Missouri Is Fast Becoming Part Of The Old South

In 2009, the Missouri legislature passed something called the Big Government Get Off My Back Act, which essentially was a small business-friendly law that banned for four years some user fee increases and prevented new regulations on businesses with less than 25 employees.

This year, the very first bill approved by the House side* of the Missouri legislature was an amendment of that law, which given the nature of one of the new provisions, we can now call the Barack Obama Get Off My Ass Act.

The BOGOMAA will contain, if the new breed of quasi-secessionist Republicans have their way, the following nullification provision:

(1)  Specifies that any federal mandate implemented by the state must be subject to statutory authorization of the General Assembly;

As Rudi Keller, writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune said, “Missouri isn’t alone in attempting nullification,” and there are other statutes that assert “state authority over federal law.” 

But this one is obviously designed to open up old and ugly wounds in our recent national history.

The theory of nullification—that states can invalidate any federal law they consider unconstitutional—is remembered these days due to its use in the South as a reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools.  Several southern states claimed they had the power to ignore the decision, notwithstanding the Civil War, which seemed to settle the matter for most sober observers. 

In any case, the Supreme Court eventually and unanimously slapped down the South again—without the necessity of 600,000 dead Americans—and declared that the segregationists would have to find other ways to discriminate against black folks, since Supreme Court decisions constituted the law of the land. 

Addressing the  “illegal, forcible interference…with the continuance of what the Constitution commands,” Justice Frankfurter wrote:

What could this mean but to acknowledge that disorder under the aegis of a State has moral superiority over the law of the Constitution? For those in authority thus to defy the law of the land is profoundly subversive not only of our constitutional system, but of the presuppositions of a democratic society. The State “must . . . yield to an authority that is paramount to the State.”

All of that, as I said, is painfully obvious to the sober-minded.  But the Missouri legislature these days is peopled by a number of anti-government junkies, who have succumbed to secessionist smack out of a fear of The Kenyan Socialist.  One of them, Sen. Jim Lembke said this, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune:

“I look at it the same way I look at bad precedents. Why isn’t the Constitution the supreme law? It is not who won a war or bad decisions in a court. I can read the plain language. I don’t need nine justices to tell me what it says,” he said.

Maybe you don’t need them to tell you what it says, Mr. Lembke.  But when they tell you what it means, you have to listen. 

No matter how many BOGOMAAs you pass.

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* Joplin’s Bill White voted for the bill, as did, unfortunately, a number of Democrats.

Egypt: The View From The Paranoid Right

Since nearly every sensible thing that can be said has been said this weekend regarding the upheaval in Egypt, I thought I would look in on what the right-wing is saying.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are so far playing it safe, essentially approving of the Obama administration’s cautious response to the crisis. But it’s only Monday.

Unfortunately, Egypt is not observable from Wasilla, so Sarah Palin hasn’t yet tweeted her foreign policy advice to the world.  But it’s only Monday. I’m sure after she catches up on her weekend reading, she will offer up some profound analysis.

Bill Kristol, a Fox “News” neocon who agitated for war against Iraq as early as 1998 and who has urged the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran, has not yet called for invading Egypt and ousting Mubarak.  That’s always a good thing, but it’s only Monday.  

Kristol, who always knows what we should do in every tricky situation, did say the Administration was “a little slow in reacting to events and said a couple foolish things.”  Apparently, patience and deliberation is not a virtue in the Kristol family.

Speaking of a lack of patience and deliberation: The Glenn Beck News Service, The Blaze, featured this headline:

The story, written by Jonathon Seidl and complete with a Goldline ad, is one of those “connecting the dots” specials, which are the forte of the paranoid Right. It seems that the American Left, some of whom rallied this weekend in support of the Egyptian people, is encouraging the uprising because,

the power vacuum that would result from a government collapse would make the country a prime target for a socialist takeover.

Even though the protests in Egypt have been decidedly unrelated to Western politics, that’s not the way it is seen through the eyes of fearful right-wingers, at least when it comes to the motives of those Americans who support Egyptian freedom:

Is it really about democracy, then, as some of the signs suggest?

Not really. The reality seems to be closer to something like this: when a revolution opposes a leftist dictator, leftists and socialists ignore it. When a revolution opposes an American ally (particularly an ally as pivotal to U.S. security as the Egyptian alliance is) leftists and socialists support it. Succinctly put, the groups have a vested interest in the current American system being defeated (a goal shared by leftist dictators). That’s why they can support Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and even Hussein, but rally against someone such as Mubarak.

In the same vein, Red State, a popular right-wing site operated by Erick Erickson, now a CNN commentator, featured this headline:

The story takes the Beckian view one step further and involves the Obama administration in the plot to make Egypt and the Middle East a socialist paradise:

For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.

Meanwhile, Dick Morris, another Foxinating right-winger who sees an Islamic terrorist hiding behind every crisis tree, is urging the U.S. to “send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.He wrote:

The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran…

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

It appears that some on the Right, who night and day lie and stoke fear about Obama’s imaginary disregard for the freedoms of Americans, don’t mind if he helps squash the yearnings of Egyptians who want liberty—and jobs—in their own land.

We really run the risk of some Iranian style regime emerging in the end here,” foreign policy expert Sean Hannity said on Friday.

And even though the real experts discount that possibility (the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly represents around 20% of the population), it doesn’t matter. What matters is that however the situation in Egypt ends, Obama will have either done too much or too little.  He will either have sided with the Egyptian dictator or sided with the Muslim Brotherhood or engineered a socialist revolution.  

And to think it’s only Monday.

 

Remarks And Asides

Apparently, George W. Bush told Brian Lamb of C-SPAN that he is finished with politics.  Damn.  He’s just 10 years too late.

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It seems Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is in trouble again.  On Arabic television, of all places, he explained that the 2010 election shellacking was the result of “a lot of people” who,

don’t want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash.

Of course, Moran has it all wrong.  The reason for the shellacking was that a lot of people resent being governed by an African.

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finally confirmed what most of us already knew: the financial meltdown was not the fault of poor, often minority, homebuyers who supposedly twisted the arms of helpless bankers in order to get mortgages they couldn’t afford. 

Of course, since the Republican members of the commission issued their own report, that leaves Republicans free to continue to falsely claim that efforts to help the poor own their own homes is the root of all financial evil.

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It was sad to see a once-respectable Wolf Blitzer of CNN waiting with great anticipation for Michele Bachmann to speak the other night, following Obama’s State of the Union Address.  No other network—not even the Republican “News” Channel—carried the speech, but CNN not only thought Bachmann’s speech was news, it promoted it heavily with a countdown clock and everything. And everyone knows that on cable TV, a countdown clock before an event means something really, really, really big is going to happen.

Bachmann was technically speaking only for Tea Party Express, but Blitzer billed her as an “official” spokesman for the entire Tea Party.  It turns out, as Rachel Maddow noted brilliantly, that CNN had a rea$on for promoting Bachmann and Tea Party Express: They’re in bed together. CNN has partnered with the phony—”sleazy,” is how Maddow characterized it—grass roots Tea Party group and will jointly host a Tea Party presidential primary debate in September.

And CNN is not shy about its motives. Its political director claims that,

undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.

Yes. More and more, as CNN attempts to outfox Fox, it is perfectly natural for the network to “provide a platform” for extremists in the Republican Party. 

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As Democrats salivate in anticipation, Republicans are half-seriously considering privatizing Medicare.  But don’t worry.  The leadership isn’t quite that dumb.  Here’s what John Boehner said,

We’ll outline our budget in the months ahead, after we see the president’s budget.

This type of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” cowardice may disappoint Democrats who want to bash Republicans with the issue, but in the end it will preserve a pillar of our socialistic society.  Unless, of course, the Tea Party pathology spreads and Michele Bachmann engineers a putsch and gets her hands on Boehner’s man-sized gavel.

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Finally, just prior to a Knicks-Heat contest, Tracy Morgan said on TNT:

Now let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man, she’s good masturbation material. The glasses and all that? Great masturbation material.

Naturally, the network apologized for Morgan’s overly-descriptive (and inaccurate) commentary.  But it does explain why some tea party-ish Republican senators missed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

It conflicted with a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

A View From The Far Left

I thought it would be good, just for a little perspective, to look at what a genuine and disgruntled lefty had to say about President Obama’s speech the other night, courtesy of today’s broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition.

Chris Hedges is an award-winning, world-traveling journalist and war correspondent, who has written several books on topics ranging from a critique of pop-atheists to a critique of “fascistic” American fundamentalism to an experience-driven book on war.  If you saw The Hurt Locker, then you saw the following quote, which opened the movie and is from Hedges’ book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning:

The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.*

In short, if you are a fan of Ralph Nader, you will be a fan of Chris Hedges. For him, the entire liberal establishment has sold out to “status and privilege,” neglecting “justice and progress.” Nobody, it seems, is liberal enough for Hedges, but he particularly doesn’t like Barack Obama.

Here is just one sentence from a piece he wrote for Truthdig, a progressive website, titled, “Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama“:

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush.

Now, I remind you, that was from a progressive website.

In any case, Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep interviewed Hedges to get his reaction to the State of the Union speech:

It was clearly a speech meant to mollify Wall Street. It had a great deal of hypocrisy in it, condemning what he called the parade of lobbyists for rigging government just after he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase [William Daley] to be his new chief of staff…

One of the things that disturbed me most was this idea that somehow we are failing—the economy is failing—because of a lack of education.  It was a failure of regulation.  A failure of government control, which unleashed rapacious forms of human greed and fraud.

Inskeep asked him about Obama’s use of language regarding, “increasing the competitiveness of America“:

He quite consciously uses the language of the business community to indicate that he’s pro-business…[but]government is not a corporation.  Government is not about competition. Government is about addressing the necessities of citizens: health, education, housing, security, jobs, living wages, protections so that people have clean and safe water and food.  It’s not about business programs. And that of course is the ideology of the right wing: To not only make government serve corporations but essentially reduce government and cut citizens loose.

When Inskeep prompted Hedges about our debt and the need for a strong economy, including strong businesses, so that people can make money and pay taxes to support the kind of things Hedges mentions, he responds by acknowledging that obvious truth, but then says:

But who’s responsible for the debt peonage?  It’s not those people working extra shifts in Wal-Mart…That’s the fault of Wall Street. They’re the people who ratcheted it up. They’re the people we had to bail out.  It’s not the person working on the minimum wage job.  But they’re the ones who are going to be made to suffer.

Hedges was asked to comment on something he wrote in his book, The Death of the Liberal Class, which suggested that the communists have “the right analysis of the economy” in the sense of “it’s the workers against the bosses” :

In that sense, we no longer speak in the language of class warfare. Everybody has become middle class. Although, of course, what we have done through the acceleration of NAFTA and the outsourcing of jobs is disempower or disenfranchise our working class. I’m not a Marxist and I’m not a communist and I’m not an anti-capitalist. 

But there are different forms of capitalism.  There is the penny capitalism in the farm town where I grew up, where farmers bring their products in and sell it. There’s the regional capitalism of the local factory owner, hardware store owner, who lives in the community, invests in the community, sits on the school board.

And then there’s corporate capitalism, which is something else.  Corporate capitalism is supra-national; it has no loyalty to the nation state. It’s hollowed our country out from the inside.  It’s a kind of global, neo-feudalism and it’s corporate capitalism that frightens me.

You can see that from a liberal perspective, Hedges certainly has made some good and powerful points. 

But lacking any appreciation for the difficulty of getting things done in Washington these days, some leftists like Hedges and Nader—both good men—are willing to shoot their own soldiers for what they perceive as disloyalty to or improper fealty to leftist-liberal ideology.  In that way they mirror the fanatics on the Right, who are trying to purge from the Republican Party any politician who doesn’t sound like Michele Bachmann.

The point of all this is that I can assent to much of what Chris Hedges believes, but I don’t have to accept his critique of the “traitorous” liberal establishment—some of whom have moved right—in general or his excessive criticism of President Obama in particular. 

Many of us wish the President would articulate a much more robust liberalism than he does.  But we have to face a truth:  If he did so, he would not likely succeed in getting much done. And we have to acknowledge another truth: That despite his failure to always live up to our expectations, Obama is ultimately on our side.

I have argued that America is not a center-right country; it is a center-left country.  Which is to say that America has accepted a brand of liberalism—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid—that is also tempered by a sober realization that government can’t and shouldn’t control all possible outcomes; that government has its limitations.

And while I am glad there are people out there like Chris Hedges—who keep passion alive for liberal ideas—they do not control the debate these days.

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* The full quote from the book is:

The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years.

More Brilliance From Ozark Billy

Ozark Billy has weighed in on Obama’s speech.

Here’s a compilation of his brilliant commentary, courtesy of the Springfield News-Leader:

Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said he thought the president was “off.”

“The content, to me, was lacking,” Long said in a post-speech interview.

“We’re in serious, serious problems in this country and we need to cut spending immediately. And he was talking about electric cars,” he said…

Long…said the president should have gone a step further and cut spending, instead of freezing it…

Long was especially disappointed with the president’s call to abolish oil subsidies* and the part advocating bipartisan work on last year’s health care bill, he said.

He liked some of the president’s suggestions, such as medical malpractice reform, which Republicans have championed. But, he said, Obama was late inviting Republicans to the table to discuss health care reform.

“It’s interesting now that he wants our ideas where last year he cut us out totally,” Long said.

And Long, along with his fellow Springfield Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, criticized Obama’s lack of focus on jobs.

“I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear about cutting spending and creating jobs,” Long said.

Naturally, President Obama should have tailored his speech to please Ozark Billy, or maybe a Boss Hogg hat would have helped.

In any case, according to the News-Leader, “Long sat with members of the South Carolina delegation, including another auctioneer.”  That auctioneer is union-basher, Jeff Duncan, and I, for one, believe it is totally appropriate for our respected representative to spend quality time hanging around Republicans from South Carolina. 

And I don’t know if Joe “You lie!” Wilson was among the group Ozark Billy sat with, or if Jim “Waterloo” DeMint was nearby, but it is altogether fitting that someone who could say that Obama was “off” last night has all of the qualifications for membership in a rather strange fraternity of goofy Republicans from South Carolina.

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* Obama ask Congress to eliminate the subsidies because the industry seemed to be doing okay. Here is one example:

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday its fourth-quarter net income jumped 54 per cent as oil prices increased and its refining operations turned a profit.

The Houston company, reported net income of $2 billion, or $1.39 per share, for the final three months of 2010. That compares with $1.3 billion, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 22 per cent to $53.2 billion.

The sad thing about that is this, from the last summer’s New York Times:

…an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process…the tax breaks…average about $4 billion per year.

Now, nevermind that it makes no sense for Ozark Billy to get so upset about taking away subsidies for oil companies—southwest Missouri isn’t exactly Saudi Arabia—but to be so upset about that and at the same time whine about government spending is, well, that’s Ozark Billy for ya!

Republicans Believe In Socialism Too

Paul Broun, a Republican congressman from Georgia, tweeted the following last night as part of his running commentary on Obama’s State of the Union speech:

Now, that’s not really surprising, considering that Broun, a proud tea partier, has compared the President to Hitler, has claimed Obama has shown signs of being a Marxist, and has assured us previously that Obama is a socialist.

Oh, yeah. Broun is also part of the Republican Party Death Panel Brigade. He wrote the following in 2009 during the long hot summer of the health care reform debate:

Sadly, it’s senior citizens who will be hit hardest by Obama’s new plan…

When mama falls and breaks her hip, she’ll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient.  [emphasis in original]

So, that gives you an idea of what kind of guy Dr. Paul Broun is. 

But let’s return to his tweet.  He said,

Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.

Keep that in mind as you read the following paragraph from the Republican rebuttal last night, delivered by the GOP’s Budget Czar, Congressman Paul Ryan:

We believe government’s role is both vital and limited — to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders … to protect innocent life … to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Get that? “Government’s role is…to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.”

To paraphrase Paul Broun’s tweet,

Mr. Ryan, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.

Lawrence O’Donnell was the first to point out this now-glaring admission by a GOP spokesman.  He cited Ryan’s safety net principle and said it was,

…a socialistic notion advanced first by Bismarck now adopted in full embrace—full official embrace—by the Republican Party: “We believe in a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.”  That’s not in the Constitution but it’s now Republican doctrine.

So, even though Paul Ryan’s response last night was otherwise full of half-truths, quarter-truths, and falsehoods, it is nice to know that we can stop arguing about whether America is a center-right country. It’s not. Mr. Ryan has acknowledged the truth: Americans, including Republican Americans, like their socialistic government.

Just in case any doubt remains about that truth, here is a Gallup poll conducted less than two weeks ago:

As you can see, there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to cutting Social Security: only one in three would support cuts in the program.  In other words, nearly two-thirds of all folks say, “Keep your hands off my socialism.”

Likewise, there is very little difference between red staters and blue staters when it comes to supporting cuts in Education and Medicare, both socialistic endeavors. Most folks don’t want to cut them.  And although the biggest difference between the two parties comes under “Anti-poverty programs,” it is amazing to me that a majority of Republicans—many of whom have been weaned on Welfare Queen propaganda –don’t want to cut those programs either.

Socialism now!  Socialism forever!

Conservatives And The Myths They Tell

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

—2 Timothy 4:3,4

Thomas Sowell, whose national columns appear regularly in the Joplin Globe, is quite good at telling local conservatives what they want to hear, or at least what they think they want to hear. 

In today’s offering, he extolls the virtues of old industrialists and inventers—”heroes”— like “Rockefeller, Edison, Ford and the Wright brothers.”  These people, Sowell says, revolutionized our lives and made America a better place to live.

And so they did.  No one—and I mean no sane person—would argue with Sowell that in so many ways such ambitiously creative and enterprising folks have enriched our lives.

But that, of course, isn’t really Sowell’s point at all.  What he really wants to do—and this is what pleases his readers—is to bash those mythical meddling liberals, who obviously hate the rich and powerful and want to punish them at any cost. He saves his obvious and typical jab for the end:

But today we seldom even know the names of those who have made these monumental contributions to human well-being. All we know is that some people have gotten “rich” and that this is to be regarded as some sort of grievance.

Many of the people we honor today are people who are skilled in the rhetoric of grievances and promises of new “rights” at someone else’s expense. But is that what is going to make a better America?

Get it? The myth that conservatives love to tell each other is this: While those virtuous John Galts are out there holding up the American sky, success-hating liberals and progressives are kicking them in the shins with their worries—”grievances,” as Sowell phrases it—about some of the obvious negative consequences of industrialization and advancement. 

In Sowell’s column today he inadvertently gives an example of what I mean.  Crediting Rockefeller for “cost-cutting innovations” he writes:

Before he came along, gasoline was considered a useless by-product that petroleum refineries often simply dumped into the nearest river. But Rockefeller decided to use it as a fuel in the refining process, which made it valuable, even before automobiles came along.

While we can all applaud Rockefeller for finding a “cost-cutting” way of using gasoline, we have to ask:  What if he hadn’t found a way of utilizing it?  Would it be okay in Sowell’s world to just keep pouring gasoline into our rivers?  Huh? 

One of those bothersome grievances brought by the liberals that Sowell and other conservative writers hate so much is industrial pollution.  I suppose we could simply let each industry pollute the air and the water until someone comes along and finds a use for the pollutants, but we would live in a much different America if we did: “Look kids! The river’s on fire again! I’ll get the marshmallows!

Now, it happens that also in today’s edition of the Globe is a story headed, “Man pleads guilty to dumping light bulbs.”   The man—a businessman—was a contractor who replaced a lighting system for another business in 2008.  Rather than dispose of the nearly 800 pounds of fluorescent tubes, the man—a businessman—simply dumped the mercury-tainted hazardous waste on land he claimed he thought was his aunt’s.  Turned out it wasn’t.

But the point is this: Should the man—a businessman—be allowed to dump 800 pounds of hazardous waste even on his own property? Should there be a “grievance” brought against him for that, or should we just wait and see if the man can find some later use for his “by-product”?

Which reminds me of a story I read in the paper earlier this month. It concerned a local and, no doubt, proud Republican legislator from Carthage, who is a member of this year’s pro-business, anti-regulatory Missouri House.  The story began this way:

CARTHAGE, Mo. — If there are persistent odor problems from a reopened Renewable Environmental Solutions plant, state Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, wants a state law on the books to respond.

I am sure Rep. Flanigan was quite eager to join his conservative Republican colleagues in Jefferson City in order to get started on making Missouri attractive to businesses—despite the fact that Republicans have practically turned the state over to business interests—but it is interesting that Mr. Flanigan has no problem with pursuing his “grievance” against polluters:

Flanigan on Thursday introduced a bill that would require a company to forfeit its state operating permit and face financial penalties if it persistently violated state air and water pollution standards.

Actually, Flanigan’s grievance against polluters is not just his grievance in this case.  He is rightfully representing the neighbors of the former RES plant (which shut down in 2009), some of whom are pursuing the matter in court and fear that an ongoing effort to reopen the plant will result in more odor problems and diminish their quality of life.  

And that’s the point.  Is Rep. Flanigan a nannyish liberal who wants to exact revenge on the rich with his anti-pollution legislation? No, he’s not.  He is merely representing his constituents, who have been aggrieved by a local business, and presumably he thinks other Missouri residents would benefit from his legislation.

In the same way, liberals and other “do-gooders” and “nannies” don’t want the government to regulate businesses because businessmen are filthy rich and don’t deserve the rewards of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and hard work. But that’s the myth that liberal-hating Thomas Sowell and other conservatives tell and sell to their readers and listeners.

No. Liberals believe that we have a better world not just because today’s Fords and Rockefellers provide us with cars and gasoline—which undeniably add to the quality of our lives—but because they provide us such things without unnecessarily polluting our air and water.

And many of those Fords and Rockefellers wouldn’t worry much about the quality of our air and water if it weren’t for those who, in Sowell’s words, “are skilled in the rhetoric of grievances and promises of new “rights” at someone else’s expense.”

Eric Cantor Is Not A Homosexual Traitor. I Think.

If you watched Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Meet The Press appearance on Sunday, you learned the following:

Unlike Obama, Republicans don’t want to “invest” in America:

CANTOR: What we’ve said is our Congress is going to be a cut and grow Congress; that we believe we’ve got to cut spending, we’ve got to cut the regulations that have stopped job growth. When the president talks about competitiveness, sure, we want America to be competitive.  But then when he talks about investing, I think even someone from the White House this week had said that this is going to be a cut and invest White House.  We want to cut and grow.  Because when we, we hear invest, when–from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. 

Get it?  Cut and grow.  Cut and grow. Cut and grow.  Sort of like pruning roses. That’s it!  America is just one big rose garden!  If we just cut, cut, cut, in no time millions of job-flowers will bloom!  Just make sure you don’t get cancer. In the interview, Mr. Cantor suggested that even cancer research is “on the table.” 

We learned Republicans will violate their Pledge To America and not cut $100 billion from the budget, and, guess what? It’s the Democrat’s fault! Here is part of an exchange between host David Gregory and Cantor: 

MR. GREGORY:  It seems like it’s a straightforward question, though.  Are you going to live up to the $100 billion pledge?  I assume you’ve put a lot of thought into that…$100 billion figure.  Can you make it or not?

REP. CANTOR:  Absolutely.  On an annualized basis, we will cut spending $100 billion.

MR. GREGORY:  You do it this year as you pledged?

REP. CANTOR:  On an annualized basis…

MR. GREGORY:  Which means what exactly?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, again, David, look where we are.  We are where we are because the Democratic majority, last Congress, didn’t pass a budget, right? They didn’t do it.  So we’re in a continuing resolution environment.  So now we’ve got an interim step to take to make sure that we reset the dial and bring spending back down to ’08 levels.  We will do that.

Annualized“?  “Interim step“?  I looked and didn’t find those words in the Pledge. Whoops. 

We also learned that Republicans will definitely deploy their hold-America-hostage strategy again this spring, as we approach the debt ceiling:

MR. GREGORY:  You talk about the debt, it’s passing $14 trillion.  And last week you gave an interview to The Washington Post about this important vote that’ll come up in the spring about raising the debt ceiling, which has been done for a long time in the past.  And this is what you said in The Washington Post:  “`It’s a leverage moment for Republicans,’ Cantor said in an interview…  `The president needs us.  There are things we were elected to do.  Let’s accomplish those if that the president needs us to clean up the old mess.’”

I want you to be specific here.  What’s the leverage moment?  What will you exact as a promise in order for your members to vote to increase the debt ceiling?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, let, let me be clear, David.  Republicans are not going to vote for this increase in the debt limit unless there are serious spending cuts and reforms.

MR. GREGORY:  Like what?

REP. CANTOR:  I mean–and, and that is just the way it is, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

Get that?  We have to go through another “or else” moment.  Geez.

Via Mr. Cantor we also found out that the anemic BoehnerCare is “just a starting point,” and that the reason Republicans haven’t done better is the fault of Democrats!  Yep:

MR. GREGORY:  All right, let, let’s, let’s move on to health care because House Republicans did repeal the president’s healthcare reform plan, but the real question is what Republicans are prepared to replace it with and whether you have a serious plan.  Major Garrett in the National Journal reports this week the following about the speaker’s plan, Speaker Boehner:  “The Boehner plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would add just three million Americans to the insurance rolls, leaving about 50 million still without coverage through 2019.  CBO said that the proposal would reduce costs in the group-insurance market, which constitutes nearly 80 percent of private-sector premiums, by less than 3 percent.  `If it’s all they do, it is not a serious effort,’ Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and chief policy adviser for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said of the Boehner alternative.  `You can’t just do that.’”

The truth is, Republicans do not have a serious alternative to covering more Americans, do they?

REP. CANTOR:  I disagree with that, obviously, David.  First of all, you know, we believe you can do better in health care.  I mean, we want to try and address the situation so more folks can have coverage, can, can have the kind of care that they want.

MR. GREGORY:  But that’s not what the Boehner plan does.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the…

MR. GREGORY:  It’s not more folks being covered.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the–if you recall last session, we Republicans were given one shot; we didn’t have any open debate for both sides at all on the healthcare bill the way it was jammed through.  The Boehner plan is just a starting point… 

Finally, we learned that Eric Cantor—the second-in-command in Republican leadership—”thinks” Obama is a citizen.  He doesn’t “know” he is; he “thinks” he is. It’s like when Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes that, “as far as I know,” Obama is not a Muslim.

And as far as I know, I don’t think Eric Cantor is a traitorous Zionist homosexual. There. That settles it.

Here’s the weird exchange between Gregory and Cantor, which—eventually— ended in Cantor’s quasi-acknowledgement that Obama is legitimately our president: 

MR. GREGORY:  There’s been a lot of talk about discourse, about how you all can get along a little bit better and do it a little bit more civilly.  And I wonder, this is the leadership moment here, OK?  There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that it–his birth certificate is inauthentic.  Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country.  Most Americans really are beyond that, and they want us to focus…

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Is somebody brings that up just engaging in crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, David, I, I don’t think it’s, it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Is it a legitimate or an illegitimate issue?

REP. CANTOR:  And–so I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all.  I think we need to focus on…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  His citizenship should never be questioned, in your judgment.  Is that what you’re saying?

REP. CANTOR:  It is, it is not an issue that even needs to be on the policy-making table right now whatsoever.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Because it’s illegitimate?  I mean, why won’t you just call it what it is?

REP. CANTOR:  I–because, again…

MR. GREGORY:  I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those folks.

REP. CANTOR:  No.  I think the president’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Period.

REP. CANTOR:  So what–yes.  Why, why is it that you want me to go and engage in name-calling?

MR. GREGORY:  No, I’m just…

REP. CANTOR:  I think he’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Because, because I think a lot of people, Leader, would say that a leader’s job is to shut some of this down.  You know as well as I do, there are some elements on the right who believe two things about this president:  He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom.  Do you reject those beliefs as a leader in our Congress?

REP. CANTOR:  Let me tell you, David, I believe this president wants what’s best for this country.  It’s just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences.

MR. GREGORY:  Fair enough.

After all that, we have a grudging admission by a big-time Republican—who leads a party in which nearly one-third of its members believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim—that he thinks—thinks!—Mr. Obama is a citizen and that he “wants what’s best for this country.” 

Oh, well, these Tea Party days, that counts as progress.

 

There’s Room To Raise Taxes In Missouri

As Missouri Republican legislators scramble to implement even more cuts in the budget, as Governor Jay Nixon—a Democrat, I think—joins them, and as this morning’s Joplin Globe advocates, “holding the line on income and other taxes,” I would like to make the case for responsible governing. 

We in this great state are in many ways undertaxed (except for the working poor, as outlined here).  That’s all there is to it. How do I know that?  Well, for one, we don’t have enough money to pay the bills.  And when you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, you either cut spending or raise revenue or a combination of both.  Some of our state neighbors have done both: cut spending and raise revenues.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?

But not here in Missouri, where government-hating, tax-cut loving conservative Republicans have taken command of nearly every office up for grabs, and where some state Democrats have jumped in bed with them either out of necessity or desire, while the state faces enormous revenue shortfalls. 

Maybe I don’t get around enough, but I just don’t hear many elected Democrats making the case for government, and thus the case for paying for government.  Of course, there aren’t that many Democrats left in the legislature these days, so maybe that explains it.

Another reason I know that some Missourians are undertaxed is because compared to the rest of the country, we are near the bottom in per capita tax burden (42nd) and taxes as a percentage of personal income (43rd). 

Let’s look at how we compare to our state neighbors regarding our tax burden (source here):

As you can see, Missouri is the lowest in terms of tax burden as a percentage of personal income and second only to Tennessee in total tax per capita.

Now, let’s look at a comparison of tax rates from selected sources, excluding income and corporate taxes:

Again as you can see, Missouri has the lowest tax rate in four of the six categories.  And in the other two, Missouri has the second lowest. Surely, there is room to grow revenue in these numbers?

A quick calculation just using the sales tax rate reveals that if Missouri’s sales tax were increased by 25%, to 5.2875%, that would still be the second lowest rate among our neighboring states. And it would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.  

And look at the cigarette tax: a measly 17 cents per pack. Huh? The next lowest rate is 79 cents.  And beer? Six cents per gallon? If we merely doubled our beer tax it would still be the second lowest.  I wouldn’t mind paying another 13 cents or so for a case of beer, would you?

Here is a comparison of Missouri to our neighbors in terms of corporate taxes:

As you can see, Missouri gets 2.7% of its revenue from corporate taxes, which is less than half of the national average of 5.6% and lower than all of our neighbors.  Republicans constantly argue that we need to keep corporate taxes low to attract businesses to the state.  Okay.  They’re low.  Where are the bleeping jobs?

The point of all this is that Governor Nixon and Missouri legislators have plenty of room to raise some revenue to help offset budget shortfalls caused by the economic crisis. We don’t need to drastically slash state services and lay off state employees just because we want to make the dreams of Republican government-haters come true.

Presidential Perks And Quirks

After pointing out some right-wingers’ silly obsession over Michelle Obama’s commie-colored dinner dress, Lawrence O’Donnell replayed part of the old (1964) Lyndon Johnson tape in which the Most Powerful Man In The World is ordering Haggar pants.  If you want to hear the entire glorious call, you can go here, or just watch the minute-long version:

Ozark Billy And A Big Block Of Cheese

Okay. The House of Representatives has repealed the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance reform law that is increasing in popularity even as I write.

Southwest Missouri Republican Ozark Billy voted for repeal.  In fact, he made his first speech on the floor of the house and he was true to form.  From the Springfield News-Leader

In his 61-second speech, the Springfield Republican called the recently enacted health care law “a big block of cheese,” saying that people he’s talked to don’t want that cheese; they “want out of the trap of government-run health care.”

Now, I don’t know if he was referencing Andrew Jackson’s famous “1,400 pound, four foot in diameter, two foot thick block of cheese” that he received as a gift.  But I do know that it doesn’t surprise anyone that Ozark Billy had food on his mind. 

And by the way, Long told a good old Ozarkian fib when he called health care reform, “government-run health care.” Would to God it were, but unfortunately it is merely a refinement of our employer-based, for-profit,  private in$urance industry. 

So far, Ozark Billy’s first speech brought us a “Billyism” and a falsehood.

The News-Leader also reported that our folksy congressman uttered the following in his floor speech:

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but that’s exactly what the majority tried to do last year by using 10 years of taxes to pay for a six-year program.

It’s never been fully explained to me why anyone would think you could make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, but it has been explained to me that the second half of Ozark Billy’s goofy statement is false.

Perhaps he cribbed it from Eric Cantor, who claimed a few weeks ago that the law, “offset 6 years of benefits with 10 years of tax increases,” which itself was rated a very generous “half true” from renowned fact-checker Politifact. But Long’s construction—”a six-year program”—is patently false.  Notwithstanding the vote in the House, the program will be around a lot longer than six years. Unless Republicans agree to a single-payer system or something.

So, Ozark Billy’s first speech brought us two Billyisms and two falsehoods. Not a bad start and not bad for 61 seconds.

The News-Leader also quoted something our congressman said after his vote:

“…I felt that I needed to go down and weigh in,” he said.

I don’t recommend that Ozark Billy.  Especially after that big block of cheese thing.

_______________________________

Speaking of a big block of cheese, eastern Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren also voted for repeal. Wikipedia says this about Mr. Boren:

He is a member of the Democratic Party.

In 2009, Congressman Boren, an NRA board member, told a gathering of the gun enthusiasts the following:

It might surprise you that I am a Democrat.

Nope. What surprises me is that Mr. Boren continues to claim he is a Democrat, despite little supporting evidence.

Of those Democrats who voted against health care reform last year (including Mr. Boren), 13 remain in Congress, and it is  noteworthy that ten of them supported the law yesterday.

As a public service, I thought I would provide part of Mr. Boren’s explanation for his vote yesterday:

..a clear majority of my constituents want this law repealed and replaced with a more workable solution.  It is in that spirit that I supported a full repeal.

I could find no poll that demonstrated Mr. Boren’s claim that a “clear majority” of his constituents supported repeal. I did find the most recent statewide poll, which showed that only 37% favored repealing the entire law.  Perhaps eastern Oklahoma is different from the rest of the state, but I doubt it.

In any case, Congressman Boren stated that not only did his constituents want to repeal the law, they wanted it “replaced with a more workable solution.”  Indeed, Republicans campaigned last season partly on the  promise to “repeal and replace.” 

As a tribute to the Republican victory today, I will perform another public service and provide my faithful readers with a comprehensive presentation of just exactly what the Republicans have proposed to replace the law that Mr. Boren and Ozark Billy voted to repeal. I will even put it in a handy box, so you won’t miss it:

The Real Job Killers

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Matthew 7:16

President Obama’s op-ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal has once again caused some on the Professional Left to question his committment to old-fashioned liberalism.

Lynn Parramore wrote:

Today in the WSJ we catch a glimpse of the administration’s stance on regulation, and it’s not a pretty picture…

The op ed, with its neo-liberal celebration of America’s great ‘free’ market (never mind that what we’ve got is a market captured by oligopolies) perpetuates the specious proposition that if we could just rein in the evil regulators, everything would be much better.

In the op-ed Obama tried to assure American businesses—which have criticized him mercilessly—that he and his administration have received their message about regulation:

…we are…making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

Who could be against that? Obama argues for regulatory equilibrium:

…throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

Yet many on the right have criticized Obama for stifling growth through excessive regulations.  Obama addressed that criticism at the end:

Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.

Yes, we have all heard the rhetoric: Too much job-killing regulation.

But it’s hard to argue with this: The business-hating socialist—President Obama—is presiding over an almost unprecedented Age of Prosperity, at least if you happen to own stock in a company listed on the S&P 500:

And the Commerce Department, in case you forgot, reported two months ago that annualized third-quarter profits for American businesses amounted to about $1.7 trillion, the highest ever recorded.  Ever. Really.

But don’t forget about those darn job-killing regulations.

Again, Lynn Parramore from the left:

Free market fundamentalists have been pushing the idea that regulation is the enemy through a variety of dishonest arguments, from the notion that regulators ‘just don’t understand’ fancy financial instruments and should stay out of it to the particularly offensive canard that regulators kill jobs. Never mind that it was the unregulated financial sector that threw millions out of work in the Great Recession. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of free market mythology, people lost their jobs because the darned government just wouldn’t stop abusing big business.

And from the right: The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested last week that due to the Republican takeover of the House, the Obama administration is “likely to turn to the regulatory agencies.” He followed that with this:

The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of American enterprise.

Wow!  The “single biggest challenge“?

And as Reuters reported last month, Ivan Seidenberg of the Business Roundtable,

has been critical of the Obama administration in the past, charging that its zeal for regulation was creating uncertainty that was making it harder for businesses to raise capital and create jobs.

Oh, yeah?  Then why did I read in The New York Times that multinational companies operating—and creating jobs—in China tolerate a regulatory system much more onerous than ours?

The article revealed that companies like General Electric are reluctant to criticize the Chinese for manifestly unfair trade practices for fear that Chinese regulators will punish them for their insubordination. As the Times put it—and you should read this carefully:

Chinese laws are often just a few pages in length, even on complex industrial or financial subjects. That leaves broad discretion to regulators on enforcing regulations that may help some companies and penalize others.

Regulators also have the authority in every industry to approve foreign investments, and even demand a say in details like what equipment will be purchased by foreign investors for their factories. Regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

Now, some anti-regulatory apologist needs to explain to me just how campanies—that  supposedly have trouble raising capital to do business in America—can raise capital to compete in an environment like that?  We are, after all and for God’s sake, talking about China, an authoritarian—some say totalitarian—state.

In another Times article, China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S., we find that despite the potentially punitive regulatory structure in China, American high-tech businesses are now rushing there to do business. 

Much of the rush is based on the gargantuan market available.  “China has become the world’s largest auto market,” the paper said.  “The country is also the biggest market for desktop computers and has the most Internet users,” it continued. And then it pointed out:

Not just drawn by China’s markets, Western companies are also attracted to China’s huge reservoirs of cheap, highly skilled engineers — and the subsidies offered by many Chinese cities and regions, particularly for green energy companies.

Ahh.  There it is: cheap labor. You see, a multitude of regulatory sins can be overcome by cheap labor. And in China, even the engineers work for beer money.

But it’s not just cheap labor that attracts American businesses. Gifts from the Chinese government help a lot.

In yet another Times article we have the story of Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts company that is (was) the third-largest maker of solar panels in America. The company achieved that distinction partly through assistance from the government of Massachusetts in the form of $43 million.  But that wasn’t enough:

…now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.

Much higher government support“?  The Times interviewed the chief executive of Evergreen Solar, Michael El-Hillow, and reported:

Mr. El-Hillow said that he was desperate to avoid layoffs at the Devens [Massachusetts] factory. But he said Chinese state-owned banks and municipal governments were offering unbeatable assistance to Chinese solar panel companies.

Factory labor is cheap in China, where monthly wages average less than $300. That compares to a statewide average of more than $5,400 a month for Massachusetts factory workers. But labor is a tiny share of the cost of running a high-tech solar panel factory, Mr. El-Hillow said. China’s real advantage lies in the ability of solar panel companies to form partnerships with local governments and then obtain loans at very low interest rates from state-owned banks.

We can expect Mr. El-Hillow and Evergreen Solar to soon sell their Chinese-manufactured solar panels back to us.  Hopefully, there will still be someone here with money to buy them.

Is this what it has come to? Is this what American businesses want from us?  We have to stop regulating them and slash the wages of our workers and subsidize profit-making ventures through low-interest loans or else?  Or else these capitalist patriots will pick up and move to a Communist country where they can “partnership” with an autocratic government that has unlimited power to destroy them through regulation?

Let me quote again the original Times story about the threat to American businesses China represents:

[Chinese] regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

As I listen to the complaints about “excessive” regulation on American business here at home—I have actually heard conservatives say that too much American regulation forces companies to move to China!—and as I think about why President Obama felt it necessary to reassure businesses that he means them no harm, I wonder why American companies are killing jobs here at home and fleeing to an authoritarian land.

No, I don’t really wonder. For too many capitalists, profits trump patriotism every time.

How To Interview A Second Amendment Zealot

After the Tucson shooting, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the following:

I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person, that’s all I have to say.

Last night on The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell, the best interviewer on television, asked Congressman Franks about that comment, and the idea behind it. 

What follows is a clip from the must-see segment (I started it more than four minutes into the interview, but the entire interview can be seen here), which demonstrates how good O’Donnell is at what he does, as well as the folly of the Second Amendment absolutist position:

Remarks And Asides

Even though Republicans are skeptical, The Washington Post reported on a new government study that revealed:

As many as 129 million Americans under age 65 have medical problems that are red flags for health insurers.

That means, as the headline of the Post article says, “up to half of Americans under 65 have preexisting conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans soldier on with their theatrical repeal of the health insurance reform law, all done in the name of the American people.

_______________________________

John Boehner, fresh off his snub of the Tucson memorial service, has opted out of a state dinner, honoring who? Oh, that’s Chinese President Hu.  My bad. 

Boehner’s excuse for turning down the ride to Tucson with President Obama on Air Force One was that he had to attend a reception for Maria Cino, a former Republican aide in the House who was trying to replace Michael Steele as GOP chairman. She failed, by the way.

Boehner’s excuse for turning down dinner with Obama and Hu is that he doesn’t want to become Charlie Crist, who was famously photographed embracing Obama at an event in Florida and paid for it by getting trounced by the Tea Party last November, as he sought to jump from governor to senator. 

Can you imagine what would happen if Boehner were photographed with two Communists?

________________________________

Sarah Palin said on Monday of her critics, “They’re not going to shut me up.” 

I don’t know one single Democrat who wants to shut her up.  In fact, most of us wish she would talk more and tweet less.

_________________________________

Steve King, Republican congressman from Iowa and a perennial candidate for Goofiest-Gloomiest Conservative, once said terrorists would celebrate the election of Barack Obama and would view him as a “savior.”

Now, he’s at it again. He told Human Events that Democrats passed “Obamacare” due to their “irrational Leftist lust for socialized medicine.”

Not true, not true. There’s nothing irrational about our lust for socialized medicine.

__________________________________

The newly elected Republican governor of Alabama, Brother Robert Bentley, told his constituents the following:

There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.
   
Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

I’m confused, Governor. Are you saying we have the same momma?

More Bad News From The Front Lines Of The War On Drugs

Ryan Grim at HuffPo reports:

Utah police shot and killed a man within seconds of storming his parents’ home, video of the raid shows. The police had a warrant to search for drugs, but found only a small amount of pot and an empty vial that had apparently contained meth.

The man, Todd Blair, was 45 years old. According to the story, friends and family of Blair claimed he was not a drug dealer but a drug addict.

The article makes a point all of us need to think about:

Blair’s death raises the question of why multiple heavily-armed officers were sent to raid a drug addict — and why Weber and Morgan counties in Utah would even need a “Narcotics Strike Force.” Local police forces are able to keep to property they seize in drug raids, often without the necessity of a conviction, creating a perverse incentive to reinvest in military equipment and carry out additional raids.

Perverse incentive, indeed.

Here is how the story describes the disturbing video posted below:

Blair can be seen holding a golf club above his head as police smash through his door. Within seconds, without demanding Blair drop the iron or lay down, Weber-Morgan Strike Force Sgt. Troy Burnett fires three shots into him.

I warn you before you watch the video, that although it is short, it is graphic.  But I believe we have to think about what we are doing, as we continue to pursue to the death our war on drugs:

Southwest Missouri Civility

Rita Crowell, God’s local prophet and a paradigm of southwest Missouri civility, wrote the following in today’s Joplin Globe:

Our present president, Barack Hussein Obama, is worse than Herod of the biblical times because he does not care if a baby who has survived a botched abortion lives.

Get that? Obama is worse than Herod, a recurring theme in Rita’s writings.  For those of you who have forgotten your history, the New Testament alleges that Herod committed an atrocity known as the Massacre of the Innocents, surrounding the birth of Christ. 

Here is part of what The Catholic Encyclopedia has to say about the alleged atrocity:

The Greek Liturgy asserts that Herod killed 14,000 boys… the Syrians speak of 64,000, many medieval authors of 144,000, according to Apocalypse 14:3. Writers who accept the historicity of the episode reduce the number considerably, since Bethlehem was a rather small town.

And here is what Augustus said about Herod:

It is better to be Herod’s dog than one of his children.

And Aish.com, a Jewish heritage website, summarizes Herod this way:

A madman who murdered his own family and many rabbis.

So, let me rewrite Rita’s submission slightly:

Barack Hussein Obama is worse than a man who murdered his own family and killed possibly thousands of little boys.

Thank you, Rita. And thank you Joplin Globe for publishing that uplifting letter.

Darrell Issa Gets Probed

Republican Representative Darrell Issa, Obama-probe in hand, couldn’t wait for the 112th Congress to get started so he could get on with probing the Administration.

Famously saying to The Bigot King, Rush Limbaugh, that Obama was “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” Issa has pledged to play political proctologist on behalf of the American people, which will endear him to the D.C. press corp and cable TV producers, if not members of Obama’s Cabinet.

But if he didn’t know it before, Issa, holding the title of The Richest Republican in Congress, surely knows now that in politics, probing is a two-way exam. Before Issa has even had a chance to put the Administration on the examination table, The New Yorker did a little probing of its own:

Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.

All of the incidents chronicled by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker make for interesting reading, including the allegation that Issa burned down his own factory, Steal Stopper:

Joey Adkins, the former owner of Steal Stopper, provided the main evidence against Issa. On the afternoon of September 20, 1982, in a lengthy recorded interview with an insurance investigator, he described a series of suspicious actions by Issa before the fire. Adkins, who still worked for Steal Stopper, said that Issa removed the company’s Apple II computer from the building, including “all hardware, all software, all the instruction books,” and also “the discs for accounts payable, accounts receivable, customer list, everything.” According to Adkins, Issa also transferred a copy of every design used by Steal Stopper from a filing cabinet to a fireproof box. He also said that Issa put in the box some important silk screens used in the production of circuit boards. Insurance officials noted that, less than three weeks before the fire, Issa had increased his insurance from a hundred thousand dollars to four hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars. “Quite frankly,” Adkins told the investigator, “I feel the man set the fire.”

As for Issa’s future political ambitions, he has employed an image team, led by his “secret weapon,” twenty-seven-year-old Kurt Bardella, who is not afraid to explain his role:

“My goal is very simple,” he said. “I’m going to make Darrell Issa an actual political figure. I’m going to focus like a laser beam on the five hundred people here who care about this crap, and that’s it. We’ve been catering more to that audience, so Darrell can expand his sphere of influence here among people who track who’s up, who’s down, who wins, who loses. Then we can broaden that to something more tangible afterward.”

Part of the image makeover is moving far-right Issa to the “center,” which explains why he crawdaddied on the Obama-is-corrupt quote he uttered for Limbaugh.  Through a series of qualifications the quote has been reduced to this:

…he claimed that he meant “corrupt” in the sense that a computer hard drive can become corrupt: it just stops working well.

It’s a good thing he didn’t try that on The Rush Limbaugh Show.  The Bigot King would have handed the prostrating proctologist his ass.

Martin Luther King Day, 2011

Martin Luther King was in many ways a conservative. 

He preached a brand of Christianity that at least in words, if not in deeds, most conservative evangelicals could embrace. 

He had no desire to injure or destroy America, despite its injustices to blacks and to the poor, often one and the same. 

He argued for peaceful change within the rules of society, a highly conservative stance. 

But Martin Luther King was also and obviously a liberal. 

And to honor that liberalism on this MLK day, I offer an excerpt from his, “imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul,” from November of 1956

I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism….

The misuse of Capitalism can…lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept.

You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe “enough and to spare” for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.

I have often heard Glenn Beck praise Dr. King on his radio and television shows. Other conservatives, too. But I’ve never heard them embrace the sentiments expressed above, through the voice of Paul the Apostle, which were central to King’s activism.

Why not?

Guess What? Most People Don’t Want to Repeal Health Care Law

March on brave Republicans!  March on!

As Republicans in the U.S. House get set to repeal the health care reform law, amid phony claims that they are merely doing what the American people want them to do, and after Missouri House Republicans last week wasted legislative time and money urging Governor Nixon and his Attorney General to join the sue-Obama crowd, here is the latest polling on the issue, from AP/GfK:

Meanwhile, we eagerly await the “jobs, jobs, jobs” legislation that Republicans promised us, nevermind the Republican plan to insure more than 30 million people without costing anyone anything.

Conservative Talker: “I Dont Even Know How To Talk About This”

Sean at FiredUp!Missouri posted a couple of clips from Friday’s broadcast of Mornings with Nick Reed on KSGF Newstalk in Springfield. Nick Reed is a conservative talk show host. Get that?  Nick Reed is a wild-eyed conservative, not a wild-eyed leftist who hates Billy Long.

Reed was discussing the Billy Long Gets Even fiasco, involving the FBI and a blogger-critic of Ozark Billy.  Here is what the conservative Reed said while discussing, “Billy Long sending federal investigators to question political opponents“:

This is what an elected, conservative, so-called Republican member of Congress is doing to Americans.  Which, by the way, we don’t know how many people are on the list, it is a secret list, and the other names have not been revealed.  And as of now it sounds as if they will not be revealed unless, of course, the individuals come forth themselves.  That is, if they’re not too frightened to. A police state at hand…

Of all the places in the country—southwest Missouri?  And somebody who says they are a conservative Republican? My God!

Later Reed says,

I don’t even know how to talk about this.  I would be frightened and outraged if this were somebody from the left but I wouldn’t be all that surprised. But this is middle America. We’re in the heartland. We’ve got a guy we just elected who is supposed to be a conservative Republican doing stuff that if Obama did we’d be screaming through the rooftops.

There’s no doubt about that.  Mr. Reed would be leading the screamers, I’m sure.  But let’s give the right its due in this case.  Some of them are making much of what Ozark Billy has apparently done to not only Tea Party Republican and Long critic Clay Bowler, but anyone who writes critically of the congressman.  I have to wonder, though, if Clay Bowler were a left-wing critic of Long, would the right-wing be so upset?

Mr. Reed noted on Friday that Billy Long is “not talking.”  Long’s office did later release a statement in which it said it couldn’t comment on the Bowler case at the request of the Capitol Police. Why not? What could be the reason for silence?

Speaking of silence, my paper, the Joplin Globe, has not printed a word about the controversy, nor can I find anything on the paper’s website.  Why not?

This story broke on Thursday and has been picked up nationally by media outlets on the left and right.  I ask: Where is the Joplin Globe?

Here are the Nick Reed audio clips posted by FiredUp!Missouri:

Glenn Beck: Billy Long Must Be A Democrat

Not only did the stars of right-wing media, Drudge and Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, get wind of and make wind of the Clay Bowler-Billy Long-FBI issue, but perhaps the biggest (I mean, nuttiest) star of all did too: Glenn Beck.

On Friday’s radio show, Beck led with this:

Clay Bowler has become active in politics. Starting last year, he didn’t support Billy Long, the Democrat running for Congress in his Missouri district, so he started a website, he began attending campaign events.  He even started asking the candidate tough questions.  But when Long eventually won, Bowler and his website, Long is Wrong, went away.  So, when the FBI showed up at his door recently, saying he was perceived to be making threats to the congressman, he was shocked.

Get that?  Long is a Democrat!  A bleeping Democrat!  No wonder he trampled the Constitution!

Now, anyone can get a name or a party affiliation wrong, but it’s not surprising that Beck assumed Long was a Democrat because Long, along with Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, were apparently worried about a Tea Party conservative blogger.  What else could Long be?  If you’re not from southwest Missouri and you’ve never heard of Ozark Billy, you just assume he’s a Democrat because Democrats routinely ignore the Constitution to do things like sic the FBI on right-wing bloggers. Right?

Even Clay Bowler found it necessary to correct Mr. Beck:

Glenn Beck led off yesterday’s show condemning Congressman Billy Long for abusing his powers and launching an FBI witch hunt of a blogger who simply disagreed with him. Beck told his large radio audience, “American citizens are being investigated for simply asking their congressmen questions.” If you listen to the audio, Beck assumes because of Long’s actions that he is a Democrat. No, Long, who has been telling the Washington DC Press Corp, he was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, abused his federal powers to come down on a Tea Partier who criticized him and is a Republican.

Whew! I’m glad we got that cleared up. 

Here is the Glenn Beck audio, courtesy of Mr. Bowler:

UPDATED: FBI Visits Local Blogger…Why?

I have written about Clay Bowler a few times on this blog, especially about his charge that our new representative, Billy Long, attempted to bribe Bowler at a restaurant here in Joplin during the Republican primary campaign.  In fact, last April at the Joplin Tea Party rally, I asked long about the charge, which you can see here.

During the primary last year and during the general election, Mr. Bowler—a Tea Party Republican and blogger—was highly critical of Billy Long.  Bowler wrote many, many articles that appeared on his temporary blog, Long is Wrong (which I linked to while it was still active), and on his permanent blog, Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom.

Clay Bowler and I probably don’t agree on one single thing, but we did agree on our dislike for Billy Long’s politics, albeit for different reasons.

Now it is reported that the FBI paid a visit to Mr. Bowler this week. Yes, that FBI. And apparently Mr. Bowler recorded the interview in which, according to KY3, Green County Sheriff Jim Arnott  says,

Billy Long’s staffers gave authorities Bowler’s name.

KY3 attempted to contact Congressman Long about the incident but to no avail.  Which raises an initial question: Why is it that a local television station from the largest city in the 7th District can’t get in touch with our elected representative or his staff?

But a larger question is this: Why would the FBI visit a blogger who hasn’t made any threats to Mr. Long?  Other than attend some Long campaign events—attempting to ask Long some difficult questions—and write critically about the congressman, Mr. Bowler has given no one any reason to suspect he might mean harm to Mr. Long or anyone for that matter.

Does this mean that any blogger—including The Erstwhile Conservative—who writes critically of Long is subject to a visit from the FBI?  Is that what it has come to?

Is this an attempt by Long and his staff to silence one of his biggest detractors?  Is it an attempt to silence any of us who write critically of Long? 

Mr. Long needs to explain why he or his staff contacted the FBI about Clay Bowler and if we can expect Long to ask the FBI to visit more bloggers who believe Long is Wrong for our district.

Here is the report from KY3:

  

UPDATE:  This morning, KSPR.com reported the following:

Bowler is apparently not the only person Long perceives threatening; Sheriff Arnott says he and the FBI are looking into others but wouldn’t release their identities.

Uh-oh.

From KSPR.com:

Bowler isn’t the only local person under federal investigation. Arnott confirmed to KSPR News that Bowler isn’t the only local person who’s been scrutinized in the wake oflast weekend’s shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ) during a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, Ariz.

Anyone know a good lawyer who will work for beer money?

And Salon.com picked up the story today and commented:

Clearly, if a threat is made against a member of Congress, the authorities are obliged to follow up. But if the line separating sustained political criticism from threats has not been crossed, willy-nilly visits by the FBI could have a real chilling effect on the democratic process. 

Yesterday, the Christian County Headliner News reported the following:

Local blogger Clay Bowler said newly-elected 7th District Rep. Billy Long has tried to silence him before. And, after the FBI paid him a visit at his Ozark home Jan. 12, he thinks he’s trying to do it again.

“It’s political payback,” Bowler said after visiting Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle Jan. 13 apprising him of the FBI investigation.

The site reported that Michael Wardell, who competed against Long in the Republican primary, accompanied Bowler to the Sheriff’s Department for the FBI interview and the site quotes Wardell:

“Clay is a friend,” he said. “This almost smacks of an overreach of power.”

The website also quoted Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican:

“This could be a knee-jerk reaction to the Tucson situation,” he said. “If you satisfy them you’re not a threat—they won’t be back.”

Well, it’s certainly true that if you satisfy the FBI they likely won’t come back, but why should a writer exercising his First Amendment rights—and in so doing not making any threats to Mr. Long—have to “satisfy” any law enforcement officials in the first place?

A disturbing radio interview of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott done by KSGF has Arnott insinuating that “there is more to the story” and challenges Bowler to release the entire videotaped interview done by the FBI. Huh?  Either there is evidence against Bowler or there is not. If there is, then why the apparent clearance?  If there is not, then why suggest to the public that we don’t know the whole story? 

This is stuff which both sides of the political spectrum can agree is troubling and deserves some further, official explanation.  As of yet, no word from Billy Long.

Don’t Get Comfortable, Ozark Billy

The Billy Long-Scott Eckersley scuffle is not quite over.

From Ozarks Public Radio:

Scott Eckersley, who ran on the Democratic ticket last November for Missouri’s 7th Congressional seat and lost to Billy Long, says his complaint on campaign fraud is now being formally investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.

According to the story, Eckersley, who still hasn’t conceded the election, said,

the FBI office in Springfield contacted him this week and confirmed that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into his complaint of election fraud.

For those who aren’t familiar with the charge, Eckersley claimed that a phony e-mail was sent in his name just days before the election, “falsely claiming that he had dropped out of the race.”  Eckersley believes the e-mail was linked to Billy Long. The report continues:

Eckersley says the main thing he’s basing that theory on is that his own campaign’s IT staffer was able to track the email to a man in Addison, Illinois, who had gone to school with Long’s daughter in Springfield.

“I think also the denials on the part of Mr. Long are pretty incredulous as well, based on the information that came from a facebook page and Twitter accounts where there seemed to be an obvious connection between the individual that it seems likely was behind this, [and] Mr. Long and his campaign, and the folks running his campaign,” he said.

Eckersley, an attorney, hopes for a redo regarding the election last November:

“I’m not pursuing this for any reason other than the fact that, number one, it’s wrong, and it was a crime that was perpetrated against me and our election staff—our campaign staff, I should say. It would not change the outcome of the election, except that if there were an indictment, if certain things were proven, as they might be, I think it could show cause for a special election to be held,” Eckersley said.

Neither the U.S. Attorney nor the FBI will confirm that an investigation is ongoing, but Ozark Billy did release this statement:

I am not aware of an investigation from the Department of Justice. Anyone can file a FEC claim and I have complied with all requests by the FEC for a response. Given the nature of this claim we expect a positive outcome in the coming months.

The OPR story includes this summary of the relevant law:

Under the Federal Election Commission, or FEC’s rules, (US Code Title 2, Chapter 14, Section 441(h)), it is illegal to fraudulently misrepresent a candidate for Congress. Anyone found guilty of doing so could face steep fines or jail time.

While no one thinks that Ozark Billy is on his way to the hoosegow, it would be nice to know—beyond taking his word for it—if our new representative had anything to do with the phony e-mail.

 [Photo credit: Springfield News-Leader]

“My Countrymen, One And All, Think Calmly And Well Upon This Whole Subject”

As political America convulses over the massacre in Tucson, President Obama will attempt tonight to call up those famous Lincolnian angels, who made their first of a long line of appearances in the sixteenth President’s first inaugural address not quite 150 years ago.

President Lincoln’s speech came at a time when the country was on the verge of dissolution—Fort Sumter was just five weeks away—and on the very day of the speech the first confederate flag was adopted and unfurled over Montgomery.

Echoing the politics of our times, Lincoln pleaded with his Southern detractors that they had misunderstood his and his party’s intentions:

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that— 

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

He “reiterated these sentiments” by stating that “the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration.”

Lincoln also wanted to make something else clear:

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual… It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

Then he began to make his appeal not to the extremists but to those he thought he could still reach: 

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

He made the argument that secession would not necessarily “produce harmony” among the secessionists, as any “new confederacy” would be in danger of “renewed secession.”

And then he said this:

Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

Again, Lincoln pleaded:

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject… In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.

Finally, the crème de la crème:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Tragically, the chorus of the Union was silenced by Sumter, and four long years of civil war defined the Lincoln presidency. 

And as we in these times reflect on our own political divisions—which pale in comparison to those of a century and a half ago—may President Obama—whose own motives have been questioned by his political opponents—succeed in swelling the chorus of these United States.

300,000,000 Guns And Counting

There are some disturbing events associated with the Tucson massacre that have nothing to do with free speech or incitement or inflammatory rhetoric.

A headline over an article on Bloomberg News reports the bad news:

That reminded me of a similar headline in November of 2008 from CNN:

As Bloomberg reported on Tuesday:

One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent on Jan. 10 compared with the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. From a year earlier, handgun sales ticked up yesterday 65 percent in Ohio, 16 percent in California, 38 percent in Illinois and 33 percent in New York, the FBI data show, and increased nationally about 5 percent.

And as CNN reported in 2008:

According to FBI figures for the week of November 3 to 9, the bureau received more than 374,000 requests for background checks on gun purchasers — a nearly 49 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

Sadly, there are estimates that civilians in the United States possess almost 300,000,000 guns, making us the gun capital of the world, even though only about one in four adults owns a gun.  

Does anyone honestly think there is the slightest chance that gun-hating liberals could design legislation that would not only pass constitutional muster with today’s conservative Supreme Court, but could even make a dent in the American gun supply?

An equally disturbing event associated with the Tucson massacre is a story on Slate by William Saletan, which is subheaded:

Gabrielle Giffords and the perils of guns: How an armed hero nearly shot the wrong man.

The story has to do with Joe Zamudio, who “was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed.”  Saletan continues:

He ran to the scene and helped subdue the killer. Television interviewers are celebrating his courage, and pro-gun blogs are touting his equipment. “Bystander Says Carrying Gun Prompted Him to Help,” says the headline in the Wall Street Journal.

But before we embrace Zamudio’s brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let’s hear the whole story. “I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. “And that’s who I at first thought was the shooter,” Zamudio recalled. “I told him to ‘Drop it, drop it!’ “

But the man with the gun wasn’t the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. “Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,” the interviewer pointed out.

Zamudio agreed:

“I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.”

Saletan points out that Zamudio had no formal training with guns, and in Arizona he doesn’t need any in order to carry one with him to the drug store, or nearly anywhere else.  Saletan summarizes what could have been an even greater tragedy than occurred:

Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer’s identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn’t use his gun. That’s how close he came to killing an innocent man.

I suppose those of us on the left have to accept the fact that associated with America—a nation born in violence against “government tyranny”—is a gun-loving culture, a culture no longer content with just owning guns for sport and pleasure, but now must have the right to brandish them on the streets.

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