The first game of Major League Baseball’s World Series was filled with ads promoting MLB’s association with a group called Stand Up To Cancer. The ads told viewers how MLB for standing up to cancer, but curiously only mentioned research. The ads offered no information at all about cost-free prevention methods that we already know really do work to prevent cancer, like quitting smoking and chewing tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding environmental pollutants. None of these methods require any research, and all are inexpensive and known to be effective. Instead, MLB’s ads drive viewers to Stand Up To Cancer’s website, which does mention quitting smoking, although that information is buried several screens deep. The ads put all the front-and-center emphasis on research and fighting cancer at the cell level, rather than at the policy level, which is an extraordinarily expensive and relatively unproductive focus. Stand Up to Cancer’s website makes no mention whatsoever about policy changes we now know really do prevent disease when it come to smoking, like smoke-free public places and workplaces, eliminating smoking in movies, etc. All MLB’s ads really mean is that MLB purchased a deft ad campaign that was designed to paint MLB as fighting a dread disease. The ads are very slick and good; they evoke emotion by focusing on how a dread disease affects real people, and frame MLB as part of the solution — exactly the right PR prescription for generating goodwill but making no real changes in the status quo. MLB bought itself some goodwill credits, but the ad campaign is guaranteed to have little or no effect on cancer deaths, and does nothing to give people real information on cost-free actions that really can affect cancer rates.
In the third presidential debate last Monday night, Republican candidate Mitt Romney displayed his lack of foreign policy acumen in many ways, not the least of which was when he said that Syria is “Iran’s route to the sea.” Syria isn’t even a neighbor of Iran and Iran has a coast of its own that gives it direct access to international waters, so Iran doesn’t need to rely on Syria to get to the sea at all. It was a factually false statement, but what is even more surprising is that Romney has made this same patently false statement repeatedly during the campaign and been called out on it as many times. He said it last February at a GOP debate in Arizona. He said it in a TV interview on December 21, 2011 on MSNBC. He’s said it at least three other times, too, and the error has been brought to his attention. Despite having made, and been corrected, on this same mistake at least five times before during his campaign, Romney stuck to this geographical misstatement in the important, final debate with President Obama on foreign affairs. Did Mr. Romney neglect to check a map of the middle east prior to his debate on foreign affairs with President Obama? Did he think he could make the same mistake again and people just wouldn’t notice? Doesn’t he care whether his statements are factually correct in a nationally-televised debate?
The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine has an explosive new analysis of more than 1,500 pages of internal documents from the archives of now-defunct sugar companies that reveals that for 40 years, the sugar industry engaged in a massive PR campaign to sow doubt about studies linking sugar consumption to disease. After a growing body of independent research started implicating sugar as a significant cause of heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes and other diseases, the sugar industry responded by developing a PR scheme that included secretly funding scientists to perform studies exonerating sugar as a source of disease. The sugar industry also secretly created a front group, the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council, that they stocked with physicians and dentists who were willing to defend sugar’s purported place in a healthy diet. Sugar companies also worked to shift the conversation about diabetes away from sugar and boost the notion that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, were a bigger culprit in causing heart disease than sugar.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has asked the Internal Revenue Service (pdf) to investigate a Texas church after the pastor posted a message on the church’s marquee urging people to “VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! The “Mormon” reference is to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. ABC News reported that the sign is an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, whom many conservatives believe is a “secret Muslim” even though President Obama says he is a Christian and attends church with his family. According to ABC News, Ray Miller, the pastor of the Church of the Valley in Leakey, Texas, said he put the sign up because “he feels strongly about the election.” The church sign violates U.S. law, however, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including all churches, from endorsing political candidates.
Source: Americans United for Separation of Church and State press release, October 23, 2012
For most people, it’s a given that politicians lie, but even with such universally low expectations for candidates, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stands out. The brazenness and persistence of Romney’s lying has drawn notice from all quarters. This isn’t just the perception of wild-eyed liberals, either. In October, 2011, Matt Welch of Reason.com, a right-leaning publication that supports free markets, wrote about Romney’s prodigious lying in an article titled “Mitt Romney’s Lying Problem”. An October 8, 2012 Forbes.com article noted Romney’s large number of lies and reversals in positions on policies. Even far right-wing Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich openly called Mitt Romney a liar on CBS News’ “The Early Show.”
Mitt Romney’s prodigious lying exceeds anything ever seen before in American politics, by all accounts. Given this, one overall question remains: How can Romney be so comfortable with such lying? Most average Americans would recoil at the idea of spewing as many lies as Romney has, let alone doing it in the white-hot spotlight of the national and global media. So what has given rise to a person like Romney, who so verifiably, consistently and freely lies the way he does? And how does this square with his Mormon religion, which, at least in print, preaches that complete honesty is necessary for salvation?
Mitt Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, may refuse to make public the clients it has served, but now previously-secret tobacco industry documents reveal Bain & Company worked closely with cigarette makers British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Gallaher, to help them expand their markets and become more profitable at the expense of global public health. Bain helped British American Tobacco (BAT) crack open the cigarette market in Russia and transform it into a lucrative business at a time when American tobacco companies were under pressure at home and smoking rates in the U.S. were decreasing. By 1993, during the time when Bain worked with cigarette makers, the dangers of smoking were well established. The 1964 Surgeon General’s report had announced that cigarettes caused cancer. In 1988 the U.S. government warned that nicotine was addictive in a similar manner as heroin and cocaine. In 1989 the Surgeon General announced that most people begin smoking as children and one in every six Americans was dying from smoking. In 1993 the EPA rated secondhand tobacco smoke a Group A Human Carcinogen — the same rating the agency gives to asbestos, radon gas and vinyl chloride. Romney took over Bain in 1990 and stayed until 1995, when this crucial public health information about smoking was public. When Romney took over Bain, the company was in financial distress and seeking new clients. One of the first new clients Bain signed during that time was Philip Morris (PM). Little more than a month after Romney took over, Bain signed a six month contract with Philip Morris estimated to be worth $1 million.
Insurance companies are hot targets in the national discussion of skyrocketing medical costs and health care reform. But there is another, little-noticed factor could also be sucking untold health care dollars out of our pockets. It’s one we are also loathe to address: the part that doctors play in pushing up the costs of medical care. This is an area that is begs for closer scrutiny, and in which patients need more help.
An Examination Day Surprise
My interest in this topic was piqued by a personal experience that brought home the problem of runaway medical costs in a truly shocking way.
Republicans have long had the reputation of being the party most supportive of the military and of veterans in particular, but no more. On September 19 Senate Republicans, in their continued effort to oppose any idea introduced by President Obama, used a technicality to kill a bill that would have helped American veterans’ dire unemployment situation. The Veterans Job Corps Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), would have trained and placed veterans in jobs on federal public lands like national parks, wildlife refuges, veterans’ cemeteries and forests. The bill would have cost about $1 billion over five years — the equivalent of less than four days of the war in Afghanistan. The Act would have been funded through the collection of delinquent taxes from Medicare suppliers and providers, and from individuals who have over $50,000 in unpaid taxes. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Murray, said Republicans’ opposition to the bill stemmed from the party’s refusal to support the Veterans Job Corps Act because the idea for it came from President Obama, who proposed the Act during his State of the Union address in January, 2012. Republicans killed the bill in a 58-40 procedural vote to waive a budget rule which would have allowed the bill to go to a vote of the full Senate. Sixty votes were required. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the bill and appealed to Senators to pass the measure, expressed outrage that “This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work.” Among those voting “no” was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), himself a veteran, albeit one who has a job. A full list of senators’ votes on the bill can be found here.
A Dane County, Wisconsin Circuit Judge has ruled invalid most of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair” bill, saying it violates both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions. Walker’s so-called “budget repair” bill, passed after stimulating weeks of massive street protests by hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens last year, effectively swept away collective bargaining rights for most public sector employees. Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas, in ruling against the law, wrote that certain sections of the law “single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.” Colas found that by removing the rights of public sector employees like city, school and county employees, the law effectively created a separate class of workers who were treated differently and unequally, thus violating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the section that guarantees equal treatment under the law. Walker fought back by calling the judge a “liberal activist” and vowing to appeal. The ruling rolls back the law to where Wisconsin public employees were before the law was signed. Walker introduced the law just six weeks into his first term as Governor. During his campaign for governor, Walker did not disclose his intent to introduce the union-busting measure, instead focusing primarily on promises to create jobs in Wisconsin. The Court’s ruling was a major blow to the Republican Party’s efforts to weaken unions.
Main Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 14, 2012
How do corporations influence entire media markets? A 1995 Philip Morris (PM) document shows one way in which corporations work to influence the larger media to manipulate larger public opinion. The previously-secret document shows that PM hired a Denver-based public relations agency to implement an ambitious and comprehensive plan aimed at influencing Colorado media outlets and thus shift public opinion more in the company’s favor.
The document, titled “PM Media Action Network – Media Plan for Colorado,” was written by public relations firm Russell, Karsch & Hagen, based in Denver. It states:
“[We] will begin to reshape public opinion through the media…” and “…[W]e are confident we can continue to shift the media’s view, and, ultimately the view of the general public…toward issues affecting the industry.”
In keeping with PM’s internal adversarial view of public health efforts to reduce smoking, Russel, Karsch planned to develop a “War Book” of “key issues and message points we believe will be effective in Colorado.”
An entirely new kind of law firm has opened up in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Its stated mission is to take the side of average working people against the big dogs: the corporate polluters, discriminatory employers and unsafe manufacturers whose policies, behaviors, products and activities make life difficult for the rest of us. The new, high-powered public interest law firm specializes in fighting for beleaguered, regular working-class clients and on the way getting court rulings that will benefit entire communities. The group, Advocates for Justice Chartered Attorneys (AFJ), is made up of activist-minded attorneys who have extensive experience litigating against big corporations in specialty areas like labor and employment, consumer rights, environmental justice and civil rights. “Our mission is to ensure that high-quality legal representation is not limited to the wealthy, but is available to those who need it most. We represent regular, working people who suffer the bulk of our country’s legal problems,” says Sharon Y. Eubanks, one of the firm’s founding attorneys. Ms. Eubanks is an example of the high caliber of attorneys at AFJ — she served as lead counsel for the United States in the largest civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) enforcement action ever filed, United States v. Philip Morris USA, et al., also known as the federal tobacco litigation. Other attorneys at AFJ are Arthur Z. Schwartz, Cate Edwards, Richard Soto and Tracey Kiernan. AFJ’s website is afjlaw.com. In one of the firm’s current cases, AFJ is representing 170 parents and community members in a civil rights action against a school district in New York. The suit alleges that the school district violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by intentionally segregating white students into private schools, while cutting funds to the primarily black and Hispanic student population of the public schools. AFJ Law in D.C. is located at 11 Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036. The group also has an office on Broadway in New York City. If you need help or want a consultation, contact information is on the firms’ web site.
In a Sunday, August 19 interview on the “Jaco Report” on St. Louis’ Fox Channel, House Rep. Todd Akin, the tea party Republican running against incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, was asked whether he would support a woman’s right to have an abortion in the case of rape. Referring to pregnancy resulting from rape, Akin responded, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape,” he continued, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” Akin’s outrageous statement revealed not only his extreme lack of knowledge about basic human biology, but also an incredibly callous attitude towards women. His comments immediately drew outrage from a national audience. Akin tried to take back his comments shortly after the interview by issuing a statement that said, in part, “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.” Akin’s biosketch on his campaign website says he has an engineering degree and a Master of Divinity Degree from a theological seminary, and his children are home-schooled. His campaign website credits solely God for helping him win his primary election. Akin did not explain in the interview what he believes constitutes a “legitimate rape.” Rep. Akin teamed up with House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) last year to try to redefine the term “rape” in a federal bill. The bill sought to change the term “rape” to “forcible rape” in a bill regarding Medicaid funding, to try to further restrict women’s access to abortions in the event they are raped.
This article was updated at 6:56 p.m. MDT, August 20, 2012
The mainstream media is loathe to cover the touchy topic given Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, but devout Mormons wear special ceremonial underwear called “garments” underneath their clothes as a constant reminder of their faith. The white underwear symbolizes purity and covenants made with God. Mormons consider the garments to be the “protective armor of God,” and believe the underwear provides protection against temptation and evil. The special garments are sold only at Mormon church-owned stores or through Mormon church websites. Men’s undergarments consist of a white, somewhat exaggerated scoopneck undershirt and knee-length boxer-style briefs. Women’s garments similarly cover them from shoulders to knees, with an undershirt that has a sweetheart neck and some tailoring to accommodate the bust. Some people mock the garments by describing them as “magic Mormon underwear,” but Mormons consider them sacred and treat them with the utmost respect. So does Mitt Romney wear this special protective Mormon underwear? It appears that he does. In photos of him wearing white dress shirts, one can see an exaggerated scooped-neck, white undershirt underneath the fabric that looks very much like the photos of the sacred underwear Mormons wear under their street clothes.
Additional information about Mormon underwear:
The Thinking Atheists’ guide to Mormon underwear (contains information on difficult-to-see special features of the underwear and their significance)
A Brief Guide to Mormon Underwear (by Buzzfeed)
LDS information on “Temple Garments” and instructions to the media on how to treat the subject of the underwear
MormonSecret.com (a website that uses hunky male and sexy female models to demonstrate Mormon temple garments and that sells the garments to anyone regardless of their religion)
MormonCurtain.com (a website that blogs the ExMormon world — this is their page about temple garments)
L.A. Times article discussing Ann Romney’s underwear and MormonSecret.org
Rush Limbaugh called her “brilliant.” The Tea Party made a movie about her. Ron Paul says she “tells the truth” and GOP vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan once said that “more than anyone else, she explained the morality of capitalism and the morality of individualism” to him and inspired him to run for office. The woman about whom all these hard right wingers gush is Russian immigrant Ayn Rand, a political philosopher and novelist whose books and writings promote objectivism, a philosophy that holds that people should elevate their own self-benefit over all else. Rand believed that the there is no obligation whatsoever to care for your fellow man, and that the only real moral imperative is pursuit of your own happiness and self-interest, even at a high cost to others. Rand believed that people should be unconcerned with those who are less fortunate. But the politicians and right wingers who extoll the virtues of Rand and he extraordinarily hard individualist philosophy also ignore the fact that she was an atheist who scorned churches and the concept of God. “I am against God,” she once stated. “I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of psychological weakness…I regard it as evil.” Some even regarded Rand as a psychopath after she praised serial murderer William Edward Hickman as her ideal man and a “superman” who exemplified her philosophy of ultimate self-centeredness. In 1927, Hickman kidnapped and gruesomely dismembered a 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker, returning her torso to her parents with her eyes wired open after he extorted $1,500 in ransom from the child’s father.
1. If you use something, put it back where you got it.
2. If you get something dirty, clean it.
3. If you open it, close it when you are done.
4. Always arrive at the time you promised to be somewhere.
5. Say at least two nice things to someone before you criticize them.
6. Use initiative. Look around, anticipate what needs to be done, and then do it.
7. Do tasks to the best of your ability, not just to get them over with. People can tell the difference.
8. Take care of things that belong to you.
9. Take care of yourself. It’s a gift to others who care about you.
10. Occasionally leave the computer screen or put down the newspaper and interact with other human beings in your presence.
11. Do more than the minimum you need to do just to get by.
12. If you have a dog, walk and play with him every day.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has formally asked (pdf) to the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan to remove a 55-foot tall Christian cross from a public park. The cross was erected in a 1976 ceremony attended by then-Mayor of Frankenmuth Elmer Simon, who, at the dedication ceremony, said that “The simple cross of Christ assures us that life does not end with death. From our local heritage, this Christian symbol suggests that we are also a community under Christ.” More recently, the City has referred to the cross as “a tribute to the religious commitment of the Frankenmuth community.” AU points out that the display of a Christian cross in a taxpayer-supported public park is an unlawful endorsement of Christianity. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from promoting one religion above all others, and from promoting religion over non-religion, the group says, citing legal precedent for the symbol’s removal. AU suggested the City remove the cross to private land, and wrote, “Failure to remove the cross will expose the City to a significant risk of litigation.” AU requested a response from the City within 30 days. Frankenmuth is a city of about 5,000 nicknamed “Little Bavaria” that trades on its Bavarian-themed, timber-framed architecture, shops, breweries and German culture.
A University of California, Berkeley physics professor and longstanding critic of prevailing global warming science has reversed course and now attributes climate change directly to greenhouse gases produced by human-related activities. Professor Richard A. Muller, a climate change skeptic in the past, has taken funding from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation named after billionaire Charles G. Koch, owner of the big petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries and one of the most prolific funders of climate change denial and misinformation on Earth. Muller says a research project he undertook actually showed “that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover,” he says, “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.” Muller further concludes that “Humans are entirely the cause” of global warming. He calls his stance a “total turnaround” from the way he used to think. Muller authored an opinion piece in the Saturday, July 28 issue of the New York Times titled “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.”
Source: Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2012
Guest post by Ken Gordon, former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate
It would take you less than an hour to drive from Columbine High School to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. Both venues are in the suburbs of Denver and subject to the laws created by the Colorado Legislature.
Few politicians have mentioned laws when talking about the shooting in Aurora. The following story will help explain this reluctance.
I was the Minority Leader in the Colorado House when the Columbine shooting occurred.
Most of the guns used at Columbine were bought at the Tanner Gun Show in Adams County. Robyn Anderson, a friend of the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold, went with them to the show, and helped them buy the guns. She testified in a House hearing that they purposefully bought guns at tables that were not federally licensed dealers, because they did not want to give their names and addresses for a background check.
Following Columbine, I sponsored the legislation to require background checks for any purchase at a gun show. We referred to it as “closing the gun show loophole.”