Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

Shame Day: The Abortion Debate

I’ve seen both sides of this debate.

I grew up in a devotedly pro-life home. I was taught pro-life apologetics and arguments (largely from books by Peter Kreeft [go read The Unaborted Socrates]). In spite of that, my study of the development of life and my debates with pro-choicers led me eventually to cross the line. I concluded that if personhood ends with the cessation of brain activity, surely it must begin with it as well.

All that’s to say I’ve had first hand experience with both sides of the highly contentious issue.

But I’m not here to talk about abortion. I’m hear to shine the spotlight on the supreme nitwits who scream the loudest from both sides of the argument. Let’s break it down here. Continue reading

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Shame Day: Americans and the Environment

Today is Election Day for the United States of America, so I suppose this is just as good a time to write about this as any. While the embedded video below “stars” Mitt Romney, he is in no part the focal point of this post.


The video was brought to my attention via a tweet by Canadian webcomic artist Kate Beaton, which linked to an article titled “Watch Romney grin awkwardly as his audience shouts down climate activist.”

A breakdown of said video:

  • Mitt Romney has some things to say about ways to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
  • A man yells at around 00:22, and says  “What about climate? What about climate, that’s what caused this monster storm!”
  • He holds up a sign that says “End Climate Silence.”
  • This is almost instantly met with boos.
  • The boos turn into a rousing cheer of “USA! USA!”
  • At around 36 seconds in his sign is violently yanked down.
  • Seemingly unperturbed, the man tries in vain to yell above the crowd; he does not succeed.
  • 00:54 has the camera zoom in nice and close on Romney’s awkward grinning face.
  • Thirty seconds after the man’s outburst, Romney continues his speech where he left off as if nothing happened.

Even watching that video for a third and fourth time to write this I’m still both shocked and angry. This man was raising a legitimate point about  the source of the storm, and he was shouted down. What’s more, he was shouted down by dozens of people yelling the name of their country over and over and over.

Why did this happen? Sure, the guy may have been interrupting what was ultimately supposed to be a way for Gov. Romney to raise support, but is that a reason to boo him? Is it a reason to yank his sign down? You can see the man struggle to keep it up and then decide it’s not worth the trouble.

As a presidential candidate, can you stop Americans from crying “USA! USA! USA!”? Yes. You can. When what is typically a patriotic cheer is used to instead bully someone and invalidate their opinion. It is disgusting what happened, and anyone involved should feel disgraced by their behaviour.

A reply to Beaton’s tweet put it well when he said:

“Nero, what about the fire?” “USA! USA! USA!”

Oh, and here is an actual video where Romney basically says that caring about the environment is a joke:

Does Billy Graham Think Mormonism Is A Cult?

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to an article on the TIME website titillatingly titled “Billy Graham No Longer Thinks Mormonism Is a Cult.”

For those of you who don’t know, Billy Graham’s name has long been synonymous with “famous Christian guy.” To put that into more quantitative terms, he has been spiritual adviser to US presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, and  as of 2008 has had an estimated lifetime audience of 2.2 billion. Christians the world over  look to him to be a powerful representative of their faith.

Roughly two weeks ago US presidential candidate, and Mormon, Mitt Romney visited Graham at his home. At some point during their time together, the 93-year-old Evangelist told him, “I will do all I can to help you.

Shortly after this the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association [BGEA] took down a reference to Mormonism as a cult on its website.

This has, as most any action in the political sphere, provoked all sorts of public outcry, some of it mild, some of it extreme to the point that Graham’s whole ministry has been dubbed “a sham.” Basically your typical response to an event that combines two of the conversation topics you’re not allowed to bring up at the dinner table.

The viewpoint of Mormonism by mainstream Christianity aside, what’s truly important is what the man himself believes. While on the BGEA website I found an actual answer by Billy Graham, undated, to the question “What is your definition of a cult, and how do cults differ from Christianity?” His answer is as follows:

Cults differ widely from each other, of course, but they often have several characteristics in common. (Your local Christian bookstore can suggest some books that describe cults in more detail.)

One characteristic is that cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith—beliefs that Christians have held in common for almost 2,000 years. Instead, they say they alone have a full understanding of the truth about God, and the only way to know the truth is to be part of their group. Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.

Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God. This is very dangerous, of course, because he or she may lead others into disaster. Remember: Only Christ is worthy of our allegiance, for only He is God’s Son. The Bible says, “Through him you believe in God … so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21).

Pray for your brother and ask God to help you share Christ’s love with him. Cult members are often very resistant to outsiders, but pray that in time he will see this group’s false claims. Most of all, may his experience challenge you and your family to a deeper commitment to Christ.

Let’s break down his definition in regards to the Mormon faith.

———

  • Cults reject the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.

When it comes down to the bare basics, and concentrating on the personhood and divinity of Jesus Christ, they’re pretty spot on. “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer.” Judging by this singular belief I suppose Mormonism would not be considered a cult.

  • Many cults have their own writings also, which they either substitute for the Bible or add to the Bible.

The Book of Mormon. People know about this because it is also the name of a popular Broadway musical. From their website it is apparently viewed as an addition, not a substitution, to the Bible. It is also a book which “contains the history and God’s dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD.”

  • Cults also often have a strong leader—one who demands total obedience, and actually claims to speak for God.

The head of the Church of Latter-Day Saints is known as the President of the Church. According to their Doctrine and Covenants, this man is the only one empowered to receive revelation for the entire church and clarify doctrine. Presidents can also correct or change any previous teachings.

———

Judging by the qualities of cults that Billy Graham lists, Mormonism hits two out of three. Why is it then that his organization took down the reference to the Church of Latter-Day Saints as a cult?

Ken Barun, the organization’s chief of staff, is quoted as as saying: “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Have politics, then, trumped religion in this case? A debate on faith is avoided in order to bypass a possible issue of contention with a presidential candidate, one that Graham directly endorses. Cults are described as groups that espouse “false claims,” but apparently that can be ignored in light of Romney’s campaign.

While it is unfair to cite the holy life Billy Graham has lived as invalid in light of his recent actions, his decision should nonetheless be viewed for what it is: a sign of weakness in prioritizing the politics of this world over a commitment to spiritual truth.

Obama: the brand

Jim Messina was an undergraduate when he managed his first campaign, and has won every race since then. He’s now manager of the Obama reelection campaign and going to great lengths to maintain his record.

source: huffingtonpostMessina has purportedly read volumes of US election history, but he spent the first months before beginning the Obama campaign in earnest meeting not with successful senators and former campaign managers, but with CEOs and senior execs of Apple, Google, facebook, Zynga, and DreamWorks. While Obama looks for support from left side of the House and Senate, Messina’s also brought Stephen Spielberg and Vera Wang into the campaign. Messina’s campaign, he says, is more based on wunderkind business strategies (Zynga and facebook, for example) than any elections from previous centuries.

The most interesting part to me of Messina’s campaign is the part focused not on intellectual persuasion, but attachment-building via branding. To contrast this with Mitt Romney’s campaign, look at the merchandise pages of each of the candidates’ websites:

Romney’s store has:
2 types of bumper stickers
a window decal
2 buttons
4 different t-shirts (2 of the with just the semi-unrecognizable logo on them)
a baseball cap
a lapel pin, and
(regrettably) a heather grey quarter-zip-up sweatshirt

All of his products are on one page, and most of them look like print-screened logos on shirts from AC Moore.

Obama’s store includes:
iPhone cases,
Earth Day packs,
“I bark for Barack” magnets,
v-neck shirts for women under 45,
calendars,
yoga pants,
a $95 Monique Pean scarf,
a Vera Wang bag, a $95 “Thakoon Panichgul“, whatever that is,
dog bandanas,
dog sweaters,
Joe Biden mugs,
Obama jerseys,
rubber bracelets,
pint glasses,
aprons,
bangles,
cufflinks,
baby bibs,
grill spatulas,
soy candles,
golf divot tools,
and a six-pack cooler.

There’s also about a billion different types of tshirts, buttons, and bumper stickers, and a “for Obama” series: women for Obama, nurses for Obama, veterans for Obama, African Americans for Obama, Latinos for Obama, Hispanics for Obama, Asian American & Pacific Islanders for Obama, and environmentalists for Obama.

Romney’s shirts say, at most, “Romney” or “Believe” – one of Obama’s shirts says “Health Reform Still a BFD.” Granted, Romney is aiming at a different demographic (LL Bean fans, eg), but Obama’s 19 pages of merchandise make Romney’s 1 page look pitiful, from a branding point of view.

The Obama campaign’s brand-focused strategy is closely integrated with its other image-focused tactics: assigning Romney the cold, out-of-touch persona, for example.
While critics of the Bain capital narrative put out by the Obama campaign said that things like negativity and party inconsistency (Bill Clinton’s subsequent praise of Romney’s management skills, eg) rendered the move moot, an article in Bloomberg said that Messina may not have been so concerned about persuasion at that point: “Messina is adamant that the Bain attack succeeded among the uncommitted voters he’s concerned with, who ignore pundits and are only now beginning to form opinions of Romney.”

For a lot of voters, Romney’s business and managing experience are just off the table. The Bain Capital anti-campaign put on by the Obama team wasn’t so much a persuasion for some voters as an excuse to keep holding their current opinion. K street and the hill will argue about the relevance and logical holes in different arguments, and about the influence of different political figures voicing their opinions, but humans decide things more based on instinct than consideration, I think.

David Plouffe, a political strategist, commented: “When people say, ‘How’s the Bain thing playing?’ it doesn’t matter what the set of Morning Joe has to say about it.”

Voters’ behavior and attitudes are hugely dependent on their initial impressions of politicians. People will take things like the Bain story how they want to, based on what they’ve already consciously or unconsciously decided. And some might criticize the Obama campaign for putting a lot of money into what seems like frivilous merchandise, but things like brand and image aren’t meant to persuade – they’re meant to create a stronger identity and community within the already-present supporters. Such branding is what made Facebook, Google, and Apple such monstrosities – and they are precisely where Messina went for advice.

You Should Care About Super PACs

The new potentially-sort-of-boring-topic-about-which-we-should-educate-ourselves (this is the first election I’m paying attention to and I’m finding a lot of these things) is the issue of Super PACs and their effect on the current election.

To summarize, Political Action Committees (PACs) have been around for a while. They are organizations that raise money to use toward elections, usually television commercials — they are limited to collecting small amounts of money from individuals, political parties, and other PACs — and the stipulation was that they could only accept $5000 per person per year, which meant that (at least in theory) candidates’ support would be semi-related to the amount of supporters donating to them.

In 2010, however, it became legal for some organizations to receive unlimited donations from corporations and unions: organizations which accept these unlimited donations are called “super PACs.” They are like PACs, but much more evil. While PACs forced candidates to build a large support base to earn a substantial amount of money, a few millionaire individuals or corporations can fund a candidate’s entire ad campaign.

Super PACs are devastating to the essence of democracy: Why should congressional and presidential candidates care more about the votes of single constituents than the needs of unions and corporations when campaigns can be made or broken by union and corporate funding?

Super PACs allow campaigns to distance themselves from negative ad campaigns while reaping the benefits from commercials slandering political opponents — Mitt Romney’s PAC (the idiotically named “Restoring Our Future” — okay, one might restore hope for the future, but not the future itself) spent $3 million running negative campaigns against Newt Gingrich, effectively killing his campaign.

(evil?)Super PACs allow corporations and unions to spend huge amounts of money on elections — billions, in the 2010 midterm election — and that directly translates into influence on government decisions. If you’re imagining large men in suits grinning evilly while photographing themselves with dollar bills coming out of their ears, keep imagining it: there’s a picture of Mitt Romney that looks exactly like that.

Super PACs are a key factor in the commercialization of the political process. Since the late 90s, the money involved in elections (adjusted for inflation) has increased at an alarming rate. The amount of money that went into the 2008 election ($1 billion, 86 million) was more than twice that of the 1996 election (599 million dollars, adjusted for inflation) — Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign alone spent more than was spent in 1996 ($799 million).

Super PACs do not have to report the amount of money they receive, or how they spend it. A candidate’s super PAC can fund ridiculous amounts of illogical and negative commercials without having to pin the candidate’s name on the commercials at all. A candidate’s super PAC can also donate money to other PACs, effectively buying the good will of other politicians. Recent Supreme Court decisions deem this legal.

You should buy one of these tshirts on Colbert's website. And protect democracy.

The Colbert Report flaunted the troubling legalities of Super PACs in last Thursday’s episode, when Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) was transferred from Colbert to Jon Stewart as Colbert announced his fake intention to run for president. Colbert is not supposed to coordinate with the super PAC, his lawyer said on the show, but he could remain business partners with Stewart and the staff of his PAC didn’t have to change, even though they clearly knew everything about his election strategy.

Super PACs are the final step in making political campaigns entirely about money and slander. The political scene becomes a game of who-can-find-the-most-loopholes, with politicians focusing their energies on how to betray the spirit of the law without breaking the letter of it, which seems quite bad indeed.