The Batshit Files: News Roundup | 10.06.11

  • The Westboro Baptist Church revealed their plans to picket Steve Jobs' funeral. They announced this via a tweet sent from an iPhone. (Buzzfeed)
  • Herman Cain: "If you don't have a job, and you're not rich, blame yourself!" (Think Progress)
  • You're right, WorldNetDaily. Immigration to the US by "Mexicans and others" is exactly like the Nazi Invasion Of Europe. (Media Matters)
  • Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade says that, unlike the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Tea Parties "popped up out of nowhere." And by "out of nowhere," he means "promoted relentlessly by Fox News." (Media Matters)


Art Pope Exposed

Sue Sturgis and Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies have created a video introducing their research into Art Pope's overarching influence on North Carolina politics.

It's important that North Carolinians educate themselves on the dishonest and underhanded tactics employed by Art Pope and his network of heavily-funded organizations set on fundamentally transforming the state, especially as we gear up for the May 8 vote on the anti-LGBT amdendment, and the pivotal 2012 general election.

Via Facing South:
ArtPopeExposed.Com comes after a widely-circulated profile of Pope in this week's New Yorker magazine, which drew on Facing South's and the Institute's research and reporting over the last 18 months.

Among the facts profiled at ArtPopeExposed:

Bankrolling the Right: The John William Pope Foundation, which Art Pope chairs, supplies 90% of the income of the leading conservative advocacy groups in North Carolina. Pope has claimed that most of his foundation's money goes to charity, but tax records show that at least two-thirds of their grants support conservative groups and causes.

Buying Political Influence: In 2010, three groups backed by Pope -- Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action and Real Jobs NC -- supplied 75% of the outside money that flooded into North Carolina's state legislative elections, helping fuel historic Republican victories. Pope family members also bundled more than $300,000 in personal contributions to GOP candidates and committees.

Funding Climate Denial: Pope's foundation has given $24.1 million to a network of "climate denial" groups -- many tied to energy interests -- who ignore the scientific consensus about climate change and fight clean energy standards.

Sue Sturgis and Chris Kromm introduce ArtPopeExposed:

The Man Who Lost His Religion To The Amazonian Pirahã Tribe

Everett with a Paraha tribesman
Many people don't understand what life would be like without religion. Those who do not subscribe to religion are often perceived as 'missing out,' or living an 'empty life.'

Most people cannot imagine what life without religion would be like simply because they have always had religion, or have always had religion around them. Their parents had religion, their grandparents had religion, and so on.

Daniel Everett was a Christian missionary and evangelist whose expertise in language led him on a mission trip where he lived among the Pirahã, a tribe of Amazon natives.

Everett's experience with the Pirahã eventually led to his rejection of Christianity, and religion in general.

Here is a wonderful clip of Everett speaking about the Pirahã, who, due to their isolation, never developed religious beliefs. This story of the Pirahã dovetails nicely with a recent University of Texas study which concluded that our brains are not predisposed to supernatural concepts. Theses concepts are gained through exposure.

Read more about Everett in the New Yorker and at The Age.

Mormon-Hating Bigot Bryan Fischer To Follow Romney At Values Voter Summit

Bryan Fischer, douchebag
The Values Voter Summit is coming up this weekend, when some of the most hateful, bigoted, xenophobic, and theocratic figures in American faith and politics will line up to speak to thousands in Washington, DC.

Among those speakers will be seven of the top GOP hopefuls: Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. 

He's so controversial that even the organizers of the Values Voter Summit kept him off the list of speakers. However, if you dig a little deeper into the event's schedule, one will find that Fischer is indeed speaking. 

And no, he's not buried in some breakaway session. He's speaking right after GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. 

Rachel Maddow commented earlier this week on Fischer's awkward placement on the schedule. See, Bryan Fischer has said some pretty nasty stuff about Mormons, including his belief that the First Amendment doesn't apply to them. 

Perhaps this is a subtle way for the VVS folks to undermine Mitt Romney's recent positioning as front-runner for the GOP nomination.  Herman Cain has recently tied Romney in polls, and Fischer would like nothing more than to see Cain get the nomination. (Cain is, according to Fischer, "authentically black," unlike our current president.) Or maybe this is just poor scheduling. Wait, no, that's not likely at all.


Art Pope: North Carolina's Little Koch

Jane Mayer has written a scathing profile of Art Pope in the latest New Yorker. If you're unfamiliar with Art Pope, and you care about democracy, you should spend some time with Mayer's piece, State For Sale.

Who exactly is Art Pope?

Remember when North Carolina, an Obama-voting blue state with a Democratic governor, turned back into a red state in 2010? Art Pope played a large role in that happening.

Mayer writes:
Pope’s triumph in 2010 was sweeping. According to an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, of the twenty-two legislative races targeted by him, his family, and their organizations, the Republicans won eighteen, placing both chambers of the General Assembly firmly under Republican majorities for the first time since 1870. North Carolina’s Democrats in Congress hung on to power, but those in the state legislature, where Pope had focussed his spending, were routed. 
The institute also found that three-quarters of the spending by independent groups in North Carolina’s 2010 state races came from accounts linked to Pope.
The Pope family foundation—of which Art Pope is the chairman and president, and one of four directors—reportedly has assets of nearly a hundred and fifty million dollars.
This wealth has enabled Pope to participate in the public arena on a scale that few individuals can match.

Art Pope is more or less North Carolina's equivalent of the Koch Brothers.
Graphic from indyweek.com
Pope has at times joined forces with [the Koch brothers], attending some of their semi-annual secret planning summits and, through the family foundation, contributing millions to many of the same causes. Pope, in addition to being on the board of Americans for Prosperity—which David Koch founded, in 2004—served on the board of its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which Koch co-founded, in 1984. Charles Koch recently praised the Popes, along with other donors, for providing financial support for the 2012 election effort, and tax records show that Pope has given money to at least twenty-seven groups supported by the Kochs, including organizations opposing environmental regulations, tax increases, unions, and campaign-spending limits. Pope, in fact, helped fund the legal center run by James Bopp, the lawyer who made the initial filing in the Citizens United case.

Not only is he powerful and influential, Art Pope is sleazy. Mayer writes about the 2010 campaign against Chris Heagarty, a Democratic lawyer, ran for a legislative seat in Wake County:
One ad accused him of having voted “to raise taxes over a billion dollars,” even though he had not yet served in the legislature. Another ad depicted Heagarty, who has dark hair and a dark complexion, as Hispanic. (He is Caucasian.) The ad was sponsored by the North Carolina Republican Party, to which Pope had contributed in 2008. Heagarty said, “They slapped a sombrero on a photo of me, and wrote, ‘Mucho Taxo! Adios, Señor!’ ” He said, “If you put all of the Pope groups together, they and the North Carolina G.O.P. spent more to defeat me than the guy who actually won.” He fell silent, then added, “For an individual to have so much power is frightening. The government of North Carolina is for sale.”

Nina Szlosberg-Landis, a Democratic activist in Raleigh, says, “It’s part of a very deliberate national strategy of the ultra-conservative movement to change the face of democracy. And I have to hand it to them. They’re pretty successful.”

Marc Farinella, the Democratic campaign consultant, said. “Pope has used the federal tax code to create a massive campaign apparatus that is only thinly disguised as a collection of benign, civic-minded nonprofit groups.”

What does this mean for 2012?
Experts predict that, next fall, the Republicans will likely take over at least four seats currently held by Democrats in the House of Representatives, helping the Party expand its majority in Congress. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly is raising issues that are sure to galvanize the conservative vote in the 2012 Presidential race, such as a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Pope funds climate-change denial. He funds the Tea Party. He even funnels money into defeating moderate Republicans.

Mayer, appearing on Rachel Maddow's show, stated:

New Yorker portrait of Pope
"In many ways he is the one man who is single-handedly bankrolling a kind of a conservative takeover of the state. At least that's how the Democrats see it down there. It's a state that as you said is just completely key to Barack Obama's reelection, and it's a state that is traditionally neither completely red nor blue, it's kind of a purple state, but it went blue in 2008, and basically the Republican party took one look at it and thought they've got to make sure that it doesn't go that way again in 2012. So there's been a lot of very careful and smart thinking going into the state and a ton of money." 
She went on to explain that Pope "has a vision of America that requires kind of turning back the tide of history to before the New Deal basically. And he will say it has nothing to do with his business interests, but it does include things like opposition to the minimum wage law," as well as "opposition to most taxes, and to all kinds of government services." Mayer continued, "his political vision dovetails with his self-interest, but it goes beyond that I think really with him. He's something of a kind of an ideological purist and a zealot to some extent."

According to investigations by Facing South, Pope's family foundation supplies more than 90% of the income of right-wing groups in North Carolina; in 2010, groups connected to Pope accounted for 75% of the outside election spending that helped Republicans capture the state legislature.

If you care about democracy, and especially if you care about North Carolina, read Mayer's New Yorker piece, and watch the Maddow clip below.

This man is working to take NC back to its darker days. If you are glad to have the days of Jesse Helms behind you, it's worth noting that, as Mayer states, "Even some North Carolinians associated with Jesse Helms think that Pope has gone too far."

A Reminder: Why We Don't Vote On The Rights Of Others

*figures from Public Policy Polling.

The Feynman Series: Curiosity

If you're unfamiliar with The Sagan Series, you should check it out. The series of videos pays tribute to the late great astrophysicist Carl Sagan. They're stirring, and really inspirational. Something we can all use during this time of economic uncertainty and political madness.

The folks who brought us those wonderful Sagan videos are now releasing a series of videos that pay tribute to everyone's favorite bongo-playing physicist, Richard Feynman.

The videos, like the Sagan Series, are essential viewing. First, they're beautiful to look at, using footage from various sources including many BBC nature programs, and the films Koyaanisqatsi and Microcosmos. And they are aurally pleasing as well. Feynman describes the workings of the universe with the fascination of a child, but with the mind of a wizard. It's contagious.

The below is the latest installment, 'Curiosity.' You can view the previous installments here and here. Perfect viewing for those moments when you need a bit of perspective.

Ronald Reagan: 'No Loopholes For Millionaires'

Selective memory is a funny thing.