Things Still Not Going Well For “Mitt the Twitt” After Leaving London

Things just continue to go badly for Mitt Romney, even after leaving London, the site of multiple gaffes. He’s  flip-flopped on his decision not to allow the press at his fund raiser in Israel but still will leave many questioning whether he plans to tell the big donors something different from what he says in public. CNN reports that “The reporters, however, will be escorted out before Romney takes questions from the audience during the event on Monday.”

Romney was also forced to backtrack on a view expressed by an aide on Iran which Romney didn’t want expressed in public:

A top Mitt Romney foreign policy aide on Sunday said the GOP presidential candidate would back an Israeli military strike on Iran to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” said Romney adviser on Middle East affairs Dan Senor in a briefing with reporters, according to media reports.

Any doubts as to what he will tell Israeli donors once the media is escorted out?

Meanwhile the Israelis aren’t happy about Romney trying to drag them into partisan disputes:

The high profile battle surrounding the state of ties between the allies has inserted Israel into the campaign as never before. But Israeli officials and analysts are anxious about that spotlight, and would prefer to be more of an afterthought. That’s because an election debate over Israel could damage long term ties between they countries by risking the Jewish state’s long cultivated bipartisan support in Washington.

“We don’t want to be part of the issue,” says an Israeli diplomat, who was not authorized to speak. “We have very strong bi-partisan support and we want to keep it that way. We want there to be strong relations with the US. Not with blue or red.”

Further in the article:

Republicans and the Israeli right see common cause “on three issues: the Land of Israel, religion, and family values,” says Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster. “There’s a natural connection to the Israeli left to the Democrats, and vice versa: That’s based on share values of democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and protection of minorities.”

But that risks upsetting a key strategy by pro-Israel allies in the US of cultivating support among both Democrats and Republicans in order to ensure that there’s continuity of US support for Israel regardless of who controls the White House or the Congress.

“It was very easy to stay out of this when American presidential candidates didn’t come to Israel three or four months before the election,” says one American Jewish official active in boosting bilateral ties. “If it looks like you look like you are backing one, and the other gets elected, you are in trouble.”

Romney hoped that his foreign trip might improve his reputation and make him look presidential, as a foreign trip did for Obama in 2008. Instead his constant gaffes only underscore how unprepared Mitt Romney is to be president, despite running for the job for several years. Romney’s often bizarre behavior is bound to result in more adverse media coverage, such as in the  Newsweek cover story (cover above). The story actually suggests that Romney might be something other than a wimp:

In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.

And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still…

But if Romney is elected? Be nervous. A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove. Reagan was happy with a jolly little shoot-up in Grenada, and eventually he settled down to the serious work of arms control, consummating historic treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev. But a weenie Republican—look out. He has something to prove, needs to reassert that “natural” advantage. That spells trouble more often than not.

Mitt Romney: Is he a wimp or a weenie? We report, you decide.

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ABC Promoting Bloomberg Story On Koch Illegal Activities

Conservatives in general, and especially the extraordinarily ignorant people who make up the Tea Party movement, are among the most gullible people who have ever lived. If you need sheep to promote your interests who will believe that cigarettes pose no danger to one’s health or that climate change poses no danger to the environment, there are plenty of conservatives who can easily be fooled into promoting your cause. Conservatives and libertarians are also the most dangerous threat to freedom and a working capitalist system in the world–presenting a far greater threat to free market economies than the socialists ever did. Conservatives promote a world view based upon false historical and economic facts which leads the right wing sheep to promote government policies which enrich the ultra-wealthy and eliminate the regulations which are essential for a market economy to function fairly. Of course the leaders of the conservative movement are well aware that the principles they preach are false, as can be seen in their actions.

The Koch brothers have been long-time heroes to libertarians and conservatives who have been unaware of how they have used government to enrich themselves. Their brand of libertarianism also appears to mean that they feel free to ignore the law. Bloomberg published a recent report on the activities of the Koch brothers, which has now been picked up by ABC News:

In a recent documentary, David Koch can be seen addressing Tea Party leaders and espousing American values, saying, “The American dream of free enterprise, capitalism is alive and well.”

But now questions are being raised about the American values of the source of the Koch brothers’ wealth.

This week’s edition of Bloomberg Markets reveals that one Koch Industries subsidiary was trading with Iran and that another subsidiary in France was paying bribes to get business in six different countries.

In one previously undisclosed document from a French labor court case, Koch Industries admits the payments are “violations of criminal law.” A company spokesperson told ABC News that the letter relates only to the conduct of the employee fired in the bribery case and “does not discuss or concern United States law or the company’s potential liability.”

“It’s a document right there in the court record, out of the lips of Koch Industries,” said David Evans, one of the co-authors of the Bloomberg Markets article.


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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Non-News & The Rise of The Iranian Machines

Here’s an abbreviated edition for this holiday weekend, dominated by non-news. There was no new broadcast of Doctor Who this week, with the BBC having concluded the series and BBC America taking the holiday weekend off, now falling four weeks behind the BBC. Coming up on Saturday is The Lodger in which The Doctor tries to blend in as a normal person when stranded without the Tardis for a week.  It is pretty much a stand alone episode, but there are subtle references to other events of the season, including a crack in the wall.

Other non-news involving Doctor Who is that the BBC is stating there are no plans for the rumored Doctor Who movie.  I’m not really disappointed. There is little point unless they came up with the right stand-alone story to be done as a movie. Even then, to avoid messing up the regeneration count, I would only like to see them do one if they used the current Doctor. The one exception to this is if they were able to bring back David Tennant to reprise his role.

In yet more non-news. there has been speculation that Matt Smith will be dropped as The Doctor. I did think he was a bit young and did not have the stature to follow David Tennant, but that would have been a difficult task for any actor. Fortunately Karen Gillan did such an excellent job as Amy Pond that this helped make the season a success.

There is also no news about the specifics of the script for the Christmas Special with rumors that the script is lost.

Iranian Robot Pre-Cylon

And finally, moving away from D, those who fear that we are fated to destroyed by Cylons or other robots of our own creation might take a look at Iran, which has announced the development of robots to do “sensitive jobs.” There is no elaboration on what there capabilities actually are.

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Why The Authoritarian Right Has A More Negative View of Libertarians Than Democrats Do

I’ve had a number of posts on libertarian views of the Democrats and Republicans, including posts on libertarians supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election.  Kos notes an interesting item in a Pew Research Center study which looks at it from the opposite direction. The overall survey looks at views on capitalism and socialism, but one question looks at how Democrats and Republicans view libertarians:

Reactions to the word “libertarian” are evenly divided — 38% positive, 37% negative. On balance, Republicans view “libertarian” negatively, Democrats are divided, while independents have a positive impression of the term…

More than four-in-ten independents (44%) react positively to the word “libertarian,” while 32% have a negative reaction. Democrats are nearly evenly divided (39% positive, 37% negative). However, Republicans on balance have a negative impression of this term (44% negative, 31% positive).

I agree with Kos that it is not surprising that Republicans have a more negative view of the word “libertarian” than Democrats do. He writes:

The notion that Republicans are libertarian is ludicrous. They stick their noses into our bedrooms, into our doctors’ offices, into churches. They demand the roundup of people who don’t look like them. They whine about Miranda rights and due process. They are more concerned about the rights of big energy conglomerates, than they are about the rights of people to enjoy long walks on pristine beaches. They whine about true independent and free media that doesn’t validate their ideology. They freak out about anyone who doesn’t believe in their god, or worse, in any god at all.

For the American Taliban, “liberty” means their ability to impose their beliefs and lifestyle on the rest of society.

So of course they would react negatively to the word, since they equate it with libertinism. For a movement predicated on imposing its mores on the rest of society, this is obviously deeply offensive.

I agree that for the most part the negative impression of  “libertarian” is due to the authoritarian nature of the current conservative movement and Republican Party. There might also be an additional factor. While it makes little sense, many libertarians have seen the Republican Party as being closer to their views and have attempted to influence the party. This may have resulted in more conflicts between individual Republicans and libertarians, making some Republicans more likely to express a negative opinion of them as a result of such conflict along with their fundamental difference in views.

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American Influence Improves Due To “Obama Effect”

International opinion regarding the United States has rebounded sharply since the Bush years according to a recent BBC survey.It is especially notable that American “soft power” has increased while Chinese influence has been “in neutral.”

For the first time since the annual poll began in 2005, America’s influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative.

The improved scores for the US coincided with Barack Obama becoming president, a BBC correspondent notes.

As in 2009, Germany is viewed most favourably while Iran and Pakistan are seen as the most negative influences…

“People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war,” said Doug Miller, chairman of international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the poll with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland.

“While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again.”

Pipa director Steven Kull noted: “After a year, it appears the ‘Obama effect’ is real.

“Its influence on people’s views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States’ image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus.”

He added: “While China’s image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.”

Of the full list of 28 countries surveyed this year, the US is viewed positively in 19 (20 including the US itself), while six lean negative and two are divided.

Compared with 2009, positive views of the US jumped 21% in Germany, 18 in Russia, 14 in Portugal and 13 in Chile – though Russia and Germany continued to have a negative view of the US overall.

Meanwhile, negative opinions of the US declined by 23% in Spain, 14 in France and 10 in the UK, with the result that all three lean towards a positive view of the country.

Such an improvement  in American influence was anticipated by Obama supporters and Andrew Sullivan points out that, “One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era.”

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Sarah Palin Rejects Separation of Church and State

Back in 2007 I had a post debunking John McCain’s claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. This is an area where he agreed with his 2008 running mate. Steven Benen reports that Sarah Palin has made this and several other similar mistakes.  She believes that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that “God should be separated from the state.” She believes that the Founding Fathers, who promoted the principle of separation of church and state, were opposed to one of their  most important ideas.

Palin also suggested that suggests religious people necessarily also reject separation of church in state. Actually it has often been religious people who understood the importance of separation of church and state to guarantee their right to worship as they wished.

Benen commented:

The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That’s backwards — Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. I’ll look forward to the conservative explanation of how the Founding Fathers were godless socialists.

I also can’t wait to hear how right-wing voices who want smaller government believe it’s appropriate for the federal government to issue decrees encouraging private American citizens to engage in worship.

But far less amusing is the fact that Palin and others of her radical ilk reject any notion that “God should be separated from the state.” It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud. There are some countries that endorse Palin’s worldview and intermix God and government — Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind — but they’re generally not countries the United States tries to emulate.

The separation of church and state has long been a concept that all Americans could embrace, and has served as a model for nations around the world to follow. For Palin to publicly denounce this bedrock American principle suggests she might actually be getting worse…

If anyone this conspicuously unintelligent has ever sought national office, I can’t think of who he/she is.

Personally I don’t find any of this surprising considering how Palin ignored the separation of church and state as Governor of Alaska.

Update: Crooks & Liars has video along with a discussion of Palin’s association with the Prayer Warriors.

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Mitt Romney Claims Obama Is Supporting 9/11 Truthers

Mitt Romney, talking on the weekly GOP infomercial Fox News Sunday, accused Barack Obama of supporting 9/11 Truthers such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Susceptibility to brainwashing must run in the Romney family. His father admitted he was brainwashed about Viet Nam. Unfortunately Mitt does not understand how he has been brainwashed by the far right.

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There Are Crazier People In The World Than Glenn Beck

I’ve had many posts regarding the delusions and misinformation commonly spread by the right wing in the United States. Dealing with disputes involving domestic politics often ignores the fact that there are even crazier people in the world than Glenn Beck who we disagree with even more with regards to reality. For example, there is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Two days before his official trip to Afghanistan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a “big lie” intended to pave the way for the invasion of a war-torn nation, according to Iranian state media.

Ahmadinejad, known for his harsh rhetoric toward the West and Israel, said the attack on U.S. soil was a “scenario and a sophisticated intelligence measure,” Iran’s state-run Press TV reported Saturday.

The assault was a “big lie intended to serve as a pretext for fighting terrorism and setting the grounds for sending troops to Afghanistan,” Press TV reported Ahmadinejad as saying.

It’s not the first time Ahmadinejad has denied a historical tragedy. In the past, he has denied the existence of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of some 6 million Jews during World War II, and suggested Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

“Today,” he said Saturday, “with blessings from the Almighty, the capitalist system, founded by the Zionists, has also reached an end,” Press TV quoted Ahmadinejad.

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John Kerry Addresses U.S.-Islamic World Forum

John Kerry, currently Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the man who might have become president in 2004 if only there were more voting machines available in some urban areas of Ohio, gave an excellent speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum. Spencer Ackerman writes, “This is the speech that should have been given to the Muslim world by President John Kerry in 2005.”

Kerry noted how the world is changing:

For a decade, our relationship was framed by trauma and terrorism, by two ongoing wars and political conflict—and the fallout only polarized us further. Many Muslims perceived the United States as an aggressor – projecting its power solely to protect its own security and economic interests, usually at the expense of Muslim countries. Too many in western societies implicitly, and at times explicitly, blamed an entire religion for the unholy violence of a few. This left many Muslims angry and alienated and complicated the task for leaders in the region.

At the same time, suicide bombers and extremists dominated the daily news. While credible and respected Muslim voices did publicly condemn the fanaticism and violence, their actions received little attention from the media and policymakers. Too often, the extremists defined an “us versus them” discourse, and all of us suffered for it.

Since President Obama took office, we have witnessed a dramatic shift. While expectations were perhaps too high that the world would change overnight, we know that his words and our subsequent actions were just the beginning of a long road.

Kerry also discussed what must be done in the future along with how conditions are changing:

First, America is striving to think and talk differently about Islam. We reject—publicly and categorically—the demonization of a religion and recognize our need for deeper understanding. Our values and our history remind us constantly that religious bigotry – whether it is anti-Semitism or Islamophobia – has no place in our public life. America was founded by those seeking freedom of religion, and all Western countries need to recognize that banning burqas or minarets is contrary to our shared values. It builds unnecessary walls between Muslims and the rest of society. It’s insulting, and it only exacerbates tensions.

Second, we must acknowledge that a serious debate is now underway within Muslim communities over how best to address extremism and combat prejudice. This is an important development because ultimately, it is those communities that are best positioned to find solutions that resonate. I want to commend His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan for his signature work in promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue through “A Common Word” initiative, which attracts more signatories every day. I want to also recognize His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for promoting interreligious dialogue. And of course, the Qataris deserve great credit for hosting forums like this one.

Third, the United States is reaching out to the next generation and cultivating people-to-people relationships. President Obama has created new science envoys and exchange programs. Our space program, NASA, is welcoming Muslim students from around the world and financing a research program in the Gulf. And Secretary of State Clinton has appointed a Special Representative to Muslim Communities who is focused on people-to-people engagement, Farah Pandith, who is here with us today. All of these initiatives add up to a different attitude and a different approach.

Kerry pointed out how there must be changes in the treatment of women:

But for societies to harness their full potential, we also need to address the aspirations of women. Countries cannot expect to be competitive if half the workforce is economically marginalized or denied rights and opportunities. While this effort sometimes runs hard up against cultures and traditions, as we in America learned with the election of our first African-American president, once a barrier has been broken, we wonder how it could ever have stood for so long.

Kerry concluded with a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and conditions in Gaza. He pointed out that achieving peace alone will not solve all of the problems:

I know that everyone here understands the urgent need for peace. But peace alone will not solve all the region’s problems. Ask yourselves: If peace were delivered tomorrow, would it meet the job needs of the entire region? How many more children would it send to school? Who really believes that Iran would suddenly abandon its nuclear ambitions? So we know that Israel/Palestine is central but we must develop a much more practical partnership that extends well beyond regional conflicts.

The full text is under the fold:


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Out of Context Quote Distorts Obama Administration View on Response to Terrorism

Here’s a good example of how a phrase taken out of context can really convey a different meaning. Jake Tapper, referring to an op-ed by John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, has a misleading headline saying, WH: Some Critics ‘Serving the Goals of al Qaeda’. The same headline is going out on Twitter and Facebook, giving a misleading idea of what Brennan actually said.

The first impression from this title is that the White House has resorted to the same sort of jingoism seen during the Bush years, such as that if you are not with us you are supporting the terrorists. Reading Brennan’s actual op-ed gives an entirely different meaning when these words are not taken out of context. This quote comes from this passage:

Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America’s counterterrorism professionals and America’s system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.

Headlines do need to condense, but simply expanding the headline to “unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda” provides a far closer view of what Brennan wrote. He is repeating what many of us critics of the Bush administration and the right wing response to terrorism have been saying since 9/11. The goal of terrorists is to instill terror in the population. Fear-mongering by the right wing does play into their hands, and does serve the goals of al Qaeda.

Brennan also makes another point which many others have also made in recent weeks since the Obama administration has been attacked for handling the attempted Christmas day terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian court (emphasis mine):

It’s naive to think that transferring Abdulmutallab to military custody would have caused an outpouring of information. There is little difference between military and civilian custody, other than an interrogator with a uniform. The suspect gets access to a lawyer, and interrogation rules are nearly identical.

Would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid was read his Miranda rights five minutes after being taken off a plane he tried to blow up. The same people who criticize the president today were silent back then.

Cries to try terrorists only in military courts lack foundation. There have been three convictions of terrorists in the military tribunal system since 9/11, and hundreds in the criminal justice system — including high-profile terrorists such as Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarius Moussaoui.

Brennan also responds to those on the right who claim that the Obama administration is not taking the threat of terrorism seriously, noting Obama’s successes in 2009 and how they compare to Bush’s record:

This administration’s efforts have disrupted dozens of terrorist plots against the homeland and been responsible for killing and capturing hundreds of hard-core terrorists, including senior leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — far more than in 2008. We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war.

Update: An op-ed at The Washington Examiner further misquotes Brennan with a headline reading:  White House: People who criticize us are helping al Qaeda.

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