Our Apples Didn’t Fall Far From Their Tree

I just can’t help myself.  The election in the UK is so fascinating, if only to examine how the candidates deal with issues familiar to Americans.  Here’s a few snippets from the final debate yesterday, between David Cameron (Conservatives), Nick Clegg (LibDems), and PM Gordon Brown (Labour), featuring short discussions on the budget, taxes, and immigration:

 
 

“As Dumb As A Brontosaurus In A Blizzard”

Gene Lyons’ column in yesterday Globe was titled, “Bail me out of these GOP lies.” On Salon.com the column, in a slightly modified form, was titled, “How the GOP gets away with it.”

However one wants to label it, the column exposed a large part of the reason why the country is so divided, and why it is so hard to find compromise as we try to solve some of the country’s problems.

Lyons began his explanation as to why the country is becoming “as dumb as a brontosaurus in a blizzard” with this:

Has the Republican Party gone completely off into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, or have its leading spokesmen simply decided to mimic the party’s entertainment wing: trusting its loyal audience to believe even the most brazen falsehoods, and, equally important, to remember nothing?

[…] After all, you can trick a cow with an empty feed bucket once or twice. By the third try, it won’t even look at you.

GOP savants act as if Republican voters are more easily guided.

The specific issue Lyons was addressing was the Republican and conservative lies about the financial-reform bill being debated in the Senate, the one which Republicans claim would lead to “endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks,” a critique dreamed up by Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz, before there was a financial reform bill to criticize.

Never mind, as Lyons and nearly everyone else not employed by Rupert Murdoch has pointed out, the proposed legislation “would do exactly the opposite.”  Republicans seem to have the luxury these days of keeping large swaths of the population agitated by propagating fractional truths and outright falsehoods.

In any case, Lyons quotes Matt Yglesias, a blogger for Think Progress, as he nails the dynamics of the Republican strategy:

The only real test for whether or not lying works is whether or not you can bring your ideological fellow travelers along. Will Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck echo your line? Will the Weekly Standard and National Review? Will the bulk of your legislative caucus? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Lyons adds his own anecdotal evidence to the idea that “Fox News viewers and Limbaugh listeners” resist anything contradicting their world view,  a world view formed largely by disinformation campaigns like the one over financial reform:

Conditioned by decades of propaganda about liberal media bias, many react with overt hostility to any and all information from other sources. I must get 50 angry e-mails a week calling me a liar for citing some easily verifiable fact at odds with right-wing doctrine.

The column ends with a quote from Julian Sanchez, a libertarian from the Cato Institute:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.

Those aren’t the words of a left-winger.  Again, Sanchez said:

Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.

Now, admittedly, I am a former dittohead and I have a PhD in Limbaughnics.  But anyone who has listened for five minutes to Rush, Sean, Glenn, or has tried to talk to someone who regularly listens to them, knows exactly what Mr. Sanchez means.

And that, boys and girls, goes a long way in explaining the deep fissures among us, and why it so hard to get Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to work together on the stuff that ails us.

As I wrote in February of 2009:

Limbaugh, right-wing radio, and the Hannitized local minions who contribute to the Globe, obviously don’t long for a government that nurtures unity…Their conservatism is divisive and destructive, a toxic concoction by which the most famous of these snake oil salesmen earn a substantial, if sullied, living.

And as long as they can make such a substantial living—as long as people tune in—expect more to come.

UK Candidates And USA Republicans Mum About Budget Cuts

I’ve been trying to follow the election in the UK between Labour Party incumbent Gordon Brown (who screwed up royally yesterday by calling a voter a “bigoted woman”), David Cameron (Conservative Party), and fast-rising Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats*). 

A real possibility exists that after the May 6 election, no party will have a majority of MP’s in Parliament, which would be the first hung parliament since 1974 and would make for interesting politics. 

But the real reason I mention all this is the following item, which illustrates that it’s not just American politicians who have trouble facing the hard facts about deficits and debts: 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said none of the three largest parties at Westminster has come “anywhere close” to making clear where cuts would be made to meet their deficit reduction targets over the next four years. 

Here at home, Republicans don’t even have “deficit reduction targets,” not to mention specific budget cuts they are willing to defend.  They just whine about Obama’s spending and agitate for tax cuts for the wealthy. 

As a side note about the UK election and the parliamentary form of government, here is a list of the parties running for seats in Parliament, other than the three biggies mentioned above: 

Democratic Unionist Party; Scottish National Party; Sinn Fein; Plaid Cymru; Social Democratic & Labour Party; Ulster Conservative & Unionist New Force; Respect (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism); UK Independence Party; Green Party (England & Wales); British National Party; Scottish Green Party; Alliance Party; Green Party (Northern Ireland); English Democrats; Scottish Socialist Party; Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; Traditional Unionist Voice     
 _________________________________________________________

*They’re not what you may think. 

 

 

Tucson Touché

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona (Tucson), has some interesting things to say about the troubling new law passed in his state. 

But Republicans shouldn’t pay any attention to him; he’s only been in law enforcement for 52 years, and on Pima County’s southern border is a place called Mexico.  So, what the hell does Sheriff Dupnik know about the immigration issue?

Watch, and find out:

A Vale Of Fears

Former First Lady Laura Bush will have her memoirs published next week, which will, understandably, contain a robust defense of her husband, who, the latest poll shows, still remains an object of blame for our ongoing economic morass.  59% of Americans, including 30% of Republicans, give Bush his due for the weakened state of our fiscal health.

That having been said, I was struck by something unexpected that apparently is in Mrs. Bush’s book.

The New York Times procured, of course, a copy of, Spoken From the Heart, which includes a rather poignant discussion of an auto accident involving Mrs. Bush when she was only 17 years old.  As the Times put it,

On a November night in 1963, Mrs. Bush and a girlfriend were hurrying to a drive-in theater when Mrs. Bush, at the wheel of her father’s Chevy Impala, ran a stop sign on a small road and smashed into a car being driven by Mike Douglas, a star athlete and popular student at her school… Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign.

It turns out the young Mike Douglas died.

Mrs. Bush writes:

I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years. It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas’s sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain.

And it was as if no one heard.”

Who hasn’t experienced that alienating feeling?  And why wouldn’t it cause a young woman to lose her faith in a God who allegedly hears and answers earnest prayers? Such is the way it is in this vale of fears, prominent among them the fear that we are alone, that there is no one to hear our pleas and cries for mercy, if not for justice.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” wrote C.S. Lewis, as he suffered through his own crisis of faith over the death of his wife, Joy Davidman.

I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.  I keep on swallowing.

Yes, this is really a vale of fears, at least for most of us.

I don’t know how Mrs. Bush recovered her faith, or if she ever did fully recover it, or if she should have recovered it.  And I don’t pretend to understand the dynamics of such recovery or even understand the seemingly mysterious events that conspire to give rise to the emotions the young Laura Bush experienced so long ago.

Perhaps, as C.S. Lewis finally concluded:

We cannot understand.  The best is perhaps what we understand least.

 

A Ditty Sheal

I confess that Charles Krauthammer is one of the smartest guys on the right, but admittedly the bar on that side is not all that high these days.  And I confess that I admire his considerable intellect, which every once in a while is employed in ways that bring honor to it.

Then there are those moments when all you can do is shake your head and pity a man who wastes such a valuable instrument.

Yesterday, On Special Report with Bret Baier, the pinnacle of fair and balanced journalism on the Reactionary Network also known as Fox “News,” this bit of silliness transpired:

Just to repeat, Krauthammer compared the appearance of Goldman Sachs executives before a committee of one of the national legislative bodies of a democratic republic to, well, here’s the transcript of his comments:

When the Incas had a crop failure, they would take somebody up on a hill, and they would execute them. This process is the same except it has a little less dignity. I’m sure the language was cleaner in the Inca process…

Now, Krauthammer’s tongue-in-cheek reference to the “language” brings me to a strange thing I noticed yesterday on Fox “News.” 

As I was watching the various ways the cable outlets were covering the progress of the Goldman Sachs hearing, I couldn’t help but notice the odd fascination that most of them had with the use of the word “shitty,” which was originally used by a Goldman insider to describe the crap they were urging their customers to buy. 

But on Fox, there was what amounted to disgust that legislators, including our own Claire McCaskill, would repeat such a naughty word. 

In fact, on shows like Your World with Neil Cavuto, there was more outrage expressed over the use of profanity than over the fact that greedy gamblers on Wall Street harmed the country, not only by running the economy off the road, but by flipping us the bonus bird when taxpayers got them back in their cars and driving again toward even more profits.

Outrage over those events—rather than over our elected Senators grilling greedy Goldman employees with colorful language—should inspire intellectuals like Charles Krauthammer to use their noggins to come up with a bloodthirsty Inca metaphor applicable to the behavior of smartasses on Wall Street.

But there will be no Inca metaphor coming from Krauthammer or other right-wing intellectuals describing the excesses of big “bankers” that crippled our economy and cost many middle class Americans their jobs.  Nope.

Not when we have more important things to worry about, like the fact that our legislators used one of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.

How Barney Frank Can Become President

If I needed another reason to avoid Texas, I found one today.

The governor of that state, former Texas A&M cheerleader Rick Perry, endorsed the views of Glenn Beck and made him an “honorary Texan,” which come to think of it, fits very well.

But Pom-pon Perry did us a favor by correctly pointing out Beck’s proper place on the star-studded right-wing, including the Tea Party movement. 

At a “Taking Back America” event in Tyler, Texas, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Perry said:

The governor described Beck as a national leader of a powerful group sending a message to the current administration and congress about Washington, D.C., how to control spending and Americans taking their country back.

A national leader.  That’s Glenn Beck. 

He speaks for the pale-faced patriots in the tea parties. 

He speaks for the God-fearing folks in the country who just want “their” country back. 

He speaks for those who believe Barack Obama’s presidency is a curse from God, sort of God’s way of saying, “I want a tax cut,” or something like that.

One person who didn’t need Glenn to speak for him at the event last Saturday was Texas state representative Leo Berman, who said:

I believe that Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.

Now, I know a little about divine retribution, having read about it in the Old Testament, and if Mr. Berman thinks the country can escape so easily from an Angry God, he’d better think again.  

Making Glenn Beck an honorary Texan and calling President Obama a socialist and parading patriotically around Tea Party rallies in powdered wigs will not appease the Almighty’s sense of justice.

We need to do more than that or else.

If anyone thinks Obama is a curse from God, how about President Barney Frank?  How would that bit of godly chastisement tickle the toes of teapartiers in Tyler?

Better get on your knees boys and girls or we could soon have a sodomite in the White House!

“Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord.

Arizona Angst: The White Man’s Revenge

My post earlier in the week on the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona attempted to document the real reasons behind that extreme overreaction to the problem of illegal immigrants.

Essentially, much of the impetus behind the law is not the fact that illegals killed a rancher recently or that illegals are stealing American jobs or that illegals are overburdening social services.

Nope. It’s just white angst.

Here is a short segment from Rachel Maddow broadcast last night:


Don’t Dis Darwin, Danny Ditto

Dan Walters attacked my criticism of end times theology today in the Joplin Globe.  Earlier this month the paper published a column I wrote, “Theology has ominous message,” which took issue with certain presentations of Christian eschatology, that of Pastor Mack Evans and the Hutaree.

Now, after I caught my breath from confronting so early in the morning such Christian vitriol charity on the pages of my beloved home-town newspaper, I then took on the chore of fixing at least one thing Mr. Walters wrote: 

Dear Dan,

Nevermind that you brought my late mother into the discussion.  That’s a bit unfair, since she’d probably be on your side on this one, Danno.

Nevermind that you accused me of having “the gall of bitterness.”  I don’t.  I had it removed years ago.

Nevermind that you accused me of having “contempt for 6,000 years of Christianity.” I don’t. Mainly because Christianity has only been around about 2,000 years, Danny Man.  But also because I wasn’t attacking Christianity in the piece I wrote about Mack Evans and the Hutaree. I was attacking a particular brand of “apocalyptic doom” that I find disturbing, as you should, too.

Nevermind that you accused me of “falsely representing the Bible as mind pollution, superstition and ignorance.” I didn’t, technically, for two reasons:

1) I didn’t falsely represent it as mind pollution, superstition and ignorance. I truly represented it as mind pollution, superstition, and ignorance

2) To be fair, I only represented end times theology, to the extent it is extracted from the Bible by people like Mack Evans and the Hutaree, as mind pollution, superstition, and ignorance.  Not the entire Bible.

Nevermind that you suggested I go down to the “next school board meeting” and have them excise a couple of pages from the Origin of Species, which you found distasteful.  That wouldn’t work, Daniel, because I doubt seriously if our Joplin schools use that fine book in our classrooms. 

Would to God they did.

So, nevermind all that.  My only suggestion for the above is that you look into having your own gall of bitterness removed.  Obamacare ™ will cover the procedure, I am sure.

What really vexed me, Mr. Walters, was your clipping a couple of passages from Charles Darwin’s book and drawing an erroneous conclusion, namely “that Darwin’s affection for violence makes the world a little safer for guns, SUVs and Fox News.” 

Such slander is unconscionable, even for a conservative Christian.

Now, I have come to expect such reasoning from Fox “News” devotees and dittoheads (the SUV  reference gives you away, Danny Ditto.)

But I just can’t let this one stand.

By all accounts, Charles Darwin was a good and decent man, a man of peace, who loved his wife and his children profusely and devotedly.  The passages you quoted were not evidence of his approval of the violence in nature, but an appreciation of the workings of natural selection, something that shouldn’t even have to be said. 

And besides that, you left out a phrase in your quote that some of your fundy friends might find helpful. Part of your quote ran:

…and maternal love or maternal hatred is all the same to the inexorable principle or [sic] natural selection…

My edition reads:

…and maternal love or maternal hatred, though the latter fortunately is most rare, is all the same to the inexorable principle of natural selection…

That, “though the latter fortunately is most rare,” kind of contradicts your dumb point, doesn’t it?

In fact, some of the things you cited, especially the ichneumon wasp, were quite troubling to Darwin’s conscience, if not to your own.   He wrote to Asa Gray in 1860, a year after the publication of the Origin of Species:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

Even before the publication of his game-changing book, Darwin wrote this to Joseph Hooker:

What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of nature!

So, in your zeal to attack me* for criticizing hard-core Christian eschatology, you got Darwin all wrong. 

Now, you can get back to Fox “News.”  It’s almost time for Glenn Beck.

Duane Graham

________________________________________________________

*I was also attacked today by Joe Johnson, but since Mr. Johnson didn’t bring up my mother or slander Charles Darwin—he only attacked my logic and my ignorance of “the current social, political and economic unrest sweeping the planet“—I will let him slide.

Arizona Attempts To Prevent “A Giant Kosovo In The Southwest”

Even Republicans outside of Arizona, reacting to that state’s unfortunate response to the illegal immigration problem—in effect now becoming a quasi-authoritarian state—generally say that the law is justified because the federal government has failed to act on the problems associated with our southern border.

In other words, because Republicans—mostly hard-core conservatives on the radio and television*—derailed comprehensive federal immigration reform, efforts that began in 2005, any state government is now justified in beginning the process of turning itself into the kind of place only a fan of fascism could love. 

As Brit Hume, who is the senior political analyst for Fox “News” and thus the network’s top working Republican journalist, said this morning, the Arizona response was “reasonable” in passing a “somewhat draconian law” because “the fault really lies with the utter failure of the federal government in Washington to deal with this issue.”

So, since the defense of Arizona Republicans is that the feds failed to act, let’s look back briefly on how the right-wing helped squash sensible national reforms, reforms that would have helped states like Arizona (indeed, John McCain, from Arizona, championed such sensible reforms before he gave up and joined the right-wing rabble), and would have prevented the harsh, reactionary measures that now have become law in that state. 

The view from the hard right is that, essentially, our cultural identity is at stake:

Just as a representative sample of how the right felt about an emerging agreement on immigration reform, here’s what Don Feder, a popular columnist at the right-wing FrontPageMag.com said on April 7, 2006:

The Senate has reached a “compromise” on illegal immigration. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist  (who, by his conduct here, just lost the ’08 nomination) called it a “huge breakthrough” – a moral collapse would be more like it.

Feder went on to call the compromise between Republicans and Democrats a “rape of our national identity,” and ended with this flourish:

The party’s conservative base – its very essence – is furious with this unpardonable betrayal. 

If this gift to illegal aliens becomes law, there will be no amnesty for the Republican Party.

Speaking of our national identity, its rape notwithstanding, Tom Tancredo, a congressman from Colorado at the time and a loud-mouthed leader of the hard-core anti-immigration movement in the U.S. House, had said in November of 2006 that Miami, Florida, “has become a Third World country,” due to its large Hispanic population. 

Never mind that those Hispanics were also Americans. 

And never mind that people we would call Hispanics were living in America long before the lilliest white Pat Buchanans arrived to then dream of sending them back to Latin America.

Speaking of Pat Buchanan, MSNBC’s token conservative culture warrior, he said in 2006, “you’re going to have a giant Kosovo in the Southwest,” and told Chris Matthews :

BUCHANAN: I think what’s coming is the complete balkanization of America, and I’m afraid it’s going to be by ethnicity and culture, and language, and every other way. And we’re going to be like the Balkans, only we’ve got a much larger and more prosperous country. And so, then, it’s not like the country you and I grew up in, Chris, whereby –

MATTHEWS: It’s already not that.

BUCHANAN: — we were monocultural. We were monocultural.

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s already not that.

Buchanan also told an approving Glenn Beck in 2006:

What I’m saying is, we’ve got a fifth column here, European-Americans are leaving California. And in an amount of time, by 2050, this will be so Mexican, it’ll be like Kosovo is to Serbia, and we will lose the Southwest. Not militarily – ethnically, linguistically, socially, culturally.

Buchanan wrote in a book released in 2007 (Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed are Tearing America Apart) that America was committing “national suicide.”  Here’s why:

The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. Forty-five million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade, as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2005 to 2006, our minority population rose 2.4 million to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of the U.S. population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Since 2000, their numbers have soured 25 percent to 45 million. The U.S. Asian population grew by 24 percent since 2000, as the number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent. Half the children five and younger today are minority children.

He continued:

…the greatest cohort of immigrants here today, legal and illegal, is from Mexico. One in five Mexicans is already here. But unlike the immigrants of old, Mexicans bear an ancient grudge against us as the country that robbed Mexico of half her land when both nations were young. By one survey, 72 percent of Mexicans look on Americans as “racists.” By another, 58 percent of Mexicans believe the American Southwest belongs to them.

…By 2050, more than 100 million Hispanics will be in the United States, concentrated in a Southwest that borders on Mexico. As the Serbs are losing Kosovo, so we may have lost the Southwest.

We may have lost the Southwest” is not meant to be ironic, even considering how we “won” parts of the Southwest in the first place.  In fact, there is little doubt that “liberal” immigration policies on the part of the Mexican government led to a later rebellion of those white American “immigrants,” who declared independence from Mexico in 1836, after they had grown to outnumber the citizens of Mexican Texas.

After the United States annexed Texas, and further provoked the Mexicans to war, the ensuing U.S. victory over Mexico in the Mexican-American War—which made Texas, California, and other parts of the Southwest part of American territory—satisfied the widespread sense of white American superiority, as expressed in the notion of Manifest Destiny, an idea that God himself had ordained our aggressive expansion across the continent all the way to the San Francisco Bay, our new gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

Now, with that understanding, let’s look at how Buchanan interacted with Sean Hannity, soon after Buchanan’s book was released:

HANNITY: You say we’re on a path of national suicide. I want to ask this question directly because you say it’s a day of reckoning. Do you really believe that America, the country we all love as we know it, is in jeopardy of existing?

BUCHANAN: I think — here’s what I think. I think America may exist, but I’ll tell you this: I do believe we’re going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable. If we do not put a fence on that border –

HANNITY: I agree with you.

BUCHANAN: — you’re going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them. What’s going to happen to us, Sean, in my judgment, is what is happening right now: We are Balkanizing. We are dividing and separating from one another politically, morally — on issues like abortion or Terri Schiavo — racially and ethnically, when you get Jena and then you get Don Imus, and all of these things ripping us apart. All the things that used to pull us together and hold us together no longer do.

HANNITY: You say that the greatest invasion in history of the Third World, et cetera, et cetera, talking about the invasion on our borders, and I agree with you. That to me is the number one security issue we have.

You talk about the culture is collapsing, the nation is being deconstructed along lines of race and class in America, a fiscal crisis is looming, Medicare, Social Security is going bankrupt, and we don’t have politicians that can get along enough to solve the problem.

I use Pat Buchanan as the salient example (the record is replete with other fine specimens) of what’s really going on in Arizona because Pat, to his credit, doesn’t hide behind economic or safety issues.  His view is that rampant and unchecked immigration is a threat to white culture, something that many conservatives won’t state openly, but nonetheless believe.

How else to explain the lack of congruence between the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement—Obama is threatening our liberty—and its members’ simultaneous support of the Arizona law?

As Paul Krugman pointed out this morning on This Week, it’s rather odd that most of the same people who think government is intruding into our lives as Americans don’t mind that Arizona policeman intrude into the lives of Hispanic Americans—who, no doubt, will be targeted as suspects, should the police in Arizona take this law seriously enough to enforce it.

But they had better take it seriously, because the law carries a penalty for not doing so: lawsuits from citizens (mostly white, no doubt) who don’t think local government is enforcing the law.

When it comes to protecting white culture, white folks just aren’t going to take it anymore, even if it means crapping on the white man’s most precious treasure: the Constitution.

________________________________________________________

*Various liberal groups also opposed some aspects of the immigration reform bills, from limiting family reunification visas to provisions providing for a “guest worker” program that labor groups deemed as creating a working underclass with no benefits, hurting American workers.  But it was the fierce and boisterous opposition from the right-wing, over more moderate (at the time) voices like John McCain and even George W. Bush, that ultimately doomed any chance of fixing the problem on the federal level.

Cal Thomas The Straw Man Slayer

Cal Thomas, a frequent guest on Sean Hannity’s television show, cleverly called “Hannity,” also appears regularly—much too regularly for my tastes—in the Joplin Globe.  And like most conservative columnists appearing in the Globe, Thomas is a master conservative demagogue-by-proxy and a serial slayer of straw men.

After reading his column today in the paper, Thomas can hang several more grass scalps on his belt.  He murdered straw men that even I didn’t know existed.

Just a few examples:

Protest can be patriotic, and no one should be thought less of an American because that person opposes the policies of a particular administration.

But now that the (left) shoe is on the other foot, we hear nothing about protest being patriotic. Instead, we hear from the left that it is dangerous and might lead to another Timothy McVeigh blowing up a federal building or trying to assassinate a president.

Wow! Protest can be patriotic? (Why hedge there, Cal?) I didn’t know that. I just assumed that protesting was bad because every liberal I know (I don’t know any “leftists”) hates protesters.  I mean, I don’t know one single liberal who thinks protesting is a good thing. Not a single one. 

After all, The Annointed One is president now.  And liberals all think anyone who opposes Obama’s policies are essentially terrorists who should be jailed to prevent another Oklahoma City bombing. I know I do.  And I’m mad at Bill Clinton for letting conservatives know we all feel that way.  He should have kept our secret.

People like William Ayers, Tom Hayden, Eldridge Cleaver, Sam Brown and Jane Fonda, and groups like SNCC, were seen by the mainstream media and liberal cultural commentators as exercising free speech and assembly, even when that assembly sometimes turned violent.

Really?  You mean CBS, NBC, and ABC reported that when Bill Ayers was bombing public buildings in the 1960s he was just exercising his Constitutional rights?  How shameful of them.  No wonder conservatives hate the mainstream media.  Knowing that, I now hate them, too.

If you don’t like President Obama’s policies, you are a racist who is setting him up for assassination by a neo-Nazi who is waiting in the (right) wings for sufficient inspiration. You should be lying down and taking it, because Obama wants only the best for all Americans.

Oh, I get it.  If you point out racist signs at Tea Parties, or quote racist remarks by Tea Party speakers, then you are ipso facto accusing all opponents of Obama of being racists. Now I understand.  I won’t do that anymore, Cal.  So, I won’t say that your “lying down and taking it” remark may be a racially-tinged reference.  I promise I won’t.

In this way of thinking, everything done by government when it is headed by leftists (though not by conservatives) is noble, righteous and good. If you disagree with any of it, you are opposing God, though of course to the left there is no real God. Government is God.

Again, I am overwhelmed by this revelation.  Since our own government has never been headed by a “leftist,” I’m not sure how you reached this conclusion, Cal, but I believe you because as all liberals know, Government is God, and Obama is its prophet.

If you don’t like what courts are doing — legitimizing behavior that used to be called sinful before that word fell into disrepute — you are a fundamentalist wacko who wants to impose your religion on the country.

Finally, Cal, that is something I did know.  You are a fundamentalist wacko who wants to impose your religion on the country by stacking the Supreme Court with conservative Christians who will claim that homosexuals are “sinners.” 

And you’re almost there.  A Sarah Palin presidency ought to finish the job.

Guilty Pleasure: Watching The Tea Party

Look, I realize some people think that those who make up the Tea Party movement are in a distinct minority, confused cross-dressers who enjoy parading around in their 18th-century best: full-skirted coat, waistcoat, cravat, breeches, linen leggings (silk stockings for the more fashion-conscious), and Elton Johnish-wig, topped off by a nice tricorne.

Others think teapartiers are just extensions of the Republican Party, some of whom happen to have an insatiable appetite for ignorance.

In either case, I realize that the Tea Party phenomenon receives much more attention than it deserves.

But, damn!  Teapartiers are so much fun to watch!

In case you missed the following video, you really should see it.  Having been in his shoes on a much smaller scale, I admire Chase Whiteside, the interviewer, because he kept a straight face through most of it.

There are some real gems on display, but in my opinion, the highlight of the video, simply because it is an example of ignorance en masse, is when teapartiers chant “bullshit” in unison at the direction of Lord Monckton, who urges them to call “global warming” by its American name.  

I know it made me proud to be an American.

Monckton, a Brit who has found a way to make some real money “debunking” climate change, began his speech at the Tea Party (oddly not on the video) with these remarks, according to WaPo:

“America!” said Monckton at the start of his speech. “Land of opportunity! You can be born in Kenya and end up as president of the United States!”

Watch and have fun:

Franklin Graham, Clean Up Your Own Back Yard

In a shameful segment* on Fox and Friends this morning, Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, made an appearance expressing dismay over just why the Pentagon may want to give him the left foot of fellowship regarding its upcoming special prayer service. 

Now, it’s official.  There’ll be no Islam-is-evil evangelical Christian invoking the good will of Allah God on behalf of our troops.

Graham, who said he has not backed down from his comment many years ago, that Islam was “evil,” believes that Islam’s “degradation” of women justifies such extreme talk. 

Maybe it does.

In the mean time, women are still unable to be priests in the Catholic Church, and in most fundamentalist Christian churches women are allowed only to “teach” children and not “usurp” authority over men.

The following sampling of “women are inferior” verses comes not from the Quran, but from the New Testament:

1 Corinthians 11:3: “…Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and the head of Christ is God. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 11:7-9:“For a man…is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (NIV)

1 Timothy 2:11-15:“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent…” (NIV)

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*What made the segment shameful was the obvious pandering to Fox’s Christian viewers, describing a world in which one got the impression that Christians were a persecuted minority in America.

Big O At His Best, Again

The definite highlight of President Obama’s speech on financial reform, delivered today at Cooper Union in New York City, a stone’s throw from the New York Stock Exchange, was the following passage, which serves as a primer on the historical “tension” between government doing too much and doing too little:

We will not always see eye to eye. We will not always agree. But that does not mean we have to choose between two extremes.

We do not have to choose between markets unfettered by even modest protections against crisis, and markets stymied by onerous rules that suppress enterprise and innovation. That’s a false choice. And we need no more proof than the crisis we’ve just been through.

There has always been a tension between the desire to allow markets to function without interference — and the absolute necessity of rules to prevent markets from falling out of balance. But managing that tension, one we’ve debated since our founding, is what has allowed our country to keep up with a changing world. For in taking up this debate, in figuring out how to apply our well-worn principles with each new age, we ensure that we do not tip too far one way or the other — that our democracy remains as dynamic as the economy itself. Yes, the debate can be contentious. It can be heated. But in the end it serves to make our country stronger. It has allowed us to adapt and thrive.

I read a report recently that I think fairly illustrates this point. It’s from Time Magazine. And I quote:

Through the great banking houses of Manhattan last week ran wild-eyed alarm. Big bankers stared at one another in anger and astonishment. A bill just passed … would rivet upon their institutions what they considered a monstrous system… Such a system, they felt, would not only rob them of their pride of profession but would reduce all U.S. banking to its lowest level.

That appeared in Time Magazine — in June of 1933. The system that caused so much concern and consternation? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the FDIC — an institution that has successfully secured the deposits of generations of Americans.

In the end, our system only works—our markets are only free—when there are basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system. And that is what these reforms are designed to achieve: no more, no less.

As I have sarcastically said before, Wow! What a wild-eyed lefty is our president.

[Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty Images]

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: “Everybody Recognizes Now That Our Deficits Are Too High”

I know many liberals hate him, but On Morning Joe this morning, I heard Obama’s Treasury Secretary address openly the issue of deficits and the national debt, and offered a plausible scenario on how to deal with them.

Joe Scarborough asked him about the “political will” for spending cuts and tax increases, “that are going to be required to make sure we don’t turn into Greece.”  Geithner responded:

Absolutely the will’s at the White House.  And the American people are going to insist we do it as a country because they understand—they’re very sensible people—and they look at this and they know it’s not sustainable and their view is…”we’re tightening our belts in a crisis, we make choices when we go too far, and the government needs to do the same thing.”

Here is the segment on the economy and on the debt issues:

Republican Adventures In Wonderland

It’s Official: Republicans Lied

The Frank Luntz-inspired “bailout” mantra, applied to the Democrats’ financial reform proposal by Republicans like Mitch McConnell, can now officially be called a “lie.”

PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter has rated as FALSE McConnell’s (and by extension Luntz’s and all Republicans’) comments that “new financial regulations under consideration in the Senate” “will lead to endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks.

…we base our ruling primarily on the legislation. It clearly states that the intention is to liquidate failing companies, not bail them out.

Mr. Luntz, no doubt, will generate other ways to sabotage the efforts to reform Wall Street, but let’s hope the Democrats will not bend on this one.

 Aloha To Your Campaign Donations

Another example of how in-touch Republicans are with reality, not to mention with “regular folks,” the GOP filed FEC reports indicating that its semi-annual meeting, held in January in Waikiki, cost Republican donors a mere $340,000. According to the National Journal‘s Hotline On Call:

The $340K documented in FEC filings does not include airfare for each staffer, which could amount to tens of thousands more.

I wonder how far 340 grand would go here in Republican Southwest Missouri?  Heck, with that kind of money invested in local Republican politics, the party would never have to worry about competition from Democrats.  Oh, wait—there’s no competition from the Democrats now around these parts, so Aloha! to all you Republican donors!

 Let Me See Your Papers, Comrade!

Arizona Republicans have finally figured out a way to deal with illegal immigration: make racial profiling a state lawAccording to CNN:

Under the bill, police would be required to question anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

You have to love the way Tea Party Republicans interpret our Constitution, which they claim Obama is trashing.

Sadly, John McCain, who once championed sensible immigration reform, seems to have lost not only his soul, but his sense.  Here is an exchange he had with Bill-O:

O’REILLY: Now, next week, the governor is going to sign, we believe, a very stringent state law that gives the police in Arizona very, very broad authority to question people. And a lot of people say it’s going to be racial profiling. You’re going to look for Hispanics, question them, to see if they’re here legally or not. And it’s just not fair. And you say why?
MCCAIN: I say that the federal responsibilities have not been fulfilled. Therefore, the states are acting — the state of Arizona is acting and doing what they feel they need to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to secure our borders. Our borders must be secure.
O’REILLY: But what about the racial profiling? You know that’s going to happen has to happen.
MCCAIN: I hope — I would be very sorry that if some of that happens. And I regret it, but I also regret the — really, it’s not just the murder of Robert Krantz. It’s the people whose homes and property are being violated. It’s the drive-by that — the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway. Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe.

Don’t ask me, I don’t know where you go to get both your integrity and your sanity back.

 Go Ahead, Make My Day And Say You’re Gay!

Finally, at a South Carolina Tea Party (where else?), we have a Republican struggling with decorum, but finally giving in to bigotry.  From HuffPo:

William Gheen, head of the conservative, anti-“amnesty,” anti-illegal immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), spoke at a Greenville, S.C. Tea Party rally this weekend and called for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to “come out of that log cabin closet.”

Mr. Gheen said he “thought long and hard” about bringing up the rumors about Sen. Graham’s alleged homosexuality, but finally he just couldn’t help but call him on it. 

You see, because Lindsey Graham doesn’t want to act like Arizona Republicans on the immigration issue (he favors a more sensible approach, something like the old John McCain’s), he must be motivated by something else.  Mr. Gheen said:

Sometimes I wonder what it would take to sell their own country out like that, and there’s one thing it could be that I’m gonna put out in the open here today… Senator Graham, you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality.

When they say this about fellow Republicans, no wonder they don’t blink at calling President Obama a Marxist.

Rachel Maddow: Gun Advocates Half Cocked

Oh, my.  Watch this segment all the way to the end. 


 

Blanche Lincoln: A New Hero Of The Left?

A story today by The New Republic about the financial reform efforts in Congress begins ominously:

Some two dozen executives from large corporations will be descending on Capitol Hill today to make the case against over-regulating derivatives.

Oh, no.  This financial stuff is hard enough to follow without also having to worry about a legion of Wall Street defenders assaulting our legislators.

The source of the latest angst among Chamber-of-Commerce types apparently comes from none other than Blanche Lincoln, the Democrat that lefties hate for her role in the health care reform fiasco in Congress, who now appears to be out-leftying other more liberal Senators on financial reform.

Lincoln has a new proposal to regulate derivatives, described by Andy Kroll of Mother Jones as,

…those tricky financial products, whose value is linked to the price of commodities or interest rates, used to hedge risk and also make risky gambles.

Calling for transparency in derivatives trading, something now lacking in the system, Lincoln proposes an exchange that will, if enacted, protect against another “AIG-esque collapse” because the inherent risk in such trading will not be concentrated in one place, but spread throughout the members of the clearinghouse.

Another important feature of Lincoln’s proposal, according to Kroll:

Lincoln’s bill would also call for swaps outfits [derivatives trading] to be cut out of big investment banks and essentially made into separate operations. This, of course, would prevent crippling losses on a swap desk from dragging down the rest of the firm—again, a la AIG’s Financial Products division mortally wounding the entire company.

Kroll quotes Felix Salmon, a financial journalist and blogging editor at Reuters, who is not exactly optimistic about Lincoln’s proposal suceeding:

…it’s also pretty clear that none of this is going to happen. Never mind Republican support: this is going to have a hard time even getting Democratic support. It’s all a good idea, but it’s far too radical: while it might have had more of a chance if it had been introduced during the height of the crisis, at this point the banks have got their mojo working again and will quite easily be able to ensure that the beating heart of Lincoln’s proposals is surgically excised before it even gets anywhere near a vote.

The reference to “banks” and “mojo” leads us back to today’s article in The New Republic. As the TNR article makes clear, Lincoln’s proposal rightly exempts from onerous regulation, “derivatives used in commercial activity,” such as when an airline tries to lock in future fuel prices by signing a contract today and betting prices will be higher later:

What the Lincoln bill would regulate is the use of derivatives for more speculative purposes, like a straight-up bet between two Wall Street firms on the future price of oil.

So, why would corporate leaders, who engage in the kind of derivative trading exempted by Lincoln’s bill, make a well-orchestrated appearance in Washington D.C.? TNR writer, Noam Scheiber, explains:

Big financial firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan generate billions of dollars each year as derivatives dealers. But, over the past several weeks, as Democrats’ have escalated their rhetoric and explicitly targeted Wall Street, the big banks have had trouble getting their message out on Capitol Hill. All the more so thanks to Friday’s SEC complaint accusing Goldman of fraud. “The banks’ credibility, their ability to influence this, is limited,” says one derivatives industry lawyer.

And so, instead of mostly making the pitch against regulation themselves, the big derivatives dealers are counting on their corporate clients to do a lot of heavy lifting for them…

In other words, these days no one would believe anything proceeding from the mouths of bankers* who almost bankrupted the nation through, among other things, unfettered trading in derivatives, so they have to go to the bullpen for some help, namely corporate leaders who can leverage the fact that they “employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.”

While this tactic may seem cynical, worse yet is an even more cynical argument designed to water down any final reform bill, as reported by Scheiber:

…top Wall Street executives have conveyed directly to senior White House officials in recent days, that the administration faces almost as much peril as Wall Street does if it brings a partisan bill to the Senate floor. Should that happen, the argument goes, Senate liberals like Maria Cantwell and Byron Dorgan could triumph on amendments that would move the bill well to the left of where even the administration wants it.

Let’s hope that the high-rollers on Wall Street are once again wrong about their calculations and this time their gambling failures will result not in the near-collapse of our financial system, but in legislation that will finally address their irresponsibility and profligacy, funded most recently by American taxpayers.

________________________________________________________

*”Bankers” is a term used loosely here. Just to illustrate what’s at stake for the so-called bankers, here are some facts from Reuters.com:
Globally, the $450 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market is big business for the banks. Scaling back these operations, or forcing high-volume contracts to move to exchanges, could make trading much less profitable for dealers. Customized contracts would continue but face higher costs.
Lawmakers have sought ways to rein in the opaque world of over-the-counter derivatives after the financial instruments were blamed for exacerbating the financial crisis and prompting the U.S. government bailout of companies such as American International Group (AIG.N).
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), told bank analysts on Wednesday that forcing dealers to trade derivatives on exchanges could cost his firm up to a couple of billion dollars in revenue annually.
“It will be a negative,” he said. JPMorgan has the largest derivatives exposure of the U.S. banks.
Just five banks account for 97 percent of the total $212.8 trillion worth of derivatives contracts held by U.S. commercial banks, according to a fourth-quarter survey by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

FIVE (5) BLEEPING BANKS HOLD 97% OF $212.8 TRILLION WORTH OF DERIVATIVE CONTRACTS!

Can anyone say, “Too big to fail?”

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Local Doctor Practices “Defensive” Medicine

A Joplin physician, Kent Sutterer, wrote a letter to the Joplin Globe in which the principled Republican doctor said he will cut Medicare patients from his practice:

Now, as Congress enacts legislation to increase my taxes while at the same time cutting my pay, I must take a stand. I have continued seeing Medicare patients on principle, in spite of the financial pain it may cause me. Now, it seems principle demands that I stop seeing these patients. A 21 percent cut, in addition to the 5 percent tax increase coming next year (as the Bush tax cuts expire) require that I change my business practices to limit the impact of these enormous financial ramifications.

The good doctor is referring to the fact that “Congress” failed to pass legislation that would have prevented a mandatory 21% cut in doctors’ fees for seeing Medicare patients. (The Bush tax cut reference is obvious.)

What the doctor leaves out of his complaint is that the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed a temporary fix, which was held up in the Senate due to a Republican—remember Jim Bunning?—and is now awaiting further action, which is expected soon.  So when Doctor Sutterer claims that “Congress has deliberately chosen to cut” his pay, he is not exactly telling the whole truth.

In the mean time, the reimbursement cuts have not been realized, due to the fact that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has delayed the effects of the cuts until the Senate acts on the House bill.

So, our disgruntled doctor doesn’t have to kick granny to the curb just yet.

But I found his reasoning interesting. He wrote:

Medicare is one of the lowest paying insurances that I take. From a business standpoint, I should have cut my Medicare patients years ago. But, as a public service, I have continued to provide care and services to these public assistance recipients.

Forgeting for a moment that physician participation in the Medicare program increases every year,I suppose it’s okay for any doctor to see his chosen occupation as a “business.”  But it’s not what most of us think about when we think about our doctors, is it?

I, for one, hope my doctor is more interested in my health than in any internal philosophical and ethical conundrum he is facing because he might have to pay a little more in taxes or because a strange Republican Senator temporarily blocked a quick fix for his Medicare reimbursement fees. But that’s just me.

Fine, then.  Practicing medicine is strictly a business. I get it. So, don’t pretend you care about older folks and don’t give me any dook like the following:

As other doctors pursue the same course, I fear the premiums that seniors are forced to pay for Medicare will be just another tax with no benefit; they will not be able to find doctors. This is a form of rationing, a pseudo death panel, where the only option available will be the course of nature. The miracle of modern medicine and the increased life expectancy that comes with it will no longer be available to our senior citizens.

In other words, old people are going to die because doctors will abandon them to spite those nasty politicians in Washington, who don’t understand that doctors are fundamentally businessmen who will only treat patients through whom they can make a nice living.  Have I got that right, Dr. Sutterer?

If your patients understood what you are saying—that you will treat them and take their money until they get old and need Medicare, they—strictly motivated by fiscal principles—would cut your services and leave you to stick needles in Chihuahuas.

Then, we could all wish you “good luck” in your search for patients.

_______________________________________________________

*…according to CMS Spokesperson Ellen Griffith…while the agency does not yet know how many physicians chose not to participate this year, “we do know that every year so far, the percentage of physicians who elect to participate has gone up, and last year exceeded 95 percent.”

A “Crap-Wrapped And Crap-Riddled Piece Of Loathsome And Offensive And Truth-Despising Tea Party Propaganda”

Pardon me, but I want to share with you something that I believe is a new low point not only for the Fox “News” Channel—and there have been plenty of low points—but also for the Tea Party ‘movement,” whose fiery members no doubt consider themselves to be a part of the “loyal” opposition to the Obama administration, but many of whom are in reality disloyal to the principles of democracy, especially our republican form.

Last week on Fox “News” Channel’s, “Huckabee,” while Introducing Jon Voight’s “special message for the people of America,” the host, Mike Huckabee, who pretends to be just an “ah shucks,” country-preacher from Arkansas, said this to Mr. Voight about Mr. Voight:  

I believe you have been gifted with extraordinary wisdom and insight into this nation’s particular predicament right now.* 

With that, off we went into the most outrageous, disgusting, bigoted, racially-tinged attack on Obama I have ever heard on Fox “News” or anywhere else on “mainstream media” for that matter, considering this piece of garbage was not spoken extemporaneously by some publicity-seeking Obama-hater on a fringe right-wing radio station. 

This was spoken by a famous actor on a popular Fox “News” show, reading from a prepared text, in the presence of a Man of God and former governor of one of our United States—without a peep of protest.  

All I can say is that Huckabee and Fox “News” should, but won’t, be ashamed of themselves. 

Although I have included the video of this shameful moment in American broadcasting history, you should first read the words, which I transcribed as follows:    

In one year the American people are witnessing the greatest lie, that is cleverly orchestrated by President Obama and his whole administration. The lie is a potent aggression that feeds the needs of people, who either have not educated themselves enough to understand the assault upon us all, or the very poor needy, who live to be taken care of.   

President Obama feeds these people poison, giving them the idea that they are entitled to take from the wealthier, who have lived and worked in a democracy that understands that capitalism is the only truth that keeps the nation healthy and fed.   

Now, the lie goes very deep, and President Obama has been cleverly trained in the Alinsky method.  And it would be very important that every American knows what that method is: it is a socialistic, Marxist teaching, and with it, little by little, he rapes this nation, taking down our defenses, making new language for the Islamic extremists.    

The world, who looked up to us a symbol for hope and prosperity, now wonders what will become of the entire world, if America is losing its power. 

The American people who understand exactly what is taking place, have come together in the thousands, vowing to try to stay together as a unit of love and freedom for all men and women, from all walks of life, shivering to think that this once-great nation will be a third world company—country.   

This will be the first president to ever weaken the United States of America. President Obama uses his aggression and arrogance for his own agenda against the will of the American people, when he should be using his will and aggression against our enemies.   

Every loving American for peace and truth and the security of our nation, must come out and join the Tea Parties in their states. The opposition will continue their tactics, their lies, and plant their own bullies amongst us. Everyone must pay close attention to who stands next to them.  We can weed out the liars and agitators. 

Let us all stay in God’s light. Let no man put asunder. We can and we will prevail.  God bless us all.   

If you still have the stomach to watch the actual delivery of this crap-wrapped and crap-riddled piece of loathsome and offensive and truth-despising Tea Party propaganda, here it is:   

*In September of last year, Voight appeared on Huckabee’s show and also made outrageous and disreputable comments, so Huckabee’s judgment about Voight here ipso facto includes those comments, which Rod Dreher—a conservative from the Dallas Morning News—reported this way:

Last weekend, I tuned into a Fox program hosted by the avuncular former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, of whom I am a fan. There sat actor Jon Voight, staring gravely at the host, who praised the thespian’s “courage.”

“We’re witnessing a slow and steady takeover of our true freedoms,” Voight scowled. “We’re becoming a socialist nation, and Obama is causing civil unrest in this country. … I say that they’re taking away God’s first gift to man: our free will.”

Voight then accused the president of trying to depose God and deify himself — as, according to the Book of Revelation, the Antichrist will do. It may sound ridiculous — after all, who looks to celebrities for political wisdom? — but it’s deadly serious to millions of Americans.

To his great discredit, Huckabee, a pastor, let this crazy talk pass unchallenged.

Glenn Beck’s Spirit Present At Joplin Tea Party

I thought I would see and hear some references to Glenn Beck at Thursday’s Tea Party here in Joplin, since many of the ideas tossed around at such gatherings seem to first originate in his strange and lucre-loving mind.

But that didn’t happen.

Then, I realized that the spirit of Glenn Beck was there all around me: in the form of a book.

That book, The 5000 Year Leap, by W. Cleon Skousen, was available for free (courtesy of the Jasper County Republican Party), with copies spread along the table holding the “scroll of grievances.” 

John Putnam said the book, which he “found” in 1984, had “inspired” him.

Beck has endlessly and energetically promoted the book, which, according to Alexander Zaitchik, has become “the bible of the 9/12 movement,” “the civic initiative he pulled together…to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell.”

The popular Fox broadcaster has even claimed the book is “divinely inspired,” although Beck doesn’t specify what divine being inspired it. Presumably, it was the God of Mormonism.

So, since our local Republican Party subsidized the distribution of the book, and since our local Joplin Tea Partiers were urged to read the book—and I saw many folks walking around with fresh copies in hand—I thought I would find out more about the author, especially since the Tea Party movement is heavily influenced by Beck-like thinkers. 

Who was W. Cleon Skousen?

Perusing Alexander Zaitchik’s essay on Salon.com, I discovered that Skousen shared Glenn Beck’s Mormon faith, and that he was ostensibly a “historian.” But as Zaitchik described him,

 …Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen’s own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of “The 5,000 Year Leap.”

Skousen died in 2006 at the age of 92, the author of more than dozen books; a 15-year veteran of the FBI (in administration);  a law school grad; a teacher at Brigham Young University;  Chief of Police in Salt Lake City (where, according to Zaitchik, “he gained a reputation for cutting crime and ruthlessly enforcing Mormon morals” and, according to a 1961 article in Time, the conservative Mayor of the city said Skousen, “operated the police department like a Gestapo“);  and most important for our purposes, a virulent anti-communist conspiracist,  who earned a good living giving speeches to far-right gatherings.

As an anti-Communist, Skousen was affiliated with the John Birch Society, whose elaborate communist conspiracies proved too much for men of the right like William F. Buckley, who sought to sever the Birchers from “legitimate” conservatives. In those days, there were adults in the conservative movement, and when Skousen and the Birchers grew more and more extreme—accusing WW II hero Dwight Eisenhower of being a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy“—most responsible conservative groups dumped him.  Buckley said such accusations were “paranoid and idiotic libels.”* Russell Kirk, an eminent conservative philosopher, viewed such people as being “disconnected from reality.”  Barry Goldwater concurred.

Wrote Zaitchik:

By 1963, Skousen’s extremism was costing him. No conservative organization with any mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him. Members of the ultraconservative American Security Council kicked him out because they felt he had “gone off the deep end.” One ASC member who shared this opinion was William C. Mott, the judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy. Mott found Skousen “money mad … totally unqualified and interested solely in furthering his own personal ends.”

Damn. That sounds a lot like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and other right-wing conspiracists these days.

Zaitchik also wrote something about Skousen’s increasing popularity that again sounds eerily like our own Glenn Beck, whose “enemy” is not so much communism, but progressivism:

When Skousen’s books started popping up in the nation’s high-school classrooms, panicked school board officials wrote the FBI asking if Skousen was reliable. The Bureau’s answer was an exasperated and resounding “no.” One 1962 FBI memo notes, “During the past year or so, Skousen has affiliated himself with the extreme right-wing ‘professional communists’ who are promoting their own anticommunism for obvious financial purposes.”

By 1970, Zaitchik reports that Skousen had discovered that “liberal internationalist groups” like the Council on Foreign Relations were pushing U.S. foreign policy “toward the establishment of a world-wide collectivist society,” which would later become the New World Order, a “super-conspiracy” involving the Rockefellers and the Rothchilds and other very “powerful” people.

Eventually, the Mormon Church cut its ties with Skousen, which was just in time for his invitation to become part of the “Reagan Revolution.”  Zaitchik wrote:

In 1980, Skousen was appointed to the newly founded Council for National Policy, a think tank that brought together leading religious conservatives and served as the unofficial brain trust of the new administration. At the Council, Skousen distinguished himself by becoming an early proponent of privatizing Social Security.

It was around this time that Skousen published the book that changed the life of Glenn Beck, The 5,000 Year Leap,  which Zaitchik described this way:

…a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined.

So, learning all of that, I realized that Glenn Beck was in fact a part of the Joplin Tea Party, through the vehicle of W. Cleon Skousen’s book.  And I realized what attracted John Putnam, the chairman of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee, to Skousen’s interpretation of American history.

Putnam is a conservative Christian, who when I first encountered him, was an elder at Christ’s Church of Joplin, and who was a believer in the Bible as the “inspired” and inerrant Word of God.  

He said at the Tea Party on Thursday:

I see a real similarity between the days we live in and the founding days of this country. I realized at least in 1978 that America was on an unsustainable path.  We have continued to spend more than we take in, we have continued to turn our back—to become more interested in commercialism and entertainment and luxury than we have the spiritual values that made this country great. And my family’s tired of listening to me say we can’t go on this way, but in the last year there is a whole lot of other people who have seen that the pace is accelerating and it is up to the people to restore the country…

I suspect that many in the crowd Thursday hold views similar to those of Mr. Putnam.  Indeed, Jay St. Clair, the minister who uttered a rambling four-minute plea to the Almighty, began his remarks this way:

Welcome to the Tea Party!  Well, this isn’t a religious gathering but I will tell you that everything about our country was founded on the faith of God and the principles that are found in his Word…

Such folks don’t want to admit that our secular country—the United States of America—was not founded on the Bible, but on Enlightenment philosophy, a philosophy that was responsible for taming the excesses of fundamentalist Christianity, and a philosophy that is under attack, either consciously or unconsciously, by some members of the Tea Party movement.

If these people were to get what they wanted—a return to “God-directed” governance—then the Tea Partiers would no longer be mere objects of liberal scorn.

They would be forces to fear.

____________________________________________________________________

*In 1962, Buckley published “a 5,000-word excoriation” of Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, which included the following:
How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense? That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America. . . . The underlying problem is whether conservatives can continue to acquiesce quietly in a rendition of the causes of the decline of the Republic and the entire Western world which is false, and, besides that, crucially different in practical emphasis from their own.
Few conservatives today are willing to say about Glenn Beck and other conspiracists that their views are “so far removed from common sense.”

Joplin Tea Party A Dud

Last year, the crowd “estimate” for the April 15 Tea Party in Joplin was 1000, which, of course, wasn’t really close to the actual number. I estimated that crowd at about 500 to 600 folks.

This year, there was about half that number, probably less than 300.  So, by any standards, the Tea Party this year was a little lame.

But I did have a good time attending the event.

I talked with many people, some holding strange signs and some just standing, listening, and applauding whatever it was that John Putnam was saying.  And, honestly, some of the people holding ridiculous and blatantly false signs were actually nice to talk to.

I talked to one pleasant couple who didn’t seem like they really belonged at the event, since they didn’t sound as extreme as their signs would indicate.  In fact, after talking to them, I found that the health care reform law that upset them so much really contained a lot of stuff they liked.  The nice lady actually admitted that her views were “to the left” of her husband’s, especially on the health care issue. 

Another lady, who attended with her mother, said she thought all our representatives, Republicans and Democrats, should only get one term and then come home.  If they stay longer, she urged, they will just get corrupted. There is, of course, some truth to that.

But not all of the people I talked to were as nice.

One guy I was photographing took offense at a question I ask him about his sign. Here is the sign in question, which should look familiar because I have posted about it before:

I tried to ask him what his sign meant, which set him off.  At one point, he walked up and got in my face and threatened me, and I had to gently push him back.  After that, he seemed to calm down a little bit, so I decided to crank up the video:

Although I disagree with the guy, he had every right to tote his sign to the event and display it, but apparently the organizer, John Putnam, didn’t think so.  According to this guy and an independent witness I talked to, Mr. Putnam tried to get him removed from the sidewalk.  Presumably because the sign sent a message contrary to what Mr. Putnam envisioned for his rally.

As for other signs—messages—here are a few I saw:

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I found something rather disturbing as I read through the messages written on a long  “scroll,” provided, presumably, for folks to express their grievances against the government. Notice the “regime” reference, straight from the lips of Rush Limbaugh:

I took the time to interview a gentleman who was holding a sign that cried out for explanation.  Here’s the interview:

Finally, what is a Joplin Tea Party without a new costume gracing the body of John Putnam?  Incidentally, on KZRG this morning (an event sponsor), before the event got underway I heard Kara Marxer interview Mr. Putnam and she remarked about his nifty uniform, saying something about his “Hessian boots.” 

Gently, the head of the Jasper County Republicans reminded her that they were not Hessian boots, since the Hessians were on the other side of the fight in the Revolutionary War.  Whoops! 

[All photos and videos by The Erstwhile Conservative, so whoever borrowed one of last year’s photos and put it on John Putnam’s Southwest Missouri Conservative Network, please credit TEC in the future. It’s the Christian thing to do.]

Billy Long Denies Bribery Charge

Clay Bowler, also known as Bungalow Bill, is a conservative blogger who doesn’t like Billy Long, a candidate in the Republican primary to replace Roy Blunt as our representative in Congress.  

Bowler maintains a site called, Long is Wrong, and, more important, has charged Mr. Long with trying to bribe him with a campaign job in exchange for Bowler ending his Long is Wrong website.

Michael Wardell, another candidate in the Republican primary, said this last month:

A week ago, Mr. Billy Long, a Candidate for the 7th Congressional District, attempted to bribe or coerce a citizen journalist into killing a blog, critical of his campaign in exchange for a position on his campaign. Fired-Up Missouri, a liberal blog, is already tracking this.

It has been a week and Mr. Long has not denied this charge.

Mr. Long must step down as a candidate, not because I asked him to but because he gives napalm to Tim Davis [the Democrat vying for Blunt’s seat] and the Democratic Majority. If we Republicans tolerate this behavior and sweep this under the rug, we will regret it.

The alleged bribery happened right here in Joplin at Pizza By Stout, so I, your intrepid reporter, thought it appropriate to ask Long, while he was here for the Tea Party event today, if the charge were true. 

Here is his reply:

By the way, Billy Long owns a very nice pickup truck, which features this item on the dashboard:

Readers are free to draw their own conclusions regarding whether Long is being truthful about the bribery charge and why he drives around with Bozo on the dashboard of his pickup.

Ready For Your Breakfast, Goldman Sachs?

Admittedly, some of the stuff surrounding the near-collapse of the financial industry and the current reform efforts to prevent another disaster are a little hard to understand sometimes, but Wednesday Barney Frank offered some clarity. 

He said that the Republican’s opposition to the Democratic financial reform bill in the Senate was based either on ignorance or dishonesty. It’s not that Republicans are in bed with Wall Street bankers, he said, it’s that Wall Street bankers are in bed and Republicans are serving them breakfast in bed.

Now, that I can understand.

All day Wednesday I listened to the on-the-half-hour news updates on right-wing radio, I listened to NPR, and I watched the network news Wednesday evening,  and I heard pretty much the same thing: Republicans oppose the financial reform bill proposed by the Democrats because, in the words of Mitch McConnell, the chief of Republican obstructionists in the U.S. Senate, it “guarantees future bailouts of Wall Street banks” and “endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks.

The only problem with what McConnell said is that it happens to be a lie, and it is a lie that all national reporters know is a lie, but for some reason neglected to point out. 

In fact, it is a lie constructed by the Republican propagandist and lie-maker, Dr. Frank Luntz, as Sam Stein pointed out a few months ago:

…Republican message guru Frank Luntz has put together a playbook to help derail financial regulatory reform… Luntz urged opponents of reform to frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.

Stein obtained a 17-page memo titled, “The Language of Financial Reform,” and you have to hand it to the Republicans: they know how to stick to a game plan. 

Unfortunately for the American people, that game plan is designed to offer lies to voters in order to exploit their dislike of Wall Street, all the while Republicans are whispering to the nervous bankers/gamblers that they will do everything they can to protect their racket, particularly their gambling in the mystical world of derivatives.

Most galling of all, though, is Luntz’s view on the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which as proposed would put the interests of consumers ahead of the often predatory lenders who caused so much damage to the economy. Luntz wrote:

Ordinarily, calling for a new government program “to protect consumers” would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times.  The American people are not just saying “no.”  They are saying “hell no” to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests.

Why would the American people reject an agency designed to protect their interests?  Because the Republicans were so bad at regulating the financial industry (deliberately or not), the public does not trust the government to do so in the future. In other words, because of either Republican malfeasance—failure to adequate do the job of ensuring that things were not spinning out of control—or because of an ideological willingness to let bankers have their way—all government efforts are tainted. 

Here are a couple of graphs Luntz uses to show the lack of confidence among the public:

I can’t think of anything more cynical than to use your own failures as a way to both screw the public and get yourself elected, but then we are talking about the Republican Party. 

Are you ready for your breakfast, Goldman Sachs?  Need your pillow fluffed up?  How about a….

That’ll have to wait until Republicans are in power again.

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