How Bad Was Mitt Romney’s Prep School Bullying?

By |Posted Thursday, May 10, 2012, at 1:03 PM ET

Mitt Romney senior photo 1965

Mitt Romney senior photo 1965
Courtesy Cranbrook Schools.

In a must-read piece today, the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz reports that Mitt Romney was a prep school meanie. The story, which Horowitz got independently from five of Romney’s former classmates, is that after spring break in 1965, Romney came back to Cranbrook, his all-male private school in Michigan, and noticed that John Lauber, a new student a year younger than him, was wearing his hair bleached blond and hanging down over one eye. Lauber generally got teased for looking different and seeming gay, though he was not out. Romney’s friend at the time, Matthew Friedemann, recalls that Romney said of Lauber, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney kept complaining, and a few days later led a “prep school posse” that “came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground.”

Here’s the clincher: “As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.”

Remembering the incident, one witness told the Post, “to this day it troubles me.” Another called it “vicious.” Friedemann said he feels badly he didn’t try to stop it.  A fourth witness ran into Lauber at an airport bar three decades later and apologized to him. He says Lauber responded, “It was horrible,” and “It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since then.” Lauber, who was later expelled from Cranbrook for smoking a cigarette, eventually came out and lived a “vagabond” life, according to Horowitz, who spoke with Lauber’s sisters.  He died in 2004.

Through a spokeswoman, Romney at first called the story “exaggerated and off base.” On Thursday morning, he went on the radio to apologize. “I don’t remember that incident,” Romney said, laughing. “I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case.”

Let’s assume that the details five other people (most but not all of them Democrats) keenly recall are true. How bad is this, as an example of bullying? Was this just the sort of thing that went on at boarding schools in the 1960s? Or does it show a troubling lack of empathy on the part of Romney? The short answer is that it’s both.

Slate founder Michael Kinsley graduated from Cranbrook in 1968, overlapping with Romney, and remembers the school as fairly progressive. He put the story about Romney into the category of things teenage boys do that they’re later ashamed of—not beyond the bounds of Cranbrook’s culture in those days, if also not good. “He missed an opportunity,” Kinsley said. “If he could go back, he’d have broken up that group rather than leading it.”

In lashing out at kids who were perceived as effeminate, Romney wasn’t alone. Horowitz recounts that when Romney shouted “Atta girl!” at another closeted gay student who tried to speak up in English class, he was using language of the sort even teachers employed. Kinsley says that’s plausible but not typical.

Mitt and George Romney on Commencement Day, June 1965

Mitt and George Romney on Commencement Day, June 1965
Courtesy Cranbrook Schools.

Technically speaking, the Post account doesn’t make Romney a bully. The academic definition of bullying is verbal or physical abuse that involves a power imbalance and that’s also repeated. We don’t have evidence that Romney went after Lauber more than once. But given the nature of the incident, it may be splitting hairs to absolve him of bullying. As the child abuse expert David Finkelhor has written, one-off acts of cruelty can also count as serious peer victimization and are very much worth addressing. If Romney was a high school student who did this today and got caught, he’d be punished, and for good reason. In retrospect, the idea that he got away with this act of cruelty while Lauber ended up kicked out of school for smoking seems unjust.

It’s telling that decades later, Lauber remembered the hair-cutting and said he’d dwelled on it. Though it seems to have been a lone act, it was one that could well have had a lasting effect: Lauber would have had to walk around shorn afterward, marked for everyone to see. And even if Romney didn’t see the incident as anti-gay, that subtext is significant for thinking about the impact on Lauber. LGBT students are still more likely to be bullied and victimized by other kids: In a 2009 national survey, 85 percent of kids who identify as LGBT said they’d been verbally harassed at school, 40 percent physically harassed, and nearly 20 percent physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. The consequences have been laid out by researchers: Boys who are targets have higher levels of anxiety and depression. For girls, being taunted as a lesbian is linked to social withdrawal. Students who are harassed because of their sexual identity miss substantially more school and, in one study, earned lower grades. And in a study of young gay adults between the ages of 21 and 25, the ones who reported being bullied frequently in middle school and high school were over five times more likely to say they’d attempted suicide than the ones who hadn’t been victimized.

Romney, of course, wouldn’t have known any of this in 1965, and it’s not fair to hold him to today’s standard of awareness. The idea of homophobia wouldn’t have existed at Cranbrook then, Kinsley says. But it is fair to ask what rounding up a bunch of other students to pin a kid down and cut off his hair says about Romney’s sense of empathy. At that moment in time, he showed a startling lack of fellow feeling for John Lauber. This is the aspect of bullying I’ve found most disturbing, in my reporting on it. Experts say that when a powerful kid turns on a weaker one the way Romney did, he can experience a chilling cognitive shift, and come to see his victim as worthless. For a small number of kids who bully, this state of mind hardens, and they become people who can inflict pain without feeling compassion or remorse. Luckily, that is exceedingly rare. Most kids are pitiless one moment and then soften the next. Surely we can put Mitt Romney into this category. This high school incident of cruelty doesn’t mean that he is a cruel person.

At the same time, it does give the lie to this statement from his spokesperson: “Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body.” However true that may be today, like plenty of other people, Romney did reveal a mean streak in adolescence. As a teenager, he apparently saw a kid who didn’t conform to his idea of normal and went after him, cruelly, methodically, and aggressively. It’s not surprising that Romney would have been a straight-laced, by-the-book kind of student who policed gender norms, to use the parlance of our time. But it is surprising that he was such a jerk about it.

It’s also worth pointing out, as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has, that as a Yale sophomore in 1965, George W. Bush reportedly stuck up for a reputedly gay student.  Bush heard the student being called “queer,” told the taunters to shut up, and apparently also said, “Why don’t you try walking in his shoes for a while?” That’s the kind of instinctive compassion Mitt Romney failed to show when he was a few years younger than Bush was.

 

President Obama “Equality For All Under the Law”

For nearly four years the President has tried to appease the right wing.
He has been a steadfast moderate.
As a result of his centrist political stance, the progressives in the Democratic party have become, at best, unenthusiastic, some have become disillusioned, and some have reacted with anger.
Democrats say, “He is no different than Bush, he pursues the same policies, the same agenda, he’s just a better speaker.”
It is important to realize there is a difference.
The choice between Mitt Romney and President Obama is a no-brainer.
Mitt Romney inherited millions of dollars.
He has no conception of what it is like to work for a living, to struggle financially.
His wife recently said, “We have never had to struggle financially, but we have compassion for those who have.”
Mitt Romney almost singlehandedly has cost thousands of American jobs, in his work with Bain Capital.
What Bain does is buy a company, strip it’s assets, fire the workers, and relocate the jobs in foreign countries.
When Romney says he has created jobs, he is telling the truth.
He has created thousands of jobs in India and China.
As much as the President has tried to appease the radical right, they still attack him savagely.
They call him a Muslim.
A communist.
They say, “He is not like us.” (Read, ‘he’s black’)
Slowly it appears that the President has come to realize that he will never win the support of the far right.
Recently he has said things like, “People need to decide, are they with corporations that are making billions of dollars in profits and not paying their fair share of taxes, or are they with the middle class?”
 
Today the President of the United States came out in favor of marriage equality.
It’s about time.
 
North Carolina recently passed the first amendment in their history, outlawing gays.
Like Iran.
 
Who’s side are you on?
 

An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America

Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 01:57 PM PST

I meet you all the time. You hate Obama. You hate gay people. You hate black people, immigrants, Muslims, labor unions, women who want the right to make choices concerning their bodies, you hate em all. You hate being called racist. You hate being called a bigot. Maybe if you talked about creating jobs more than you talk about why you hate gay people we wouldn’t call you bigots. Maybe if you talked about black people without automatically assuming they are on food stamps while demanding their birth certificates we wouldn’t call you racist. You hate socialism and social justice. You hate regulations and taxes and spending and the Government. You hate.

Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com      You like war. You like torture. You like Jesus. I don’t know how in the hell any of that is compatible, but no one ever accused you haters of being over-committed to ideological consistency. You like people who look like you or at least hate most of the things that you hate. You hate everything else.

Now, I know you profess to love our country and the founding fathers (unless you are reminded that they believed in the separation of church and state), but I need to remind you that America is NOT what Fox News says it is. America is a melting pot, it always has been. We are a multi-cultural amalgamation of all kinds of people, and yet you still demonize everyone who is not a rich, white, heterosexual christian male or his submissive and obedient wife.

You hate liberals, moderates, hell, anyone who disagrees with Conservative dogma as espoused by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. You hate em.

Well, here are the facts, Jack. If you hate the Government then you are unqualified to manage it. If you hate gay people more than you love America than you should take your own advice and get the hell out. There are several countries that are openly hostile to gay people, but they are full of brown people and you don’t like them much either from what I understand. It looks like you are screwed, but that’s not what I am here to tell you.

 Now that you have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at President Obama and it still hasn’t worked you are panicking. Obama’s approval ratings are still near 50% despite your best efforts to undermine the economy and America’s recovery at every step you can. You tried to hold the American economy hostage to force America into default on its’ debts, debts that YOU rang up under Bush, so you could blame it on Obama and it failed. You’ve used the filibuster more than any other Congress ever, going so far as to vote against providing health care access to 9/11 first responders. You remember 9/11, don’t you, it’s that thing you used to lie us into a war in Iraq, and then when Obama killed Bin Laden and ended the war in Iraq you told people that he hates America and wants the troops to fail. You monsters. You hate Obama with a passion, despite the fact that he is a tax cutting, deficit reducing war President who undermines civil rights and delivers corporate friendly watered down reforms that benefit special interests just like a Republican. You call him a Kenyan. You call him a socialist. You dance with your hatred singing it proudly in the rain like it was a 1950’s musical.

Frankly, you disgust me. Your hatred nauseates me. Your bigotry offends me. Your racism revolts me.

Dear haters, I am openly questioning your patriotism.

I think you hate gays, Obama, black people, poor people, all of us, women, atheists and agnostics, Latinos, Muslims, Liberals, all of us, I think you hate every one who isn’t exactly like you, and I think you hate us more than you love your country.

I think you hate gay soldiers more than you want America to win its wars.

I don’t even think you want America to win wars, you just want America to have wars, never ending wars and the war profiteering it generates. You love that kind of spending, you love spending on faith based initiatives and abstinence based sex education (George Carlin would have loved that one), you love spending on subsidies for profitable oil corporations, you spend like drunken sailors when you are in the White House, but if it is a Democrat then suddenly you cheer when America doesn’t get the Olympics because it might make the black President look bad. But oooh you love your country, you say, and you want it back. Well listen here skippy, it isn’t your country, you don’t own it, it is our country, and America is NOT the religiously extremist Foxbots who hate science, elitist professors and having a vibrant and meaningful sex life with someone we love if Rick Santorum doesn’t approve of it. Rick Santorum isn’t running for America’s fucking high school dance chaperone, he should probably just shut the hell up about sex, but he can’t because he has nothing else to run on.

Republicans can NOT win on the issues. They’ve got NOTHING. All they have is a divide and conquer class war that pits ignorant racist and bigoted people against the rest of us in a meaningless battle of wedge issues and the already proven to fail George W. Bush agenda again of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, privatization and war profiteering and nothing else, so all they can do is blame black people, gays the government, anybody and everyone else for their own failings. The party of personal responsibility, my ass.

But they love multi-national corporations, just ask a gay hating and racist religious extremist if they think Corporations are people and they will gladly agree, but if you ask them if gay people are people they aren’t so sure.

Dear haters, you are the cruel, heartless misinformed assholes who would sell America out to Haliburton in a heartbeat, you would rather pay ZERO taxes than you would see a newly born baby get access to quality health care, you cheer when we discuss denying health care to young people with preventable diseases, and you boo when we discuss the First Ladies plan to cut back on childhood obesity. You are a cross to carry and a flag to wrap yourself in away from being the people who Sinclair Lewis warned us about, but I guarantee that if Fox News told you to dress that way you would, because you are the same blind, ignorant and closed minded dunces who drove this country into a civil war years ago because you are bound to the notion that some men are more equal than others. In short, the reason I proudly wear my union army hat is because of seditious sell outs like you who constantly fuck over working class Americans so a foreign entrepreneur like Rupert Murdoch can get a bigger tax break. If corporations are people, they are neither American patriots nor capable of love. Just like you.

So stop wearing your hate with pride. Stop celebrating your anti-science, anti-math ignorance. Stop using code words to mask your bigotry like “family values”, especially when you hate my family and when you stand on the same stage as a guy who has had three marriages or if you share a seat in the Senate with a guy who cheated on his wife with hookers while wearing diapers. You should be ashamed. I know that you are just doing this to motivate your misinformed hate cult base because if they actually knew that your ideas will make them poorer than they are now, they would never vote for you. You are doing your best to impoverish your countrymen so rich people can get bigger tax breaks and you can keep on delivering corporate welfare to the special interests who have bribed you, and I am disgusted by the way you gleefully parade your hatred with aplomb. I don’t think you do love America. At least, not as much as you hate everyone in America who isn’t exactly like you.

You should think about that, and maybe get some help.

And for the record, I do not hate you. I am embarrassed by you and nauseated by your cruel and thoughtless behavior and your all consuming greed, but I do not hate you. I forgive you and I hope you can change someday, but I don’t hate you. You have enough hate in you for the rest of us as it is.

Muslim Terrorist pleads guilty to plotting to kill President Obama

Mon, 2012-02-13 08:41 AM

Ulugbek Kodirov

A 22-year-old Uzbek national pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 10 to trying to kill the president and to supporting an Uzbek terror group.

Ulugbek Kodirov, who has been in the U.S. since overstaying a student visa in 2009, pleaded guilty to charges of threatening to kill President Obama, possession of an illegal weapon and supporting the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is a U.S.-designated terror group.

Kodirov’s plea comes as several other Uzbeks have either been designated as global terrorists or have been arrested on terror charges in the U.S. In late January, federal agents arrested Jamshid Muhtorov, 35, at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on charges of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is a designated foreign terrorist organization. Three days later, the U.S. State Department designated brothers Yassin and Monir Chouka and Mevlut Kar as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, saying the Chouka brothers were fighters, recruiters, facilitators and propagandists for the IMU, while Kar is a facilitator and recruiter for the IJU.

Kodirov had been indicted by a federal grand jury on the presidential threat and terror charges in July 2011 after he tried to obtain an automatic weapon to kill the president in a federal undercover operation that had been spurred by confidential informants.

Federal prosecutors praised the Birmingham, AL Muslim community for helping law enforcement identify and arrest Kodirov. Kodirov was “self radicalized” and had viewed Islamist Web sites and had sought out “like-minded” individuals, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said after the plea.

In his plea, Kodirov admitted he had been in communication with an individual whom he believed to be a member of the IMU and interpreted the conversations to mean that he should kill President Obama. Court documents also said Kodirov showed jihadist Web sites and videos on his computer to another individual and told that person that he wanted to assist others in jihad overseas.

Kodirov admitted to having lengthy conversations last July with another unidentified individual about his desire to kill President Obama and ways to carry out an assassination. That individual, said court documents, traveled to Birmingham, AL to meet Kodirov and introduced him to an undercover agent, from whom Kodirov intended to obtain weapons he would use to kill the president.

The three men met on July 13, 2011, at a motel in Leeds, AL, said the documents. During the meeting, the undercover agent offered a fully-automatic Sendra Corporation Model M15-A1 machine gun, a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight and four disassembled hand grenades and asked Kodirov if he would like to use any of them to “carry out his plan to kill the President.”  Kodirov chose the machine gun and the hand grenades and left the meeting with the weapons. Agents arrested Kodirov before he left the motel.

Kodirov had entered the U.S. on a student visa in June 2009, but it was revoked on April 1, 2010, when he failed to enroll in school. After that, he was living unlawfully in the country and was holed up in an extended-stay motel in Pelham, AL, at the time of his arrest.

He faces maximum prison sentences of 15 years on the terrorism charge, five years on the charge of threatening the president and 10 years on the charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

 The FBI, ATF, HSI and Secret Service investigated the case.

“Today, Ulugbek Kodirov became the first person to be convicted of providing material support to terrorist activity in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “Kodirov was apprehended during an undercover operation in which he was attempting to obtain weapons and explosives that he intended to use to kill the President of the United States. Effective action by law enforcement protected our community and potentially our country,” she said.

“I also want to express my appreciation to the Muslim community of Birmingham, which was instrumental in helping law enforcement shut down this threat,” Vance said.

 

 

Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

 First Published on :

 

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

February 12, 2012  |  
 
 
 Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today’s progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasise the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won’t drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics“. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today“. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter”, or the “misinformation voter”. While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.

The madness hasn’t gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires’ feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord MoncktonLord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down.

George Monbiot is the author Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Read more of his writings at Monbiot.com.

 
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Urban Legends Website Routs Conspiracy Theorists

Analysis:We are asked to believe that Barack Obama, who for over 20 years has professed to be a devout Christian and spoken publicly of his “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” is in fact secretly a Muslim who has lied all along about his true religious affiliation. 

No proof of any kind is offered by those who make these claims — no sightings of Obama attending a mosque, no pictures of him reading the Koran, praying to Mecca, or observing Islamic holidays with his family. The entire case, such as it is, rests on a confused and error-ridden recitation of Obama’s upbringing and purported childhood influences. It also rests on — that is to say, exploits — a deep fear and mistrust of the Muslim faith.

At no time has Barack Obama publicly evinced a belief in, or commitment to, any other religion than Christianity.

    • CLAIM: Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a “radical Muslim who migrated from Kenya to Jakarta, Indonesia.”

      STATUS: FALSE. Though Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was raised a Muslim, he had lost his faith and become a “confirmed atheist” by the time he attended college, according to his son. Obama’s parents separated when Barack was two, his father moving not to Jakarta, but to the United States, where he attended Harvard. Eventually he returned to Kenya.

  • CLAIM: Obama’s mother went on to marry another Muslim named Lolo Soetoro who “educated his stepson as a good Muslim by enrolling him in one of Jakarta’s Wahabbi [sic] schools.”

    STATUS: PARTLY TRUE. When Obama’s mother remarried, it was indeed to an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, whom his stepson later described as a “non-practicing” Muslim. But it was his “secular” mother who directly supervised his education, Obama has written, sending him to both Catholic and Muslim primary schools after the family moved to Jakarta.

    There’s nothing on record to indicate Obama attended a madrassa (Muslim religious school) run by Wahhabists, and in any case it’s unlikely his mother would have chosen to expose him to such an extreme form of Islam given her stated abhorrence of religious closed-mindedness and her stated goal of giving her son a well-rounded education, including in matters of faith.

    (Update: CNN tracked down the Indonesian school in question, the Basuki School in Jakarta, which a deputy headmaster describes as a “public school” with no particular religious agenda. “In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment,” the headmaster told CNN. A former classmate of Obama’s describes the school as “general,” with students of many religious backgrounds attending. Obama entered the school at the age of 8 and attended for two years.)

 CLAIM: “Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim while admitting that he was once a Muslim.”

STATUS: FALSE. Once a Muslim? When? Unless I missed it while skimming his two books and a great many news interviews, Obama has never mentioned, let alone “admitted,” being a Muslim at any point in his life. Yes, he lived in a Muslim country during part of his childhood, but there’s no evidence he was literally raised in the Muslim faith, nor has he ever been, so far as any public evidence shows, a practitioner of Islam.

 CLAIM: When Obama was sworn into office he used the Koran (Qur’an) instead of the Bible.

STATUS: FALSE. According to news accounts Barack Obama placed his hand on his personal Bible during his Senate swearing-in ceremony, which was conducted by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Those making this allegation have apparently confused Obama with Congressman Keith Ellison, who actually is a Muslim and was sworn in on January 4, 2007 using a copy of the Koran.

Here is another story which resurfaced recently on Facebook:

Obama Faces More Questions on Citizenship
April 1, 2009AP – WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College.

Released today, the transcript indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the school. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship. This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Obama’s detractors have been seeking.

The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about Obama’s legitimacy and qualification to serve as president. When reached for comment in London, where he has been in meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama smiled but refused comment on the issue. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the report stating that this was obviously another attempt by a right-wing conservative group to discredit the president and undermine the administration’s efforts to move the country in a new direction.

Britain’s Daily Mail has also carried the story in a front-page article titled, “Obama Eligibility Questioned”, leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Obama’s first official visit to the U.K.

In a related matter, under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as President in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey. This lawsuit claims Obama’s dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. Donofrio’s case is just one of 18 suits brought by citizens demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship or qualification to serve as president.

Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation of Obama’s campaign spending. This study estimates that Obama has spent upwards of $950,000 in campaign funds in the past year with eleven law firms in 12 states for legal resources to block disclosure of any of his personal records. Mr. Kreep indicated that the investigation is still ongoing but that the final report will be provided to the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder. Mr. Holder has refused to comment on the matter.

Analysis: Hoax. The original April 1, 2009 posting date suggests it may have been intended as an April Fools prank, but given that the text does little else but parrot actual tenets of the so-called “Birther” movement (those who claim Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency due to a forged or invalid birth certificate, etc.), it barely qualifies as satire.

    • Is it really an AP news story?

      No. The Associated Press (“AP”) never published such a story. It didn’t run in any real newspaper, nor on any real wire service. It can, however, be found posted and reposted on hundreds of anti-Obama blogs and websites.

  • Is it true that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on Obama’s citizenship and eligibility?

    No. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the Donofrio case, not to mention every other Obama citizenship case submitted to date.

 

  • Did a group called “Americans for Freedom of Information” release Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No. The organization doesn’t exist — or didn’t at the time the above message first began circulating, at any rate. A similarly-named website went up after the fact, but there is no evident connection between that website and the fake news story.

 

  • Has anyone released Obama’s Occidental College transcripts?

    No, the transcripts haven’t been released (federal privacy laws forbid it), nor has any court of law “ordered” them released. (Source: Occidental College)

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under the name “Barry Soetoro”?

    No. Soetoro was the surname of his stepfather, but there’s no evidence Barack Obama used it when he attended college. Fellow alumni quoted in the press remember him as “Barry Obama.” According to an Occidental spokesperson quoted on FactCheck.org, the college has no records showing Obama used his stepfather’s last name.

 

  • Did Obama attend Occidental under a Fulbright Scholarship for Foreign Students?

    No. According to various news sources Obama did attend on a scholarship, but it wasn’t a Fulbright scholarship, let alone a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program accepts Master’s Degree and Ph.D. candidates only. Obama, an undergraduate, was neither. He couldn’t have been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for foreign students even if he had been born outside the U.S. (Source: Fulbright Program)

 

  • Did the Daily Mail discuss these “revelations” in a news story entitled “Obama Eligibility Questioned”?

    No. No such story turns up in a search of the London newspaper’s archive.

 

  • Did Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation release research showing Obama has spent $950,000 or more “to block disclosure of his personal records”?

    I’ve found no record of any such “research” being published. The U,S. Justice Foundation does exist and its executive director is indeed a man named Gary Kreep, but he’s on record saying the above claim is a hoax.

    The fact of the matter is that specific expenditures pertaining to litigation on Obama’s Constitutional legitimacy aren’t a matter of public record. What are a matter of public record — and what have have been continually misrepresented as moneys spent fighting citizenship lawsuits — are the total year-to-year legal expenditures of Obama’s campaign finance committee. Anyone who purports to know exactly what portion of those funds were spent responding to citizenship challenges is merely speculating.

    Moreover, it’s disingenuous to characterize Obama’s legal expenditures on these cases as funds dispensed “to block disclosure of his personal records.” While various personal documents have been requested in the filings, securing their release wasn’t the point of the litigation, which aimed to have Obama’s candidacy ruled unconstitutional on a variety of different grounds.

    Lastly, it isn’t as if a presidential candidate whose legitimacy is challenged in court has the option not to mount a legal defense — just ask John McCain.

 

 

Obama Didn’t “Cave”

Published  by CommonDreams.org

In  a campaign almost as frenzied as the effort to get Barack Obama into the White House, liberal groups are now mobilizing against the White House and reported deals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They accuse President Obama of being weak and willing to “cave” to corporate and conservative forces bent on cutting the social safety net while protecting the wealthy.
Those accusations are wrong.
The accusations imply that Obama is on our side. Or was on our side. And that the right wing is pushing him around.
But the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate interests — not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their interests only because Republicans forced him to.
Since coming to Washington, Obama has allied himself with Wall Street Democrats who put corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most Americans:
·         In 2006, a relatively new Senator Obama was the only senator to speak at the inaugural gathering of the Alexander Hamilton Project launched by Wall Street Democrats like Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and deputy secretary. Obama praised them as “innovative, thoughtful policymakers.” (It was Rubin’s crusade to deregulate Wall Street in the late ‘90s that led directly to the economic meltdown of 2008 and our current crisis.)
·         In early 2007, way before he was a presidential frontrunner, candidate Obama was raising more money from Wall Street interests than all other candidates, including New York presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.
·         In June 2008, as soon as Hillary ended her campaign, Obama went on CNBC, shunned the “populist” label and announced: “Look: I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market.” He packed his economic team with Wall Street friends — choosing one of Bill Clinton’s Wall Street deregulators, Larry Summers, as his top economic advisor.
·         A year into his presidency, in a bizarre but revealing interview with Business Week, Obama was asked about huge bonuses just received by two CEOs of Wall Street firms bailed out by taxpayers. He responded that he didn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus to J.P. Mogan’s CEO or the $9 million to Goldman Sachs’ CEO: “I know both those guys, they are very savvy businessmen,” said Obama. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”
After any review of Obama’s corporatist ties and positions, the kneejerk response is: “Yes, but Obama was a community organizer!”
He WAS a community organizer. . .decades before he became president. Back when Nelson Mandela was in prison and the U.S. government declared him the leader of a “terrorist organization” while our government funded and armed Bin Laden and his allies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.  That’s a long time ago.
It’s worth remembering that decades before Reagan became president, the great communicator was a leftwing Democrat and advocate for the working class and big federal social programs.
The sad truth, as shown by Glenn Greenwald, is that Obama had arrived at the White House looking to make cuts in benefits to the elderly. Two weeks before his inauguration, Obama echoed conservative scares about Social Security and Medicare by talking of “red ink as far as the eye can see.” He opened his doors to Social Security/Medicare cutters — first trying to get Republican Senator Judd Gregg (“a leading voice for reining in entitlement spending,” wrote Politico) into his cabinet, and later appointing entitlement-foe Alan Simpson to co-chair his “Deficit Commission.” Obama’s top economic advisor, Larry Summers, came to the White House publicly telling Time magazine of needed Social Security cuts.
 At this late date, informed activists and voters who care about economic justice realize that President Obama is NOT “on our side.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — widely seen as “America’s Senator” — is so disgusted by recent White House actions that he called Friday for a challenge to Obama in Democratic primaries: “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
Although Sanders has said clearly that he’s running for reelection to the senate in 2012 – not for president — his comment led instantly to a Draft Sanders for President website.
Imagine if a credible candidate immediately threatened a primary challenge unless Obama rejects any deal cutting the safety net while maintaining tax breaks for the rich. Team Obama knows that a serious primary challenger would cost the Obama campaign millions of dollars. And it may well be a powerful movement-building opportunity for activists tired of feeling hopeless with Obama.
It’s time for progressives to talk seriously about a challenge to Obama’s corporatism. Polls show most Americans support economic justice issues, and that goes double for Democratic primary voters.
If not Bernie, who? If not now, when?
Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media – and a cofounder of the online action group, www.RootsAction.org.