Tim Davis: A Better Republican Than Democrat

I had a rather lengthy conversation with Tim Davis several months ago.  Just who the hell is Tim Davis, you ask?

He is a guy running against whichever extremist survives the GOP primary in the fight for Roy Blunt’s 7th District congressional seat.

In other words, he is a Democratic choice for Southwest Missouri’s representative in Washington.

I have to be truthful here.  After finding out that one of the Democratic candidates for Blunt’s seat would be in Joplin, I was excited to talk with him. Maybe, I thought, this year Democrats would field a candidate that could make some progress in this calcified conservative corner of the state.

Unfortunately, after my conversation with Mr. Davis, I actually wondered why he was running as a Democrat. In fact, I ask him why he was running as a Democrat. I really did.

Don’t get me wrong.  He is a very smart man, what with a Ph.D. in economics and a law degree from Oxford.  Yes. That Oxford.   So, there is no doubt he is a very smart man.  And he seemed like one heck of a nice guy.

The trouble is, he’s not really much of a Democrat.  He seems to know that, too. KY3’s Political Notebook recently posted a Q&A with Tim Davis, in which he was asked:

Q: How do you plan to cut through the bitterness and rancor of Capitol Hill so it’s not more of the same old debate?

Leaving aside the fact that I think that’s a dumb question—the reason there is some rancor is that the “same old debate” is important stuff—here is Mr. Davis’ answer:

It’s not in my nature to be blindly partisan.  Also, my policies tend to be middle-of-the-road.  So they’re going to appeal to Democrats and moderate Republicans.  For that reason, I don’t anticipate that I’ll get sucked into the partisan debate.

Perhaps it is that Davis’ approach is the way for a Democrat to win in Southwest Missouri, although I doubt it. But in any case, what would really have been nice is if Mr. Davis had run in the Republican primary, where his “moderate” [read: thoughtfully conservative] views would be a welcome relief from that nauseating contest of conservative candidates trying to out-Limbaugh each other. 

But since Mr. Davis doesn’t seem to want to “get sucked into a partisan debate,” I don’t think he would fare very well on the Republican side.  Maybe that’s why he decided to run as a Democrat. Among that less-than-stellar slate of Southwest Missouri Republican conservatives, he would stick out a little bit, but only because he can explain in great (and sometimes excruciating) detail just why he thinks his fairly conservative views are correct.

In other words, he is a conservative with a brain.

Anyway, during my conversation with him I asked about his training in economics (remember that Ph.D?) and I quickly found out that essentially Mr. Davis is a supply-sider, in the vein of Arthur Laffer and folks like that. 

If you read his answers to some of KY3’s questions here, you can sort of figure that much out. But I want to highlight just one response:

Q: How can the Congress promote economic growth and  jobs?

Tim Davis: Other than adjourning for major holidays…

Now, it’s one thing for a Republican to use such sarcasm about government’s ability to help with economic growth and jobs, but it’s quite another for a Democrat to do so. It just doesn’t sound right coming from the lips (in this case, likely the keyboard) of someone who calls himself a Democrat.

I asked him about economics first because in my opinion what one thinks about the interface of government and the economy is a major clue as to one’s fundamental political philosophy, and before I give up my vote, I want to know what one’s political philosophy is.

If you think the government should limit its involvement in the economy in such a way so as to only allow “the private sector to create wealth and jobs” and should not step in, say, to bail out a business like GM, then you are most likely a conservative.

If you think government can at certain times and to some extent stimulate economic growth by injecting money into a sluggish economy, and if you believe government should regulate the economy in such a way so as to allow the private sector to create wealth—but not at the expense of the environment or by compromising other cultural values—then you are probably not a conservative.

I’ll leave it to the reader to evaluate where Mr. Davis fits in, but there is no doubt, after speaking with him, that he sounded like Jack Kemp on intellectual steroids.  It doesn’t make him a bad man, it just makes him an economic conservative.

Since his economic views were not what I expected for a Democrat, I decided to probe for other areas in which I could support him.   

What about the abortion issue?  He’s emphatically pro-life, he said.  Uh-oh. And I found out his convictions about abortion stem from his religious beliefs. Uh-oh. 

Okay…Then what about homosexuality? I wondered, since he had such strong, conservative religious convictions, if he thought homosexuality was a sin.  So, I ask him, “Is homosexuality a sin?”

Yep. He told me he believed homosexuality is a sinSIN.  S-I-N.

Here is the definition of “sin” from Merriam-Webster’s OnLine:

1 a : an offense against religious or moral law b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible <it’s a sin to waste food> c : an often serious shortcoming : fault
2 a : transgression of the law of God b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Uh-oh. 

So, we have a Democratic candidate for the 7th District who is a supply-sider worthy of comparison to any economist who served in the Reagan administration; a pro-lifer who would not disagree much, if any, with Phyllis Schlafly on the issue of abortion; and a religious believer so conservative that he believes homosexuality is either a “sin,” “an offense,” a “highly reprehensible” act, a “serious shortcoming,” or a “transgression of the law of God.” 

In other words, our Democratic candidate is basically a conservative Republican. 

But he is a much better choice than any of the other conservative Republicans, if that makes anyone feel better.

Orgasmic Conservatives Spew Impeachment Talk

Over the last 30 years, our country has been governed by Democratic presidents about one-third of the time.  Clinton served eight years and Obama is in the middle of his second year.

From the beginning of Clinton’s term as president, the right-wing had it out for him.  The worst of the lot, including the Reverend [sic] Jerry Falwell, claimed Clinton was a cocaine smuggler and a killer.

The best of the lot impeached him, essentially for trying to hide his unfaithfulness to his wife.*

Now, comes the inevitable and hysterical talk of impeachment of President Obama. It seems that this ideologially-sick generation of conservatives has never met a Democratic president they couldn’t impeach.

Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California and a frequent visitor to the brothel at Fox “News” Channel, had intercourse with Sean Hannity last night over the allegation that someone at the White House offered Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a government job in exchange for not challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

Now, you know you’re in for a treat when Sean starts reading from the United States Code to make a point and uses the old line, “what did the president know and when did he know it.”  It is a little like foreplay for these folks.  So, naturally, given such titillation, threats of impeachment were soon ejaculated during Hannity’s interaction with Issa. 

The congressman is seeking a special prosecutor—that, of course, is how the Clinton impeachment fiasco began—to determine if any laws were broken.

Meanwhile, the rest of the sane world, including George F. Will, realizes that some government jobs have always been a sort of currency in the world of politics.  Heck, Roy Blunt once offered me a job as Ambassador to the Joplin Spook Light, if I would stop writing bad things about Jack Abramoff.  I was too scared to take it, though.

On ABC’s This Week, this brief conversation between Jake Tapper and George Will just about says it all regarding the seriousness of Issa’s and Hannity’s talk of impeachment over the “Sestak Affair“:

TAPPER: So, first of all, let me ask you a question, George. This — this — the Republicans are trying to make hay over this alleged deal that the White House made to Sestak. If you don’t run against Specter, we’ll give you this other job. A big deal or not a big deal?

WILL: Not a big deal. It’s — politics is a transactional business. They offered him a transaction — if they did, and I don’t see a thing wrong with it.

TAPPER: They are trying to make a big thing out of it, though.

WILL: I don’t care what they’re trying to do. It’s a small thing.

UPDATE:

During Obama’s long-awaited press conference today—which understandably was dominated by the BP oil disaster—none other than Major Garrett of Fox “News” thought he would earn his Fox “News” bonus this week for asking the president about the  allegations surrounding Joe Sestak. 

Obama said “nothing improper took place,” and that an official response would be forthcoming, and soon, too.  That answer should keep Sean Hannity busy tonight on his show.

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*Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House at the time and cheerleader for Clinton’s impeachment, admitted he was having an adulterous affair while he publicly ridiculed Clinton and urged his colleagues and the country to condemn him.  See here Jake Tapper’s piece on Gingrich’s interview with James Dobson, an evangelical promoter of family values conservatives like the thrice-married Gingrich.

The Republicans’ “War On Arithmetic”

Gene Lyons’ column in the Globe this morning knocked me out with this:

…we’ve seen the GOP increasingly dominated by its irrational Chicken Little wing, seeing grim portents and predicting doom. Continuing their party’s decades-long War on Arithmetic, Republicans act as if the highest form of patriotism is to demand tax cuts even as USA Today reports that its analysis revealed that “Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman’s presidency. . . . Federal, state and local taxes-including income, property, sales and other taxes-consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports.”

The historic average has been 12 percent, the newspaper said.

The lowest level of taxes since 1950?  A “War on Arithmetic“? 

Why, yes.

The USA Today article Lyons referenced continues:

On average…the tax rate paid by all Americans — rich and poor, combined — has fallen 26% since the recession began in 2007. That means a $3,400 annual tax savings for a household paying the average national rate and earning the average national household income of $102,000…

Taxes paid have fallen much faster than income in this recession. Personal income fell 2% last year. Taxes paid dropped 23%. The BEA classifies Social Security taxes as insurance payments and excludes them from the tax calculation.

A table accompanying the article is very enlightening:

You can see very clearly the Republicans’ War on Arithmetic.

And you can see very clearly that if the share of income paid as taxes would return to 2000 levels, we could make some progress on the deficit problem. 

By now, it is certainly well-known that George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress inherited a budget surplus in 2001.  It is also well-known that after a couple of tax cuts—which benefited the wealthy disproportionately—deficits began to rise.

If you doubt that such tax cuts benefited mainly the wealthiest Americans, then how does one account for the fact that the tax rate for our highest income earners in 2007 fell to its lowest rate since the IRS began keeping track in 1992?

Discussing an IRS report a few months ago, USA Today wrote,

…the agency reports that the nation’s 400 highest-earning households reported an average income of $345 million in 2007 — up 31% from 2006 — and that their average tax bill fell to a 15-year low.

Why, any sane person might ask, are we stressed to the max about deficits and debt, when one cause is so obvious?  Republicans have successfully dammed up the revenue stream, or in Lyons’ words, they have declared a War on Arithmetic.

My only question is, why aren’t Democrats more effectively defending arithmetic?

Where’s Big O?

My first instinct, when I heard that President Obama would be attending a fundraiser last night in California for Barbara Boxer, was to get pissed at the president’s political team.  After all, jetting to the West Coast, while the situation in the Gulf was still unfolding, and while the right-wing was having your ass for lunch every day, just wasn’t very smart.

But then I realized that ultimately it wasn’t the president’s political team or David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel or anyone else who was to blame for the dumb decision to continue with the fundraiser.

It was President Obama’s dumb decision.

One of the few he has made, but a big one.

It’s not that I don’t believe the administration is doing all that it can to mitigate the damage from the crisis along the Gulf coast.  From what I understand, from the beginning the federal response has been about as good as can be expected.

And I understand why the government doesn’t shove BP out of the way.  Because generally when you push someone out of the way, you have someone else to step in and do the job.  In this case, apparently there is no one else.  The best minds are supposedly already working on the problem—which means that most of the complaints about what the administration is doing are pure demagoguery.

With that understanding—that the feds are doing all that can be done given the circumstances—President Obama’s leadership through this crisis has been tested and found wanting.

As I have said before, I like cool, calm leadership.  When I’m on an airplane—I have an extreme fear of flying—I like it when I see the pilot act like everything’s under control.  Were he to get on the intercom yelling and screaming, I would go into a panic. So, I like Obama’s pilot-like coolness.

But this crisis is different.  Obama does need to be yelling and screaming, in a presidential way

Every day, if necessary, he should be in front of a camera, reporting on the progress of the effort to cap the well and the cleanup efforts.  In a crisis this big, he shouldn’t leave that stuff to cabinet secretaries.

This is a president-sized catastrophe.

It’s not too late for Big O to be Big O.

But it’s damn close.

Republicans Will Bring Gas To The Fire

I know some folks don’t want to hear it, and I know November 2012 is a long way away, but since the debt and deficit issues loom large in our politics these days, let’s look back, once again, on Republican presidential leadership vis-à-vis the national debt. 

Republicans blame Obama for out-of-control spending and for exponentially increasing our debt, so let’s review what they did when they held the White House over the past 30 years.

I created the chart below from treasurydirect.gov.  I began with the first fiscal year following the inauguration of Ronald Reagan and ended with the last fiscal year following the exit of George Bush II, for the simple reason that presidents can’t be held responsible for their predecessor’s budgets and should be held accountable for the last budget they signed, which remained in effect after they left office.

It shows very clearly that the sainted Ronald Reagan—hero of the deficit hawks on the right—nearly tripled the national debt.  Tripled. Three times. 3X.  Okay?*  To put that number in perspective, it would be like Obama increasing the debt from the roughly 10 trillion he inherited to a staggering 26 trillion (260%), should he get elected to a second term.

The chart also shows that after 12 years of Reagan/Bush, the country’s national debt increased by about 400%, which makes the doubling of the debt under George Bush II seem modest in comparison.

Of course, I realize that any president represents only one branch of the federal government and that responsibility for our debt problems also resides in Congress.  But as the chart shows, the years between Reagan/Bush and Bush II—when Democrat Bill Clinton, the scourge of the right, was president—saw only a slight (in recent historical terms) increase in our indebtedness.  So, just judging by the record, a Democratic president performed better than any of the last three Republican presidents—by far.

What difference does any of this make, you ask?  The problems with the debt must be solved no matter who is to blame, right?

Yes, they do.  But when we’re looking around for someone to help put out a fire, should we ask the guy holding the five-gallon can of gas?

Here’s the chart:

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* I’ve previously addressed the false objection that Reagan was a victim of a Democratic Congress.

 

GOP Candidate: God Ready to Drop Large Pyramid On Greenland

Tea Party favorite Rand Paul whipped the GOP establishment in Kentucky, and so there is a downside to having enthusiastic but amateurish tea partiers thrust themselves into professional Republican politics. 

Full disclosure: I confess to having much fun watching the action. 

And nowhere is this phenomenon more hilarious than in the 8th Congressional District in North Carolina. 

There, the state GOP chairman has declared Tim D’Annunzio—who was backed by two tea party groups and who finished first in the Republican primary a few weeks ago—”unfit for public office at any level,” according to the Charlotte Observer

The chairman, Tom Fetzer, wasn’t finished with D’Annunzio: 

What he could do to the party as our nominee is secondary in my view to what he could do to the country if he got elected. If he got elected, for crying out loud, that would be a disaster. 

After an apparently troubled past, D’Annunzio straightened himself out in time to make a few million bucks and become a right-wing “religious zealot,” according to a judge who heard a 1998 child-support case involving the leading GOP candidate. 

Now, religious zealotry is generally a career enhancer in the Republican Party, but apparently not this time.  The story continues: 

D’Annunzio has said that for much of his life he was not particularly religious or political. That changed in 1994 as he sat in his yard under a partial solar eclipse. 

“When everything is falling apart around you, you have to look at why it’s happening,” he once said. “The conclusion I had come to was you have to return to your foundation.” 

Anne D’Annunzio alluded to her ex-husband’s conversion in a 1995 court document. 

She claimed he told her, among other things, that “God was going to drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid” on Greenland and that he had found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona. 

She told the court that a psychiatric evaluation might determine whether he was fit to visit his children. The 1995 evaluation concluded that D’Annunzio’s religious beliefs “do not seem delusional.” 

Now, other than the fact that the psychiatrist who examined Mr. D’Annunzio may also moonlight as Glenn Beck’s spiritual advisor—since he apparently finds nothing “delusional” about someone who imagines God bombing Greenland with a rather large tetrahedron—I suppose it’s not too weird to think that our born-again Republican could have found Aaron’s Rod and the Tablets of Stone buried in the Arizona desert. 

Maybe that’s what the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was really about. The Earps, being God-fearing conservative Republicans* were probably trying to save the Ark from the hands of cowboy liberals, God-hating socialists, and other assorted Democrats. 

In any case, we do know one thing about D’Annunzio that puts him in the mainstream of the Tea Party-dominated GOP these days: 

As a candidate, D’Annunzio has called for dismantling much of the federal government. 

And as an added bonus, according to District Judge Richard Brown, who rendered judgment in D’Annunzio’s child-support case: 

(He) described the government as the “Antichrist.” 

Considering that a large number of people in the Republican Party consider Obama to be the Antichrist, I think D’Annunzio fits right in. 

Who knows, maybe if he gets elected, he’ll explain just why God is pissed at Greenland.  

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* I know they were conservative Republicans because of this entry in Wikipedia: 

The Earps were viewed by their enemies as badge-toting tyrants who ruthlessly enforced the business interests of the town. 
 

The Magic Kingdom Of Conservatism

You’re sailing softly through the sun in a broken Stone Age dawn. You fly so high, I get a strange magic.

Oh, what a strange magic.

—Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra

Bill Maher made an interesting observation about the difference between conservatives here in America and those across the Atlantic in the land of our Founder’s fathers:

…they just had an election two weeks ago and, power changed hands — but the party that lost is working WITH the part that won — they are not accusing them of being Bolshevik Zulus out to destroy the Magna Carta. Because the English are grown ups, including their conservatives who enjoy a wonderful luxury that conservatives on this side of the pond do not. They’re allowed to be sane. They don’t have to pander to creationists and anti-intellectuals. Only in this dumb country do liberals and conservatives argue over things like “evolution” and “climate change” and whether “sick people should be left to die in the street.”

Maher also pointed out that conservatives in America “tend to believe in magical ideas“:

America is never wrong; you can defeat terrorism militarily; and lower taxes will somehow fix the deficit. And I’m not even mentioning the stuff about how Jesus used to fly around on a pterodactyl and just hated it when homos ate wedding cake.

Now, no matter what you think about Maher’s brand of humor, there is something odd about the current iteration of conservative philosophy, as expressed by right-wing media and echoed by Republican politicians all across the country.

It does sort of have a strange magical quality to it. 

We can wave our tax-cutting wand, and jobs will come back, the deficit will diminish, and our debt will soon disappear.  

We can talk mean and nasty to the rest of the world, and then we can pull a rabbit of peace out of a hat.

We can build a magic wall, and our immigration problems will vanish.

We can elect Tea Party sorcerers to the Congress, and they will restore Lady Liberty—who Obama has cut in half—to her original state.

Oh, what a strange magic.

NEWS FLASH: BP Oil Spill May Ruin Konrad Heid’s Plans This Fall

I’m not sure what the point was of Sunday’s Konrad Heid “guest” column—apparently a regular feature now in the Joplin Globe—but other than learning that the Earth rotates and there are things called ocean currents, I did learn this valuable piece of information, which will cause me to lose sleep worrying about the quality of the Heid family retirement years going forward:

Please, not in our front yard. Barbara and I spend a lot of our retirement days sitting on the beautiful, white beaches of northwest Florida, in the Panhandle. We hope, of course they stay beautiful and white, not succumbing to the ravages of oil globs.

Yes, Konrad, I hope they stay beautiful and white, too.  But not necessarily so you and Barbara can wile away the time staring at nature’s beauty, enjoying the fruits of your hard labor in the banking industry. 

I hope they stay beautiful and white because there are millions of folks along the coast who depend on the Gulf to feed their families and because the ecosystem is in grave danger for years to come.

Perhaps our local bank president merely forgot to mention that, or perhaps he thinks readers of the Joplin Globe anxiously await each breathtaking report on the quality of his golden years. 

Perhaps Heid’s next guest column will be a commentary on the larger tragedy involved in the BP disaster slowly unfolding in our Gulf of Mexico*, or perhaps he will lament the rising price of oysters and the effect it will have on his lavish lifestyle.

But until then, I won’t sleep very well worrying about all that oil washing up on Konrad’s little piece of paradise.

God, I hope Mr. Heid keeps us informed.  I’ll be praying for him and his beach.

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* It’s doubtful, considering this stunning admission:

Since we have a vested personal interest and want to return this fall to our paradise, I did a bit of educational research; there’s so much I don’t know and don’t care about unless it gets down right personal and up close.

 

Paul Krugman On The Economy: We’re Not Doing Too Much, We’re Doing Too Little

So what we should really be asking right now isn’t whether we’re about to turn into Greece. We should, instead, be asking what we’re doing to avoid turning Japanese. And the answer is, nothing.

—Paul Krugman

Not being a trained economist, it beats me whether Paul Krugman—who is a trained economist—is right when he writes:

Recent data don’t suggest that America is heading for a Greece-style collapse of investor confidence. Instead, they suggest that we may be heading for a Japan-style lost decade, trapped in a prolonged era of high unemployment and slow growth.

Krugman believes that contrary to popular opinion, “policy makers aren’t doing too much; they’re doing too little.”  And the reason they are doing too little is that too many people in high places are worried about inflation.

The CliffsNotes version of Krugman’s analysis is:

Despite fears and predictions that interest rates would rise—which triggered calls for America to “slash its deficit right away or else“—Krugman says they are falling.  And that decline, he says, is not due to optimism about the economy, but pessimism, which “has sent investors fleeing out of anything that looks risky—hence, the plunge in the stock market—into the perceived safety of U.S. government debt.”

The pessimism about the economy partly has to do with the “troubles in Europe,” but Krugman seems more concerned that the pessimism has to do with a recent report on consumer prices that “showed a key measure of inflation falling below 1 percent, bringing it to a 44-year low.” 

Boy, that will piss off Glenn Beck for sure.

Anyway, Krugman—a trained economist, remember?—says this about the effects of such news:

Low inflation, or worse yet deflation, tends to perpetuate an economic slump, because it encourages people to hoard cash rather than spend, which keeps the economy depressed, which leads to more deflation. That vicious circle isn’t hypothetical: just ask the Japanese, who entered a deflationary trap in the 1990s and, despite occasional episodes of growth, still can’t get out. And it could happen here.

So, there you have it.  We’re either going to turn into Greece—the crazy analysis coming from the right—or we may (Krugman hedges at the end of his column) go the way of Japan and it’s “lost decade”—apparently the analysis coming from the left.

Even an untrained economist can see that the prospect of the U.S. turning into Greece isn’t going to happen for the simple reason that the United States is manifestly too big to fail, literally. In the end, we can sit on our nuclear arse-enal and tell the world: if you want your money back, you’ll have to come and get it.  Can Greece do that?  I didn’t think so.

In any case, it beats me if Krugman is right about the lost decade stuff.  He’s the economist, not me.

What A Waste It Is To Lose One’s Mind

The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did. 

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is obviously trying to dethrone Bill O’Reilly as the five-star general of the Army of American Culture Warriors. 

No doubt the right-wing suffers from many delusions, but looming large among them is the idea that the soul of America is in danger of damnation from the likes of evil secularists and socialists like Barack Obama.

Never mind that for a radical God-hater, Obama is a rather outspoken Christian, who prays out loud and everything.  Plus, apparently he takes seriously the swear-to-God oath he made to his one and only wife, unlike some prominent non-secular conservatives.*

Never mind that for a Marxist revolutionary, Obama has a lot of nice things to say about capitalism and is going so far as to try to preserve our capitalist system before the capitalists completely destroy it.

Look, I understand that to some extent the otherwise bright and “scholarly” Gingrich knows he can put stuff like “secular-socialist machine” in a book and call it, “To Save America,” and frothing conservatives will buy it.  I understand that reality.

But, damn!  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Or, no, I like this better:

Dan Quayle, our former Republican Vice President and the Sarah Palin of his time, once said:

What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

God, I miss Dan Quayle.

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*Here are two paragraphs from Wikipedia that would serve to make most people hesistate before they call other folks names:

Gingrich has been married three times. He first married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old, and she was 26 years old.[54][55] They had two daughters. The couple decided to divorce after Gingrich told his wife of his extra-marital affair while she was recovering from cancer surgery.[56] In 1981, six months after his divorce was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther.[57] He remained married to Ginther until 2000, when they divorced.

Shortly after his second divorce, Gingrich married Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior. He began his relationship with Bisek while he was still married to his second wife. Ironically, this extramarital affair started during the Congressional investigation of Bill Clinton‘s perjury relating to his affair with 23-year-old intern, Monica Lewinsky, which led to Clinton’s impeachment.[58]

Rand Paul Will “Take Our Country Back” — To The 1950s

For an ophthalmologist, Rand Paul doesn’t see very well.

I have a message from the Tea Party,” he told us Tuesday night after his victory in the Republican primary in Kentucky, “We’ve come to take our government back.”

Yeah, back to segregated lunch counters.

I watched him last night on television flopping around the truth, in an attempt to avoid answering an obvious question:

Do you support the civil rights law that forced private businesses to serve black folks?

The answer, of course, is that he does not support such a law.  You see, he is a proud libertarian.

Now, having flirted with libertarianism myself, I have written critically about it because I believe it is a rather immature political philosophy, and nothing illustrates that better than the trouble now brewing around Rand Paul (which was inevitable), who wants to represent the people of Kentucky—whites and blacks, entrepreneurs and consumers—in the U.S. Senate.

First, Rand Paul is not a racist because he opposes Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guarantees that people cannot be discriminated against “in places of public accommodation” because of “race, color, religion, or national origin.”

He’s just being silly.

Last night, arguing with Rachel Maddow, he insisted that if the government can force private businesses to serve all folks no matter their race, color, religion or national origin, then the government in effect “owns” that business and it has become  a public enterprise.

He tried to illustrate this goofy point by recourse to the Second Amendment.  He said since the regulated business is no longer a “private” business, that the possibility exists that a gun owner could walk into a restaurant or a bar carrying a gun, claim the restaurant was a “public” place, and the owner of the business could not refuse to serve him, even if the owner did not permit guns on his property.

No doubt, Mr. Paul, like his father, is attempting to be faithful to his “small government”* political philosophy.  That’s the problem.  It’s just not possible to be faithful to a philosophy that leads one down such untenable roads.

When I registered my truck with the state of Missouri, I did so knowing that I had to follow certain rules laid down by the state. I had to pay a fee; I had to show proof I paid my taxes;  I had to agree to display the state’s license plates; I had to agree to have insurance. And so on.

Now, because the state demanded such obedience, does that mean the state owns my truck?  Further, because the state demands that while I’m driving the truck I must obey the traffic laws, does that mean the state owns my truck? 

The state tells me I can’t drive drunk.  Why can’t I? It is quite likely that I could drive drunk every day of the year and not have an accident, so why is the state restricting my liberty?  And because it does restrict my liberty, does anyone consider my truck public property?

That’s how silly all of this is.

The government has an interest in ensuring that the roads are as safe as possible for all drivers.  And the government has an interest in ensuring that when it comes to public accommodations, all people are treated equally. It’s just that simple.

Only a libertarian has trouble seeing the logic of the Civil Rights Act, which is odd for an ophthalmologist-turned-teapartier.

For those who want to watch, here is Rand Paul’s rope-a-dope appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show:

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*”Small government”? I realize a lot of media folks call his views that, but here is something from his website that demonstrates the falseness of that claim and demonstrates how “flexible” a “principled” libertarian can be when he wants to be :

I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life. [emphasis his]
I will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion…

I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade.

Paul has no problem using federal power to foreclose on the abortion issue, but he has a problem using federal power to ensure that all Americans have a right to sit at any lunch counter and eat.
 

Is that a small government position?

 

_______________________________________________

UPDATE:

After exposing his views to a national television audience via the Rachel Maddow Show, Paul now regrets his appearance and is naturally seeking refuge in the friendly confines of talk radio.

Today, he told Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly with boobs, that it was “a poor political decision” to appear on Maddow’s show because, he charged, that Maddow “went on and on” about claiming that Paul “believed in beating up people that were trying to sit in restaurants in the 1960s.”

Of course, as anyone who actually watched the segment knows, Maddow did no such thing. She simply tried to get him to answer a question he was obviously trying to avoid.

 

So, besides holding a political philosophy that’s fit for a middle schooler, we now find that Paul is a pusillanimous politician who is trying to hide his libertarian views from the general public.

 

Congratulations to the Kentucky GOP!

 

Help For Evolution Defenders

In case anyone out there has trouble discussing evolution with evangelicals and other varieties of fundamentalists because of the difficulties in defending the claim that “all life on Earth has a single universal common ancestor,” here is some help, courtesy of Scientific American:

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin went beyond others, who had proposed that there might be a common ancestor for all mammals or animals, and suggested that there was likely a common ancestor for all life on the planet—plant, animal and bacterial.

A new statistical analysis takes this assumption to the bench and finds that it not only holds water but indeed is overwhelmingly sound.

That such a thing can be tested scientifically is comforting, since much of the support for the common ancestor claim is based on DNA discoveries and the idea that genetic similarities imply such an ancestor.

As with anything and everything “scientific,” however, there is no certainty involved in the “overwhelmingly sound” claim in biochemist Douglas Theobald’s paper.

As theoretical biologist David Penny points out:

…the paper should not put an end to the assessment of ancestral assumptions. Instead it should be a reminder that “we have never thought of all possible hypotheses,” he says. “So we should never stop considering some new approach we haven’t thought of yet.”

Damn those pesky scientists!

Buy Gold, By God

Anyone who has listened to talk radio objectively knows the scam: Talk gloom and doom about the economy, scare the dook out of your faithful listeners, and help your sponsors sell gold to the most gullible among the faithful.

No one is as talented at playing that game as Glenn Beck, who has also taken his act to television.  Here, finally, is a short exposé about the whole enterprise:

  

Abstinence Education Defender Flunks

Alas, “one of the only voices speaking in defense of abstinence education” is leaving Congress.

Of course, Mark Souder, a family values conservative Republican from Indiana, isn’t going because he has tired of his lonely stand on the abstinence issue or because he has tired of the immoral behavior of his fellow legislators.

Oh, no. It’s just not that simple.

You see, he was having biblical relations with a part-time staffer who was not his wife, which has to be refreshing news for some in the GOP, who can tolerate adultery as long as it is the “normal” kind (see: Sen. John Ensign and Sen. David Vitter), meaning the kind that happens between a man and a woman.

The victim (or perpetrator, depending on how you view it) this time was Tracy Jackson, a married woman who handled communications for Souder in his district.  In fact, according to Fox “News,” she “would accompany the congressman to events” and “record ads at a Christian radio broadcast station.”

I think she failed to get the Congressman’s abstinence message across to the faithful of Indiana.

Souder says he has “sinned against God” and his “wife” and his “family,” and that being a servant of the people “has been all consuming for me to do this job well“:

…ESPECIALLY IN A DISTRICT WITH COSTLY, COMPETITIVE ELECTIONS EVERY TWO YEARS I DO NOT HAVE ANY SORT OF “NORMAL” LIFE – FOR FAMILY, FOR FRIENDS, FOR CHURCH, FOR COMMUNITY.

No mention of when he managed to squeeze in time with his extra squeeze, but I will admit that Souder seems to come off a little better than other Republicans, who can bombard us with family-value stones while living in stone-proof houses, although Souder did call for Sen. Larry Craig to resign after he was caught soliciting a male foot in an airport in Minneapolis.

Souder, a general in the War on Drugs, once told Tucker Carlson that “a marijuana user is very seldom just a casual marijuana user” and “no drug user is a single drug user.”  Hopefully, for his wife’s sake, his logic doesn’t apply to adultery.

Finally, in defending Michelle Bachmann’s appearance on Chris Matthews’ show in 2008, in which the deer-eyed legislator from Minnesota urged the news media to expose those in Congress who hold “anti-America” views and said that Barack Obama may have such views, Congressman Souder said this:

Senator Obama should be careful who he pals around with.

So should Tracy Jackson.

[photo credit: Fort Wayne Observed photo by Mitch Harper]

How Local Is Local?

Today’s Joplin Globe featured a story on the controversial decision made by the Joplin City Council, which involved the issue of “local preference” and the awarding of city contracts. Debby Woodin began her story this way:

A contract based on a local contractor preference was awarded by the Joplin City Council on Monday night despite a higher project bid and contradictory language in the ordinance that allowed the action.

Four companies bid on the street-building contract, with Newman Brothers Construction of Billings, Mo., offering the lowest bid of $350,000. However, another company, Sprouls Construction of Lamar, Mo., asked that the city consider its bid ($356,909) as a candidate for local preference, under a city ordinance that, according to Woodin,

allows special consideration to be given to a bidder who is local and is within 3 percent of the low bid.

Now leaving aside the fact that the ordinance has come contradictory language—conflicts between the word “shall” and the word “may”—and leaving aside the fact that there is a question as to whether the Lamar-based Sprouls Construction actually fits the definition of local under the ordinance, there is a larger issue involved.

The city council voted by a 6 to 2 margin to award the contract to Sprouls, presumably based on the local preference ordinance, which was adopted in 2008.  Mayor Mike Woolston justified the council’s action:

On the surface it appears it cost more, but the purpose is to keep the money local. The intent was to keep the money circulating in our community, and I think it will reap a larger return.

Keep the money local? 

What if all cities did the same thing?  Doesn’t Joplin have construction companies that bid on jobs out of town?  If every community decided to award contracts to locals whose bids were higher, what would Joplin contractors think about that?

Further, what if diners in, say, Pittsburg, decided they weren’t going to eat in restaurants outside their city?  What if they wanted to keep their eating-out dollars at home and quit driving to Rangeline in Joplin to eat?

I wonder just how much of the money circulating in Joplin came from outside the city?

And I wonder if the pro-ordinance council members buy all of their goods from local merchants instead of Wal-Mart?  Or can we consider the state capital of Wal-Mart—Bentonville, Arkansas—local?

I’m sure Mayor Woolston and the other members who voted to award the contract to Sprouls meant well.  It sounds good: “Keep the money circulating in our community.”

But such isolationism is short sighted and represents a sort of Balkanization of our society.  It’s one thing to argue against world-wide free trade because the wage differential between American workers and Chinese workers is so great. 

It’s another to argue that a company in Lamar (40 miles away) is “local” and one in Billings (67 miles away) is not.

We’re all Americans and we’re all in this together, right?

Ron Richard’s Ego And Other “Highlights” Of The 2010 General Assembly

There are plenty of places one can go to develop an opinion on the performance of Missouri’s state legislators this last session, which ended on Friday.  Sean Nicholson at FiredUp! Missouri has put together a lengthy list of web sources one can use to determine whether the session was a success, partial success, partial failure, or utter failure.

No matter what one thinks about the session, it’s hard to argue with the Kansas City Star:

The legislature’s purest accomplishment was the bipartisan effort to help families affected by autism.

Well, it’s actually not that hard to argue with it. It wasn’t exactly a “pure” accomplishment, since “families” doesn’t include those on Medicaid and the cost for requiring insurers to “pay for essential therapy” will not come from taxes but from premium increases. 

So, while the new law may “leave Missouri healthier and more productive,” it’s not exactly socialized medicine.

In any case, our own Joplin Globe was cited as a source for post-session news: Term limits change political landscape for Southwest Missouri.

The article highlighted our various local legislators and the “power” they held, now all gone because restraints on democracy—term limits—have deemed them all unworthy to seek the same office again.

But don’t worry about these folks, as apparently politics is in their blood and nothing, not even term limits, will keep them from serving Missourians:

Rep. Ron Richard, Joplin, is running for the 32nd District Senate seat held by Gary Nodler, Joplin.

Sens. Nodler and Jack Goodman, Mount Vernon, are each seeking the GOP nomination for the 7th District House seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt.

Rep. Bryan Stevenson, Webb City, hasn’t filed for a new political race, but said Friday he is “not closing any doors.”

Rep. Kevin Wilson, Neosho, has not filed for any political seat either, but said he plans to stay in politics, though he didn’t hint at what that might mean.

Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is running for the Missouri Senate, but in his case in the 28th District.

Rep. Marilyn Ruestman has filed for presiding commissioner of Newton County

So, we are destined to cross paths with these public servants again and again and again.*  So much for term limits.

The most interesting part of Alexandra Nicholas’ story, though, was a little glimpse into the cavernous ego of our own Ron Richard, Speaker of the House, who at times this year lost control of his herd of cats, but nevertheless had a fond memory of the legislative session.  From the article:

Richard, who helped draft legislation in recent years to spur job growth, said he wishes he could have done more this term to create jobs, but the reality was that the state faces one of the “worst budget shortfalls in Missouri history.”

Asked for his highlight, he cited being unanimously elected speaker of the House — and surviving the job — something that hasn’t always happened with his predecessors.

“This is something I never dreamed would happen to me,” Richard said.

Yes, Ron, we’re glad you had such a great time and we’re glad that your “highlight” wasn’t one of the wonderful laws you helped pass for us Missourians, but a dream come true for you.

But given what happened this session—no balanced budget despite onerous cuts to programs that help children, the disabled, and the elderly; a paltry “ethics reform” bill that failed to restore limits on campaign contributions; and even more abortion restrictions on Missouri women—I would want to focus on something else, too.

________________________________________________________

*Richard doesn’t have any opposition for the 32nd District Senate seat.

New PSA Warns About Dangers of Teabagging

Geico voice over artist, D. C. Douglas (aka Lance Baxter), lost his job last month when he imbibed one apple martini too many and called FreedomWorks, the “grassroots” Tea Party group led by Matt Kibbe and Dick Armey, and left them an insulting message.

After admitting that Geico was justified in firing him and that his actions were “stupid,” Douglas has created a more dignified (and more clever) way of getting his message out about FreedomWorks:

Missouri Now Safe From Pee-wee Herman

I know I feel better now that I have learned that a local Republican operative, who likes to put on wigs and appear at rallies to lament our loss of liberty, finally managed to succeed in tightening the noose of state government around the neck of the adult entertainment industry in Missouri.

I suppose one man’s liberty is another man’s reason to squelch it, even if the squelcher squeals hypocritically about government tyranny at local Tea Parties.  Only in Jasper County  America.

We consider this a tremendous victory for the health and safety of Jasper County residents,” Peeping John Putnam told the Joplin Globe.

As I have pointed out before, among the new law’s restrictions is one I find manifestly weird.

According to Susan Redden’s reporting in the Globe:

Businesses that show films or videos must be configured so to give the manager an unobstructed view of patron areas.

I don’t know which is more strange: people who would pull off I-44 to watch an adult movie in the store and masturbate, or those who demand that the government tell the business owner to keep an eye on such folks.

Too much for my liberal mind to comprehend.

But I do wish that Republicans like Putnam, now that Missouri is relatively safe from premature ejaculators the porn industry, would be willing to tighten the noose of government around the necks of Wall Street and Big Oil, which, like the porn business, needs someone to watch what’s going on.

Because some of that stuff is much more worrisome than Pee-wee Herman types who have trouble waiting until they get home.

Flooding In Miami, Oklahoma, Means What?

I didn’t expect to be writing so soon a follow-up to the story out of Miami in which the faithful there were counting on the Lord to override nature and preserve them from the ravages of weather.

But this paragraph appeared at the end of a Wally Kennedy story in the Joplin Globe this morning, which addressed the large rainfall amounts received in the area:

Glenda Longan, emergency management director at Miami, Okla., said the Neosho River and Tar Creek were both out of their banks Friday. Riverview Park in Miami was under water and a few roads were closed because of the possibility of flash flooding.

Readers can draw their own conclusions as to the implications of this news as it relates to the claims made earlier by earnest prayer warriors in the Miami area.

But What Were Republicans Doing Before They Drove The Economy In The Ditch?

Left-leaning bloggers have made much of Ron Brownstein’s post today on National Journal, which began with this:

If the economy produces jobs over the next eight months at the same pace as it did over the past four months, the nation will have created more jobs in 2010 alone than it did over the entire eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

But the most interesting paragraph to me was this one:

The real point of looking again at Bush’s record is to underscore how few jobs the economy was creating even before the 2008 collapse. Bush’s tally of 1 million jobs was much less than the economy had generated during any other two-term stretch since World War II: Dwight Eisenhower produced nearly 4 million, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (together) almost 16 million, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (together) 11 million, Ronald Reagan 16 million, and Bill Clinton more than 22 million.

To be fair, Brownstein did cut Bush some slack for inheriting a “slowdown” from Clinton, but even eliminating that slowdown and the near-collapse in 2008, the so-called “recovery” in between did not create too many jobs:

In only eight of Bush’s 96 months did the economy create as many jobs as the 290,000 it did last month. Clinton exceeded that level 33 times. Reagan exceeded it 24. In all, the economy gained about 1.2 million jobs annually during the six years of recovery under Bush. It averaged about twice that during the expansion from March 1991 to February 2001.

As Big O said yesterday, we can’t let Republicans drive the car into the ditch again, but before it went in the ditch, the Republicans were driving it on the shoulder for many, many miles.

Here’s Big O’s remarks, just because I never get tired of hearing them:

2009 Ends Warmest Decade on Record

I was watching coverage of the launch of Atlantis on NASA’s website today and found these interesting maps, posted in January and which were headlined:

2009 Ends Warmest Decade on Record

 

From NASA:

These maps illustrate just how much warmer temperatures were in 2009 (top image) and the decade (2000-2009, lower image) compared to average temperatures recorded between 1951 and 1980 (a common reference period for climate studies). In both images, the most extreme warming, shown in red, was in the Arctic.

Of course, I realize the real debate—to the extent there is a real debate—is not over the fact—the fact—that the planet is warming.  According to NASA,”average global temperatures have increased by about 0.8°C (1.5°F) since 1880.”

It’s over whether there is anything we can do about it without starting another American Civil War.

Oklahoma Legislature Embraces Big Brother

Just two paragraphs from a Macleans story say most of what needs to be said about the Republican hypocrisy on the issue of big government. 

The story is about the latest attempt by the “Republican-dominated Oklahoma legislature” to place the government between women—parents, really—and their doctors:

New legislation in Oklahoma means a woman seeking an abortion will have to undergo an ultrasound at least one hour before having the procedure, and listen as a doctor describes the fetus’s heartbeat, organs and lungs—even in cases of rape and incest…

A second law protecting doctors who withhold information about fetal defects from being sued by parents was also passed last week. Two other abortion bills are still on the table that, if passed, could make Oklahoma home to the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.

Even as conservatives protest Obama’s secret desire to curb our individual liberties and Tea Partiers all over the nation moan and groan about Big Brother’s long reach into our lives, the truth is that most conservatives love government when it obstructs the rights of women—even victims of rape—to obtain an abortion or when it prevents homosexuals from attaining 100% American citizenship or when it is killing terrorists in a far away land.

But when it comes to big oil, Wall Street, the insurance industry, and the rich, they suddenly don’t love government any more. They want government to get out of the way of corporate and monied interests and stick its nose in one of the most personal decisions anyone could ever make.

Phonies, all.

If It Storms In Miami, There Aint No Jesus

These days, when an anti-homosexual Christian leader like George Rekers can discredit his belief system by renting a boy to accompany him on a much-deserved European vacation, perhaps it is welcome news that locally our Christian leaders are upholding the integrity of earnest and effective fundamentalist beliefs.

Monday’s Globe carried a story by Wally Kennedy titled, “Miami turns to prayer group to ‘dissipate’ severe weather.”

It seems the city of Miami, Ok., has an official 911 emergency prayer group that is activated whenever storm clouds gather.  On Monday the group called upon God to override nature and cancel plans for a severe thunderstorm that seemed imminent:

“We don’t pray for it to hit anybody else,” said Glenna Longan, Miami’s emergency management coordinator. “We just want it to dissipate so nobody is hurt.”

Yep. You read that right. Glenna Longan works for the city.  She is a government employee.  And part of her duties, apparently, is to coordinate the petitioning of the Almighty for relief from the arbitrariness of bad weather.

No kidding.

Not that Ms. Longan is alone. The city manager, Huey Long, who some call the Moses of Miami, endorses the idea.  He told KFOR in Oklahoma City this:

I do believe its divine intervention. It’s nothing I could come up with and I certainly take no credit whatsoever for this.

Well, it’s comforting, I suppose, for a politician to give credit to someone else for his successes, even if it would be tempting to say that you had a part in helping to dissipate one of the 44,000 thunderstorms that ravage the Earth each day.

KFOR’s news story also featured a comment from Cynthia Frizzelle, wife of a local pastor, who didn’t want a storm to spoil the town’s Easter weekend this year:

We believe that when it’s a 70% chance and we need it to be a zero that we can say, “Lord, shove the rain off into another day,” and that’s what he did on Saturday and we had a beautiful sunshiny day. We all actually had a sunburn to show from that.

Besides the obvious question as to why Mrs. Frizzelle didn’t pray for a divine SPF of, say, 100%, I am rather excited that locally we now have the ability to conduct an experiment on the efficacy of prayer.

I will grant for the sake of this experiment the prayer warriors’ claim that for more than two years God has protected them from the ravages of floods, ice storms, and tornadoes.

From this day on, we can all monitor the weather of Miami, Ok, and see if the Lord is listening to the faithful of that town and beyond.

As city manager Long told Wally Kennedy:

You need to always be prepared in both the secular and spiritual sense. You don’t know what will happen. The people in this group think God’s got to do something because he’s on the line now.

I like that. “God’s got to do something.”  A statement of faith that can be tested over time.

And if it works, maybe a bunch of us can get together and see if God has any interest in helping us at those local casinos.

Richard Pryor used to do a routine in which one of his crap-shooting characters would say:

If I don’t get a seven, there aint no Jesus.

What’s the difference?

Missouri House Approves Slow Motion Civil War

Buried on page 4A of today’s Globe was an AP story that began:

Missouri is poised to become the first state to put a new federal health insurance mandate to a vote of its residents.

Well, it’s nice to be first.

And it’s nice to know that our state legislators are taking care of important matters:

The Missouri House gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that will appear on the Aug. 3 ballot stating that people and employers cannot be compelled to have health insurance nor penalized for paying for health care out of their own pocketbooks.

Designed by conservatives as an Obama-slap, the legislation is part of a nationwide effort by conservatives and Republicans to keep the health care reform issue alive and well for the November elections.

After all, the GOP can’t afford to waste more than a year’s worth of demagoguery when they are so close to victory.

Next up: Based on what Missouri Republicans told the Joplin Globe‘s editorial board last November, perhaps our emboldened legislators will finally opt out of Medicaid or put it to the voters to decide.

Then, who knows, goodbye Social Security, Medicare, and, voilà ,we will have seceded from the rest of the country.

The only thing standing in the way of this slow motion civil war is the Supreme Court—with 4 1/2 solid conservative votes.

Oh, my.

 

Surprise! Cro-Magnon’s Opposed To Elena Kagan

For those interested, Media Matters has a long post addressing every possible objection to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Now, I was hoping that Obama would pick Diane Wood, a liberal jurist beyond any doubt, but, alas, our side is not as willing to defend liberalism as I would wish.

The troubling thing about Kagan is that so many conservatives seem to praise her, which makes me suspicious of her liberal credentials, but there are the usual conservative suspects, the Hannitys and Limbaughs and their Cro-Magnon constituencies, who will twist and distort her bona fides until they are unrecognizable.

In any case, here is a list of links to Media Matters research:

Myth: Kagan’s policies on military recruiters make her “an anti-military zealot” and an extremist on social issues

Myth: Kagan is “radical”

Myth: Kagan’s thesis shows she’s a socialist

Myth: “Kagan Standard” means Kagan must answer questions about issues that will come before the Supreme Court

Myth: Kagan’s Goldman Sachs role taints her nomination

Myth: Conservative opposition is based on the substance of Kagan’s nomination

Myth: Obama used “empathy” standard rather than fealty to law in choosing Kagan

Myth: Kagan is unqualified because she hasn’t been a judge

Myth: Kagan has said judicial experience is an “apparent necessity”

Myth: Kagan’s record shows that she will rubber-stamp war-on-terror policies

Myth: Republicans would be justified in opposing Kagan because she lacks a judicial paper trail

Myth: Kagan’s 23-year-old statements about the Establishment Clause suggest she’s hostile to religion

Myth: Kagan’s recusal obligations would be “extraordinary”

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