Lyons: “Paranoia Blooms Whenever Democrats Take Power”

Gene Lyons, one of the few highlights on the Joplin Globe‘s editorial pages these days, expressed an opinion about our fellow citizens that many are afraid to utter:

…much of the electorate is so poorly informed that it’s a wonder our political system works as well as it does, which many think is hardly at all.

Recently, CNN released a poll showing that 86 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government is “broken.” I admit my first reaction was to wonder subversively, “How would they know?” A contemporaneous Pew survey of the public’s “political news IQ” showed that on one of the most heavily reported issues of 2009­-10, only 32 percent knew that the Senate health-care bill passed without a single Republican vote; 26 percent understood that a supermajority of 60 votes is required to break a GOP filibuster. In short, they haven’t got a clue.

Referencing New York Times reporter David Barstow’s article on Tea Party people, in which the reporter interviews disgruntled citizens who make up the anti-government movement, Lyons reminds us that,

Paranoia blooms whenever Democrats take power in Washington. Remember militiamen fearful of U.N. black helicopters during Bill Clinton’s first term?

Yes, I do.  But I think the kind of paranoia that has blossomed under Obama has additional shadings, shall we say, than the Ruby Ridge- and Waco-inspired militia nonsense back then.  Beyond the black helicopter crowd, Clinton was seen as a cunning womanizer and political opportunist, even as a murder-ordering political opportunist, but wasn’t, as far as I remember, seriously charged with wanting to destroy the country, as part of an exotic plot to colonize America for Communism.

Beyond the goofy claims that Obama is a socialist—which don’t just come from marginalized extremists in the GOP, but from what passes for mainstream Republicans these days—Obama has been accused of hating America and wanting it to fail so he can implement his real agenda: a complete overhaul of our political and economic system along Marxist contours. 

I don’t think Bill Clinton was earnestly characterized as an active Communist sympathizer, even when Republicans took a break from fixating on his sex life.  But even if he was, it certainly wasn’t done by serious politicians in the GOP.

And nobody referred to Bill Clinton in mockingly Messianic terms, the way Hannity and Limbaugh refer to Obama—without objection from conservative Christians, by the way.

So, Lyons is right to remark that during times of Democratic ascendancy, the paranoid right-wing manufactures conspiracies about Democratic plans faster than Fox “News” can report them.  But this time, under America’s first African-American president, who has a strange name and a culturally diverse background, things are a little different, if not a lot worse.

Local TV “Journalism” = Campaign Commercial

Just as an example of how poor some local television “journalists” practice their profession, I encourage all to go to KODE-TV’s website here and watch a “report” on Roy Blunt, as he “discusses key topics.” 

The segment is nothing more than a free campaign commercial for Blunt, just one of many he receives every time he comes to J-town.

Just as an example, here is a transcript of the report, and notice how Dustin Lattimer—the alleged journalist—asks Blunt a series of tough follow-up questions:

We sat down with Congressman Roy Blunt to discuss healthcare and many other hot-button issues.

Blunt says healthcare changes need to happen in phases so that the impact on the system can be assessed.

“We can do two or three important things, see what impact they have, and then move onto step and do it in a way that doesn’t cost taxpayers billions of dollars or needlessly complicate the system,” says Blunt.

On the topic of job creation, Congressman Blunt says it’s all about getting the private sector involved.

A fairly simple process if Washington was willing to implement it, he says.

“The first thing I would do is stop spending money on the so called stimulus package. It created huge debt, didn’t create job opportunities and just grew government,” says Blunt.

And on the energy front, Blunt says it’s time we begin to explore all of our options here at home…

Wow!  Dustin sure pressed Blunt, didn’t he?  When our truth-challenged Congressman said the stimulus package “didn’t create job opportunities“—a demonstrable lie—notice how Dustin charged in with the facts and asked him to respond?

You didn’t?  Oh.

I hope KODE reported its in-kind contribution to Blunt’s campaign.  Just how much is two minutes worth of air time on KODE’s “Action [sic] News” worth these days?

UPDATE: Thanks to Jim Lee’s website, I found this short video report from KY3 TV in Springfield that illustrates what local journalists should be doing: pointing out the hypocrisy of our local politicians.  I guess Joplin television journalists aren’t ready for the big time until they can at least do the following:

[Roy Blunt/Jack Abramoff, Roy Blunt/Jack Abramoff, Roy Blunt/Jack Abramoff, Roy Blunt/Jack Abramoff, Roy Blunt/Jack Abramoff]

Republicans, Reconciliation, And The Princes Of Profits

Several times yesterday, while listening to the Republicans during the health care summit, and while listening to the “experts” tell us afterwards what it all meant, I heard the Senate Democrats’ possible use of the reconciliation process characterized as “ramming” through their “big bill,” which is a “government takeover” of “one-sixth” of the economy.

Not so, of course.  The Senate, along with the House, has already passed a version of health care reform.  The bill got 60 votes in the Senate, remember?

And it’s dishonest to characterize, as Obama pointed out, government’s setting a minimum insurance baseline as “taking over” the health care system. But such is the quality of Republican integrity these days.

In any case, all that needs to happen now, is for the House to pass the Senate version of the bill (on faith that the Senate will act), then the Senate can use the reconciliation process to make changes to the existing bill.  There is a question out there as to whether the Senate can use reconciliation before the House passes the bill, but the bottom line is that Democrats control their own destiny on health care reform.  They always have, despite Republican efforts to gum up the works. 

It is simply unacceptable to allow Republicans to claim that they were excluded from the process, when the current bill in the Senate has almost died the death of a thousand compromises in order to get a few Republicans to support it. 

It is also unacceptable to allow Republicans to claim that use of the reconciliation process is somehow unprecedented (the GOP perfected its use) and that using it to modify a bill that has already passed is somehow unseemly, the equivalent of jamming something down the throats of the American people.

It’s not.  Americans favor nearly all the components of the reform bill, despite the demonization of the entire package by deceitful Republicans, who will stop at nothing to protect the principles of profit-making, even when profit-making in the insurance industry is clearly making life unnecessarily difficult for the American people.

The princes of profit shouldn’t control life and death.  Don’t forget the 15 or so 9/11′s that happen every year in America because folks don’t have access to decent and affordable health insurance.

Nice Try, Move On

Much of the health care summit today consisted of Republicans summarizing their objections to the various Democratic plans to reform the system and Democrats defending their plans.  Republicans frequently did try to make the case for “incrementalism,” which is another way of continuing their historic approach to reform: doing nothing.

Obama, gamely, was trying to wrest something resembling cooperation from the Republicans.

Of course, he was doomed to fail.  At the first break today, Congressman Mike Pence, apparently posted strategically outside the room, raced to a camera and began denouncing the whole summit idea.  Okay, we all knew that was going to happen.  Republicans made it clear they want to “scrap the bill” and start over.  Democrats say they won’t do that. And now that it’s over, it is time for Democrats to act, with (insert laugh track here) or without Republican cooperation.  If they don’t, they will suffer more than projected this November.

For those, like Charlie Cook, who think Obama should have abandoned his quest to reform the health care and health insurance system in favor of focusing on the economy, Nate Silver has pointed out something that all of us should keep in mind, even though it has been a year and a half since the last presidential election: Obama ran on the health care issue in the Democratic primary and he campaigned to change the system in the general election.  It would be politically dumb to say the hell with it and give up.

Here is a chart posted on fivethirtyeight.com that shows the differential between issues and net points gained for the 2008 presidential election:

Here is the way Nate Silver summed it up:

The 2008 exit poll asked voters about the most important issue behind their vote; although just 9 percent picked health care, those who did went for Obama by a 73-26 margin, adding a net of 4.2 points to his margin of victory over McCain. By contrast, while 63 percent of voters cited the economy, Obama won those voters by only 9 points, adding 5.7 points to his margin — more than health care but not by much.

So, there you have it.  Those who cited health care as their most important issue (9%) provided Obama with 4.2% of his margin of victory and those who cited the economy (63%) gave him a slightly larger 5.7%.  It wouldn’t be very smart to ignore that huge health care 73-26 differential.

And besides all that, Obama’s first major act—and the Democrats first major act—was to address the economic situation by passing the stimulus bill.  No matter what you think of the bill, the first big beast out of the chute was meant to confront the dire economic situation.  It’s not like the health care debate trumped the economy.

Now, Democrats need to finish the job on health care reform and move on.

“The Republican Party Is A Wholly Owned Subsidiary Of The Insurance Industry”

This is how Democrats should fight:

 

Reform? Who Needs Reform?

As most know by now, WellPoint Anthem Blue Cross has sought to increase health insurance premiums in California, even in the face of possible health insurance reform.  But a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund points out that WellPoint has applied for double-digit premium increases in more states than just California:

The recent news that WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross health insurance company in California wanted to increase premiums for individual policyholders as much as 39 percent is further evidence the current health system is not sustainable. And a survey by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that California isn’t the only state where WellPoint is hiking individual premium rates by double-digit percentages. In fact, double-digit hikes have been implemented or are pending in at least 11 other states among the 14 where WellPoint’s Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are active: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York,Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The survey lists Missouri in the following way:

Missouri: No data available. WellPoint did not respond to CAP Action requests for data.

You have to admire an industry that is so confident in its lobbying power that it can continue its race to bankrupt Americans without fear of anyone stopping it.

The LA Times reported this morning the following:

Congressional Democrats on Wednesday accused the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross of putting profits ahead of policyholders, saying the giant insurer sought to rid itself of costly sick customers to maximize income as it lavished generous salaries and benefits on top executives.

Oh, yeah?  Well, what are you Congressional Democrats going to do about it?

Only Real Americans Can Be President

From the AP:

Nearly half of the Arizona Legislature wants to force President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate to state officials if he runs for re-election.

Imagine that.  The President of the United States must prove he is a citizen of the country he governs.  Who are these people making such a demand?

All 40 co-sponsors are Republicans, comprising 75 percent of the GOP caucus. Two of them have since resigned to run for Congress.

God, I love Republican patriotism.  Just imagine if Obama couldn’t show his birth certificate in 2012: We could get a real American in the White House.

Can’t wait.

Killing Social Security and Medicare, One Speech At A Time

I watched Glenn Beck’s speech at CPAC this past weekend.  I am the first to admit that he is quite good at what he does. The man has talent.  Forever forecasting inevitable tribulation, he is like a gifted evangelist who writes books and sermonizes, warning us of the doom to come.  And like most gifted evangelists, he profits from his prophesying, making God-like money as he points the way through the apocalypse.

His latest speech—a continuation of a theme he has been hawking for a while now—contained his diagnosis of our sickly condition:  “progressivism is the disease in America.”

He preached:

Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution. And it was designed to eat the Constitution. To progress past the Constitution.

Comparing progressives to Communists, he explained there is a small difference between the two: Communists of old desired revolution; progressives, being more patient, were and continue to be willing to wait for things to evolve.  But the goals are the same: trash the Constitution and turn America into a “big government,” “socialist utopia.”

Okay.  So far, there’s nothing unusual about that pew-stirring rhetoric, sold to acne-tortured, college-age Republicans at CPAC and the more mature, meat-loving mobs that buy Beck’s books and watch his hysterical television show.

But I have begun to notice something happening on the right.  The straw poll at CPAC went this year to Ron Paul, not exactly a friend to some of Beck’s crazy ideas, but certainly a supporter of the anti-government philosophy that serves as a foundation for conservative thought.  Paul, to orgasmic applause, said:

Government is the enemy of liberty!

The fire was barely out at the IRS building in Texas—where Joseph Stack took seriously words like Paul uttered—and speakers at CPAC were using words like “enemy” to describe the government and violent metaphors to describe what Americans should do about its growth. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is moving to the right at brakeless Toyota speed, said Americans should “take a 9 iron and smash the windows out of big government in this country!

Of course, such talk is hyperbole.  I get that.  But what is happening among a growing group on the right is that people are starting to take seriously the idea of dismantling big government programs like Social Security and Medicare. 

Beck said:

It is big government – it’s a socialist utopia. And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot co-exist. And you don’t cure cancer by – well, I’m just going to give you a little bit of cancer. You must eradicate it. It cannot co-exist. And we need big thinkers, and brave people with spines who can make the case – that can actually say to Americans: look it’s going to be hard – it’s going to be hard but it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it.

Now, what could he be talking about?  The subsidy for public television? The Department of Commerce?  No. Big government, especially since most conservatives exclude the Defense Department from budget cuts, has to mean Social Security and Medicare.

He continues:

We believe in the right of the individual. We believe in the right, you can speak out, you can disagree with me, you can make your own path. But I’m not going to pay for your mistakes, and I don’t expect you to pay for my mistakes. We’re all going to make them, but we all have the right to move down that road. What we don’t have a right to is: health care, housing, or handouts. We don’t have those rights.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, another CPAC speaker and trusted ally of Glenn Beck, has advocated “weaning” as a means of reducing the size of government.  A few weeks ago in St. Louis she said:

We’re $14 trillion in debt, but that doesn’t include the unfunded massive liabilities. That’s $107 trillion, and that’s for Social Security and Medicare and all the rest. You add up all those unfunded net liabilities, and all the traps that could go wrong we’re on the hook for, and what it means is what we have to do is a reorganization of all of that, Social Security and all… So, what you have to do, is keep faith with the people that are already in the system, that don’t have any other options, we have to keep faith with them. But basically what we have to do is wean everybody else off. And wean everybody off because we have to take those unfunded net liabilities off our bank sheet, we can’t do it. So we just have to be straight with people.

So, she is saying do away with Social Security and Medicare, after those in the present system are finished.  At least she is being more honest than usual.  And such honesty is being forced upon Republicans, as they are no longer getting away with screaming for deficit reduction and tax cuts without specifying spending reductions.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s budget guru in the House, has offered a privatization plan for Social Security and Medicare and has at least nine co-sponsors.

One of those co-sponsors, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, appeared on Chris Matthews recently:

 

It appears that Republicans are becoming so emboldened by the Tea Party movement that some of them are now willing to talk openly about ripping out or seriously reducing the effectiveness of the social safety net that serves so many Americans. 

And if Democrats let them get away with it, then one day Republicans will have their way.

The “K Street Jobs Tour,” Featuring Roy Blunt

You won’t find it anywhere else.  Fired Up! Missouri has “exclusive access” to Roy Blunt’s “K Street Jobs Tour” itinerary, which no doubt served as the model for his recent “Jobs for Missouri’s Future” Bus Tour.

Sean Nicholson has created a virtual tour that features a review of Blunt’s contribution to the culture of “congressional/corporate homology“: 

Discover how Roy Blunt became a leading K Street acolyte and a star pupil of Tom DeLay’s, learning the art of deal-making, back-slapping, and go-along-to-get-along politics that have served him so well for the last 14 years.

The Tour will take you from imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s former restaurant, in which our Congressman was entitled to free food and drink, to Blunt’s newest Georgetown investment, Phillips Park, “a new community of 46 luxury single-family residences of unique design and character,” also billed as Washington D.C.’s “most rarified real estate experience.”  Interested investors in Southwest Missouri can apparently buy in for somewhere around $1.45 million.

Sean has promised more fun in the future, so stay tuned.

[To comply with an earlier promise: Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt, Jack Abramoff/Roy Blunt]

Populism And The Cult Of the Ordinary

Now that populism is back in style, if not as the dominant strain of political thinking, at least as the object of attention for television journalists scrambling to fill airtime with something other than the Tiger Woods saga, I wanted to go off the beaten path for a bit, to examine just one odd and odious piece of populism.

George Will, dismissing Sarah Palin as a serious candidate for higher office, recently referred to populism as “a celebration of ordinariness.”  Not long ago, I heard the right-wing talker Dennis Miller pine for an “average” guy or gal to take up residence in the White House, without acknowledging that he probably wouldn’t like an “average” guy or gal taking up residence in the operating room if he needed life-saving surgery.

But another characteristic of populism’s celebration of the ordinary was brought to my attention over the weekend.  In an op-ed piece in USA Today, Tom Kaiden wrote about the tendency of the arts to suffer during times like ours:

Watch any sitcom and you’ll hear the laugh track cranked up when an adult male is trapped into attending a play, visiting an art museum or simply reading a book. Hilarious.

Arts groups — always battling to encourage newer, younger audiences — must now also counter a growing sentiment that arts and culture is an elitist amenity society can no longer afford.

Kaiden continues:

What used to be lukewarm support or benign indifference to culture has turned to open hostility by politicians pandering to narrow constituencies that position the arts as some form of intellectual pretension.

Late last year, for example, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., were critical of how some of the $787 billion stimulus bill was being spent, including a list of minor grants in support of arts and culture jobs.

Now, I know the winds of scorn are currently howling over such “minor” facets of our collective life.  But the unpleasant truth is that large swaths of our culture aren’t fond of the arts—or sciences—in any environment, let alone the economically challenging times of today. 

There has always been a cult of the ordinary in America, which in its best incarnation celebrates the “common” man as an equal to all.  In its worst manifestation, however, the cult ridicules the arts and sciences, seeing these endeavors as inferior to, say, pursuing capitalist-inspired dreams of making lots and lots of money.

So, just to contradict the notion that ordinary is better, I present the following video, which I found by following a link from a commenter on my blog (Hubert Gaskins). It is an example of the power of art, of the power of an extraordinary human being who is able to touch us in ways we might not expect. Watch in full screen mode:

From the website I learned that the artist, Kseniya Simonova, is a 24-year-old Ukrainian whose demonstration showed “how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II.”  I also learned that one in four Ukrainians were killed during the war, somewhere between eight to 11 million folks.  The video was shot during a “Ukraine’s Got Talent” episode, thus the reaction of the audience. 

Prayer: An Equal Opportunity Sport

Here are a couple of photos of earnest prayer warriors and revolutionaries, the Teapartiers and the Taliban.  As of yet, it isn’t clear who has God’s ear. 

[photo credit: Time]

The Logic Of “Government Is Evil” Talk

Joseph Stack, the man who flew his plane into a government building, is to the anti-government movement what Scott Roeder, the man who killed Dr. George Tiller, is to the anti-abortion movement. 

The mantra of the strident anti-choicers—that abortion is murder—leads to the most extreme and unstable believers in that cause to do things like kill or maim abortion providers.  The mantra of the strident anti-government movement—that government is evil—inevitably leads to the most extreme and unstable believers in that cause to do things like fly airplanes into citadels of “the enemy.”

Scott Roeder has his supporters in the anti-abortion movement, despite widespread condemnation among most mainstream groups, who while rightly condemning the murder of George Tiller are wrongly providing the Scott Roeders of the world with the logic of such action.

No doubt, Joseph Stack has his supporters, too.  Facebook has already removed some pages quickly created to show support for the anti-government, anti-patriot.  I found the following on a website called “NewsWithViews,” written by a “pastor” named Chuck Baldwin. He posted this today:

After carefully reading Stack’s manifesto, I am quite convinced that he was not crazy, and he was not a “terrorist.” However, he was angry.

A lot of us are angry–and for many of the same reasons that Mr. Stack was angry! While I would certainly take exception to some of the things Stack says in his manifesto, he said things that many of us are feeling.

I think it’s important to know how far some—read: some—of those angry, frustrated people out there—whose “mainstream” fellow-travellers have become the darlings of the Republican Party—are willing to go to defend such actions by the most unhinged among them.  

So, I will quote at some length from the man of God, Pastor Baldwin, as he goes on to approvingly cite passages from Stack’s rambling rhetoric. Referencing Stack, Baldwin writes:

He goes on to say, “Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble [principles] represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was ‘no taxation with representation’ . . . These days anyone who really stands up for that [principle] is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot,’ traitor and worse.”

For the most part, he’s right about that, of course. It has been a long time since the average hardworking American has been represented in Washington, D.C….

Obviously, Mr. Stack had long felt the frustration of being ignored by these pimps in Washington that we know as congressmen. He wrote, “While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.”

I suppose that just about every American could say the same thing.

Pastor Baldwin ended his little paean to the things that made Stack tick with this:

My heart goes out to Joe Stack! The sentiments expressed above are shared by millions of Americans who are also fed up with Big Brother. We are fed up with our country being turned into a burgeoning police state, under the rubric of “national security.” We are fed up with the harassments of the IRS. We know the “war on drugs” is merely the government’s way of cutting out the competition (this is exactly what more than one retired federal law enforcement agent–employed in the drug war–told me). We know the “war on terror” is nothing but an excuse to trample our constitutional liberties. We are fed up with the voracious vampires known as the Federal Reserve sucking the lifeblood out of the veins of America’s hardworking Middle Class. We are tired of the CFR, CIA, and America’s State Department manufacturing perpetual wars that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives for the benefit of the global elite. We are fed up with an arrogant and oppressive federal government that is strangling the life and freedom out of our states. We all share Joe Stack’s pain!

I really wish Joe Stack had not killed himself, however. We need each other. By taking his life, he reduced our strength. The global elites delight in our demise. As we grow weaker, they grow stronger.

But the fight is not over; the battle is not lost! Rumblings of freedom’s revival can be felt across the length and breadth of this nation. The clanging of liberty’s resolve can be heard in hamlets and villages from Montana to South Carolina. There are still millions of us–from virtually every walk of life–who will not surrender our liberties without a fight! And we have not yet begun to fight!

I advise all to go to the website, NewsWithViews, which posted Pastor Baldwin’s nonsense.  The link to the article is here and the website itself is here.  While certainly the site is more extreme than most government-hating sites, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Fox “News,” it is not a qualitative difference.  It’s only a matter of how far one is willing to follow the logic of government-is-evil philosophy, which is the foundation of the tea party movement and of contemporary conservatism.

[IRS Building photo: AP, KVUE-TV; Joseph Stack photo: Billy Eli website]

Bipartisanship, At Last

Some good news, both locally and nationally, on the money-in-politics issue. 

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals:

Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A whopping “eight in 10 respondents say they oppose the high court’s Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent “strongly” opposed.”  A similar number (72%) favor some kind of congressional action to reinstate campaign limits.

There was bipartisanship on the issue:

The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).

On the home front, The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported today that a Missouri House ethics committee has reached something of a “consensus” on restoring some kind of limitation on political money in Missouri:

While there is still considerable disagreement on the amount, one thing was made clear during the special House committee on ethics reform’s discussion this morning: There will be campaign finance limits in the bill the committee passes.

The story reports that both chairmen, Republican Kevin Wilson, from Neosho, and Democrat John Burnett, from Kansas City, have agreed, “some sort of limit should be in place.”

Let’s hope the limit is such that the people of Missouri can have some confidence that their elected representatives actually represent their interests, rather than the interests of the biggest donors in the state and out.

In both cases—nationally and locally—the legitimacy of our representative republic is at stake.

Lynch Her! Says White Teabaggers

The following news clip is a fine example of two things.  One, it demonstrates that the pale-faced members of the Tea Party movement are being led by pale-faced pistachios.

Two, it demonstrates how accommodating local news broadcasts can be to such pale-faced pistachios and how many small local television “journalists” don’t have the slightest idea what journalism is.

From Asotin County, Washington, here is a report from KLEW TV, which contains the following language, spoken from the podium:

How many of you have watched the movie Lonesome Dove? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? He got hung. And that’s what I want to do with Patty Murray.

Watch:

more about "tea baggers", posted with vodpod

The Truth About Wall Street In 30 Seconds

I just saw the following ad on television, and I can only shout, “It’s about damn time!”  Many conservative Republicans, from Rush Limbaugh to our own Dr. Dick and Mr. Heid, have maintained that the financial crisis was caused by the federal government forcing banks to loan money to poor folks, mostly minorities, for homes they couldn’t otherwise afford.

But here is the truth:

Happy Birthday, Stimulus

A quick review of the stimulus program, who’s one-year anniversary is upon us, from David Leonhardt of the New York Times

Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative. 

Leonhardt discusses the public’s relative lack of appreciation for the stimulus: 

The reasons for the stimulus’s middling popularity aren’t a mystery. The unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, and many families are struggling. Saying that things could have been even worse doesn’t exactly inspire. Liberals don’t like the stimulus because they wish it were bigger. Republicans don’t like it because it’s a Democratic program. The Obama administration hurt the bill’s popularity by making too rosy an economic forecast upon taking office. 

The writer points out the rather large “footprints” of the stimulus bill across our economy, from keeping “teachers, police officers, health care workers and firefighters employed,” to the surge in corporate spending due to the tax credit for corporate investment (now expired), to a positive effect on consumer spending resulting from money doled out through “tax cuts, food stamps and jobless benefits.” 

Finally, pointing out that “the history of financial crises” reveals that the damage is usually much worse than what our economy has suffered, Leonhardt writes: 

Around the world over the last century, the typical financial crisis caused the jobless rate to rise for almost five years, according to work by the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. On that timeline, our rate would still be rising in early 2012. Even that may be optimistic, given that the recent crisis was so bad. As Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson (Republicans both) and many others warned in 2008, this recession had the potential to become a depression. 

Yet the jobless rate is now expected to begin falling consistently by the end of this year. 

While it’s not a sexy reality, the fact that things could have been much worse were it not for the stimulus bill is reason to celebrate today. 

In the meantime, we can also celebrate Republican hypocrisy.  Here’ s my girl, Saint Rachel Maddow, with a nice summary of such hypocrisy: 

 
 

Joplin Globe Owes An Apology

In a stunningly ignorant and outrageous editorial today, the Joplin Globe has criticized the “publicizing” of our intent to capture Marjah, now formerly a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan, and suggested that “politics” was behind the military’s forewarning of its plans to retake the town.

The editorial began:

We do not understand the publicity surrounding the battle now engaged around Marjah, Afghanistan. To us it seems that our armed forces and our Afghan allies are leading with our chins in publicizing the preparations for and now conduct of that battle.

The editorial ended with this:

We ask both our political and military leadership exactly why such forewarnings were provided.

Deception is critical to military success, no matter how overwhelming the forces and technology of one side.

We condemn such political publication of military tactics and challenge the decision to sacrifice American and allied lives for politics.

Anyone paying even half attention to the reports leading up to the offensive in Marjah, understood that the purpose of the action was not to have a protracted firefight with the Taliban. Yesterday an article in the Marine Corp Times quoted Brig. Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai, “commander of Afghan troops in the south”:

 “The aim of the operation is not to kill militants,” he said. “The aim is to protect civilians and bring in development.”

The Marine Corp Times had also reported previously:

For weeks, U.S. commanders had signaled their intention to attack Marjah in hopes that civilians would seek shelter.

So, the point of “publicizing” the offensive was—and this was made clear from the start—to minimize the risk to civilians because the whole point of General McChrystal’s strategy is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.  That’s the only way our efforts in Afghanistan can ultimately be successful.

Again, according to the Marine Corp Times:

NATO and Afghan military officials say killing militants is not the goal of a 3-day-old attack to take control of this Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. More important is to win public support.

They acknowledge that the rules entail risk to its troops, but maintain that civilian casualties or destruction of property can alienate the population and lead to more insurgent recruits, more homemade bombs and a prolonged conflict.

The only “politics” being played in this matter is by the Joplin Globe in its apparent rush to criticize the administration’s war strategy.

Hopefully, the paper will retract its editorial today, and apologize to our military commanders, if not the President of the United States.

“Peeping Putnam” And “Faith-based Tyranny”

John Putnam, local Tea Party organizer and the Christian conscience of Jasper County, made the news again yesterday.  In a story in the Joplin Globe, “Adult store bill backers optimistic,” the moral crusader is reportedly “pleased” with the Missouri Senate’s passage—by a 32-2 vote—of a bill to further regulate sexually oriented businesses in our Christian state.

Leaving aside for a moment the propriety of a teabagging, free-market espousing, Founder-quoting advocate for liberty supporting government regulation of a business solely on moral grounds, let’s look at what the bill, and its companion bill in the Missouri House, might do:

Among other things, both measures require sexually oriented businesses to be set back at least 1,000 feet from sites including homes, schools, churches, day cares, libraries and public parks; bar a person from appearing nude in the business; and set visibility and monitoring requirements on booths where films and videos are shown.

That last one is interesting: It would, “set visibility and monitoring requirements on booths where films and videos are shown.”

The only purpose for such a “peeping Putnam” provision would be to prohibit potential purchasers from prematurely pleasuring themselves before entering the sanctuary (for now) of their homes.

Now, why would a teabagging, free-market espousing, Founder-quoting advocate for liberty care about that and support what Harvey Wasserman called, “faith-based tyranny“?

Beats me.

“How Will I Pay For THIS?”

From an ACLU affiliated website:

“…the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.”

President Barack Obama, “Blueprint for Change,” published November 2008 on www.change.gov and www.whitehouse.gov

Hamedah Hasan could not agree more.

She’s serving her 17th year of a 27 year prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Had she been convicted of a powder cocaine offense, she would be home with her family right now.

Why is Hamedah Hasan still behind bars?

Two decades ago, at the height of public hysteria over the effects of crack cocaine and based on myths that have since been thoroughly debunked, Congress enacted legislation penalizing crack cocaine offenses 100 times more harshly than powder cocaine offenses. This senseless policy has contributed to the skyrocketing incarceration rates and racial inequities that have, shamefully, come to define our criminal justice system. Frittering away taxpayer dollars on overly harsh prison terms for low-level drug offenders is neither fair nor effective, and it is a callous policy our nation can no longer afford.

In addition to the ridiculous legal distinction between powder and crack cocaine, and in addition to the fact that even the sentencing judge in the case disagreed with the sentence he was bound to impose, is the issue of taxpayer dollars being spent to incarcerate a woman who by any definition of justice has paid her debt to society.

I wonder why conservatives don’t object to such a waste of money, if not to the gross injustice involved.  Where are the teabaggers on this issue?

How come I don’t see “Free Hamedah Hasan Now! She Costs Too Much To Keep!” posters at teaparties?

Or how about, “Why Should Our Grandchildren Pay to Incarcerate Hamedah Hasan?”

Or, “Don’t Tax Me, Bro, Fo Yo Wo On Drugs!

For more information, including Hamedah Hasan’s letter to President Obama, who can end this insanity by a few strokes of his pen, visit Dear Mr. President—Yes, You Can here.

[Sign photo by Aggie Yeakel in Panama City, FL.]

The War On Obama

Given that conservatives have continued to prosecute their all-out war on Obama’s handling of our fight against Al Qaeda, it was nice to hear a strong defense of the administration coming from somewhere near the top. Here is one excerpt from Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet The Press today:

DAVID GREGORY: What about the general proposition that the President according to former Vice President Cheney doesn’t consider America to be at war and is essentially soft on terrorism? What do you say about that?

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t think the Vice– the Former Vice President Dick Cheney listens. The President of the United States said in the State of the Union, “We’re at war with Al Qaeda.” He stated this– and by the way, we’re pursuing that war with a vigor like it’s never been seen before. We’ve eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making, we’ve sent them underground. They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don’t know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it’s one thing, again, to– to criticize. It’s another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?

This follows Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan’s piece last week in USA Today in which he said:

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

Now, no doubt these defenses will not placate Obama’s political enemies. They are at war with Obama himself.  The right-wing will not be satisfied by good news that the 9/11 perpetrators are being diminished on a daily basis. They don’t like Obama’s approach because it lacks the language of authoritarianism that conservatives covet.

Not content with merely being at war with Al Qaeda, they want Obama to buy into their larger “war on terror” because such a posture allows for a wide array of possibilities—both domestic and foreign—that will help satisfy their authoritarian cravings.  From wanting more warrantless surveillance of Americans to suggesting starting a war with Iran,  their authoritarian jones simply can’t be satisfied by a thoughtful, “professorial” approach they claim Obama’s policies represent.

Especially now that the Obama administration has tripled down on the efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan—with unarguable success—conservatives these days have to focus on some other aspect of the administration’s policy they want to make the public believe is leaving us vulnerable to terrorism.  Thus, a return to an emphasis on the language that Obama uses, as he prosecutes the war on actual terrorists, as opposed to an amorphous war on a tactic, “terror.”

What some have called a right-wing meme still makes its way about the culture.  You’ve heard it: “Obama won’t even use the word ‘terror.”  In a stunning example of not only right-wing hysteria, but of mainstream media compliance with such hysteria, here is a transcript from CNN from early January:

SEN. JIM DEMINT (Rep-S.C.): There’s no question that the president has down-played the risk of terror since he took office. He is investigating the CIA, rather than build them up.

GLORIA BORGER: How has he — Senator DeMint, how — how has he down-played the risk of terror?

DEMINT: Well, it begins with not even being willing to use the word.

BORGER: Well, aside from the semantics, aside from that.

As Greg Sargent pointed out,

Politico ran with DeMint’s claim today, also without fact-checking it. So did The Hill and MSNBC. CBS also ran similar DeMint comments without rebutting them.

The rebuttal is that not only has Obama repeatedly used the word, he had used it as recently as one day before DeMint’s accusation!  You gotta love that liberal media, letting hard-core conservatives lie about Obama that way.

But thankfully, there are other outlets.  Here is one example that utterly destroys the Obama-won’t-use-the-word-terror meme:

  

If you think such a devastating rebuttal of outrageous right-wing hysteria would stop the insane references to language and Obama’s war efforts, you would be wrong.  Here is something Sarah Palin said, to much applause, at the Tea Party Convention last weekend:

Let me say, too, it’s not politicizing our security to discuss our concerns because Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats that we face and what the administration is or isn’t doing about them. So let’s talk about them. New terms used like “overseas contingency operation” instead of the word “war.” That reflects a world view that is out of touch with the enemy that we face. We can’t spin our way out of this threat. It is one thing to call a pay raise a job created or saved. It is quite another to call the devastation that a homicide bomber can inflict a “manmade disaster.” I just say, come on, Washington, if no where else, national security, that is one place where you’ve got to call it like it is.

She went on to say:

We need a foreign policy that distinguishes America’s friends from her enemies and recognizes the true nature of the threats that we face.

The “true nature of the threats that we face” is what Obama and his administration have finally got right.  And for that the right-wing offers nothing but ridicule and fear.  The latest book by a former Bush official, Marc Thiessen, has as part of its title the following:

How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack

Thiessen began his attacks on Obama rather early.  Last year he wrote:

It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

All of this illustrates that conservatives are more interested in a “War on Obama” than anything else.

[Biden photo: AP; Palin photo: Tennessean.com]

Here’s What’s Wrong With The Tea Party

Stuart Whatley has nailed it.

In a piece titled, “The Tea Party Movement Is a National Embarrassment,” he puts the teabagging phenomenon in its proper context. Outlining what he called the “history of successful social and political movements” in the United States, including the civil rights movement and the feminist movement, Whatley said this: 

At its core, the Tea Party movement is rife with contradiction, incoherence and a willful contempt for facts or reason. It is but a parody of the legitimate movements for which American democracy has historically been held in such high regard. It is, in fact, the latest installment in quite another American tradition: the exploitation of frustrated, desperate, and susceptible people by monied interests and profiteers. 

The incoherence is partly demonstrated, he said, by teapartiers demanding tax cuts from a president (Obama) and a party (Democratic) that gave us at least “one of the biggest tax cuts ever.”  

The stimulus bill passed last year, which has caused such consternation among many misinformed folks and has revealed much Republican hypocrisy, contained a $282 billion cut in taxes, bigger than the first Bush tax cut in 2001 ($174 billion) and the second round of Bush tax cuts  in 2004 and 2005 ($231 billion) over the same two-year period.

To compound the incoherence, Whatley remarked, teabaggers demand tax cuts and deficit reduction simultaneously.  Not even the most zealous supply-siders in the Republican Party have a plan for making that a reality, nor do they even pretend they do, as far as I know.

Whatley also pointed out the fact that while the Tea Party movement claims to be a grassroots group, with “no defined leadership,” it does have “public figures and entities” who act as leaders. This situation, he continues,

has led to perhaps its greatest irony: a portion of the American populace who carries a populist banner against the coddling of greedy bankers is led by some of the country’s most cynical and base profiteers.

Those “cynical and base profiteers” include Dick Armey of Freedom Works and Fox “News” Channel, which has made a lot of money creating and promoting teabagger anxieties and then “covering” their “movement” as “news.”

Whatley discusses the authoritarian nature of the movement in its reliance on “emotion and instinct in decision-making,” its black and white worldview, its resentment of “confusion or ambiguity in the social order,” which explains the movement’s fear of “gays and immigrants,” who they believe are a threat to our social order.  He reminds us that Tom Tancredo’s bigoted speech at the Tea Party Convention last week was “well received.”

Whatley’s piece ended with a somewhat depressing observation, applicable to those around Southwest Missouri and beyond, who reflexively support the Tea Party movement but rely on “big government” for needed assistance:

While the Tea Party may alienate some who see it for the profit-machine that it is, others who share the fearful, intolerant authoritarian worldview that it is increasingly coalescing around will be lured in and pitted against the very people in power who could actually help them.

Sad, but true.

 

“A Return To Core Republican Values”

What would we do without The Daily Show?

 

Gary Nodler Makes Joplin Proud

Here is the first sentence in an article about the debate in the Missouri Senate over the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”:

Sen. Gary Nodler doesn’t want to offend the terrorists.

No?  Why not?  Tony Messenger explains:

“There are real-world implications,” Nodler said. “This is a policy that would directly threaten the lives of soldiers today.”

Nodler’s argument: The Muslim nations of Iraq and Afghanistan, where America is fighting two wars, are opposed to homosexuality. Changing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” would offend the terrorists in such a way that could put soldiers — and America — at risk of further terrorist attacks.

It’s not clear whether Nodler, a Neosho-Joplin man, is in favor of keeping women-folk out of the military because that, too, must offend those sensitive terrorists. 

Maybe he’s saving that gem for a campaign stop in our proud city.

UPDATE: I discovered a website dedicated specifically to Gary Nodler—no, it’s not his Gary Nodler For Congress site, it’s something different:

Unlimited Money, Unlimited Cynicism

NOTE:

I was asked by management at the Joplin Globe to take down this entry, and since the paper pays my meager wages, I will comply. But in lieu of actually taking it down, I opted for editing out the parts that I suspect management objected to.  In place of the original text, I have inserted ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥’s.  Someday, I may write about this episode, which in my opinion confirms the original point of the piece, but for now, here is the redacted post:

The Joplin Globe clearly expressed its official editorial position on the mixing of money and politics today:

We continue to support unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.

Unlimited?  Huh?  

That must mean the paper is prepared to hold accountable those politicians who accept large amounts of money from donors.  Well, it said today it was:

No doubt the public and we, the media, should carefully monitor any politician’s position and watch for changes in such positions based on financial incentives. If there is reasonable evidence to suggest vote “buying” in any form, it should be made public.

That must also mean the paper is prepared to scrutinize the motives of those who would give large amounts of money to those politicians.  Well, it said today it was:

If an individual chooses to spend a lot of his or her money in support of politicians, they should be able to defend such contributions. The bigger the sums, the greater the public scrutiny and demand for accountability.

So, the Joplin Globe has taken the position that it is okay for individuals to give any amount of money to politicians, so long as the donors are subject to questioning and politicians are closely watched to make sure they’re not selling their votes.

But how on earth can the Globe do that?  In other words, how can the paper know for sure just what the motives are of huge donors?  And how can it know whether a politician’s vote has been purchased or even just influenced by large amounts of cash?

It can’t.  That’s why allowing unlimited contributions is a serious mistake and will inevitably lead to public cynicism and a complete lack of confidence in our state’s political system.

Unless a politician is willing to admit that, yes, I voted against health reform because I received $1 million from the insurance companies, all we can do is speculate as to his motivation.

Unless a donor ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

As an example, Sunday’s Globe featured an article by Susan Redden regarding the current debate in the Missouri House over ethics reform, specifically the connection between campaign contributions and potential legislation. 

The article included the various ways proposed to reform the system. One way suggested (contrary to the Globe‘s editorial position) was, “reinstating campaign contribution limits that were removed in Missouri in 2008.” 

In the article, Redden wrote:

Reinstating contribution limits would affect some local donors, including ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, which gave more than $1.7 million to state Republican candidates, groups and committees in 2008, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

That was just in 2008.  Last year, the Kansas City Star reported that,

Within days of a controversial vote last April in the Missouri House, rumors flew that a reward was coming for the Republican leaders who pushed it through.

And those rumors proved true. $25,000 poured in a week after the vote. Then $5,000. Then $50,000. Then $100,000, followed days later by another $25,000. And another $50,000.

The campaign contributions — more than $250,000 in all — came from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Hmmm. So here we have ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.  Beats me. 

The Globe attempted to contact ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, but [as Redden wrote]:

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ did not respond to questions about the purpose of his contributions, or about whether there is a link between contributions and favorable legislation.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

But it is fair to ask ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.  The vote in April of 2009 that the Star referenced involved the way Missouri chooses its judges who sit on the state’s highest courts.

Our appellate court judges, including supreme court judges, are not initially elected in Missouri. A lawyer-heavy commission recommends three judges to the governor, who then appoints one of the three.  Subsequently, the appointed judge must stand for a “retention election,” and upon approval serves a 12-year term.

As the Star put it, “conservatives have assailed the process, arguing that it gives too much influence to trial attorneys.”  And we all know what Republicans think of trial attorneys.

Anyway, the Star continued:

Some companies believe that, through the political process, they can put judges on the bench who are more conservative and sympathetic to corporations.

Okay. What does that ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?  Read on:

At the forefront of the fight has been ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Now,♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

According to Follow The Money, in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$20,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Louisiana.  Yes. Louisiana. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

Well, the candidate, Republican Greg Guidry, was widely perceived to be a friend of business interests.  And Guidry himself criticized his Republican opponent for tainting himself by acting as a “personal injury lawyer.” And we all know those personal injury lawyers are ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?  Taken together, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥to the Louisiana candidate for the Supreme Court ranked ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ as one of his top three donors.

Also in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$6800 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Michigan.  Yes. Michigan. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

Well, the incumbent candidate, Clifford Taylor, was part of a block of four conservatives on the court who consistently voted as one.  And guess what?  According to one source,

Taylor’s tenure was marked by complaints about conflicts of interest due to the campaign finance system.

Sound familiar?

Again in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Mississippi. Yes. Mississippi. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

Well, the candidate, another incumbent, was James Smith.  This stalwart conservative was the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and was part of a controversial decision involving the insurance giant, Prudential. 

By a 7-2 decision the court overturned a jury award of $36.4 million against Prudential, and Justice Smith was among other judges in the majority who were criticized for previously taking money from Prudential and later reversing the jury award in favor of the insurance company.  According to one source, he had taken in a mere $316,077 from a collection of “lawyers, physicians, and insurance companies” in 2004.

Once more in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Wisconsin. Yes. Wisconsin. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

Well, the “non-partisan” candidate, Mike Gableman, was challenging Louis Butler, the incumbent.  Gableman was supported by the business community, which did not like Butler’s opinions in cases involving medical malpractice and product liability cases. 

Hmmm.  That’s a total of $36,800 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ to candidates for the supreme court in other states.

What did the Kansas City Star say again about the fight to change the way Missouri appoints its judges?

Some ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And,

At the 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Okay.  So ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

But shouldn’t there be limits on those contributions?  Here at home, won’t unlimited amounts of cash injected into our political system taint it in the eyes of the public?

Aren’t Missourians justified in wondering about the independence of, say, our own local legislator, Ron Richard, when he reportedly received $55,000 in cash* from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

In its account of the atmosphere surrounding the process, The Star‘s story discussed Richard’s role in the House’s passage of the judicial “reform” bill in 2009:

Suspicions arose almost immediately on both sides of the aisle. Several Republican lawmakers told The Star that their leadership held a series of closed-door meetings with freshman lawmakers and veterans who had voted against a similar bill in 2008.

“We got our asses chewed,” said one lawmaker who was called before the speaker. The lawmaker asked not to be identified.

Tilley, who as floor leader directs legislation in the House, told lawmakers the bill’s failure would be “unacceptable” and House Speaker Ron Richard bullied subordinates into supporting it, according to legislators’ accounts and contemporaneous memos.

Aren’t we entitled to a little cynicism here?  If Ron Richard chewed ass and “bullied subordinates into supporting” a bill ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

That’s the problem. Because the money flows freely and without limits in Missouri, there is nothing ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And that is why the Globe is so wrong about endorsing “unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.” At the very least, the paper should be prepared to ask some tough questions of the givers and receivers, even if they don’t want such scrutiny.  Continue calling them, visiting their offices, sending them letters—whatever it takes—to get some answers.

And I’ll be here watching to see if it does.

 

*Actually, the amount turns out to be $60,000.

The Case Of The Shrinking Testicles

Senator Ben Nelson, the conservative Democrat from Nebraska, in a naked attempt to save his political keister in 2012, has said he will join a Republican filibuster involving one of Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker.

This is not good news for unions or American workers.  And, of course, it’s not good news for Ben Nelson, who polls show would lose to Jesus in a head to Godhead contest.

The NLRB is an extremely important agency charged with administering the National Labor Relations Act, the federal firewall protecting unions from total annihilation at the hands of employers.  Thus, conservatives and libertarians generally hate the NLRA and are suspicious of anyone a Democrat might appoint to the Board.  

In any case, the five-member Board adjudicates cases involving labor/management disputes and currently has only one member and four vacancies.  Yes. Only one. And four vacancies.

My experience with the Board was this: Under President Clinton, it was pro-labor.  Under George Bush Part Deux, it was pro-management.  Why?  Because presidents, especially ones who indisputably win elections, get to appoint members of the board. So, each president will appoint members in line with his beliefs about the utility of unions.  Doesn’t that sound reasonable?  I mean, among the many things that happens when a candidate wins an election, is that he gets to put his people in positions like serving on the NLRB.

Except that’s not what happens now that Republicans have found some potential in using filibuster steroids. 

Just like the way we have decided to call the days when Mark McGwire was using his juiced-up biceps to crush baseballs, “the steroid era,” these times will someday be known as the “filibuster era” in Senate history, with all the associated ignominy.

And one of the famous side effects of steroid use—shrinking testicles—is now evident in the Senate: Someone check Ben Nelson’s ball sack.

It’s not that Craig Becker killed anyone or called Rush a retard.  It’s that, according to Nelson, he may actually believe in all that union stuff. He may even interpret the NLRA in ways conservatives don’t like.  Imagine that!

Nelson’s lame reasons for joining the filibuster, which can be found on his website, are an example of the kind of politics that conservatives—now including conservative Democrats—are playing these days.  Here is just one example, in which Nelson quotes a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article. I will supply the emphasis:

…Becker asserted that employees should be compelled to join labor unions: it could be argued that industrial democracy should be made more like political democracy by altering the nature of the choice presented to workers in union elections. Such a reform would mandate employee representation, and the question posed on the ballot would simply be which representative.”

Just like that, Nelson turned a passive, “it could be argued,” into a emphatic, “Becker asserted.”

At this point in our stagnant politics, I don’t care if  Mr. Becker has in his basement a freezer full of  conservative carcasses, carved like chicken chunks.  Democrats, including Obama, should put up a fight for him.  Make Ben Nelson become part of the steroidal filibuster tag team by actually forcing Republicans to conduct their filibuster. 

That way all would know he was juicing up with Republicans.  Who knows, maybe someday Nelson could become a hitting coach for the Cardinals.

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