenger and the gap has been partially made up by the $2.6 million to $1.8 million advantage he’s enjoyed in outside group spending.
Among the biggest forces backing Mourdock:
- The Club for Growth — led by former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN), the Club’s 501(c)(4), traditional PAC, and its Club for Growth Action Super PAC have spent at least $1.6 million on ads backing Mourdock and blasting Lugar. The group calls Lugar a “R.I.N.O.” (Republican In Name Only) despite his 63 percent lifetime record of voting with the group’s anti-government agenda.
- FreedomWorks for America — former Rep. Dick Armey’s (R-TX) “astroturf” group has done mailings and run ads saying Lugar has “lost touch with Indiana values,” spending over $545,000.
- Gun rights groups — The National Rifle Association has spent more than $322,000 on independent expenditures, criticizing Lugar’s votes to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court appointments. A trio of pro-gun political action committees have donated about $10,000 to Mourdock’s campaign.
- The financial sector — although Lugar voted against the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill, political action committees for banks and related interests contributed over $17,500 to Moudorck’s campaign and individuals listed as working in the industry kicked in another $35,000-plus.
- Wealthy investors — About $20,000 of Mourdock’s donations came from wealthy investors and investment management executives.
- Big polluters — Mourock, himself a former coal company executive, got $5,000 from Murray Energy’s PAC (representing the nation’s largest privately-owned coal company) and more than $18,000 in individual contributions from employees and executives at Murray and other coal, oil, and gas companies.
With one of the key pro-Lugar groups pulling its ads over the weekend, it is quite possible that the man tied with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for the longest tenure of any current Senate Republican may see his political career ended by the man backed by those groups — and a self-described “slumlord.”
Discrepancies between the accounts of the U.S. government and blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng as to the latter’s departure from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing grew wider when the State Department contradicted Chen’s account that threats against his family were relayed by U.S. officials. Foreign Policy reported that State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland disputed Chen’s account, reported by the AP, that the U.S. told him about threats made against his family by the Chinese government. Nuland said:
At no time did any US official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us. U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the Embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to [their home in] Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.
Activists from the 99 Percent Movement took to the streets across America to mark May Day on Tuesday, but their campaign against Wall Street is just beginning. In the month of May, activist groups and religious leaders will again turn their focus to urging customers to move their money from Wall Street banks.
Last week, religious leaders and activists targeted Wells Fargo’s annual meeting, where they protested the bank’s predatory and often discriminatory practices and its lack of accountability for its role in the financial crisis that crippled the American economy. Next week, protesters will target Bank of America’s annual meeting, attempting to call attention to the same problems. Throughout the month, a diverse group of activists will push customers to move their money from Wall Street to community banks and credit unions, according to a press release from New Bottom Line, an organizing group that has dubbed May “Move Our Money Month”:
On May 9, thousands of people associated with the 99% Power Movement — families facing foreclosure, clergy, students, seniors, environmentalists, and others — will descend on Bank of America?s shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC to urge the bank to keep families in their homes, pay its fair share of taxes, and stop choking democracy through massive campaign contributions. If Bank of America does not enact new policies that are more responsive to the communities it serves, large numbers of customers are expected to close their accounts. [...]
?The 99 percent are making their voices heard by moving their money out of the big banks that wrecked the economy and are doing nothing to fix it. This spring, there will be more people attending bank shareholders meetings than at any point in history and we will see more people severing their relationships with the big banks in favor of smaller institutions that are responsive to community concerns,? said Ilana Berger, Co-Director of The New Bottom Line.
The 99 Percent Movement has successfully targeted Wall Street banks with “Move Your Money” campaigns since last fall, when hundreds of thousands of people switched from large banks to credit unions in October and 40,000 more joined on a single day — known as “Bank Transfer Day” — in early November. Churches and faith leaders joined the cause, targeting banks for dodging taxes and unfair mortgage practices. Churches moved $55 million from Wall Street before Thanksgiving, and San Francisco faith leaders moved another $10 million from Wells Fargo in February.
Such campaigns are expected to have profound impacts on Wall Street’s bottom lines. A Wall Street consulting firm reported in November that the nation’s 10 largest banks could lose as much as $185 billion in deposits over the next year thanks to customer defections, and Bank of America — the activists’ next target — is the most vulnerable among them. According to the report, it could lose 10 percent of its customers and $42 billion by the end of 2012.
In an interview with Politico, Green Bay Packers star defensive back Charles Woodson reiterated his support for Wisconsin working families who are locked in a battle with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has sought to strip them of their collective bargaining rights.
I feel like Wisconsin workers and workers in general should have their right to be a human and to have the right to fight for whatever rights they believe in. So, we talk about having freedoms in this country, they should have the freedom to fight for their rights.
Woodson's remarks are important for spreading the message of union rights and the rights of working families to a broader audience that might not otherwise think about these issues if it weren't brought to their attention by an NFL star.
Woodson's earlier statement:
Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.
It is an honor for me to play for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and be a part of the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. I am also honored as a member of the NFL Players Association to stand together with working families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against this attempt to hurt them by targeting unions. I hope those leading the attack will sit down with Wisconsin?s public workers and discuss the problems Wisconsin faces, so that together they can truly move Wisconsin forward.
I tackle that question in a new post at 538. The analysis involves constructing a model of presidential approval from 1948-2008 and forecasting values for Obama. On average he is about nine points more popular than the model would predict. Out-of-sample predictions for Obama and past presidents are here (click to enlarge):
Among these presidents, only Reagan and George W. Bush have actual first-term approval ratings that exceed their expected approval ratings at a level comparable to or great than Obama.
If anyone wants to read the 538 post, which has more details, and leave me some reactions here, I?d be grateful. This analysis will hopefully be part of an initial chapter of the 2012 book, which will focus on the broader political and economic landscape leading up to the election.
Greg Sargent is rightfully stunned by the entitled petulance of Wall Street bankers who are shocked?shocked?that President Obama would do anything other than praise their indispensable brilliance:
Wall Streeters are so upset about Obama?s harsh populist rhetoric that they privately called on him to make amends with a big speech ? like his oration on race ? designed to heal the wounds of class warfare in this country. [?]
Of course, their exaggerated weariness notwithstanding, the ?wounds of class warfare? haven?t been borne by Wall Streeters, who remain fabulously wealthy even after causing the worst downturn since the Great Depression. If there?s anyone waging class warfare, it?s the radicalized representatives of the rich, who have successfully engineered government to enhance their wealth at the cost of our shared responsibilities. As such, the actual victims of class warfare are the ordinary Americans who face stagnant wages, rising costs, and a tattered safety net.
After going through the insanity of Wall Street complaints, Sargent ends his post on this note:
One wonders if there is anything Obama could say to make these people happy, short of declaring that rampant inequality is a good thing, in that it affirms the talent and industriousness of the deserving super rich. It certainly seems clear that they won?t be satisfied until he stops mentioning it at all. [Emphasis mine]
If you think the bolded section is an exaggeration, you should take some time to read Adam Davidson?s New York Times profile of Edward Conard, a former partner at Bain Capital?Mitt Romney?s investment fund?who now works as an apologist for the ultrawealthy. Conard believes three things. First, that millionaires and billionaires earned every penny of their wealth through merit and hard work:
God didn?t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,? he said. ?It?s not beautiful. It?s hard work. It?s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o?clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It?s not serenity and beauty.?
Second, that immense wealth is the just reward for any and all risk taking:
?It?s not like the current payoff is motivating everybody to take risks,? he said. ?We need twice as many people. When I look around, I see a world of unrealized opportunities for improvements, an abundance of talented people able to take the risks necessary to make improvements but a shortage of people and investors willing to take those risks. That doesn?t indicate to me that risk takers, as a whole, are overpaid. Quite the opposite.? The wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large, he said.
And finally, that extraordinary income inequality is a net plus for society. Those who use their wealth for charity, Conard argues, are depriving the world of investment and gain:
During one conversation, he expressed anger over the praise that Warren Buffett has received for pledging billions of his fortune to charity. It was no sacrifice, Conard argued; Buffett still has plenty left over to lead his normal quality of life. By taking billions out of productive investment, he was depriving the middle class of the potential of its 20-to?1 benefits. If anyone was sacrificing, it was those people. ?Quit taking a victory lap,? he said, referring to Buffett. ?That money was for the middle class.?
For those of us who don?t see wealth as the ultimate end, who see value in other, non-monetary pursuits, and who understand the power of chance and fortune, this is a horrifying worldview. Conard seems oblivious to the fact that there are people who work hard?punishing their bodies with physical labor?in order to scrap by with the basics of life. It?s not that these people are lazy, it?s that they didn?t win the cosmic dice game that put them in a position to reach the heights of American society.
There is a disturbing corollary to Conard?s worldview, that he expresses in his conversation with Davidson?if the wealthy are supremely virtuous for their pursuit of wealth, then those who reject that choice?regardless of what they do?are unworthy of our respect or admiration:
Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group ?art-history majors,? his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life.
Given their friendship and close connections, one thing to consider is whether Mitt Romney holds views close to Conard?s. Judging from his domestic policy plans?huge income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, combined with tax cuts on investment income, and a dramatic reduction in social services?the obvious answer is yes, of course he does. And indeed, at the end of his profile, Adam Davidson offers the strong suggestion that Romney?s thinking has more in common with his friend than it does with any of us.
Dear God: Please give me the wisdom to know what comes after two. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)Rick Perry may not be able to count to three, and he may have to issue statements that no, he wasn't on drugs that one time, he's just naturally goofy, but at least he has God's direct line on speed dial. Via Politico:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who memorably muttered ?oops? during a nationally televised Republican debate, said Wednesday that God forgives such moments ? even if voters don?t.Actually, Rick Perry, it's highly unlikely that most of us get tripped up on counting to three every day, but hey, if that's what you need to tell yourself to feel better, go for it. Or maybe, just maybe, you could spend a little less time speaking for God and a little more time watching Sesame Street. Because as William K. Wolfrom points out:
?Every one of us has ?oops moments? every day,? the former presidential candidate told an Austin crowd celebrating the National Day of Prayer, according to The Associated Press. ?America may not forgive you for it, but God will.?
As we all know, for decades, "sexual perversion" (i.e., being gay) was a disqualifier for any position remotely related to national security?typist, say, or translator. That great Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the executive order barring us from government employment in 1953. Clinton barred sexual-orientation discrimination in federal employment in 1998, but that barely made up for Don't Ask Don't Tell, which enshrined antigay discrimination in the military.
That's all better now, right? Right. Unless you're a Republican. As you may or may not have heard, for a few weeks there, Mitt Romney had a foreign policy spokesperson, Richard Grenell, who's gay. You and I might consider him disqualified from service on various grounds, such as the fact that Grenell previously worked for our favorite U.N. ambassador ever, John Bolton. But as you'd guess, that's not what got the attention of the Rs' antigay wing.
For a few weeks, I heard speculation about how long Grenell would last. Now we know. He resigned yesterday. As one wag wrote in a private email, "Well, this appointment lasted about as long as some Hollywood marriages." Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is taking full and delighted responsibility for this "huge win."
I was surprised by the appointment, originally. Here in Massachusetts, Romney promised the Log Cabin Republicans that he'd be as gay-friendly as our moderate Republican governor William Weld?but then worked furiously to prevent same-sex marriage from becoming state law. In other words, you'll be absolutely shocked to hear, he lied. (Check out the Human Rights Campaign's comment on the resignation; key statement is "The fact that Grennell is gone so quickly after a right-wing uproar is a troubling harbinger of the kind of power that anti-gay forces would have in a Romney White House.") I wasn't at all surprised that Grenell "resigned"?freely, and for personal reasons, of course!
Would ENDA have saved his job? Mmm, maybe not.
This is George Zimmerman's MySpace page. Years before he stood at the center of an international storm over the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, the Florida man used his page to complain about "mexicans" and celebrate a victory in a criminal case against him.
Today, it remains a small window into the life of a man who has gone into hiding while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge.
The page was unearthed Wednesday by the Miami Herald, which confirmed its authenticity with Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara.
On it, Zimmerman went by the alias Joe G. and username onlytobekingagain. The newspaper noted that this account is different than another one that was disabled last month, which had the username datniggytb.
In a long, rambling "About Me" section of the site, Zimmerman, who would have been in his early 20s when the site was active, wrote that he missed his friends in Manassas, Va., where he grew up and went to high school. But there were things he said he didn't miss.
"I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book," Zimmerman wrote. "Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!"
In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel in March, his father, Robert Zimmerman, described George as Hispanic. He also defended his son against accusations of racism, which have been made because the unarmed teen was black. "The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."
On the MySpace page, Zimmerman identified himself as ethnically "Latino/Hispanic." He also posted photos of himself hanging out with friends of other races, including some who are black.
Zimmerman also used the account to celebrate some legal victories, including one against his ex-fiancee, who he referred to as his as his "ex hoe," and another in which he was accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer.
"Im still free!" he wrote on Aug. 24, 2005. "The ex hoe tried her hardest, but the judge saw through it! Big Mike, reppin the Dverse security makin me look a million bucks, broke her down! Thanks to everyone for checkin up on me!"
Six days later he posted about another victory.
"2 felonies dropped to 1 misdemeanor!!!!!!!!!!! The man knows he was wrong but still got this hump, Thanks to everyone friends and fam, G baby you know your my rock!"
Zimmerman's internet presence has been an issue in his murder case recently. His attorney revealed last week that his client had managed to raise more than $200,000 for his own defense using a crudely built website and a PayPal account.
Zimmerman, now 28, claims he acted in self defense in the Feb. 26 shooting, saying Martin attacked him first.
Here's a screenshot of Zimmerman's MySpace page: