Fetus In Fetu

It weighed more than two and a half pounds and was almost ten inches long. It had a humerus, a femur, and a backbone. It had what was reported as, “some hair on the cranium” and eyes.

And it was living in the stomach of a three-year-old Peruvian boy.

Thankfully, doctors have successfully removed this “parasitic twin,” which, according to Wikipedia, occurs

when a twin embryo begins developing in utero, but the pair does not fully separate, and one embryo maintains dominant development at the expense of the other.

No word in yet from the so-called pro-life forces on whether such an unfortunate twin in the United States should be entitled to personhood under the Constitution.

But there was this interesting example from the entry, “Fetus in fetu,” on Wikipedia:

Alamjan Nematilaev was the surviving host of a fetus in fetu. In 2003, aged 7, his school physician in Kazakhstan referred him to a hospital after movements were detected in the boy’s enlarged abdomen. An operation intended to remove a cyst uncovered the fetus of Alamjan’s identical twin brother, which had lived as parasitic growth inside the boy throughout his entire life. The fetus was comparatively highly developed, with hair, arms, fingers, nails, legs, toes, genitals, a head, and a vague approximation of a face.

All of which helps us to understand how strange it is for folks to insist that entities that develop just after fertilization, which sometimes have bizarre fates (the fetus in fetu abnormality reportedly occurs once every 500,000 live births) should be considered “persons” under the law and that doctors who perform abortions are murderers.

Fat Cats And Super PACS

It’s hard to overestimate the damage the Citizens United decision has done, is doing, to our democracy.  A report released by the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzes political advertising, began with this:

The overall number of GOP presidential ads on the airwaves this election year is comparable with 2008, but who is paying for them so far has changed significantly.  The influence of SuperPACs in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination is clear, with a more than 1600 percent increase in interest-group sponsored ads aired as compared to 2008.

Get that? Comparing the same period of the last two presidential GOP primary seasons, the number of super PAC ads has gone up 1626.7% this year, with the actual spending increase amounting to 1281.8%. That is largely because corporations, which have become full-fledged folks under a weird interpretation of the Constitution, can now give unlimited amounts of cash:

In the first presidential election cycle following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC, interest group involvement in the presidential air war has skyrocketed from 3 percent of all ads aired in the 2008 Republican nomination race to nearly half (44 percent) of all airings.

As for the candidates themselves, they aired almost 41% fewer ads and spent almost 72% less money over the comparable periods. The candidates are essentially hiding behind the super PACS that support them.

(By the way, the donors to those candidate-oriented PACS will be disclosed today, while those advocacy groups organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporations—like Karl Rove-supported Crossroads GPS—are allowed to keep their donor list of fat cats a secret.)

And while President Obama’s campaign has aired ads in important swing states to the tune of $1.4 million since January 1 of last year, over the same period we also know what outside groups supporting right-wing interests in the general election have spent (estimated):

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY (Think: KOCH BROTHERS): $5,753,280

CROSSROADS GPS (Think: KARL ROVE): $3,013,340

AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE (Think: BIG OIL): $1,673,760

Keep in mind that the general election hasn’t even started and won’t for some time, depending on how much ga$ is poured into Newt Gingrich’s tank.

No matter the outcome of the 2012 election, these and other similar groups will not go away. They will be back again, even stronger and more committed (the Koch brothers play a long-term game).

Please, join Get Money Out or at least visit the site and check out the Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments, if you haven’t already.

A Parable

Most of us today know that the speech that propelled Barack Obama into the national spotlight was his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

But not many of us remember or learned that Ronald Reagan, the real father of what we know as the Tea Party (even though he’d have a hard time getting a tea bag to wear on his cap today) gave a similarly empowering speech in 1964—a speech that helped make him first governor of California and then president.

Many people refer to this televised address in support of Barry Goldwater simply as “The Speech,” but I call it the “Thousand Years of Darkness” speech because of the warning Reagan presented regarding the 1964 presidential election:

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

Message: Elect Lyndon Johnson and expect ten centuries of pitch-black socialism. Yes, he really suggested that. Sort of makes Newt Gingrich sound reasonable, doesn’t it?

Here is another famous passage from that speech, which demonstrates how seriously the extremists in the Republican Party in those days took poverty in America:

Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet.

Now you know where Rush Limbaugh gets it.

In any case, Reagan’s reference, of course, was to Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” which was introduced that year and which helped reduce American abjection, but was attacked by right-wingers in those days the same way the welfare state is attacked by right-wingers these days.

But the passage in Reagan’s speech I want to focus on is this one:

Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She’s eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.

It wasn’t until the 1976 presidential campaign, when Reagan was a GOP primary candidate, that the term “welfare queen” became a code word on the fanatical right. He said of this strange being, as reported by The New York Times (quoted on Wikipedia):

She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.

Anyone, Democrat or Republican, would obviously get outraged over that example, which may have been based on a real case in Chicago. But other than pointing out that some folks are criminals, what does it really mean? For the right-wing, it was intended to convince the voting public that a goodly number of folks on welfare were and still are undeserving of help, and are abusing the system because the system itself breeds such abuse.

Well, a health care company once paid a $1.7 billion fine for committing Medicare and Medicaid fraud—and the guy who ran the company while the fraud was going on was fired and received millions of dollars in severance and over $300 million worth of stock. And to put political icing on his cake, the guy, teapartier and Republican Rick Scott, is now the governor of Florida. That $1.7 billion worth of fraud could purchase over 11,333 of Reagan’s welfare queens, but Republicans have yet to invent a code word for corporations that defraud the government.

In thinking about all this, a parable came into my mind:

A boat capsized near a small town and most of the people swam to shore, saving themselves. But several people remained in the water, huddled together, holding on to whatever they could find to stay afloat, a short and swimmable distance from shore. Presumably, these folks either couldn’t swim or could not swim well enough to let go and give it a try.

Now, in the community nearby where the boat capsized, it happened that a raging debate had been going on involving the town’s rescue budget. For years the town had funded rescue crews and purchased equipment due to the large number of boating accidents just off its shore. Many people had been saved because of the town’s diligence.

But new folks had moved into the community, rugged individualists who were responsible for themselves and expected everyone else to take care of themselves, too.  These folks stirred up anger at the high tax rates used to fund the rescue efforts and began running for and winning political office. They advocated for slashing the rescue budget, insisting that a lot of the folks rescued in the past were careless boaters, many of them merely out on the water partying and having a good time.

Why should we encourage their recklessness,” these good Americans would say. “Many of the people we have saved were on party boats!” some would shout at town hall meetings, “And if they know we will always be here to save them they will just take advantage of us.”

Some of the people at the meetings reminded the townsfolk that surely not all the people needing help were reckless or were taking advantage of the town’s unselfishness, and they argued that it is not easy to discern during a rescue mission just how deserving the folks in the water are.  And besides that, they would argue, “Are we just going to stand on shore and watch these people drown? Is that what kind of community we want to be?

Whether this election year will be “a rendezvous with destiny,” as Ronald Reagan said so long ago, is, I suppose, up to each voter. But certainly either way we choose to go will not be “to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.” That silly rhetoric represents a rather diminished view of America’s ongoing potential.

But this election will be a snapshot of what kind of national community we are and what kind of obligations we believe we have to those folks clinging to their capsized boat or what is left of it.  Is there a majority among us who will walk away and leave them to sink or swim?

Government Matters And Don’t Forget It

The recent report that the economy grew at an annualized rate last quarter of 2.8%—a growth rate we have not seen since early in 2010—brought some election-year relief to Democrats defending their policies—particularly the silver lining of past stimulus efforts—and caused Republicans to look for, as always, the dark cloud.

Most talking-head defenders of the GOP wanted everyone to know that the actual GDP growth rate for all of 2011 was 1.7% (I heard George Will make that point just this morning on ABC’s This Week). It is vital to Repubicans’ reelection efforts to not let folks think things are on the mend.

Now, before we move on and discuss a real problem with the economic growth rate, we need to review what has happened since the assault of the Great Recession. Here is an excerpt from a piece on Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog written by Brad Plumer discussing the revised numbers by the Bureau of Economic Analysis vis-à-vis the depths of the Great Recession:

As Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi told me this morning, the revisions suggest that the recession following the financial crisis was much, much more severe than we’d thought—the economy actually shrank at a 8.9 percent annual rate the fourth quarter of 2008 and 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009 (earlier estimates had shown a smaller, 5.9 percent annualized drop across the two quarters).

Then, Congress passed the stimulus bill, the fall in growth dwindled to 0.7 percent in the second quarter, and, by the third quarter of 2009, we had 1.7 percent growth. “We went from negative to positive at precisely the time that the stimulus was providing maximum benefit in terms of tax cuts and spending increases,” Zandi says. “The numbers actually reinforce the importance of the stimulus in jump-starting a recovery.” What the stimulus didn’t do, however, was raise employment to the levels that the White House had predicted — partly because the economy was in worse shape than anyone, even the official data-crunchers, knew.

I will add to all that the fact that the 2010 GDP growth rate was 3.1%, which reflected the full effects of the original stimulus. This stuff is important to remember. There is a lot of history-distorting and history-ignoring going on in the GOP primary and beyond, but the fact is that in down times, particularly in really down times like we have had, government spending is a crucial part of the recovery process.  We have seen that in terms of the various stimulus measures that have been passed and, negatively, we can see that in the latest numbers out for economic growth last quarter.

Again, from Wonkblog:

Government spending cuts are biting into economic growth. Government spending contracted a whopping 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 — led by big cutbacks in defense spending. Had it not been for these cutbacks, the data suggest, growth in the last quarter would have been 3.7 percent. That’s the difference between “okay” growth and “good” catch-up growth that would make a meaningful dent in the jobless rate. It’s also a reminder that Congress can very much affect what happens in 2012 — especially since lawmakers still haven’t extended the payroll tax holiday or expanded unemployment insurance for the full year.

When this point was made this morning on This Week, I thought the heads of extremist George Will and vulgar extremist Laura Ingraham* were going to make news by detonating before our eyes. The lesson here is that government austerity—the core of the Republican economic plan—is a drag on economic growth, particularly during times like these.

And we don’t know yet how hard Democrats will have to fight congressional Republicans to get the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extensions (they expire on February 29 and even though Mitch McConnell said on Sunday the thing will get done, he does not control the House), but that Democrats do have to fight for such basics should tell us all we need to know about what has happened to the Republican Party.

One more word about the stimulative effects of government spending: With all the talk coming from the right-wing about Obama being the food stamp president, here is a reminder of how important that program is not only to the individual or family receiving the help (about half are kids and almost a third have earned income), but to the economy as a whole:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that for every $5 of food-stamp spending, there is $9.20 of total economic activity, as grocers and farmers pay their employees and suppliers, who in turn shop and pay their bills.

While other stimulus money has been slow to circulate, the food-stamp boost [$19.9 billion] is almost immediate, with 80% of the benefits being redeemed within two weeks of receipt and 97% within a month, the USDA says.

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* There is never a person as rabidly far left as Ingraham is far right on this program. Never.

Romney’s Health Problem

I said I would get to the exchange between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney regarding “Romneycare” because I believe it demonstrates Romney’s weakness on the issue not just in the GOP primary (which he will overcome) but in the general election (which hopefully he will not).

Santorum has often attacked both Gingrich and Romney on this issue—which pleases the Obama camp—but never as effectively (albeit dishonestly) as he did during Thursdays CNN GOP debate:

SANTORUM: Governor Romney was the author of Romneycare, which is a top- down government-run health care system which… has 15 different items directly in common with Obamacare…that government is going to mandate you buy something… mandate that you buy an insurance policy, something that Governor Romney agreed to at the state level…Something that everyone now, at least up on this stage, says is radically unconstitutional…

Santorum went on to describe what he believes are problems with the health care law in Massachusetts including higher health care costs and increased waiting times and a lack of sufficient care for some.

Now, this puts Romney in a difficult position.  He has two options:

1. Admit his plan in Massachusetts is a failure and repent.

2. Dispute Santorum’s contentions and defend his plan.

If he takes the first path, he thus admits his largest accomplishment as governor was a complete failure that ultimately has led to another disaster at the federal level, which conservatives keep telling us is coming.  It would be hard to tell folks in the general election that they should elect you as president when you have admitted to such a colossal blunder.

If he takes the second path, he is essentially defending the Affordable Care Act, along with its controversial mandate. And he will thus in the general election lose any persuasive force in advocating for its repeal, which, according to conservative-oriented pollster Rasmussen, just slightly over half of likely voters favor.

And it is hard to see how Romney can convincingly make repealing the law the “cornerstone” of a general election campaign, which well-financed groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC will demand.

So, what does Mitt do in the face of fierce criticism from Santorum? Well, he tried at first to have it both ways, as usual:

ROMNEY: Our system has a lot of flaws, a lot of things I’d do differently. It has a lot of benefits. The people of the state like it by about three to one.

Flaws? The Massachusetts system has flaws? What are they? What would Romney do differently? I have never heard him answer those questions.  He goes on:

ROMNEY: We consider it very different than Obamacare. If I were president, day one I will take action to repeal Obamacare. It’s bad medicine. It’s bad economy. I’ll repeal it. (APPLAUSE)

And I believe the people — I believe the people of each state should be able to craft programs that they feel are best for their people. I think ours is working pretty well. If I were governor, it would work a heck of a lot better.

Clearly Romney has committed to the second option: He is defending his plan. But Santorum is not finished:

SANTORUM: What Governor Romney just said is that government-run top-down medicine is working pretty well in Massachusetts and he supports it. Now, think about what that means –

ROMNEY: That’s not what I said.

SANTORUM: — going up against Barack Obama, who you are going to claim, well, top-down government-run medicine on the federal level doesn’t work and we should repeal it. And he’s going to say, wait a minute, Governor. You just said that top-down government-run medicine in Massachusetts works well.

This is Santorum’s strongest moment. But Mitt’s not finished:

ROMNEY: Rick, I make enough mistakes in what I say, not for you to add more mistakes to what I say. I didn’t say I’m in favor of top-down government-run health care; 92 percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place. And nothing changes for them. They own the same private insurance they had before.

And for the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan.

And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.

Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.

Uh-oh. Santorum just forced Romney into defending not only the concept behind the Affordable Care Act, but he forced Romney into making a very convincing case for the dreaded mandate to purchase health care insurance!  Obama couldn’t have done a better job himself.

Santorum realizes this and wants to make sure everyone understands what Romney has done:

SANTORUM: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?

ROMNEY: Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea…

SANTORUM: Just so I understand this, in Massachusetts, everybody is mandated as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts, to buy health insurance, and if you don’t, and if you don’t, you have to pay a fine.  What has happened in Massachusetts is that people are now paying the fine because health insurance is so expensive. And you have a pre-existing condition clause in yours, just like Barack Obama.

So what is happening in Massachusetts, the people that Governor Romney said he wanted to go after, the people that were free-riding, free ridership has gone up five-fold in Massachusetts… Why? Because people are ready to pay a cheaper fine and then be able to sign up to insurance, which are now guaranteed under “Romney-care,” than pay high cost insurance, which is what has happened as a result of “Romney-care.”

You can sense at this point that Romney realizes his predicament and comes back with this:

ROMNEY: First of all, it’s not worth getting angry about…(APPLAUSE)

Oh, Santorum wasn’t angry, he was just excited because he had drawn blood. Romney goes on to explain that it “is simply impossible” for there to be an increase in people “free-riding the system,” and then he begins to lie about Obama’s plan and ends with assuring the audience that he will repeal it.

Santorum won’t let it end, though, without having the last word:

SANTORUM: Wolf, what Governor Romney said is just factually incorrect. Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama’s mandate. It is the same mandate. He takes over…(APPLAUSE) You take over 100 percent, just like he takes over 100 percent, requires the mandate. The same fines that you put in place in Massachusetts are fines that he puts in place in the federal level. Same programs.

Obama And Education: Hardly A Leftist

In Michigan today, President Obama will address the escalating cost of college education and what he wants to do about it. This morning on Morning Joe, Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave us a preview, as well as advocated for the Administration’s general approach to education policy.

Now, I by no means completely endorse this approach—I’m still thinking about it—but I present it as a counter to those on the right who think Mr. Obama is a left-wing radical. The “reward excellence” mantra is something you hear from both ideological camps, although no one has demonstrated to my satisfaction just how it we can fairly determine who gets the rewards.

In any case, here is the clip:

Good Riddance

I thought I would just share with you some notes I took while dutifully, if painfully, watching the CNN GOP debate last night:

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The thing opens with NFL football seriousness, what with the music and the introduction of the candidates. I am thinking there is going to be a Stealth Bomber flyover.

I note there are three or four black folks in the audience. Perhaps a debate record for the GOP.

I couldn’t tell if Newt was booed when he came on the scene or whether it was Newwwwwt‘s. But I am convinced he enjoys it no matter what.

Oh, my God. I have to revise my count: there are three African-American kids in the choir singing the national anthem. Three out of twelve. Now, we are definitely talking a record here. The GOP is the party of inclusion!

I notice Newt is not singing along. Neither is Ron Paul.  Man, if the President Who Was Born In Kenya did that, he would really get the business on Fox News later tonight and all day tomorrow.  But at least Newt has his hand over his chest. That’s a good patriotic sign, or else the too-spicy tamales on the Mexican buffet backstage are getting to him.

When Rick Santorum introduces himself it strikes me how much he would look like Pee-wee Herman, if he only had a bow tie. Where’s George Will when you need him?

The debate gets going:

In response to a question about his calling Mitt “the most anti-immigrant candidate” in an ad, Newt says we have to be “realistic in our indignation.” I’m not immediately sure what that means, but I know Newt has never done it.

Wolf Blitzer, the amiable moderator, won’t let Newt escape and he is forced to admit that he does indeed think Mitt is “the most anti-immigrant candidate.”  This is where Mittens begins his attack, using what I will call gentlemanly aggression, and Newt is shrinking before my eyes. And I never thought I would ever put Newt and “shrinking” in the same sentence.

That’s inexcusable!” Mitt says. And then he drops a Marco Rubio on him, saying Rubio also believes the ad was “inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.” Wow! A Triple Adjective Takedown! I haven’t seen one of those in a while!  But Mitt really wounds Newt with this:

Mr. Speaker, I’m not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife’s father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.

Then Mittens says,

I think you should recognize that having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people with highly charged epithets.

Oh, my. If Newt can’t label people with highly charged epithets, he won’t be able to say another word the rest of the campaign.

Next, Wolf turns to Mitt’s ad about Gingrich calling Spanish “the language of the ghetto.”  And here we find out why Mitt Romney will have a lot of problems going up against Big O. Mitt says he hasn’t seen the ad. And then asks,

Did he say that?

Moments later he adds,

I doubt that’s my ad, but we’ll take a look and find out. There are a bunch of ads out there that are being organized by other people.

Dammit Mitt! This is bleeping CNN! They’ve hired fact checkers for this special night! You can’t get away with that stuff.  Sure enough, Wolf comes back later and says:

We did double-check, just now, Governor, that ad that we talked about, where I quoted you as saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — we just double-checked. It was one of your ads. It’s running here in Florida in — on the radio. And at the end you say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this ad.”

Oops!

But Mitt soon rehabs himself. Blitzer asks Newt about Romney’s personal finances, and Newt, trying his old shtick, tells Wolf he has asked a “nonsense question.”  But the crowd isn’t tearing the place down and Wolf refuses to be detoured (this is his finest moment; later he will degrade himself and ask about the candidates’ wives, a typical cutesy CNN question) and confronts Newt with reality:

BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, “He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.” I didn’t say that. You did.

GINGRICH: I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.

BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that.

GINGRICH: I simply suggested –

(BOOING)

GINGRICH: You want to try again? I mean –

And this is where Romney triumphs. Not content to let the slimy little Newt get off that easy, he says,

Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?

Damn, Mittens is now on fire! And Newt is forced to respond, which he did, weakly:

GINGRICH: OK. All right.

Given that standard, Mitt, I did say I thought it was unusual. And I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account. I’d be glad for you to explain that sort of thing.

Which, of course, Mitt does, unconvincingly. But the damage to Newt is done.  He asks for a “two-way truce.”

Game over.

Just a few more notes on the night (I will deal with Santorum’s critique of Romneycare in another post; it was fantastic):

I am feeling sorry for the woman who asks what she is supposed to do about being unemployed for the first time in 10 years and “unable to afford health care benefits.”  Sadly, she gets a lecture on conservative economics from all the candidates, which, no doubt, helped cause her to be unemployed and without insurance in the first place. Newt even says this in response to her question:

We need to have a program which would start with, frankly, repealing Obamacare, repealing Dodd-Frank, repealing Sarbanes-Oxley.

You gotta love that compassionate conservatism.

And I feel sorry for a man who identified himself as a Palestinian-American Republican. I immediately wonder how someone could be a Republican and a Palestinian-American, given the right’s attitude toward the Palestinians, but then I also wonder how someone could be a gay Republican. Go figure. The man asks this:

How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? …I’m here to tell you we do exist.

I can guess what is coming: It’s Obama’s fault!  Romney says that,

This president threw — I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the ’67 borders as a starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If Mitt keeps repeating this lie enough, perhaps Politifact will eventually rate it as “true.” Who knows. But this is one of many lies about Obama on the night.

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Truth-challenged Mitt Romney will win the nomination, and the sooner the better. I don’t think I can watch another one of these debates, especially since Newt has decided not to stick anymore firecrackers in Mitt’s skivvies and watch him squirm.

And even though Newt did manage in his closing to drop a couple of references to food stamps and gave a nod to Saul Alinsky, it appears the fight has been knocked out of him this night by Mitt and earlier in the day by the Republican establishment—including a weird tag team of Bob Dole and the disturbing Ann Coulter.

And as much as I’d like to see him get the nomination and thus lose the general election, as a good American, I say good riddance.

The Truth About Romney’s And Obama’s Tax Returns

A commenter, who happens to be a conservative Joplin Globe blogger, has been all up in my grill about how much more Mitt Romney has paid in taxes and charity against what Barack Obama has paid (forgetting that they both have wives).

His first comment included this:

I just “heard” that President Obama gave 1% of his income to charities last year. True or false, I do not know. Do you?

After I proved that assertion false, he wrote,

The internet is now filled with tax comparisons between Obama and Romney. Total taxes and charitable contributions for Romney in 2011 is estimated to be 42% of his income…

Cut it however you want to do so in terms of total dollars or percent of taxable income. The differences between the two families is STARK, in my view. Note that Obama’s income before he became famous was around $200,000 per year (2000 through 2004). Wonder how a community organizer made that kind of money????

Now, forget for a moment the implication that a mere “community organizer” might have come by his money (which is chump change to Mitt Romney) in, uh, shall we say, ways other than working for it.  Let’s look at the other assertion, which he repeated in a subsequent comment:

Romney has paid, as a percentage of income or total dollars in taxes and charitable giving than Obama, far more in either case. His 2011 estimate of all taxation and charitable giving is 42% of his taxable income.

So who has “given more for his country”, Romney or Obama?

The suggestion is clear. Democrats, especially the uppity Obama, are hypocrites. They want to take rich people’s money and don’t sacrifice themselves.

Well, I did some searching and I discovered that this claim has made the right-wing Internet rounds and the originator seems to have been none other than Jennifer Rubin, a right-wing columnist for The Washington Post (the piece was titled, “Romney paid 42 percent of 2011 income in taxes and charity“).

Here’s what she wrote:

Another way of looking at it is that in 2011 the Romneys paid out 42 percent of their income in taxes and charity. Here’s how I got there: Total tax (line 60) + foreign taxes (line 47) + state taxes and real-estate taxes + other taxes (Schedule A, line 9) + charitable contributions (Schedule A, line 19) divided by Adjusted Gross Income (1040 line 37).

I thought I would follow her formula (even though line 47 is a tax credit for paying foreign taxes) and check out her claim. Romney’s 2011 estimated return showed:

____________________________________________________________

1040 Line 60 (total tax; it’s actually line 61 on the 2011 form): $3,226,623

1040 Line 47 (the tax credit for foreign taxes paid): $0

Schedule A Line 9 (state, local, and other taxes): $1,549,596

Schedule A Line 19 (charitable gifts): $4,020,572

____________________________________________________________

Now, let’s follow her formula so far: $3,226,623 + 0 + $1,549,596 +$4,020,572 = $8,796,791

Her next step was to divide that number by 1040 Line 37 (Adjusted Gross Income), which Romney estimates as: $20,901,075. So, we have:

Romney’s charitable giving and taxes paid ÷ Adjusted Gross Income 2011 (estimated)

$8,796,791 ÷ $20,901,075 = 42%

So far, so good, right? She’s correct using her formula for 2011. But the comparison was to President Obama, remember? Here’s what the Globe blogger wrote and what the right-wing blogosphere is pushing:

Romney has paid, as a percentage of income or total dollars in taxes and charitable giving than Obama, far more in either case.

So, since they want to compare Romney and Obama, let’s do so. But we will have to use 2010 returns, since those are the most recent ones we have for both of them.

Let’s start with Romney’s 2010 tax return numbers and again apply Jennifer Rubin’s formula:

____________________________________________________________

1040 Line 60 (total tax): $3,009,766

1040 Line 47 (foreign tax credit): $129,697

Schedule A Line 9 (state, local, and other taxes): $898,946

Schedule A Line 19 (charitable gifts): $2,983,974

____________________________________________________________

Thus, $3,009,766 + $129,697 + $898,946 + $2,983,974= $7,022,383

The final step: divide by 1040 Line 37: $21,646,507. So, we have:

Romney’s charitable giving and taxes paid ÷ Adjusted Gross Income 2010

$7,022,383 ÷ $21,646,507= 32.4%

Wow! Only 32.4%? When Mitt wasn’t in campaign mode, his percentage dropped off, didn’t it?

But how does that compare to Obama? Let’s use the Rubin formula on his 2010 tax return:

_____________________________________________________

1040 Line 60 (total tax): $453,770

1040 Line 47 (foreign tax credit): $22,215

Schedule A Line 9 (state, local, and other taxes): $78,269

Schedule A Line 19 (charitable gifts): $245,075

____________________________________________________________

Thus, $453,770 + $22,215 + $$78,269 + $245,075= $799,329

The final step: divide by 1040 Line 37: $1,728,096. So, we have:

Obama’s charitable giving and taxes paid ÷ Adjusted Gross Income 2010

$799,329 ÷ $1,728,096= 46.2%

Huh? 46.2%? You mean Obama, in terms of the percentage of income he paid in taxes and gave to charity, outdid Romney by 30% (13.8 points) in 2010?  Yep, that’s right. And even taking Romney’s higher 2011 number, which conservatives were trying to rub in Democratic faces, Obama outperformed Romney by 9% (4.2 points)!

Damn, that Obama is one slick community organizer. How’d he do that?

Laugh Until You Cry

Governor Mitch Daniels, former W. Bush budget director (thanks, Mitch), said in response to Mr. Obama’s address on Tuesday:

As Republicans, our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder. We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have-nots. We must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.

Daniels claims that the “first concern” of Republicans is for those who desire to “climb up life’s latter.” Now, I’m going to pause right here and give you time to grab a tissue and wipe the tears of laughter from your face…

Back? Good. Let’s move on and look at Daniels’ last sentence:

We must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.

The truth is that if voters continue filling Republican prescriptions for what ails us as a country, we will, indeed, “always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves,” because the soon-to-haves will always be waiting and hoping for their economic boat to be floated by trickle-down economics.

Americans throughout history have tended to believe that with hard work they could at least better themselves economically. And for more than a generation now, the meme spread by the Republican Party has been that if you just let the “job creators” enjoy more and more of the wealth of this country, then anyone can become, say, a Mitt Romney, even if few people have the stomach to get rich the way he has become rich.

But even if becoming a Romney-like “have” has always been beyond most folks’ expectations or desires, it remains true that economic mobility is the foundation of the American Dream. But upward mobility and income distribution in the U.S. is not what they should be and are certainly is not what they need to be in order to keep the American Dream from becoming the American Mirage.*

From our country’s founding, most Americans have believed that government should have some role—we have always argued over the size of that role—in ensuring that everyone has a fair chance of improving their economic position and reducing—reducing, not eliminating—inequality. The Preamble to our Constitution indicates that our government was formed, among other things, to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare.”

Surely we can all agree that our domestic tranquility and general welfare are threatened by the gross economic inequality we see around us. Surely we can agree that, in the richest country the world has ever known, the grit and determination woven into American workers’ DNA, manifested in their willingness to work hard and play by the rules, ought to count for more than just earning enough to stay alive.

With the slow death of middle-class-creating unions in this country (remember also that the wages of even non-union folks are higher because unions exist), and with corporations—conscious only of the bottom line—shipping away jobs or keeping wages low and cutting benefits for their American employees, the prospect of improving things for working folks looks bleak.

And it should be obvious that in the face of such bleakness is where government—the people’s government—can act such that Americans today can enjoy what Americans used to enjoy, best expressed by President Obama in his State of the Union address,

the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

In other words, a hard-working American could at least expect to move into the middle-class, if not become a “have” of the stature of a Mitt Romney.  I can say without fear of contradiction that most American workers don’t get up in the morning, go to their low-paying jobs, work hard, come home to their families, fret over the cost of health care and the price of gasoline, all in the hopes of one day having Romney-like tax returns, with all the excitement of parking money in the Cayman Islands or in Swiss bank accounts.

And since I believe strongly that Romney will become the Republican nominee, I think it is important to understand what he thinks about all this. Something he said recently—without rehearsal—gives us an insight into how he views America’s income inequalities.

From NBC’s Today Show:

MATT LAUER: When you said that, “We already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy,” I’m curious about the word “envy.” Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or is it about fairness?

ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you’ve opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. And the American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.

LAUER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?

ROMNEY: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.

To Romney there are “no fair questions about the distribution of wealth” outside of those discussed in “quiet rooms.” And for President Obama to point out the need to do more to address the problems we have with what Lauer called “the distribution of wealth and power in this country,” is an act of “dividing America” and somehow threatens, for God’s sake, “the concept of one nation under God.”

If you hear Mitt Romney say, as he has said before, that “Republicans are about middle-class America” and that he is “fighting to help middle-class Americans get better jobs and better incomes,” remember that interview.

And if you ever hear Mitch Daniels or any other Republican say again that their “first concern is for those waiting…to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder,” feel free to laugh, long and hard.  Just keep a tissue in your pocket.

___________________________

* From a piece in The Washington Post (“The downward path of upward mobility“):

The most comprehensive comparative study, done last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that “upward mobility from the bottom”…was significantly lower in the United States than in most major European countries, including Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Another study, by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany in 2006, uses other metrics and concludes that “the U.S. appears to be exceptional in having less rather than more upward mobility.”

Heart Specialists

In 2010, Dinesh D’Souza wrote a book, widely praised and quoted by conservatives, titled, The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  On Amazon.com you can see this official description of the book:

The Roots of Obama’s Rage reveals Obama for who he really is: a man driven by the anti-colonial ideology of his father and the first American president to actually seek to reduce America’s strength, influence, and standard of living. Controversial and compelling, The Roots of Obama’s Rage is poised to be the one book that truly defines Obama and his presidency. 

Newt Gingrich, who is the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination, actually added a blurb to D’Souza’s book:

“Stunning…the most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.” —NEWT GINGRICH

Now, let’s get this straight. D’Souza and Gingrich aren’t saying they just have policy differences with the President . They are saying Barack Obama is actively seeking “to reduce America’s strength, influence, and standard of living.”  In other words, Mr. Obama is working against his country’s interests. His heart is not with America.

In case this idea wasn’t clear enough to the right-wing Obama-haters, Human Events offered some help by adapting part of D’Souza’s book and presented it under the title,

All of which brings us to last night’s excellent State of the Union speech. I present to you a selection of short statements uttered by the President Who Hates America:

We can do this.  I know we can, because we’ve done it before.

What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values.  And we have to reclaim them.

The state of our Union is getting stronger.

America is more productive.

We don’t begrudge financial success in this country.  We admire it.

I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.

…when we act together, there’s nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.

…tyranny is no match for liberty…

We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power…

America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes.  No one built this country on their own.  This nation is great because we built it together.  This nation is great because we worked as a team.  This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.  And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.  As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

A mere 83 words into his response speech, the Man Who Republicans Wish Would Have Run For President, Mitch Daniels, said this:

On these evenings, presidents naturally seek to find the sunny side of our national condition. But when President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true.

It’s strange to me how Republicans always seem to know what is in Barack Obama’s heart.

Remarks And Asides

I’m not going to mention Mitt Romney’s tax returns or his enormous wealth or the fact that he is making Albert Pujols money without driving in a single run. I think the unemployed candidate has suffered enough. I mean, he’s already had to close his Swiss bank account, for God’s sake.

And now that we know he is a stockholder in Fannie and Freddie, he’ll have hell to pay from Freddie’s one-time lobbyist influence peddler historian lover Newt Gingrich.

___________________________

I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes,” said Mitt during last night’s debate.

No siree! Mitt’s not going to give and extra dollar to the country he loves, as some of it might end up supporting the troops, who will be expected to give the last full measure of devotion so Mitt can look tough when he gets in the White’s House.

____________________________

Also during the debate, Mitt revealed his extraordinary clever and evolving immigration plan—those non-law-abiding folks will simply engage in “self-deportation.” Next up, Mitt’s plan to curb crime: Elect him president and folks will simply stumble down to the Mayberry jail, like a bunch of civic-minded Otis Campbells, and lock themselves up! Why didn’t Obama think of that one!

____________________________

Stand-up comedian and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich complained about not having the crowd into his performance last night on NBC. He said he won’t do any more shows unless the audience is allowed to boo and cheer at all the wrong times.

____________________________

Naturally, Newt blamed the media for stepping on his shtick:

We’re going to serve notice on future debates. The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.

The media doesn’t control free speech“? Is Newt calling for a government takeover of the press? If he starts with Fox, I’m all in!

_____________________________

Oliver Stone, moviemaker and conspiracy peddler, has said he would support Ron Paul over President Obama. Makes perfect sense to me.

_____________________________

This is what R.E.S.P.E.C.T. means to some members of the Republican Party:

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said on Monday he is boycotting President Obama’s State of the Union address.

In a tersely worded statement released by his office, Lamborn said he decided instead “to pass” on attending the speech on Tuesday night, though he will watch it on television and participate in a live chat hosted by Heritage Action for America.

“Congressman Lamborn does not support the policies of Barack Obama,” the statement said.

The statement also said:

Congressman Lamborn respects the President personally, and the office of the President.

I’m sure Mr. Obama will miss Mr. Lamborn, whoever he is.

_______________________________

Speaking of a lack of respect, Rick Santorum’s has a new excuse for not correcting a woman who said at one of his events that Obama was not “legally” the president and that “he is an avowed Muslim.” He told John Heilemann on Morning Joe this morning:

This was an elderly lady. She was there leaning on a cane; she was quite wobbly. I’m not going to sit there and slam an older lady because she has some way off, you know, bizarre beliefs.

So, the old gal gets the senior discount from a generous Rick Santorum. If only he would be as generous to future Medicare recipients. Santorum is one of the biggest backers of Paul Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare as we know it, which would eventually make folks like that wobbly woman wish Obama were legal.

_______________________________

Finally, Senator Rand Paul’s incident with the TSA in Nashville has his old man all hot and bothered: “The police state in this country is growing out of control,” said the elder Paul.  That coming from a man who wants to criminalize abortion. What a Grand Old Party!

Big Government, Republican Style

Susan Redden’s column in the Joplin Globe on Monday featured a look at a big-government conservative masquerading as a Democrat:

Randall Terry plans to shock Joplin area television viewers during the Super Bowl, and he’s using his presidential candidacy to do it.

The founder of Operation Rescue, Terry is a Democratic candidate for president. He plans to air anti-abortion television ads during the Super Bowl in Joplin and in other markets in Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kentucky.

First of all, if you buy the suggestion that Randall Terry is a Democrat, then Newt Gingrich has a Marriage Is Forever book he’d like to sell you. Terry is only using the Democratic Party name in order to force local stations to sell him air time under a federal statute that prevents stations from rejecting ads based on their content. That’s quite a feat of deceit for someone who founded the Society for Truth and Justice.

Terry says his in-your-face dishonesty is aimed at denying Obama the presidency by targeting the “55 percent of Catholics and 35 percent of evangelicals” who voted for him. I can pretty much guarantee he’s wasting his time around here on that one.

Many folks around southwest Missouri may remember the freakishly extreme Terry’s involvement in the groundbreaking Nancy Cruzan case, in which a local Carterville girl was revived after a car crash on an icy Jasper County country road in 1983, only to fall into what her family would later learn was a persistent vegetative state. She remained that way for almost eight years.

Her family, who excruciatingly decided to give Nancy the dignified death they believed she would want, fought for years with people like Randall Terry and then-governor John Ashcroft and former U.S. Solicitor General Ken Starr, all big-government conservatives who were more than willing to use the power of government to enforce their Bible-based morality that allegedly demanded Nancy “live” as less than a human being indefinitely.*

Author Marilyn Webb quoted Randall Terry:

We’re going to basically beg [Missouri Attorney General Bill] Webster to intervene for this woman. I am outraged that he has not intervened. I have to ask myself, Do we have just another political opportunist here or do we have a true pro-lifer?”

Joe Cruzan, Nancy’s father, shared the family’s agony with PBS’ Frontline:

I signed the consent form to begin the artificial feeding of Nancy, to have the tube implanted. Looking back on it, I would like to have let her go that night because Nancy died—our Nancy died that night. We’ve got her body left, but she has no dignity whatsoever there and she was a very, very proud, independent person and you would see what was left there and you wondered why. Why? What’s the purpose in this?

Later he said,

There have been times that, you know, I’ve thought, “How can you murder your own child?” Our decision was based on what we felt like that Nancy would want and that’s all we have to justify. What—if the decision’s wrong, if we’re playing God, then I’ll have to live with that, and I’m willing to.

And finally,

I don’t know if I’ll ever see Nancy again or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen after we die. But to me the most important thing was that—that  we had her for those 25 years and regardless of what people say about me or what they think of my motives or whatever happens, no one can ever take that 25 years from me.

Into this profoundly private family heartbreak (father, mother, and sister) and subsequent judgment, some conservative Republicans thrust the muzzle of government. It should never go unremarked that for all the anti-big-government rhetoric dripping from every conservative Republican’s lying lips these days, a large number of those same Republicans are waiting to get control of that big government so they can use it to enforce their controversial moral prescriptions.

GOP talk about limited government almost always means preventing government from doing things like providing unemployment benefits, Medicaid and other help for the poor, or in deregulating corporations so they can pollute and prey and profit.

But when it comes to involving itself in personal decisions, like abortion or end-of-life care, many Republicans want government in the family huddle. Fortunately for the Cruzans and their daughter, the conservatives were ultimately unsuccessful, and the battle waged by the Cruzans has benefited others who have sadly found themselves in their position.

Joe Cruzan said the day his daughter passed away in December, 1990:

Because of Nancy, I suspect hundreds of thousands of people can rest free, knowing that when death beckons, they can meet it face to face with dignity, free from fear of unwanted medical treatment. I think this is quite an accomplishment for a 25-year-old kid, and I’m damned proud of her.

But that pride wasn’t enough. In August of 1996 Joe Cruzan hanged himself in the carport of his Carterville home.

The AP reported the death:

A sheet-metal worker with only a high school education, Joe Cruzan waged a battle of national proportions to break new ground in the right-to-die movement.

In the end, though, he was just a father whose heart was broken beyond repair…

No one will ever know, I suppose, just how much the intense criticism—”Vicious letters labeled the Cruzan’s ‘murderers’ and warned them of ‘God’s judgment‘”—affected his mental health. But he did receive much praise for his efforts, including a Quality in Medicine Award presented by then-Senator John Danforth from Freeman Hospital, where his daughter was first taken for treatment.

In the end, it may have just been the hard choices he and his family had to make and the second-guessing brought on by so many religion-based protests. After all, that, as God-fearing Randall Terry’s plans to “shock” Joplin demonstrates, is the point of such actions.

Marilyn Webb described the “poignant inscription” on Nancy Cruzan’s gravestone:

Nancy Beth Cruzan, most loved daughter, sister, aunt. Born July 20, 1957. Departed Jan. 11, 1983. At peace Dec. 26, 1990. At the top is script that begins with the zigs and zags of a brain-wave scan; the zigzags form the words “thank you,” and then they trail off, becoming a flat line.

_______________________

* The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and essentially held that a person has a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment, even if it results in death, but ruled 5-4 that the Cruzans didn’t present enough evidence of Nancy’s wishes in the matter. They later proved to a Jasper County judge’s satisfaction that the family accurately reflected her views.

Gut Reactionaries

A recent study in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching indicated that the reason a lot of people—including biology teachers—refuse to believe that evolution is a fact is not because they don’t understand it sufficiently but because they don’t “feel” in their bones that it is true. (Read the findings here;  it is fascinating.) As one article about the study put it:

Gut feelings may trump good old-fashioned facts…

Keep that idea in mind, as you read on.

Ryan Lizza appeared on Morning Joe this morning to defend his recent New Yorker article on President Obama and how the reality of Washington has changed him from someone seeking to bridge the “surmountable” gap between our two political parties to someone who has had to accept the political reality that polarization is “the most important dynamic of the last forty years,” and that the consensus, “in the middle” politics of the type we had during the Eisenhower years and beyond is long gone.

Lizza noted that when Obama ran for his U.S. Senate seat, he

criticized “the pundits and the prognosticators” who like to divide the country into red states and blue states.

And Obama’s famous 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention, which catapulted him into the Democratic Party stratosphere, sounds, well, unnervingly naive today:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America!

It turns out, as we all know now and as Lizza wrote and repeated this morning, that,

There really is, frankly, a red America and blue America.

Yep, there really is.

Two prominent political scientists cited in Lizza’s piece, Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal, “have devised a widely used system to measure the ideology of members of Congress,” and the verdict is:

both the House and the Senate are more polarized today than at any time since the eighteen-nineties.*

Now, we can argue about how and why things got that way.  My own theory is one that Lizza only suggested:

It would be hard for any President to reverse this decades-long political trend, which began when segregationist Democrats in the South—Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond—left the Party and became Republicans. Congress is polarized largely because Americans live in communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives.

I submit that the primary—but not the only—reason we find ourselves in such an ideologically polarized condition has to do with what I have called white cultural angst, expressed best by the now-exiled Pat Buchanan in his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower:

Due to the immigration and higher birthrates among people of color, America is becoming less white and less Christian — and therefore inevitably less Republican.

One can see how this might raise the level of anxiety among those on the mostly-white right and cause them to hole up in Lizza’s “communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives.”

I thought about all this after I wrote a piece (“An Unlimited White Checking Account For Underclass Blacks”) on Newt Gingrich’s exchange with African-American journalist Juan Williams in front of a crowd of white Republicans from—this is important—South Carolina.

For my efforts, I was excoriated by another Joplin Globe blogger on his blog:

I don’t believe I have ever seen one quite so hate filled, disdainful or outright repugnant from him after almost four years of reading his “stuff”… His blog was RACIST in tone and substance and his attacks are nothing less than a call for class warfare between blacks and whites, rich and poor, and any other various segments of society.

God only knows what the comment section on that blog post contained, since I stopped reading after the first sentence of the first response, which happened to come from yet another Globe blogger, who wrote:

I read the same post and almost puked it was so vile and disgusting in its blatant racism and classism.

As you ponder those strange criticisms, I take you back to the beginning of this piece, which referenced the study on why some folks don’t accept the theory of evolution as valid. Ohio State University Research News put it this way:

In an analysis of the beliefs of biology teachers, researchers found that a quick intuitive notion of how right an idea feels was a powerful driver of whether or not students accepted evolution—often trumping factors such as knowledge level or religion.

That this “intuitive notion” or “gut feeling” is “a powerful driver” of what we believe helps, I suggest, explain why white anxiety has led us to where we are in terms of our cultural divide.  Pat Buchanan, the champion of white angst, wrote in his book—in a chapter titled, “The End of White America“:

Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.

That, I argue, is a visceral reaction—just like the one expressed by the two Joplin Globe bloggers—to what Buchanan sees on the cultural landscape. It is that same gut feeling that compelled a woman in South Carolina, responding to Newt Gingrich’s encounter with Juan Williams, to say the following directly to Mr. Gingrich—who didn’t bother to correct her:

I would like to thank you for putting mister Juan Williams in his place the other night.

That, my friends, is what a lot of the political polarization we see around us is about.  Since the civil rights advances of the 1960s, the white right has been anxious about what might happen to the days of their dominance. Putting  people of color in “their place” is what drives Pat Buchanan and others who believe white culture is being threatened by “intellectual, cultural, and political elites.” Those elites, Buchanan says,

are today engaged in one of the most audacious and ambitious experiments in history. They are trying to transform a Western Christian republic into an egalitarian democracy made up of all the tribes, races, creeds, and cultures of planet Earth. They have dethroned our God, purged our cradle faith from public life, and repudiated the Judeo-Christian moral code by which previous generations sought to live.

If you listen very closely, you can hear strains of that cultural gut-reaction fall from the lips of nearly every conservative Republican, from the campaign trail to talk radio and other conservative media and to, sadly, the Joplin Globe blogosphere.

_________________________

* Lizza also quotes “two well-known Washington political analysts,” Thomas Mann (of the bipartisan Brookings Institution) and Norman Ornstein (of the conservative American Enterprise Institute) who don’t believe the ideological divergence between the two parties has been symmetrical:

…citing Poole and Rosenthal’s data on congressional voting records…since 1975, “Senate Republicans moved roughly twice as far to the right as Senate Democrats moved to the left” and “House Republicans moved roughly six times as far to the right as House Democrats moved to the left.” In other words, the story of the past few decades is asymmetric polarization.

Most of us on the liberal side of the divide believe that symptomatic of this asymmetric polarization is the fact that Mr. Obama began his presidency by moving too far in the direction of unappeasable conservatives, who slapped his face time and again and demanded even more concessions. It took much too long for Mr. Obama to realize that short of giving Republicans everything they wanted, they could not be satisfied.

“Situation Ethics”

Truth is known by God and the rest of us seek it.”

Newt Gingrich, the day after he asked his sick wife for a divorce

__________________

Likely lying in his marriage bed, next to his extra-marital lover, Newt Gingrich would phone his wife of many years, Marianne, and tell her he loved her.

How sweet.

And how sweet too is the right-wing’s reaction to Marianne Gingrich’s charge that her husband was not just a cheater, but a hypocrite, who the day after he asked her for a divorce, spoke before the Republican Women Leaders Forum about “The Demise of American Culture.”  “How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people? she asked.

In that speech on American culture, Gingrich blamed liberals for the Columbine shooting. Later he would blame liberals and Democrats for the tragedy at Virginia Tech and for Susan Smith drowning her two children. One of the reasons he gave was that liberals “created a situation ethics.”

Hmm.

On Thursday night, when CNN’s John King opened the GOP debate with a question about Marianne Gingrich’s charge that her husband asked her “to enter into an open marriage,” Gingrich, indignantly, turned on King:

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that…

Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine…

I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate… The story is false…I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.

For that, the white Christian crowd gave him a standing ovation.

There are those of us out here in the non-Republican world who don’t understand that reaction. We don’t understand how a man who promotes the religion of Jesus can stand on a stage, as he runs for the highest office in our land, and instead of saying to the world that he was wrong so long ago, that he made a grave mistake, that he is sorry, could instead turn and attack the press, and essentially call his wronged wife a liar in front of the world.

We also don’t understand how a crowd full of Christians can raucously applaud a man who not only made a fool of his wife, but made a fool of them by mocking them with his lifestyle.  Even if, in their estimation, he deserves forgiveness, did he deserve an ovation?

Sarah Palin, who has made a fine living off the pious sentiments of folks on the right, said that the “dumbarse” media’s featuring of “a disgruntled ex” would cause Newt’s campaign “to soar even more.” You see, in Sarah Palin’s mind Marianne Gingrich is nothing more than a disgruntled ex, nothing more than an obstacle in Newt Gingrich’s way. She is not worthy of Jesus-loving Sarah Palin’s sympathy, of God-fearing Sarah Palin’s compassion.

Rush Limbaugh, as close to a national leader as the GOP has, hid his thoughts behind a “a good friend” of his, who allegedly sent him a note that read:

So Newt wanted an open marriage.  BFD.  At least he asked his wife for permission instead of cheating on her.  That’s a mark of character, in my book.  Newt’s a victim.  We all are.  Ours is the horniest generation.  We were soldiers in the sex revolution.  We were tempted by everything from Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice to Plato’s Retreat, Deep Throat to no-fault divorce.  Many of us paid the ultimate price, AIDS, abortion, or alimony for the cultural marching orders we got.  Hell, for all I know we should be getting disability from the government….Newt’s slogan ought to [be], “Hell, yes, I wanted it.”

Newt’s a victim.” Astonishingly, a bit later Limbaugh himself came close to blaming the real victim:

I think, of what we’ve seen so far from the Marianne Gingrich stuff, the thing I didn’t know… that Newt had asked for an open marriage…Most of the other stuff, I did know. I also know that Marianne Gingrich… I’ve been places shortly after Newt was made Speaker with Mary, social weekends and so forth, and she was never comfortable with the public eye — and that bothered him. He thought it limited his future.

She didn’t like the media, she didn’t like the focus on her life, so she just wasn’t comfortable with the public eye — and I know that he said, “Well, you knew what you were marrying.” So there’s two sides to all this..

It “bothered” Newt that his second wife “was never comfortable with the public eye.” So gingerly does Rush Limbaugh tiptoe around justifying Newt’s betrayal, his stunning lack of faithfulness. Gingrich twice divorced women who were sick and demanded of at least one of them that they share him with other women or else, and for this Limbaugh and Palin and the crowd of Christians in Charleston essentially celebrated him, affirming if not his infidelity, his indignation.

Look, if Newt Gingrich didn’t frequently stand in the streets and beat his Christian chest in righteous anger, if he didn’t haughtily shout from every housetop how morally corruptive is the liberal spirit, if he didn’t wave his flag of conservative morality in the face of Americans, then what he did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, to his ex-wives would be between them.

But he does hawk his moral wares in the public square and he has indicted liberalism for nearly all the ills of society.  But no liberal urged him to cheat on his first wife or forced him to lie about the nature of that divorce. No liberal joined him in bed with his lover and current wife Callista. No liberal put a gun to his head and forced him to phone his second wife, with Callista by his side, and tell her he loved her. No liberal tempted him to make a mockery of his faith.

The redemption of a human being is a beautiful thing in any context, religious or secular. Redemption is the solid core of Christianity, the summum bonum of Christian teaching, the raison d’être of the Incarnation. After Gingrich’s denial, Marianne Gingrich has reaffirmed her story and said her former husband never told her he was sorry. It seems to me, if the idea of Christian redemption means anything, if it is to maintain any respect in a civilized society, it ought to require of a man who seeks it to at least admit his crimes to the one he wronged and repent.

And those who say they believe in the religion of Jesus, but who have lately placed their faith in the Republican Party, ought to at least have the decency to sit quietly while a man on a stage who wants to be president refuses to humbly admit his sin and plead for mercy.

“Race To The Bottom,” Or Why The Middle Class Is Doomed

The interesting political question in this country is whether or not there’s any wage floor which is too low.”

— Linda Kaboolian, a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard

____________________________

Who would have ever thought that America—the bleeping United States of America—would be a low-wage haven, but, alas, it has become one:

Corporate profits are higher than ever, but for many workers, things just keep getting worse.

Take the situation unfolding at Caterpillar Inc.’s London, Ontario plant. The company, the world’s largest heavy machinery manufacturer, is insisting that Canadian workers take a 50 percent pay cut, give up their current pension plan and swallow a significant reduction in benefits. On Jan. 1, Caterpillar locked out the plant’s 465 workers, refusing to let them do their jobs until they make these sacrifices.

In the last three months of 2011, as Caterpillar was pressing Canadian workers to give in to its requests, the company reported a 44 percent surge in profits from the previous year. Now, if workers continue to resist, Caterpillar appears to be threatening to take their jobs out of the country. Not to China or Mexico, but just over the border to Muncie, Ind., where desperate Americans are eager to take any job — no matter how low the pay.

Let this be clear: Caterpillar isn’t facing hard times; it is not in financial trouble; it simply desires to make even more money by employing “desperate Americans” who will work for $24,000 a year—and without a union—doing what middle-class Canadians were doing for about twice that.

“In the small picture, Caterpillar is a really hard employer, but the big picture here is obviously the race to the bottom,” said Linda Kaboolian, a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard, who studies workplace issues and has closely tracked the company’s practices through the decades…

“The larger story is that an extraordinarily profitable company like Caterpillar has determined that a fair standard of living for a semi-skilled manufacturing employee is $24,000 a year,” Kaboolian said. “Let’s face it — every time workers lose a fight like this, American business gets a clear message that you can ratchet down the wages a little further.”

This, my friends, is what America has become, after years of union-bashing, wage-slashing, middle-class thrashing economic policies, mostly supported by the Republican Party.

My God, people. Look at what we have become. A Fortune 500 Company now views America like Americans used to view Mexico and China.

The Open Presidency

Newt Gingrich, so says one of his ex-wives, wanted an “open marriage” because apparently there is so much of Newt’s bloated awesomeness available that one woman couldn’t possibly appreciate it all by herself.

In any case, at the GOP debate tonight in Charleston, expect Newt to announce his campaign for an “open presidency,” one in which he would sort of alternate between being America’s commander-in-chief and, say, being the King of Spain for a day or two.

I’m sure Juan Carlos and the Spaniards wouldn’t mind, and after a President Gingrich screws everybody here at home, Americans will be glad to share him with the rest of the world.

Remarks And Asides

The winner of the Republican Iowa caucuses has apparently changed from Romney to Santorum and some of the ballots have been permanently lost.

Yes, let’s turn the country over to Republicans, by all means.

_________________________________

Newt Gingrich said this the other day:

I fully expect the Romney campaign to be unendingly dirty and dishonest for the next four days because they are desperate — they thought they could buy this.

Well, of course, Romney thought he could “buy” the election, Newt! Because the election, and American democracy, is for sale! That’s why we need to get money out of politics. Sign the petition now!  272,595 and counting.

_________________________________

Speaking of Romney and Gingrich, they are fighting over who has been the greatest job creator since Jesus. In fact, Newt said he was there when the Savior was hiring his disciples.

Romney, not surprisingly, has said two contradictory things:

1. “Government doesn’t create jobs. It’s the private sector that creates jobs.”

2. “By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president’s created in the entire country.”

To be fair to Newt, his job plan—replacing unionized janitors with kids “between nine and 14 years of age“—is definitely a winner. That age group unquestionably is an untapped source of cheap labor in this country.

__________________________

Newt Gingrich, fearful that one of his ex-wives, Marianne, will wake up a couple of slumbering skeletons in Newt’s double-wide closet, said this morning that ABC News‘ “intruding into family things that are more than a decade old are [sic] simply wrong.”

Except that Newt had no trouble intruding into Obama’s family things when he totally bought into Dinesh D’Souza’s insanely ridiculous theory (“The Roots of Obama’s Rage“) about the President, about his adoption of his father’s “anticolonial ideology” and his “off the American mainland” history.

Newt enthusiastically endorsed this theory via National Review Online:

Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Well, I suppose in the world of moralistic Republican politics, it is fair to judge a man by a father he met only once—at eleven years of age—but it is “simply wrong” to judge a man—who presents himself as a family-values candidate—by what he did to those to whom he had previously promised faithfulness.

__________________________

And speaking of Newt and family values, he said his “daughters would be glad” to go on television  and talk about his ex-wife’s potential claims and vouch for his character. That a boy, Newt! There’s nothing quite as wholesome as bringing the kids into it!

__________________________

UPDATE: Uh-oh, Newt:

via Marianne Gingrich Says Newt Gingrich Wanted Open Marriage.

Iran

If you have followed the GOP primary and observed the candidates as they vandalize reason right before your eyes and ears, you rightly suspect that should one of the top dogs achieve power, a war with Iran is soon to follow.

Fortunately, there are wiser heads thinking about the problems with Iran, and Wednesday’s Morning Joe featured Bob Woodward, David Ignatius and Zbigniew Brzezinski discussing—intelligently—those problems and what even a small foreign policy misstep can mean in that part of the world, as well here at home:

“An Unlimited White Checking Account For Underclass Blacks”

I heard Charles Krauthammer say Tuesday night that Newt Gingrich’s “performance” on Monday’s GOP-FOX (I repeat myself) debate was “sparkling.”  Yes, he actually said sparkling, as he and Bill O’Reilly got all tingly about what Newt had to say to Juan Williams, who dared to ask if Mr. Gingrich could see that his comments about blacks and food stamps and janitors might be “insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans.”

What Gingrich had to say has been broadcast widely by liberal-minded folks to highlight what many of them see as at least quasi-racist appeals to the mostly pale-faced GOP crowd at the debate in a state with a history of blatant racism.

You know the drill: the poor, especially poor blacks, lack the necessary work ethic to succeed in America and it is up to hard-working white people like Newt Gingrich to devise ways to reprogram that work ethic into their otherwise lazy-loving brains.

But I want to focus on something Gingrich said on Monday night that has essentially been repeated in one form or another by other Republican presidential candidates. About extending unemployment benefits, he remarked,

It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the five of us, that we actually think work is good.

Now, forgetting for a moment all the racially-charged rhetoric about blacks and food stamps, we have in this statement a clue as to why there is so much palpable hate out there for our first black president. Mr. Obama is not just a black man living in the Whites’ House. He represents something far more than that. He symbolizes all welfare-loving blacks living in the whites’ America.

Attacking Mr. Obama in the way Gingrich did is a way of expressing the feeling a lot of whites have about black people, but are not normally free to express openly.  Under the cover of politics, though, they can, through criticism of Obama like Gingrich’s, essentially call them lazy n***ers and get away with it.  What else can Gingrich mean by suggesting that the President doesn’t “actually think work is good“?  Huh? Just what does that mean?

And why associate Mr. Obama with food stamps, as Gingrich has done (he is the “best food stamp president in history“)? What point is Gingrich really trying to make? Certainly not a policy point, since everyone knows that W. Bush’s Great Recession is the cause of an increased need for food stamps.

Additionally, eligibility rules for obtaining food stamps were relaxed twice under Bush, and in terms of proportionality, CBS News pointed out:

The percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. Bush’s presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama: The number of beneficiaries went from 17.3 million in 2001 to 28.2 million in 2008 – an increase of 63 percent in years that are mostly considered non-recessionary.

So, Mr. Gingrich’s point of connecting Mr. Obama with food stamps clearly was made for reasons other than noting policy differences. He appears to be using the President as a surrogate for all those lazy blacks who sit back and live off someone else’s work.

Newt is not alone in using this technique. Mitt Romney said the following about President Obama during the Ames, Iowa, debate in August:

He just doesn’t understand how the economy works, because he hasn’t lived in the real economy.

I think in order to create jobs, it’s helpful to have had a job. And I fundamentally believe that what we need in this country is someone who’s willing to go to work, who believes in America, who believes in free enterprise, who believes in capitalism, who believes in opportunity and freedom.  I am that person.  I love this country.

The not-so-subtle suggestion: Obama hasn’t had a job. He’s not willing to go to work. He doesn’t believe in America or free enterprise or capitalism or opportunity or freedom.

Rick Santorum has said in Iowa:

I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families.

The “other people’s money” is “other white people’s money,” don’t you know.

The New Republic noted that a section in a Ron Paul newsletter about a then-upcoming “race war” complained the problem was,

created by welfare programs, quota systems, and government interference in just about everything we do…

The “we” in that sentence is obviously a white we.

James Kirchick wrote four years ago that in a 1992 Ron Paul Political Report “special issue” on “the Los Angeles race riots of that year,” a “typical passage” about the Los Angeles riots read:

 “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began,” …It also denounced “the media” for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks.”

You see the theme clearly: Blacks are parasites living off the government-confiscated wealth of white people, mostly white Republican people. And the rise of Mr. Obama has made it easy for uneasy whites to project their frustrations on him, a high-profile uppity figure who needs to be brought down to size.

And a mannerly Mitt Romney, who will end up with his party’s nomination, is especially good at using the “entitlement” meme, expressed much more urbanely than Gingrich could ever dream of, which can be summed up with what Romney said in New Hampshire in December:

President Obama sees America differently. He believes in an entitlement society.

That coming from a man born into wealth and privilege, who has earned millions partly by using government subsidies, and who, we will one day find out, pays an effective tax rate well below what many Americans pay because his income is of a kind not considered “ordinary” and thus deserving a special, lower rate.

Entitlement society, indeed.

Playing The Soft On Defense Card

The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.  And in no small measure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history — and as Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to keep it that way.”

— Barack Obama, January 5, 2012

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

—Dwight Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

_______________________

Let’s say a man and wife had eight well-nourished kids. And let’s say that six of the kids eventually grew up and left the house at age eighteen, leaving the man and wife with two kids at home who weren’t old enough to be out on their own. And let’s say a government official came along and peeked into the cupboards in the house and exclaimed:

You have less food in here than you did ten years ago! How will you ever feed your two kids?  You need to have as much food in here as you did then—no, you need more!

Now, all of us can see how nonsensical that scenario is, right?

Well, here is what Mitt Romney said last night during the GOP debate:

ROMNEY: … the most extraordinary thing that’s happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending. Our navy is smaller than it’s been since 1917. Our air force is smaller and older than any time since 1947.

Romney stole that stuff, apparently, from his supporter, former Missouri senator Jim Talent, who wrote for the Heritage Foundation in 2011:

The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916. The Air Force inventory is smaller and older than at any time since the service came into being in 1947.

The same thing was picked up by Frank Gaffney, Jr. later on:

According to a recent study by the Heritage Foundation, by the end of this year, the U.S. Navy will be smaller than at any time since 1916. The Air Force has the smallest number of aircraft and bases since its founding in 1947.

Now, implied in Romney’s statement and in Talent and Gaffney’s articles (the original Heritage “White Paper” was published two years ago) is that this supposed military deficiency is somehow Obama’s doing, although they were careful not to link the specific facts about “fewer ships” and a smaller Air Force inventory to Obama.  You know why? Because Mr. Obama had nothing to do with those facts.

The size of the U.S. military is roughly what it was when W. Bush was governing in Washington in between vacations in Crawford, Texas. (In fact, the total active ship force of the U.S. Navy is actually a fraction higher under Obama than under Bush.)

What should be obvious is that the size and composition of our military changes over time, particularly as technology and the world—including our enemies—change. There is no aggressive Germany these days. There is no Soviet Union, aggressive or otherwise, at all these days. And just like it would be ridiculous for a family of four to have the same food inventory as a family of ten, it is ridiculous to compare our military inventories to times when we were in a world war or when we just emerged from one or when we were waging a cold war with a nation that no longer exists.

The truth is that, as they always do, Republicans have to find a way to attack Obama and the Democrats for—wait for it—being soft on defense. That’s kind of hard to do these days, what with Osama bin Laden’s remains now a part of the physiology of a thousand fishes in the sea.  Or what with every Islamic terrorist leader in the world wondering whether his next message from Allah will come printed on the side of a drone.

But especially if the economy continues to improve, Republicans are going to try to make a very big deal out of President Obama’s proposed cuts to the 2013 core defense budget he will soon submit to Congress. Those proposed cuts amount to slightly less than $500 billion over ten years. Hardly radical, but since when does that stop Republicans from so characterizing Mr. Obama?

In any case, the American people spend more on national defense—almost $700 billion—than the next 17 countries combined—and almost all of those 17 countries pose no threat to us and most are in some form or another our allies. In fact—this is stunning to me—the U.S. spends more on pay and allowances for its active-duty troops and National Guard and Reserve personnel ($123 billion in 2011) than China spends on its entire military budget (an estimated $119 billion in 2010) and more than twice as much as Russia spends on its defense (an estimated $52 billion in 2010).

Here’s a comparison graph from The Economist:

Last night during the Republican debate, Ron Paul said,

I would cut some of this military spending, like Eisenhower advises, watch out for the military industrial complex.

And watch out for its defenders in the Republican Party.

The New Confederacy?

In a move that would affect about 200,000 already-registered voters in the state that started the Civil War, South Carolina has enacted a new law that would require its residents to produce a photo ID before voting.  Reuters reports:

Federal officials and South Carolina Democrats who oppose the law say it could disenfranchise up to one-third of black and other minority voters.

Now, you may not know why Republicans would want to do that, but Professor Newt Gingrich knows. From the same Reuter’s story:

“If the only people who vote in elections are law-abiding, hardworking citizens who are deeply committed to America, the left wing of the Democratic Party will cease to exist,” Gingrich said on Friday at a campaign stop in Duncan, South Carolina.

Of course, Democrats who vote for Democrats are not “hardworking citizens who are deeply committed to America.” We all knew that, didn’t we?  Only white Republicans can truly be hardworking and deeply committed to America.

The story also notes that in the 2008 presidential election in South Carolina,

73 percent of whites here voted for Republican John McCain, while 96 percent of blacks voted for Obama.

And the old attitudes haven’t disappeared entirely.

“I hate to say it, but ever since the schools integrated (in the 1960s), it went downhill,” unemployed paralegal Vicki Cotterman said at a campaign stop for Perry in Walterboro on Thursday. “The white boys try to be like some of the black thugs – they go around with their pants down to their knees. It’s disrespectful.”

Insurance agent Patti McBride said she believed Obama, a practicing Christian, actually is a Muslim because he has an unusual first name.

“Our country was founded on Christianity, and now we have a Muslim with a Muslim name as the president, for God’s sakes,” McBride said.

One thing that both Newt Gingrich and insurance agent Patti McBride proves is that you don’t have to be a genius to be a historian for Freddie Mac or sell insurance.

In any case, the Muslim’s Justice Department, in an ingenious use of Sharia law, prevented the South Carolina photo ID law from going into effect and Newt Gingrich and insurance agent Patti McBride are probably happy that the state is suing the Justice Department to get the law reinstated.

If that fails, I suppose South Carolina could always start another Civil War, the last one having worked out so well for the state and for the country.  And Newt Gingrich could be the (paid) historian for the New Confederacy.

Hallelujah For Government, Local, State, And Federal

Even though it is hard for some folks to admit it, America is awash in big-government, Europeanish socialism, including here in Joplin, as I have pointed out many times before.

Today’s Joplin Globe carried a story about the city of Joplin’s possible financial windfall from the Joplin tornado:

Leslie Jones, the city’s finance director, said the totals could change as repairs and replacement of damaged or destroyed property are completed, but tabulations so far project that the city actually could come out $130,000 to the good after the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the State Emergency Management Agency and the city’s insurance pay for everything they cover.

Costs paid by FEMA for expedited debris removal last summer amounted to $94 million, according to the report.

Now, it may not occur to local conservatives (and there are plenty of ‘em) that the reason the city of Joplin’s finances may end up “to the good” after all that the May 22 tornado did to this community, is because the larger community—the rest of America—through both the state and federal government—we the people—helped us out.  From Palo Alto to Peoria to Poughkeepsie, people, through their taxes, invested in Joplin’s future.

And while polls may show, locally and elsewhere, that many folks don’t trust “government” and don’t much care for its size, Joplin area residents ought to be leading the Hallelujah Chorus in thanks for it.

Pick Rick Says GOP Jesus

Conservative evangelicals have finally heard from God—it only took Him three ballots to get through!—regarding whom they should support in the GOP primary, and the man with a God-sized Google problem, Rick Santorum, gets the Divine Nod.

That evangelical Christian leaders have explicitly thrown in with one political party in America doesn’t seem to bother the likes of James Dobson or Donald Wildmon, among the organizers of this current group of religious fanatics who have a mission to rid American leadership of people like fellow-Christian, but insufficiently godly or American, Barack Hussein Obama.

The spokesman for the event in Texas this weekend was Tony Perkins, a zealot who leads the Family Research Council, which oversees GOP compliance with so-called biblical morality. Mr. Perkins offered this extraordinary bit of insight into the evangelical psyche:

Mr. Perkins declined to explain why participants moved toward Mr. Santorum, other than to praise his consistent record on social and economic issues. In the discussions, Mr. Perkins said, participants were as concerned about repealing Mr. Obama’s health care law and fighting the national debt as they were about abortion and same-sex marriage.

And many evangelicals have said they are bothered not only by Mr. Gingrich’s three marriages, but by his attacks on Mr. Romney’s work in private equity, which they believe amounts to attacks on free enterprise.

Now, you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and I dare say you will not find in it an attack on the Affordable Care Act or concern about America’s indebtedness or abortion or, for that matter, “same-sex marriage” (it is a civil-rights issue in 21st-century America, not a moral one).

Nor will you find a defense of private equity firms or the kind of buzzard-blessed capitalism practiced by Bain Capital and Mitt Romney, even if some want to call such activity “free enterprise.”

But the Bible that evangelicals tote and thump does say this (in James 1:9-11):

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

It is clear that the Republican Party has become the home of conservative evangelicals and it is clear that conservative evangelicals are attempting to make the square pegs of Christian theology fit into the round holes of GOP-protected greed—just look at Tony Perkins’ tweet after Republicans in Wisconsin attacked, successfully (for now), unions:

Again, you will not find in the Bible an attack in any form on labor unions, but you will find in the history of the Religious Right’s relationship with the Republican Party an attempt, as a service to big-business interests, to crush organized labor.

And speaking of using the Bible nefariously, you may have heard that the Speaker of the House of my former home state of Kansas recently distributed an email with a reference to the dreadful Psalm 109:8, known in some places as the “Obama Prayer“:

May his days be few;

      may another take his place of leadership.

The email came with this plea:

At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!

In his defense, the Speaker, Mike O’Neal (who seems to have a problem with forwarding emails about the Obamas), said,

This email is about prayer expressing what Republicans around the country are working toward — voting into office a like-minded president in 2012.

The problem is, as I posted more than two years ago, that Psalm 109:8 does not sit in isolation. The Psalmist was once again whining to God about “wicked and deceitful men” persecuting him, and he wanted some revenge, including death and plunder and punishment of children and grandchildren (as well as, retroactively, the offender’s “fathers”).

But interestingly enough, Mr. O’Neal may have helped identify the eventual GOP nominee in his reference to Psalm 109, which the NIV translates:

Appoint an evil man to oppose him;

          let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him be found guilty,

         and may his prayers  condemn him.

May his days be few;

         may another take his place of leadership.

Before the Psalmist and Mr. O’Neal say, “may another take [Obama's] place of leadership,” the scripture says, “Appoint an evil man to oppose him.” 

Someone should ask the too-clever-by-half Mr. O’Neal—and other Republicans who promote this nonsense—just who that “evil man” could be: Mitt, Newt, or one of the Rick brothers?

Bailouts? Who? Me?

Here is a short and sweet critique of that right-wing piece of work, National Review Online (the original was created by William F. Buckley), and of that right-wing piece of work, Mitt Romney (the original was created by Oliver Stone?), related to the issue of government bailouts, which Romney and the GOP allegedly abhors:

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Scavenging Capitalist

What is going on in the Republican Party is, well, unbelievable.

On one side is Gingrich, Perry, and Palin.  On the other is the GOP establishment, featuring Rush Limbaugh, for God’s sake.  On trial is what John McCain calls, “the essence of what we Republicans believe,” a nasty and brutish brand of capitalism manifested through what are known as venture capital and private equity firms like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital.

Or here is how Rick Perry, famously now, expressed his affection for Bain:

They’re vultures. They’re sittin’ out there on the, on the tree limb, waitin’ for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

Those ominous birds, it must be said, aren’t all bad, as a blogger named Cameron McCormick, in a piece titled, “On the Importance of Vultures,” made clear:

Our anthropocentric stigma against scavengers is totally underserved and in fact, carrion consumption is a valuable ecological “service.”

Obviously, consuming the rotting flesh of dead animals is valuable in terms of the ecology, and Republicans defending Romney are trying to assert the same thing about private equity firms vis-à-vis the economy: they contribute to overall economic efficiency by feeding on weak companies.

But who grows up thinking, “I want to be a scavenging capitalist”?

A piece posted on the far-right Tea Party site, Red State, asked about the character of a man who made millions upon millions scavenging:

We know that Bain killed American jobs when it meant profit for the shareholders and investors. When political profit is at stake, will Mitt do what is right for America, or will he serve his own best interests?[...]

Whether Bain Capital is good, or evil, necessary or sleazy, is beside the point. They do what they do (though some specific deals may be questionable), and it’s all apparently legal. It is also irrelevant. What is relevant is what his Bain days say about Mitt Romney’s character, and for that reason alone the discussion is both necessary and appropriate.

In his defense, Romney says:

There are some businesses that are growing and thriving … [and] there’s some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive.

At least he is a polite scavenger.

I will end with a quote from Rick Perry, who must be bewildered at the criticism he is receiving for pointing out what is obvious to anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh:

There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money. But getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is indefensible.

Well, apparently it is not indefensible these days in the Republican Party. In fact, again as John McCain helpfully observed,  it is “the essence of what we Republicans believe.”

Here’s a nice graph that Ed Schultz uses on his show now:

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