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“Don’t Criticize Me, I’m Running For President”: Romney Camp Can’t Hold Back From Editing Endorsements

Mitt Romney’s campaign is fast developing a reputation for selectively omitting quotes and passages that reflect poorly on the candidate in its press releases.

The latest blow up is over a pair of newspaper endorsements that Romney received this week, both of which were generally positive but tempered with some criticisms of his position on various issues where they disagreed.

The latest came on Friday, as the Romney campaign sent out another newspaper endorsement, this one from the Arizona Republic, that left out sections criticizing Romney’s position on immigration policy as well as his skills as a campaigner. It did also leave out some more positive passages as well on his foreign policy views.

As reported by TPM this week, Romney’s campaign recently e-mailed out an endorsement from the Detroit News that left out a paragraph criticizing his handling of the auto bailout:

We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan — his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.

The editors who wrote the endorsement were upset over the Romney camp’s move, calling it a “distortion” of their words. Although a spokesman for Romney said they were only complying with copyright laws by not including the full editorial, a top First Amendment lawyer told TPM that he was unaware of any relevant legal issues.

Last month, Buzzfeed reported that the Romney campaign was also editing transcripts of its own conference calls with the press to leave out pointed questions and less than stellar answers from its surrogates. In addition, the campaign edited an article on supporter John McCain to leave out a section on their past disagreements and left out concerns in a Des Moines Register endorsement over Romney’s history of changing positions on some issues.


By: Benjy Sarlin, Talking Points Memo, February 24, 2012

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denying Women Coverage Under Any Guise Is A Big Step Backward

Maybe you saw the pictures. Five middle-age men seated at a congressional hearing table to discuss freedom of religion and contraception. And not a single woman was on the panel. Unbelievable. Do you think Congress would ever have a hearing on prostate cancer and only have women speak? Of course not.

Washington is so out of touch with what’s happening to families across this country that the Senate is about to vote on an amendment that would allow any insurance company or any employer to claim a vague “moral conviction’’ as an excuse to deny you health care coverage. Here’s the really astonishing news: Senator Scott Brown is not only voting for this amendment, he is fighting to get it passed.

What does this mean? If you are married and your employer doesn’t believe married couples should use birth control, then you could lose coverage for contraception. If you’re a pregnant woman who is single, and your employer doesn’t like it, you could be denied maternity care. This bill is about how to cut coverage for basic health care services for women.

Let’s be clear what this proposed law is not about: This is not about Catholic institutions or the rights of Catholics to follow their faith. President Obama has already made sure religious institutions will not be forced to cover contraception – at the same time that he has made sure women can get the health care they need directly from their health care insurers.  Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of Catholic Health Association, said that  Obama’s approach “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.’’

I support  Obama’s solution because I believe we must respect people of all religious faiths, while still ensuring that women have access to contraceptives.  Brown has rejected this compromise. Instead, he has cosponsored a bill that will let any employer or any insurance company cut off contraceptive care, maternity care, or whatever they want, and leave women without coverage at all for this basic medical care. This bill is about how to cut coverage for basic health care services for women.

It is shocking that in 2012, Brown and his Republican colleagues would try to pass a law to threaten women’s access to birth control and other health care. Women all across this Commonwealth should have the right to use birth control if they want to. Giving corporate CEOs and insurance companies the power to dictate what health care women can and cannot get is just  wrong. Those decisions should be up to women and their doctors.

Our goal should be to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high-quality health care. At a time when families are struggling with the costs of health care, we should be trying to strengthen our health care system – not finding ways to create loopholes that threaten the rights of women to obtain the health care they need.

Massachusetts has been a leader in every aspect of health care: increasing access, reducing costs, and engaging in the innovations and research that make higher quality care better. We need to keep moving forward – not take a big step backward.


By: Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Candidate for US Senate (MA), published in The Boston Globe, February 24, 2012-

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Corporate Personhood”: Should Corporations Have More Leeway To Kill Than People Do?

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a case with many potential ramifications for American and international law, and for corporate responsibility for human rights around the globe. The justices will be asked to decide whether the corporations to which they have been extending the rights of individuals should also be held accountable for crimes against human rights, just as individuals are.

The story behind the case begins in 1980, when my colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights and I helped obtain the first semblance of justice to the family of a slain 17-year-old Paraguayan youth named Joelito Filártiga.

A police inspector general in Asunción, the capital, had tortured the boy to death in retaliation for his father’s opposition to Paraguay’s brutal dictatorship. But the case was decided in New York, far from Paraguay, where the crime had occurred and where justice had proven impossible for the Filártiga family; the boy’s murderer was ultimately ordered to pay the family $10.4 million in damages.

The precedent-setting case was made possible by a remarkable decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which allowed it to be brought under a long-obscure law enacted by Congress in 1789. Known as the Alien Tort Statute, the law has been interpreted to mean that foreigners who commit heinous crimes abroad in violation of international law can be held accountable in the United States if they are present or do business here; the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2004.

Since that decision, dozens of successful alien tort claims have been brought in American courts – at first against individuals, and eventually against corporations. As a result, many foreign victims of egregious crimes – ranging from torture and slave labor to the execution of loved ones – that were sanctioned, endorsed or commissioned by corporations have found justice in our courts.

Yet in September 2010, a divided Second Circuit – the very court that had rendered the Filártiga decision – held that only individuals, and not corporations, can be sued under the statute.

That ruling, in a case known as Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, came less than a year after the much more famous – and criticized – Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which removed restrictions on political spending by contributions and wildly expanded the concept of corporate personhood.

Together, these decisions have triggered a wave of outrage among advocates for human rights, which see in them a signal from the courts that corporations have extensive rights but few responsibilities under American law.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the alien torts ruling, which could produce its first decision regarding corporate personhood since Citizens United.

The question of whether foreign corporations doing business in the United States can be sued here for crimes committed elsewhere has arrayed international businesses against human rights advocates, with many “friend of the court” briefs filed on both sides. Four governments have also chimed in: Britain, the Netherlands and Germany for the corporate defendant and the United States on the side of the Nigerian plaintiffs.

The story behind the Kiobel case is compelling: The plaintiffs are members of the Ogoni people in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where Royal Dutch Shell had extensive oil operations in the 1990s through contracts with the brutal military dictatorship that held power at the time. The region is widely considered a zone of calamity, in terms of both environmental and human rights. In the suit, Royal Dutch Shell was accused of assisting the Nigerian government in torturing and, through sham trials, executing Ogoni activists who had threatened to disrupt Shell’s operations because of the devastating health and environmental effects of unregulated drilling practices. The plaintiffs are either victims of torture themselves or had relatives who were executed. Esther Kiobel, the plaintiff after whom the suit is named, is the widow of a victim.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Royal Dutch Shell and against the plaintiffs, multinational corporations – particularly in mining and other extractive industries – could draw the lesson that it is now safer to forge alliances with autocratic regimes that have poor human rights records because they will not be judged culpable in the way individuals can be.

In fact, many “friend of the court” briefs filed by corporations in this case contend that the companies are committed to voluntarily complying with human rights norms – but that standards set by the United Nations and other public and private organizations are mere guidelines that are not enforceable as legal norms. What they are really saying is that there are legal norms against torture and such, but that they can’t be enforced against corporations because they have never been enforced under international law – a claim the plaintiffs strongly contest.

This leaves the Supreme Court with an extraordinary choice to make, in juxtaposition to its previous ruling in Citizens United: whether to accept an argument that, in effect, leaves corporations less culpable than individuals are for human rights violations committed abroad – or whether to hold that if a 200-year-old law can be used to hold individual violators to account, it can be used against corporate violators as well.

A decision affirming that Shell should go unpunished in the Niger Delta case would leave us with a Supreme Court that seems of two minds: in the words of Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent from Citizens United, it threatens “to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation” by treating corporations as people to let them make unlimited political contributions, even as it treats corporations as if they are not people to immunize them from prosecution for the most grievous human rights violations.

A more startling paradox is difficult to imagine.


By: Peter Weiss, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 25, 2012

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Corporations, Human Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beyond The Fanatical Fringe”: What Rick Santorum’s America Would Look Like?

Rick Santorum, the culture warrior who lost his Senate seat in 2006, is polling within striking distance of Mitt Romneyin Michigan and Arizona, where Republican primaries will be held Tuesday. His unabashed use of his traditionalist faith in politicking and policymaking has been gaining popularity. What ifhe wins the nomination — and then the White House?What would life look like in Santorum’s America? How religious would his presidency be? Here, the author imagines what President Santorum would tell his key constituency — religious conservatives — as he ran for reelection four years from now.

Thank you. Thank you very much for that kind introduction. As Tony mentioned, I am the only sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit, something I have done each year since I took office in 2013. I’m here today, and have been to every Values Voter Summit, because I, like you, am a values voter.

Four years ago, liberal elites said I couldn’t win. They said I talked about my faith and about social issues too much. Some even called me a bigot. They said someone like me, someone whose views were so “extreme” on matters of life, marriage and family, could not win the presidency. Well, we proved them wrong.

Because of our values, we never gave up, and under my administration we have finally defunded Planned Parenthood. No longer will your tax dollars support that abortion mill or any programs that indoctrinate young girls to be sexual libertines — programs that say, “Here’s a pill, go ahead, have fun, it’s all about pleasure.” We said no — the government cannot force us to use our tax dollars to support unnatural acts. Now that money goes to pregnancy care centers, which help mothers rather than telling them to abort their babies.

One of my first acts as president was the creation of the Presidential Commission on Religious Liberty. Since its inception in early March 2013, the commission has investigated 249 instances of infringement of Americans’ religious freedom. Its quarterly public hearings, led by Chairman Maggie Gallagher and streamed live on the commission’s Web site, have served to educate Americans about the daily oppression of our faith, in the name of tolerance, by government and individuals.

Because of the brave stands religious leaders took across the country, we stopped the Obama birth control and morning-after abortion pill mandate in its tracks. Gone. We drew a line in the sand and created a conscience exemption for religious business owners and institutions to opt out of Obamacare entirely, thanks be to God. It’s because of our values that we came close — this close! — to repealing that abominable experiment in government playing God altogether. You — we — stand in the gap, reminding Americans that our rights come from natural law, not from the government.

We have accomplished much, but there is still much to do. We have gathered support for the Dignity of the Preborn Person Act, which, if passed, would recognize in civil law what we know to be true as a matter of God’s law: that every human life, at every stage, deserves protection. This bill ensures that each life, from the moment of conception, is entitled to the rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. When that bill becomes law, unborn persons will no longer be denied their personhood, their God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To promote families, the foundation of our society and our economy, my administration has taken several steps: We have increased funding to the Healthy Marriage Initiative and the responsible-fatherhood project through the Department of Health and Human Services. We’ve reinstated funding for abstinence-education programs. We’ve broken down barriers left in place by my predecessor to faith-based organizations receiving funding under these programs. My Justice Department, unlike that of my predecessor, is dedicated to defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, and my solicitor general will do so vigorously when the current challenge reaches the Supreme Court of the United States.

To unleash the innovations that make America great, we continue to push for repeal of the laws and regulations that stifle economic growth: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank financial reform, the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules. Lifting the yoke of all those regulations, along with securing our borders from illegal immigration, will both create and protect jobs for America’s workers. We’ve eliminated my predecessor’s boondoggles at the EPA and Department of Energy — promoting “green” energy and “green” jobs — and instead are tapping into the great natural resources we already know exist: oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. We’ve gotten rid of wasteful, endless bureaucratic study of global warming and have placed America on the road to energy independence, freeing us from relying on sources of energy from America’s enemies.

We fight many battles here at home, but there are other battles, too, against Islamic extremists who have their sights on America, on Israel and on Western civilization — Christendom itself. I rejected my predecessor’s dangerous appeasement policy and launched our air campaign against Iran’s nuclear sites, which will continue until we ensure that this existential threat to Israel and America is annihilated.

These battles overseas are just one front in the fight against Islamic radicalism. Nothing short of the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation is at risk. That’s why I support the Defend the American Constitution Act, which would bar federal courts from acknowledging or relying on sharia law.

Friends, when I was first elected four years ago, the very core of what makes our nation great — our faith — was under assault. While the economy was unraveling under the weight of regulations and oppressive government mandates, that election wasn’t about the economy. It was about something far more fundamental than job creation and tax rates — although those things are of course important. What changed the course of the campaign and made Barack Obama a one-term president was that voters saw through the haze of feel-good Christianity and realized that we teetered on the brink. The government of the New Deal, Great Society and Obamacare was on the verge of implementing its final offensive against our most fundamental freedoms. It had become abundantly clear that if we did not stand up for our faith, we would end up sitting in the back of the bus.

After nearly four years in office, we are going in the right direction, but there is still much work to do. We must keep the White House and the House of Representatives and, crucially, regain control of the Senate, which we won in 2012 but lost in 2014. If you want Supreme Court justices who are constitutionalists, who believe that the abomination of same-sex “marriage” must be stopped before it destroys us, who believe that the “right to privacy” and “separation of church and state” were pulled out of thin air by activist judges, we need a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

When you vote this November, remember you are not just voting for Rick Santorum, but for the Senate and House as well. You can and you must vote your faith — or risk losing America as we know it.

By: Sarah Posner, The Washington Post, February 24, 2012

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Poor-People Programs”: Mitt Romney’s Budget In About 150 Words

Let’s try to make this as simple as possible. Money comes into the federal government through taxes and bonds. The vast majority of it is then spent on old-people programs, poor-people programs, and defense.

Mitt Romney is promising that taxes will go down, defense spending will go up, and old-people programs won’t change for this generation of retirees. So three of his four options for deficit reduction — taxes, old-people programs, and defense — are now either contributing to the deficit or are off-limits for the next decade.

Romney is also promising that he will pay for his tax cuts, pay for his defense spending, and reduce total federal spending by more than $6 trillion over the next 10 years. But the only big pot of money left to him is poor-people programs. So, by simple process of elimination, poor-people programs will have to be cut dramatically. There’s no other way to make those numbers work.


By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, February 25, 2012

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Federal Budget | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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