The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer took his crusade against Richard Grenell — an openly gay man who is now Mitt Romney’s chief spokesperson for foreign policy — to CNN this morning, denouncing the former spokesperson for U.N. Ambassador John Bolton as a “homosexual activist who is actively working on behalf of homosexual marriage” to undermine religious liberties.
“The real issue here is for Governor Romney and what he thinks about homosexual behavior,” Fischer insisted. “My complaint about Governor Romney all the way along is not that he’s Mormon, but he’s not Mormon enough….The Mormon Church believes homosexual behavior is sinful and that homosexual acts are offensive to God. So the question that needs to be asked of Governor Romney, do you agree with the teaching of your Church? If you do — that homosexual acts are offensive to God — then why have you made the face of your campaign someone who engages in conduct that your own Church says is offensive to God?”
But when CNN host Kyra Phillips pointed out that Grenell served at the pleasure of conservative Bolton, Fischer found himself in the awkward position of defending Bolton’s tenure while condemning his chief spokesperson:
PHILLIPS: Did you think John Bolton did a good job when he was U.S. ambassador to the U.N.? [...]
FISCHER: He did a great job.
PHILLIPS: Okay. Grenell was his spokesperson….Bryan, I just thought that was interesting, you thought Bolton did a great job, and Grenell was his spokesperson.
FISCHER: Well, the point here is that personnel is policy. Everybody in D.C. says that. Personnel is policy. When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.
The Log Cabin Republicans’ R. Clarke Cooper, who appeared in the segment with Fischer, stressed that “Governor Romney didn’t hire Ric because he’s a Protestant. He hired him because he’s qualified as a national security, foreign policy technocrat….Ric’s orientation had nothing to do with the hiring process.” “Bryan, ya’ll gotta be careful, because you are starting to sounding like George Wallace, ‘segregation today, segregation tomorrow,’” Cooper warned. “Be careful because you’re going to be left in the dust bin of history, buddy.”
Republicans are absolutely gleeful about the possibility that the Supreme Court may strike down the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that doing so would increase premiums, cause millions to lose health insurance, and ultimately raise health care spending.
Now, several health experts are warning of another unintended consequence: Medicare might not be able to function properly, potentially putting patient care and payments to doctors at risk. As some experts told NPR, the program could be thrown into complete chaos:
“The Affordable Care Act has become part and parcel of the Medicare system, encouraging providers to deliver better, more integrated, better coordinated care, at lower cost,” says Judy Feder, a public policy professor at Georgetown University and former Clinton administration health official. “To all of a sudden eliminate that would be highly disruptive.”
Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, puts it a bit more bluntly: “We could find ourselves at kind of a grand stopping point for the entire health care system.”
And it’s not just Democrats warning of potential problems. Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush, says she doesn’t think it’s likely that the court will strike down the entire health law. But if it does, she says, “it seems like it takes everything with it, including those aspects that are only very peripherally related to the expansion of coverage.”
As Rosenbaum noted, if the law is ruled unconstitutional, “Hospitals might not get paid. Nursing homes might not get paid. Doctors might not get paid. Changes in coverage that have begun to take effect for the elderly, closing the doughnut hole might not happen. We don’t know.”
This uncertainty is already spilling over into the market: Ratings service Moody’s reported earlier this month that for-profit hospitals could be hit particularly hard if the law is overturned. As the report said, ?Uninsured patients enter the health care system through the emergency room and often wind up admitted and accumulating bills they don?t have the means to pay. The continued rise in uncompensated care costs would limit operators? revenue growth and profit margins and constrain cash flow.?
Even as extreme weather worsens and the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change gets more alarming, it was hard to find any television outlets touching the subject this Earth Day.
However, there was one show that addressed climate change with a sense of urgency.
While CNN ran stories about “acts of green” and Fox News hilariously lamented that the earth “is not friendly to human beings,” former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm devoted a large portion of her show, The War Room, to the most pressing environmental story in history.
Granholm featured three segments on climate and energy issues, bringing in Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr., and Jeffrey Sachs to talk about the consequences of inaction. She also gave her own forceful monologue urging people to put politicians in office that “will allow your children to have a future on this planet.” Granholm said “Your thinking small does not serve the world”:
Across the political spectrum Democrats, Independents and Republicans now see that the climate is changing….
The climate is changing. But excuses for inaction have not. And nature doesn’t care about excuses.”
Al Gore appeared on the show, saying that he believes the small group of vocal climate deniers will eventually lose their voice: “We have got to win this. And we will win this. Because the reality is what it is.”
Grahholm also interviewed Robert Kennedy Jr., who lamented the amount of money being spent by large energy companies to sow the seeds of doubt on climate. “You’re getting a tsunami of cash that is pouring into this political process and we know that it has a huge impact. We know propaganda works.” Watch it:
Earlier this year, President Obama used his recess appointments power to thwart a Senate Republican effort to sabotage agencies they disapprove of by refusing to confirm anyone to lead them. Almost immediately after the president took action, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) threw a fit, promising to oppose every single one of President Obama’s nominees in retaliation. Lee, however, never found even half a dozen fellow senators who were willing to join him in this tantrum, and he now is reduced to pitching his fit without any allies at all. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Judge Brian Wimes to a federal court in Missouri. Lee was the only dissenting vote.
But a high-profile terrorism trial is currently taking place in Brooklyn without much fanfare. Authorities arrested three men in 2009 and 2010 accused of plotting to blow up targets on the New York City subway system. While two of the suspects have already pleaded guilty, the trial of the third, Adis Medunjanin, who was arrested in January 2010, began last week. This time though, the right-wing isn’t saying much, NPR reports:
“It’s rather ironic that this case has attracted so little attention,” says Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia University who used to work on detainee affairs for the Bush administration. “This trial has been an occasion for a convention of terrorism suspects.” [...]
What makes the Brooklyn trial of Medunjanin particularly unusual, Waxman of Columbia University says, is the sheer number of convicted terrorists who have shown up in court. He says the testimony, and the way the trial is unfolding, is proof that the criminal justice system can handle terrorism cases ? and tough cases with classified material don’t need to be sent to military commissions at Guantanamo.
“In the past, the idea of prosecuting terrorists here in New York has generated huge outcry,” he says. “But this high-profile trial is going on right here.”
Listen to the full NPR report here:
Indeed, the New York Times reported last week that federal officials said the plot was “one of the most serious threats to the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks.”
British citizen Saajid Badat, who was convicted in the U.K. in 2005 of plotting to blow up an airplane, and another admitted terrorist, American Bryant Neal Vinas, who fought alongside al-Qaeda against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, testified in Medunjanin’s trial yesterday about al-Qaeda’s operational details. Badat, who was supposed to be the second airline shoe-bomber after Richard Reid but backed out, said that Osama bin Laden told him “that the American economy is like a chain. If you break one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down.”
Badat made the decision in prison to cooperate with authorities against al-Qaeda and “his help has been invaluable in breaking up plots and understanding al-Qaida as an organization.” The former terrorist said on Monday that he wants to testify in the military commission trial set to begin next month and specifically against KSM because he came to believe that he “was manipulating Muslims into doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
The families of 9/11 victims and even a number of Bush administration Justice Department officials supported trying terrorists in civilian courts. And as CAP’s Ken Gude has previously noted, “presidents of both parties have relied on criminal courts for decades because they are extremely effective at convicting suspected terrorists and have an excellent record of producing reliable and actionable intelligence information.”
I just love how life sucks for the rest of you. (Jeff Haynes/Reuters)Ann Romney, the hardest workin' hard worker ever and Mitt's "greatest asset" as well as his chief adviser on Stuff That Ladies Care AboutTM, continued her "I'm every woman" tour yesterday with an address to the bluest of the blue collars:
Romney told the audience at the Connecticut Republican Party?s Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford of the exhausting nature of the campaign and the unfairness of the news cycle.Ann shared many harrowing tales of struggle, from having to watch her husband "not getting the proper treatment at times," to doing laundry. Because Mitt Romney's chief lady stuff adviser is quite certain that the best way for her to connect with the common (wo)man, is to continue insisting that she, the wife of a multi-millionaire, is just a regular mom with regular problems and regular struggles and she knows just how hard it is to raise a family on nothing but your husband's stock portfolio, the house your father-in-law the governor bought you, and today's equivalent of a couple hundred grand.
And then Ann shared this terribly empathic sentiment:
I love the fact that there are women out there who don?t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn?t easy for any of us.Well, gosh, Ann, isn't it nice for you that poor and middle-income women exist just to amuse the shit out of you with their lack of choices? How nice that there are women who must go to work because they don't have wealthy husbands and in-laws to provide for them. Bet Ann was equally tickled when George W. Bush met a single mom who had to work three jobs to keep afloat, and he told her it was "uniquely American" and "fantastic that you're doing that." How marvelous!
There's nothing wrong with being rich. But there's something very wrong with being so oblivious to your own privilege and all the choices it has afforded you that your response to your fellow Americans who don't enjoy such privilege and don't have the same opportunities is to tell them how much you "love" their struggles and hey, you've struggled too, so you can totally relate.
Ann Romney can't relate. She doesn't get it. No matter how "not wealthy" she considers herself, no matter how much she flip-flops, in typical Romney family fashion, on whether being a stay-at-home mom wasn't or was or wasn't work, she just doesn't get it. And neither does her husband, who believes that only wealthy women like Ann deserve the "choice" to stay at home with their children; the other women?you know, the ones Ann "loves" because they don't have a choice?are drug addicts who raise "indolent and unproductive" children and "need to go to work" so they'll have "dignity."
If the Romneys really cared about the plight of all Americans?not just their super rich friends who own sports teams?they'd be fighting to help all Americans to have the same choices the Romneys are so proud of. But they're not doing that. Mitt has told us he's "not concerned with the very poor," and his wife "loves" that some women out there "don?t have a choice."
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) thinks he's got something that will make Elizabeth Warren look like the elitist in the race for Senate in Massachusetts: the fact that Warren rose from working class roots to succeed financially. They want to counter this Elizabeth Warren:
Republican US Senator Scott Brown plans to publicly release six years worth of personal tax returns later this week, his campaign said today in a letter that puts pressure on challenger Elizabeth Warren to do the same. [...]Brown, friend of Wall Street, is going to have to come up with more than tax returns to undercut the work Warren has done to champion middle class America, or even her own personal story. It's as clear a case as Wall Street versus Main Street as you're going to find in 2012, and Warren has the personal and professional story to make that case.
Warren, a Democrat, has previously said she would release two years of returns if Brown did the same. She said that period spanned the time she had served in the Obama administration and been a political candidate, as well as Brown?s tenure in the Senate.
But here's an interesting angle to the story. Brown shares a senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom (of Etch a Sketch fame), with the Romney campaign. The Romney campaign that steadfastly refuses to release more than a few years of his own tax returns. What's good for the goose ...
In the last week or so, a number of commentators have begun to debate whether the Obama campaign should paint Mitt Romney as an ideological extremist or as an inveterate flip-flopper. Bill Clinton is apparently advising that the answer should be "ideological extremist." But the real answer is, "Yes!" There's no reason Mitt Romney can't be a spineless, pandering flip-flopper who is also in thrall to the extremists in his party. One is an argument about who he is (flip-flopper), and the other is an argument about what he'll do (all kinds of horrible extremist things). There isn't a contradiction. And as Jonathan Bernstein tell us, congressional Democrats are getting ready to lend the president a hand by forcing a whole bunch of votes designed to make Romney choose between taking a position widely popular with the general electorate and taking a position that will satisfy his party and his base:
Dems are currently pushing votes on no less than three major issues, all of which are designed to force Romney to make difficult choices.
First up: The student loan rate extension. Romney has already committed to Barack Obama's position on this one, but House Republicans are reluctant to go along.
Next: The Violence Against Women Act, where Republicans in Congress have objected to reauthorization if modest Democratic changes are included.
And after that, the Senate will be taking up the "Paycheck Fairness" bill, which covers discrimination against equal pay for women.
Each of these is apt to be highly popular, and yet in each case Congressional Republicans are expected to oppose the bills as proposed.
They're engineering a clever series of Catch-22s, because no matter which choice Romney makes, Democrats can attack him. If he breaks with Republicans, they'll say, "Aha! Flip-flopper!" And if he goes along with Republicans, they'll say, "Aha! Extremist!"
And even though Republicans control the House, they have no ability to do the same thing to President Obama. There aren't major issues where congressional Democrats take one position and Obama would really like to take another position. And even if there were, doing so wouldn't be any real risk to him, since he doesn't have a reputation as a flip-flopper. House Republicans can introduce bills condemning hangnails or praising grandma's apple pie, but none of them are going to put Barack Obama in a box.
One of the reasons Game of Thrones quickly overcame my aversion to medieval fantasy stories was its fresh approach to storytelling. From the diversity of characters to the emphasis on the voices of those of diminished status, the show lays waste to some clichés of television. Which is all the more reason that I was disappointed this past Sunday when the show resorted to what has become the most tiresome trope on television: the use of torture scenes to create tension. I?ve really hit a limit this time, and would like to ask the world of TV writers to try to go a year---longer, if possible---without raising the stakes by chaining one character down as another comes up with elaborately sophisticated ways to inflict pain.
It?s a shame, too, because one show that has a right to plenty of torture scenes is Game of Thrones. It has a medieval setting, after all, so torture makes as much sense as heads on stakes and a lack of electricity. Indeed, the writers? truly inventive torture---forcing rats to burrow their way into the victim?s chest---nearly rescued the torture scenes from banality. Still, on a show that hooks its audience by keeping it guessing what innovative plot twist will come next, resorting to torture couldn?t help but feel tired.
Watching most TV programs, one might get the impression that the swiftest way to deal with a problem is finding someone keeping something from you, exacting a disgust-inducing evil upon their body, and sitting back as they swiftly cough up the necessary information. Looking at the list of popular or critically acclaimed television featuring torture scenes is truly staggering: Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Firefly, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Rome, Dexter, The Walking Dead, and of course, 24, just to name a few, use pain as a plot device. It?s so ubiquitous that Community parodied it on the episode ?The Science of Illusion?. To my chagrin, even Justified, which usually skirts some of the anti-hero themes so popular on the rest of TV, started employing torture tropes in its third season. Next time a client turns his nose up at an ad campaign on Mad Men, I half expect Don Draper to pull out the rope and a rusty blade while saying, ?Perhaps it?s time for a different form of persuasion.?
Writers can try to justify this tired cliché by boring the audience to death with exhaustive debates over the morality of it all, or by trying to be daring by taking a sadistic glee in it. Neither strategy works because the essence of the torture scene remains untouched?the problem with a torture scene isn?t that morality isn?t struggled with appropriately, it?s that the scene is used to artificially raise the stakes. This creates problems for the willing suspension of disbelief.
I test the usefulness of a torture scene by getting up and doing something else while it plays out onscreen, an easy enough task because I?m pretty squeamish. If I return after the scene and don?t feel lost in the narrative, I?m pretty sure that it only served the purpose of scaring the audience and raising adrenaline levels. That?s okay in small doses, but an excessive amount suggests that it?s being used as a crutch to keep excitement levels high without plot or character development. In this sense, it?s no different than gratuitous sex, except that gratuitous sex doesn?t take itself as seriously. Torture scenes tend to be played perfectly straight, as if the audience should be impressed with the moral gravity of the situation, instead of annoyed by the cliché.
More importantly, torture scenes violate the audience?s trust that the characters onscreen, no matter how outlandish their surroundings, will behave like human beings. On TV, torture almost always works. The victim usually knows the information, and gives it up immediately. In rarer cases, they know nothing but are able to stop to torture by stating this fact. Either way, they respond positively to torture, and somehow the tormentor magically knows when their victim is speaking the truth.
What we know from real life examinations of torture is that the reality plays out very differently. Torturers have no good way to separate good information from bad information, not being blessed with the music of swelling violins to let them know what the victim just said is the good stuff. Nor is there any reason to believe torture makes victims more compliant?they mostly just want it to end, and the quickest way to ensure that is to say what the torturer wants to hear, not what is actually true. As Martin Robbin, chronicled for the Guardian in 2010, military and intelligence experts are decidedly against the notion that torture works, describing the information obtained as ?useless? and pointing out that it gives the victim more reason to refuse to cooperate in the future.
That torture scenes are more common in show with fictitious settings--sci-fi, fantasy, and action-adventure---doesn?t justify character motivations so far outside the scope of reality. If anything, the stranger the scenario in fiction, the harder writers must work to make characters read like real people. So while the temptation to scare and shock your audience with torture scenes may seem irresistible, TV writers, I beg you, try finding another way of telling your story, one that relies on human behavior as it actually exists.
We're all sick of looking at Mitt Romney,
so here's a giant fuzzy Jesus-eagleMitt Romney may indeed have a "Mormon problem" after all. At least, he will if the Republican base has anything to say about it:
Liberty University students and alumni are accusing the Christian school of violating its own teachings by asking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose adherents are called Mormons, to deliver its 2012 commencement address.I can think of a lot of reasons why I wouldn't want Mitt Romney to speak at my graduation, but this is a new one to me. The problem is that Falwell's own school doesn't actually recognize Mormons as Christians, so the godfearing student body is put out that Falwell th' Younger invited this non-Christian to speak at such an important event (and yes, there's a quote in the article where a student calls Mitt's religion a "cult"). After a few years of indoctrinating these fine students as to the finer points of which religions wrong and by how much, the university is, apparently, surprised that the student body doesn't recognize that you're supposed to just flush all of that down the toilet when it comes to political pandering.
By Friday morning, more than 700 comments had been posted on the school's Facebook page about the Thursday announcement - a majority of them decidedly against the Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.?s invitation, citing that the school had taught them Mormonism isn?t part of the Christian faith.
I blame the university for this. Clearly, the school has failed to properly educate their students as to the finer points of religious conservatism, which boil down to "if it's advantageous for rich people, we'll temporarily support whatever goddamn religion you want us to." You're not actually supposed to believe all that nonsense being taught, students; you're just being taught it so that you can go out and spout it to people who know even less than you do. It's a religiously-premised pyramid scheme. When election time rolls around, however, you're supposed to shut up and let your betters work out the details of these things.
Liberty University counters with the argument that it has, for past commencements, even invited Jews and Catholics to speak, so it's not like this is the first time they've invited a member of the hellbound to come say some nice platitudes to their students. So there ya go. I think that passes for tolerance, in the Liberty U. sense of the word.
I swear, I'm not sure why Mitt Romney or anyone else would want to be these people's candidate. They're all loopy. Mitt must really, really want those tax cuts.