The Bad Part Of The Supreme Court’s ObamaCare Ruling And How Republicans May Use It To Screw The Needy

In my post on the health care law ruling yesterday I mentioned I would save for another day what I meant by this:

judging by this decision, I see only two consistent “liberals” on this court, Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

What I meant was their just refusal to join the other seven justices—including the usually sensible Steven Breyer and the ideologically suspect Obama appointee, Elena Kagan*—in ruling unconstitutional (it’s complicated, so see here) any attempt by the feds to terminate existing Medicaid money to states (almost all Republican-controlled states, of course) who might refuse to go along with the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, an expansion that would enable millions of needy folks to get health insurance.

But, as usual, the needy just don’t have quite enough friends in powerful places.

For those who don’t know, Medicaid, created along with Medicare in 1965, is a federal-state effort designed to provide medical and health benefits to poorer folks, including children, who would otherwise go without all but emergency health care at hospitals. It is funded by both state and federal sources, the funding formula based on per capita income in the various states, with no state going without at least 50% federal funding (the average the feds pay is 57 percent).

The ability to withdraw all Medicaid funding, not just that associated with the expansion, was seen as a big stick in getting reluctant (red) states to do the right thing.  And the Supreme Court—again, including two justices appointed by Democrats—held that the federal government cannot coerce states or penalize them in such a manner, even if it is to do the right thing. Paul Clement, who argued the case for the bad guys, characterized this part of the decision as “really quite significant.”

Yes, it is. Here’s how USA Today summarized it:

The court struck down a portion of the law that would have forced states to accept a major expansion of Medicaid to all Americans earning up to $30,733 for a family of four or risk losing all federal funds under the program.

Roberts called that part of the Affordable Care Act “a gun to the head” by threatening as much as 10% of states’ budgets.

By removing the “gun to the head,” the Court has made it voluntary for the states to  provide expanded health insurance for its neediest citizens, to folks with incomes at 133 percent of the national poverty line.

And even though the federal government is picking up nearly all of the tab for the expansion, inevitably there will be Republican opposition, since that political party is long on hatred for Obama and short on love for the neediest among us.

Don’t believe me? How about this headline and story from the AP:

Top Mo. Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Top Missouri Republicans say they have no intention of expanding Medicaid eligibility as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal health care law.

The story relates that Missouri House Majority Leader Tim Jones will not consider the expansion, and the stripper-lovin’ Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder falsely called it a “break-the-bank provision.”  Obviously, these unkind gentlemen don’t give a damn about the Missourians who would be helped, including doctors who treat patients who can’t pay, nor do they appear to give a damn about Missouri hospitals, most of whom have to absorb themselves or pass on to others the cost of uninsured patients they are required by law to treat.

Reportedly, the White House believes that all of the states will go for the expansion, since they all participate in Medicaid now with considerably less federal funding help than the new law provides.  But as a student of bullheaded Tea Party extremism, I can tell you that I suspect more than a few red states will opt out of providing more health services to those folks—many of whom are ongoing victims of Republican economics—who can’t afford them otherwise.

____________________________

* I had my doubts about Kagan’s appointment two years ago; I was for Diane Wood as Obama’s pick to replace John Paul Stevens.

Democrat, My Ass

Among the misbegotten Democrats who voted with my own right-wing congressman, Ozark Billy Long, and other extremist Republicans in the House of Representatives to, without precedent, hold Attorney General Eric Holder in “contempt,” was none other than Dan Boren, who represents Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, which is just west of Joplin.

Since Boren, who is a board member of the NRA (which “scored” the vote on Holder in order to intimidate pusillanimous politicians), has decided to retire from the House to take a job with the Chickasaw Nation (fittingly as its “president of corporate development”), this will likely be the last time I can salute him for the absolute phony Democrat he is.

If Boren were on fire, I wouldn’t pucker up and piss on him. He voted with Republicans almost all the time, and was a more reliable vote for John Boehner than some Republicans. Oh, I forgot. Boren voted with Tea Party Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in January of 2011, after having voted against it at its birth.

It’s one thing to represent yourself as a “moderate” Democrat, which in Eastern Oklahoma—the poorest area in a godforsaken blood-red state— is about as much as a majority of those folks can tolerate. It’s another to represent yourself as a moderate Democrat when really you are a conservative, corporate Republican.

No Apologies Necessary, Bill

Bill O’Reilly told the world he would “apologize for being an idiot” if ‪the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  Nah, Bill. Being an idiot means never having to say you’re sorry:

It’s Official: We Can Now Call It OBAMACARE

From UPWORTHY:

The Light And Dark Of Conservatism

I chose to listen to the immediate reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling today on Fox “News” Channel. And, of course, I wasn’t disappointed. The spin began immediately, particularly the idea that this is really a win for Romney, who will find his base newly “energized,” just like in the 2010 election.

Well, that may be right, but what struck me about the right’s reaction to the ruling is just how far conservatism, as a philosophy, has strayed from its parenting.

If political conservatism has any legitimacy at all, that legitimacy is found in conservatism’s traditional  respect for, and interest in maintaining, social stability. This implies a resistance to radicalism and opposition to those who would seek to disrupt an otherwise stable social order.

That traditional stance of conservatism is what originally attracted me to it, way back when I called myself one. And it is that centuries-old conservative posture that radicals and extremists like Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and Rush Limbaugh have undermined, if not completely eradicated. In short, what we see from the right these days would shock conservatism’s father, Edmund Burke.

I say all that to say that it turns out that the real conservative, among those on the Supreme Court who generally are called conservative, turns out to be John Roberts.

Justice Roberts joined the four “liberal” justices (more about that another day; judging by this decision, I see only two consistent “liberals” on this court, Ginsburg and Sotomayor) in the decision to uphold the constitutionality of the insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Granted, Roberts found the constitutionality of the mandate by essentially not interpreting it as a mandate at all, but as a tax levied on those who choose not to buy health insurance. And it is in that interpretation that Roberts actually exercised the restraint that conservatives are famous for advocating, but infamous for failing to honor when it goes against their political preferences.

Roberts wrote of the ACA:

We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.

That, my friends, is the stance of a conservative jurist, one who is willing to honor his principles even if it means offending his own politics, or his own party. Cited in the majority opinion today was Hooper v. California, which included this language:

…every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality…

Again, that is how a conservative should look at his job of interpreting a law passed by the people’s representatives, the Congress. That is the opposite of a Scalia, who pretends to adhere to some lofty principle of originalist interpretation, but who really is a radical who refuses to find any construction of a statute that would save it from unconstitutionality—if he doesn’t like the statute in question. And we knew he didn’t like it from the oral arguments, during which he absolutely embarrassed himself as a jurist.

It would have been remarkable, and a small step towards getting extremists like Rush Limbaugh to sober up a little bit, if Scalia—one of Limbaugh’s intellectual heroes—had railed against the law all he wanted, but found, as Roberts did, a legitimate constitutional hook—and the taxing power of the federal government is legitimate and constitutional—to hang the ACA on.

But, no, the heavy lifting was left to John Roberts, who in his conservative reading of the Constitution rejected (wrongly, in my view) the government’s first rationale for the mandate (the Commerce Clause) and its second rationale for the mandate (the Necessary and Proper Clause), but found merit in its third rationale for the mandate, the taxing power of the government.

In other words, Roberts gave deference to the Constitution itself, which prioritizes the will of the people as expressed through the people’s Congress, instead of his own policy inclinations and judgments.

If that kind of conservatism were the kind dominating the Republican Party today, this country would be a much better place to live, and would have a much greater hope of maintaining a stable—and ultimately just—social order.

Alas, as Fox “News” and Mitt Romney and the right-wing punditry make clear, as they drone on about this dark day, conservatism itself is in a very dark place.

Call It “ClaireCare” If You Want, McCaskill Should Say

I will take Claire McCaskill at her word that she is not skipping the Democratic National Convention because she is afraid to cavort with Mr. Obamacare himself and other Democrats who don’t enjoy overwhelming popularity here in Missouri.

She told Morning Joe:

I’ve never gone when I’ve had a contested race. You’ve got to say to people at home, which is more important: Going to a place with a bunch of party honchos and having cocktail parties, or being at home talking to them? So this has never been a hard call for me. Everybody is trying to make this a big deal and narrative. It’s just stupid.

All of the chatter about McCaskill’s reasons for not going to North Carolina later this summer, along with the  expectation that the Supremes will rule on the Affordable Care Act tomorrow, has me wondering just why it is that here in Missouri, as elsewhere, the concept of “ObamaCare” is relatively unpopular, even while its constituent parts are not. My conclusion is that such dissonance is attributable to a failure to properly—and constantly—educate an inattentive public.

Which, of course, made me wonder, for instance, what Ms. McCaskill has said about the ACA and how she has tried to educate Missourians on the virtues of the law.

Well, she did make an effort to do so in March, sort of. Here is how TPM began a story about it:

Grilled about her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told a home state radio interviewer that the law’s core structure is “exactly” like the House GOP Medicare privatization plan that conservatives support and liberals detest.

Hmm. That’s not exactly a good way of selling ObamaCare to liberals, now is it? She went on:

“The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It’s not the government,” she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. “It’s exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare.”

“It’s subsidized by the government — premium subsidies — which is exactly, this is the irony,” continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. “You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it’s terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don’t have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it’s terrible.”

Her point here is, of course, unassailable. There is a lot of Republican hypocrisy associated with the debate over health care reform, particularly since almost the entire scheme that is now called ObamaCare is made up of ideas that once were dreamed up in the minds of right-wingers.

But that doesn’t let Claire off the hook, in terms of her responsibility to educate folks about the law. I looked on her campaign website and I found the following under “Healthcare“:

Claire has fought for expanded health insurance for all Missourians, from children to seniors. In her first term, Claire helped protect children with pre-existing conditions from being refused insurance and saved seniors from paying too much for prescription drugs by helping to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Claire strongly believes that affordable health care is necessary in a successful economy and will continue to fight to make sure all Missourians have access to it, while also fighting to ensure those who chose not to be insured don’t pass along their medical costs to other Missourians.

This paragraph constitutes a summary of the details that follow on the page, but what we see here is essentially an explanation of the Affordable Care Act, of ObamaCare, but without the name attached. Now, while it is understandable that she would want to stay away from terms that Republicans and their moneyed funders have tainted via their propaganda campaign against “ObamaCare” and the ACA, what McCaskill is doing is essentially furthering the public’s misunderstanding of what is the health care reform law that goes by those names.

I can’t help but wonder what public opinion about the ACA might be today, if folks like McCaskill would not only consistently tout the parts of the law that people like, but aggressively defend the idea behind the one part they don’t like, the dreaded mandate.

Something like the following would be in order, coming from the moderate Missouri Democrat who voted for the ACA and who gets constantly attacked for doing so:

You’re damned right I voted for ObamaCare. And I’m proud of that vote. Hell, I wish they’d call it ClaireCare, so proud I am to have voted for it.

You know why?

Because it helps protect Missourians with pre-existing conditions from getting screwed by insurance companies;

Because it protects Missourians who get sick from getting booted off the insurance they had before they got sick;

Because it provides insurance for Missourians who can’t afford it and who would otherwise go without it and get sick and die or who would end up in an emergency room with a horrible and horribly expensive disease that we’d all end up paying for;

Because it allows about 40,000 Missouri kids to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26;

Because it has already “saved 111,815 Missouri seniors on Medicare an average of $627 per person on their prescription drugs by closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole‘” (quote from her website);

And because it has already “provided 431,945 Missouri women with free mammograms, bone density scans, and cervical cancer screenings with no co-pay” (quote from her website);

As I said, you’re damned right I voted for what you derisively try to call “ObamaCare,” and I couldn’t be prouder. Tell me, my critics, which one of the above “becauses” would you like to repeal? Huh?

And I’m even proud of the fact that I voted for the hated mandate because it was at least an attempt to get folks to stop gaming the system and help pay their own way. Aren’t you tired of some people trying to get something for nothing?

Any bleeping questions?

Will It Take A President Romney To Ultimately Fix America?

One might feel better about inequality if there were a grain of truth in trickle-down economics.”

—Joseph Stiglitz

 recent poll found that about 60% of all Americans think (falsely) that no matter who sits in the White’s House next January 21st, it won’t matter a whit to the economy or unemployment.

While it clearly will matter whether Romney-Ryan budget thinking prevails in November, perhaps there is at least a partially rational explanation for such public despair. Economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, in a piece disturbingly titled, “America is no longer a land of opportunity,” the following:

US inequality is at its highest point for nearly a century. Those at the top – no matter how you slice it – are enjoying a larger share of the national pie; the number below the poverty level is growing. The gap between those with the median income and those at the top is growing, too. The US used to think of itself as a middle-class country – but this is no longer true.

Now, admittedly, I have been saying such things for years, but I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics. Stiglitz does and he adds:

…the median income of Americans today is lower than it was a decade and a half ago; and the median income of a full-time male worker is lower than it was more than four decades ago. Meanwhile, those at the top have never had it so good.

Here’s how it all happened:

Markets are shaped by the rules of the game. Our political system has written rules that benefit the rich at the expense of others. Financial regulations allow predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices that transfer money from the bottom to the top. So do bankruptcy laws that provide priority for derivatives. The rules of globalisation – where capital is freely mobile but workers are not – enhance an already large asymmetry of bargaining: businesses threaten to leave the country unless workers make strong concessions.

Stiglitz points out that the conservative argument that “increased inequality is an inevitable byproduct of the market” is demonstrably false:

Textbooks teach us that we can have a more egalitarian society only if we give up growth or efficiency. However, closer analysis shows that we are paying a high price for inequality: it contributes to social, economic and political instability, and to lower growth. Western countries with the healthiest economies (for example those in Scandinavia) are also the countries with the highest degree of equality.

The US grew far faster in the decades after the second world war, when inequality was lower, than it did after 1980, since when the gains have gone disproportionately to the top. There is growing evidence looking across countries over time that suggests a link between equality, growth and stability.

Mentioning that there is a real difference between Obama and Romney, in terms of whether America will “once again become a land of opportunity,” Stiglitz ends with a theme I find fascinating and have thought about frequently these days:

The country will have to make a choice: if it continues as it has in recent decades, the lack of opportunity will mean a more divided society, marked by lower growth and higher social, political and economic instability. Or it can recognise that the economy has lost its balance. The gilded age led to the progressive era, the excesses of the Roaring Twenties led to the Depression, which in turn led to the New Deal. Each time, the country saw the extremes to which it was going and pulled back. The question is, will it do so once again?

Are we yet to the point where a “new progressive” era or a “new New Deal era” can be born? Or will it be a President Mitt Romney—a genuine Gilded Ager— who finally impregnates America with enough despair and disgust and determination to produce one?

The State Of Scalia’s Mind Tells The Score

Even as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer attempted to paint a rosy picture of the Supreme Court’s decision to negate most of SB 1070—she clumsily argued that the Court upheld (possibly only temporarily) the “heart” of the law (the “papers please” provision)—pundits were debating just who came out ahead politically, the President or his adversaries.

Well, there are two good ways, in matters like this, to figure out who won. One way is to listen to the President:

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.

And the other way is to listen to President Obama’s most prominent adversary on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia. The conservative justice does not like judicial activism, except when he uses it himself, and in his dissent today he certainly took note of Mr. Obama’s executive activism via Homeland Security’s recently announced program to exempt some folks from immigration law enforcement:

The President said at a news conference that the new program is “the right thing to do” in light of Congress’s failure to pass the Administra­tion’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the  Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law [sic] by enforc­ing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.

Now, whenever Justice Scalia has his mind boggled, that is a win for the good guys, I don’t care what Jan Brewer says.  And when Scalia writes stuff in dissent like the following, the good guys have reason to celebrate:

…the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the  Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test…

Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State. I dissent.

The reason these words from Scalia are so sweet, and filled with irony, is because of another decision today by the Court, one that hasn’t received that much attention:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a plea to revisit its 2-year-old campaign finance decision in the Citizens United case and instead struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.

In case you don’t remember, this case centered on whether the state of Montana could keep enforcing a 1912 law that placed political campaign spending limits on corporations. One would think that a purist-jurist like Scalia, who fretted so much over “state sovereignty” in the Arizona SB 1070 case, would give the benefit of the doubt to Montana.

Nope. And that is part of the reason why Scalia’s pissed-off prose over Arizona’s plight is so damned telling.

The World Economy: A Sickness Unto Death?

The fundamentals of the world economy aren’t, in themselves, all that scary; it’s the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread.”

—Paul Krugman

here has long been a great divide among those who seek to explain both the cause and the duration of the Great Depression. What side you are on almost always says something about your politics: liberals have one view, conservatives tend to have another.

Brad DeLong and Barry Eichengreen have written an interesting new preface to the 40-year anniversary edition of Charles Kindleberger’s The World in Depression 1929-1939. The  book, as Wikipedia deftly summarizes it,

advances an idiosyncratic, internationalist view of the causes and nature of the Great Depression. Blaming the peculiar length and depth of the Depression on the hesitancy of the US in taking over leadership of the world economy when Britain was no longer up to the role after WWI, he concludes that ‘for the world economy to be stabilized, there has to be a stabilizer—one stabilizer’, by which, in the context of the interwar years at least, he means the United States.

In a column yesterday, Paul Krugman—whose latest book is titled, End This Depression Now!—worries that policy makers both in Europe and here in the U.S. are repeating past mistakes and failing to act decisively to rescue the world’s economy from the mess that financial recklessness created.

He took a swipe at the European leaders, who have failed to take meaningful action to bail out Spanish banks (“Forget about Greece, which is pretty much a lost cause; Spain is where the fate of Europe will be decided“), and he jabbed domestic Republicans, “who often seem as if they are deliberately trying to sabotage the economy.”

But since Krugman, like all of us should be, is most concerned about the crippling effects of long-term unemployment, he directed his latest attack squarely at the Federal Reserve:

The Fed has a so-called dual mandate: it’s supposed to seek both price stability and full employment. And last week the Fed released its latest set of economic projections, showing that it expects to fail on both parts of its mandate, with inflation below target and unemployment far above target for years to come.

This is a terrible prospect, and the Fed knows it. Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s chairman, has warned in particular about the damage being done to America by the unprecedented level of long-term unemployment.

So what does the Fed propose doing about the situation? Almost nothing. True, last week the Fed announced some actions that would supposedly boost the economy. But I think it’s fair to say that everyone at all familiar with the situation regards these actions as pathetically inadequate — the bare minimum the Fed could do to deflect accusations that it is doing nothing at all.

Why won’t the Fed act? My guess is that it’s intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that it’s afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy.

That’s a fairly serious charge, but recall that GOP candidate for president Rick Perry said this about Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

That stupidity and attempt at intimidation was endorsed by the likes of Tea Party spokesman Sarah Palin and represents the sentiments of many right-wingers. But no one on that side seems to be concerned at all about the Fed’s lack of aggressiveness in addressing unemployment (not to mention the failure of conservatives in Congress to do anything at all), particularly long-term unemployment.

Look at this graph Krugman has previously presented:

We ignore this at our peril, both here and in Europe. The world economy is sick and trying to heal it with budget austerity is making it sicker. That is the equivalent of prescribing lots of calisthenics for a bedridden patient, and it may, as Krugman and others continue to argue, prove economically lethal.

Disturbed And Disturbing Democrats

There is always some correlation between what pollsters call “engagement” with an upcoming election and the eventual electoral turnout on election day. Just how well prior engagement and turnout correlate is a matter of debate, but the news from the latest in-depth Pew Research survey is not good news for Democrats in terms of a voter interest gap in the November election.

While it is true that more Democrats are juiced about their candidate than Republicans are juiced about Etch-A-Romney, this bothers me a lot:

Republicans hold the edge on several turnout measures, in contrast to 2008 when Democrats had leads – some quite substantial – on nearly every indicator. More Republican voters than Democratic voters are giving quite a lot of thought to the election (73% of Republicans vs. 66% of Democrats) and paying very close attention to election news (45% vs. 37%). In 2008, Democrats held leads on both interest measures, the first time that had occurred in campaigns dating to 1992.

Moreover, GOP voters are more likely than Democrats to say it really matters who wins the 2012 election (72% vs. 65%). Four years ago, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say it really mattered who prevailed.

How can it be that only about two-thirds of the Democrats polled believe it “really matters” who wins? What narcotic, legal or illegal, is being ingested by the one-third of Democrats who don’t think it really matters? Whatever it is, Democratic leaders had better figure out how to pound reality into the heads of these disturbed and disturbing Democrats in the next four months or all of us will need narcotics to endure the reality of a Romney administration.

Rachel Maddow To News Media: “Are You Going To Swallow This One Too?”

Rachel Maddow brilliantly explains how the right-wing is using the Fast and Furious “scandal” to promote an anti-gun conspiracy that, of course, doesn’t exist. Must see TV:

Mittens The Outsourcer

From The Washington Post:

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I can’t wait for high-profile Democrats like Bill Clinton (Romney’s bidness record is “sterling“) and Ed Rendell (Obama’s Bain attacks were “very disappointing“) and Cory Booker (the attacks were “nauseating“) and Deval Patrick (“Bain is a perfectly fine company“) and Harold Ford (“private equity is a good thing“) and Steve Rattner (“I don’t think there’s anything that Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about“) to explain why Obama shouldn’t criticize Romney for specializing in shipping American jobs to China and India.

After all, such is part of Romney’s perfectly fine and and good and sterling record that he has absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, right fellas?

Sorry Asses

Turd Blossom, also known as Karl Rove, famously wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal that gave legs to the demonstrably false meme that President Obama has been traversing the globe announcing our nation’s historical failings and apologizing for them.

Mr. Blossom wrote of the alleged apologies:

Mr. Obama makes it seem as though there is moral equivalence between America and its adversaries and assumes that if he confesses America’s sins, other nations will confess theirs and change.

Of course Mr. Obama never did what he was accused of doing, as many have pointed out, but that hasn’t stopped the criticism. WaPo quotes Donald Rumsfeld as saying,

I think he had made a practice of trying to apologize for America. I personally am proud of America.

And of course Mittens had something to say:

I will not and I will never apologize for America. I don’t apologize for America, because I believe in America.

The apology meme is perfectly suited for talk radio and Fox “News,” which moved it around the world at light speed. Sean Hannity, using his most serious and obnoxious voice, said Obama has a “habit” of issuing “wall to wall apologies,” and,

We have a president that’s more inclined to apologize for America than defend America’s greatness.

Now, leaving aside the disturbing hysteria that has taken up permanent residence in the brain of Sean Hannity and other talkers in the right-wing media, even if Mr. Obama were a serial apologizer, so what?

It seems obvious to me that any concept of America’s “greatness” should include the idea that we attempt to correct our wrongs when we can and when he can’t correct them, we at least should be great enough to express regret for them.  Other than those infected with fascist fantasies, what kind of mind would think that apologizing is a sign of weakness and not of strength?

I bring up the topic because of this wonderful headline:

Yes, that U.S. House, the one with all those extremist teapartiers who think Obama has apologized us into second-class status internationally.

Here’s the story:

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Xinhua) — U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for discriminating laws targeting Chinese immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.

Congressional leaders hailed the approval of the resolution as a “historic” moment for the Chinese American community.

In a voice vote, the House passed H. Res. 683, a bipartisan resolution that formally expresses regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other legislation that discriminated against people of Chinese origin in the United States.

This is the fourth resolution of regret passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress in the past 25 years. It was approved in the Senate last October.

“Today the House made history when both chambers of Congress officially and formally acknowledged the ugly and un-American nature of laws that targeted Chinese immigrants,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, the only member of Congress who is of Chinese descent and who introduced the bill. “I feel so gratified… and I feel honored to have been a part of this great moment in history.”

The Chinese Exclusion Act, approved in 1882 in Congress and lasted for 60 years, was the first and the only federal law in U.S. history that excluded a single group of people from immigration on no basis other than their race. It explicitly banned Chinese workers from immigration and existing residents from naturalization and voting.

The Act was later expanded several times to apply to all persons of Chinese descent, each time imposing increasingly severe restrictions on immigration and naturalization.

No word in yet on when Turd Blossom will denounce House Republicans for their act of shame, which has made it “seem as though there is moral equivalence between America and its adversaries and assumes that if [the House of Representatives]confesses America’s sins, other nations will confess theirs and change.”

No word in yet on when Sean Hannity will summon his most serious and obnoxious voice and decry this outrage against American greatness, perpetrated by the Republican-dominated House.

No word in yet on when Mittens will grab a microphone and repeat his suggestion that it is not possible to both apologize for America and also believe in it.

And no word in yet on when Republicans will apologize to Barack Obama for slandering him, for loudly and endlessly suggesting that he doesn’t love America and that he has diminished its greatness.

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

—”Strange Fruit

o, Barack Obama and Eric Holder refuse to quietly and obediently stick their heads into the Republican noose and get politically lynched. Hmm.  Good for them. This isn’t exactly the 19th and early 20th century—at least not yet. (We still have an election ahead that will decide that.)

Normally, I’m all for the legislative branch holding the executive branch accountable for doing dumb things, but in the case of Eric Holder and Fast and Furious, the accountability should first have started with the Bush administration and then-Attorneys General Alberto Gonzalez and Michael Mukasey.

It was under their leadership that the idea of “gun-walking”—the ATF allowing the criminals in the Mexican drug cartels to obtain guns in the U.S. in the hope of landing the big fish—first began and continued with or without their knowledge.

You see, we don’t really know whether Gonzalez or Mukasey—or George W. Bush for that matter—knew about what was then called Operation Wide Receiver because neither former Attorney General has been called to testify before Darrell Issa’s Committee to Get The President Or That Other Uppity Negro In The Justice Department.

All we really know is that, sadly, whatever it was that began under Bush ended under Obama with a U.S. Border Patrol Agent named Brian Terry being shot and killed with a gun that the good guys deliberately put in the hands of the bad guys.

Talking about Darrell Issa and noose-crazed Republicans in the House, Sen. Chuck Schumer said:

…there’s been a selective way in which this investigation has been pursued so far. It’s sort of one-sided outrage about whole issue when we know now that it began or its progenitor began before you took office – before President Obama took office.

The House committee chair has said he would look at both sides – wrongdoing on both sides. That hasn’t happened. It appears…It’s a pretty good bet that top officials at the Bush Justice Department, perhaps the Attorney General himself, learned of this operation in its early stages. We know a memo was prepared; we don’t know what he knew. At the very least, they let it continue. For all we know, they’ve endorsed it. And so I think it’s important that we look at both sides.

Agent Brian Terry’s family, whose totally understandable disgust with what happened has been exploited by Republicans (the documents at the center of the dispute with Holder and the White House have nothing to do with how his death happened), are naturally upset that Mr. Obama has invoked executive privilege to keep some documents out of the hands of the legislative branch:

Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious.

That same sentiment has been expressed by many right-wing pundits and politicians, including the Speaker of the House, whose spokesman charged:

The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed. The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?

For what I will call the “official” Fox “News” reaction to this development, I will turn to “senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano“:

Executive privilege protects communications with the president, the human being of the president, not with people that work for him and the Justice Department. … If the attorney general sat down and discussed it with the president, he probably doesn’t want the Congress and the public to know that, because we know of the awful events that occurred as a result of the Fast and Furious escapade.

But we also know that executive privilege only pertains to military, diplomatic, and sensitive national security matters. Now, was fighting the drug gangs at the border a sensitive national security matter? And, if so, was the President of the United States of America personally involved in making decisions as to how to conduct that fight? If that’s the case, this has reached a different level and we now know why the attorney general has ferociously defended these documents.

Napolitano’s hysterical speculation just isn’t backed up by the facts or how courts have ruled on executive privilege. As Ian Millhiser pointed out a couple of years ago:

The term “executive privilege” is often used as a blanket term to refer to any presidential assertion that an executive branch document should not be disclosed, but the courts have recognized both a stronger and a weaker form of executive privilege.

The stronger version is called “presidential communications privilege,” which,

applies to communications made directly to the president so long as those communications occur “in performance of [a president’s] responsibilities” and “in the process of shaping policies and making decisions.”

The weaker version is called “deliberative process privilege,” which applies in the present case.  Here is how Wikipedia explains it:

Deliberative process privilege is the common-law principle that the internal processes of the executive branch of a government are immune from normal disclosure or discovery in civil litigations, Freedom of Information Act requests, etc.

The theory behind the protection is that by guaranteeing confidentiality, the government will receive better or more candid advice, recommendations and opinions, resulting in better decisions for society as a whole. The deliberative process privilege is often in dynamic tension with the principle of maximal transparency in government.

You see, if Darrell Issa types (on both sides) are totally free  to snoop around in the internal deliberations of the executive branch, then folks around the president or his cabinet will not feel comfortable in expressing themselves.  

On the other hand, if the president is totally free to keep what he is doing secret, then he will become, uh, Richard Nixon.

In this case, until Republicans are willing to dig into the trash of the former Administration, their outrage over Obama’s use of executive privilege related to Fast and Furious will sound hollow, and the palefaced extremists in the House of Representatives, itching to string up the uppity Negro running the Justice Department, may end up hanging themselves if John Boehner gives them enough rope.

Given the zealots in the House these days, we could end up with the spectacle of the whole House finding Eric Holder in contempt of Congress and the Attorney General arrested and thrown in the U.S. Capitol hoosegow. The only question then would be how Boehner—who has failed time and again to control the zealots—would keep the angry mob of Tea Party legislators away from his cell.

An Ad Man Turns Honest

I’m at an age where I have one more shot at changing my life.”

—former advertising man, Jerry Comyn, as he exits a dishonest profession he says he hated

Jerry Comny did what a lot of folks want to do but can’t. He flipped the bird to the job he had in an industry he greatly disliked. Since he is a single man without kids, he wrote an email addressed to “all”  in which he tells us what we already knew about the advertising bidness. I just came across it recently via an article in HuffPo:

Hello all,

Having spent the past 18 years of my life in advertising sales, TV, Radio and Outdoor, I’ve always wondered why I was in a business I detested. For years, I couldn’t figure it out, and then I realized what was motivating me, MONEY! There are few careers where one (we called ourselves a business of C students) could earn so much money for doing very little.

The hardest I ever worked were the first 5 years of my career, from 1994 to 1999. This is mostly because I spent my days making my boss look good. I earned him/them a lot of money by making sure the media buyers were kept happy. Let me tell you, back in the mid 90′s, NYC buyers were animals. If you weren’t at the top of your game, they would eat you without salt. As a result, I believe, I learned ‘the business’ from the best.

Over the years I learned that I was part of a ‘club’ I had no desire to be a member of. By the mid 2000′s I found myself lashing out at the very corporate system I had signed up for. Had I sold my soul? No, there was no way I could have done that. Alas, I realised I had indeed sold my soul for the almighty dollar.

Recently, I decided, once and for all, to leave the industry I have dedicated the last 18 years of my life. The reasons are numerous but following are a few:Jerry Comyn

* I was trained to lie to clients and cheat as much as possible.
* I was encouraged to dismiss FCC regulations on clients business.
* 99% of Advertising Sales Reps spend their days figuring ways to rip off clients
* 99% of Advertising Sales Managers got their positions by lying and stealing their way to the top.
* Most competing TV and Radio Stations COLLUDE on rates.
* Most vendors are ripping off clients by up to 80%
* Reps WILL rip off their bosses (through expenses) if you treat them like crap.
* Most reps are managed through fear, the worst motivator, in my opinion.
* There are few leaders left in a business that once promoted leadership

I know most of you will think these are the bitter words of a disillusioned ex-rep. Maybe you’re correct, but I like to to think of my words as coming from someone who is finally calling BULLSHIT on the ad sales world, both in the USA and Ireland.

I wish you all good fortune and good luck.

Jerry

You’ll be happy to know that, as HuffPo reports, Jerry Comyn is,

spending the summer in Uganda as a volunteer for an energy project. Then he plans to live off savings while he finishes his political science degree at Trinity College in Dublin.

The 41-year-old hopes eventually to forge a low-paying career in human rights and possibly in public office.

“One thing I’ve got is a big mouth and a brain and conviction about politics,” he said…

Can anyone argue against the notion that the world is better off with one less ad man and one more advocate for human rights?

Judicial Restraint Is For Suckers

When I was a conservative, naturally I would read many conservative critiques of liberalism, including especially liberalism’s alleged affection for the courts, to accomplish what liberals could not accomplish “democratically.”

The courts weren’t supposed to be used for anything other than interpreting the law and interpreting it in such a way so as not to “legislate from the bench,” went the typical conservative line.

My how things have changed.

In George Will’s recent column, he openly admits that conservatives don’t give a damn about judicial restraint, only conservative results. In one stunning piece, Will forever foreclosed any respectable conservative criticism of an “activist” court. We’re all activists now.

The column features right-winger Clint Bolick’s new book, “Two-Fer: Electing a President and a Supreme Court,” in which he points out the obvious: the executive’s prerogative to nominate federal judges has become “the grand prize in presidential elections.”

Well, liberals have always known that judicial appointments have a long-term significance, and if conservatives are just now learning it then it is too bad for the country.  But the thrust of Will’s piece is that it is okay—more than okay, it is necessary—for “conservative” justices to rectify “long-standing judicial mistakes” by overturning laws displeasing to, uh, conservatives.

I want you to absorb the following paragraph, which is crucial to understanding how conservatives really look at judicial restraint:

One hopes that Romney knows that on today’s court the leading advocate of judicial “restraint” is the liberal Breyer, who calls it “judicial modesty.” Contemporary liberalism regards government power equably, so the waxing of the state seems generally benign. Yet Romney promises to appoint “restrained” judges. If, however, the protection of liberty is the court’s principal purpose, it must not understand restraint as a dominant inclination to (in the language of Romney’s Web site) “leave the governance of the nation to elected representatives.”

No, no, no. We can’t let the people’s representatives do the governing, as that might leave us with, well, democracy. Will has made it clear that judicial restraint is for suckers, if Congress happens to pass laws that conservatives don’t like. He ends with this:

Although Hamilton called the judiciary the “least dangerous” branch because it has “neither force nor will, but merely judgment,” it is dangerous to liberty when it is unreasonably restrained. One hopes Romney recognizes that judicial deference to elected representatives can be dereliction of judicial duty.

Get that? “Judicial deference to elected representatives” is not the stance a proper conservative jurist should take these days, what with so many “long-standing judicial mistakes” to correct.

I recommend that all liberals and Democrats digest what Will is saying so we won’t have to tolerate any longer the bullshit about judicial restraint that used to be on the lips of every conservative.

Edmund Burke is dead, and so is his conservatism.

Mitt Romney Is A Cannibal!

To quickly follow up on my “Say It!” post yesterday, in which I encouraged Democrats to aggressively attack Romney and Republicans, I saw columnist Frank Rich on MSNBC last night discussing his latest piece titled, “Nuke “Em,” which includes this:

The president, any president, should go negative early, often, and without apology if the goal is victory. The notion that negative campaigning is some toxic modern aberration in American democracy is bogus. No campaign may ever top the Andrew Jackson–John Quincy Adams race of 1828, in which Jackson was accused of murder, drunkenness, cockfighting, slave-trading, and, most delicious of all, cannibalism. His wife and his mother, for good measure, were branded a bigamist and a whore, respectively. (Jackson won nonetheless.)

Say It!

…the essence of every picture is the frame…”

—G.K. Chesterton

 “We are now in a situation where conservatives have framed almost every issue.”

—George Lakoff and Elisabeth Weihling

s we wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, it is troubling to think that many Americans live lives of such cultural and intellectual isolation that the following could be true, as reported by Alec MacGillis:

SEWANEE, Tenn. – As Robin Layman, a mother of two who has major health troubles but no insurance, arrived at a free clinic here, she had a big personal stake in the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on the new national health care law.

Not that she realized that. “What new law?” she said. “I’ve not heard anything about that.”

This unfortunate woman lives in southeastern Tennessee, which has economic challenges aplenty, but also has a state legislature full of conservatives who make the problems of folks who live there even worse:

…the state’s largely Republican political leadership has shunned the law. The state’s legislature has declined to pass legislation establishing  the new insurance “exchange” required by the law…

Let’s be honest and admit that liberals and progressives have a problem when they attempt to do things for people like Robin Layman of rural Tennessee. As MacGillis informs us:

Layman was hardly the only patient unaware that the law aims to help people like her, by expanding health insurance beginning in 2014. And this gets to the heart of the political dilemma for Democrats: Despite spending tremendous political capital to pass the law, the party is unlikely to win many votes from the law’s future beneficiaries, most of whom live in Republican-dominated states in the South and West. In fact, many at the clinic said they don’t vote at all.

Some of the people Democrats are looking out for, when they pass laws like the Affordable Care Act, are ignorant and often don’t exercise their rights as Americans to have a say in their own destiny. How do you overcome that problem, if you are the Democratic Party?

Well, I’m not sure it can be overcome, but I would start with a robust and unapologetic attack on the Republican Party, which is now squarely standing in the way of progress—and in the way of helping the Robin Laymans among us.

MacGillis writes:

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act, such as Mitt Romney, say it should be replaced with a state-by-state approach. Romney’s home state, Massachusetts, is the pioneer – Romney signed a 2006 law that has extended coverage to nearly all residents.

But many other states have demonstrated little political will to help people obtain health coverage. In some, such as Texas and Virginia, the threshold for Medicaid eligibility is so stringent that parents earning $10,000 a year are too well-off to qualify.

Who controls these states? What party’s political philosophy makes this outrage possible? Democrats should say so, loudly and often. Our side, including especially President Obama, has to stop trying to sound reasonable and accommodating and “bipartisan.” That’s the language of governance, not campaigning; that’s the way you talk when you are working to get laws passed, not when you are trying to convince voters that you have a better vision for the country.

Consider George Lakoff’s and Elisabeth Wehling’s critique of Obama’s recent economic speech in Ohio:

Framing is (or should be) about moral values, deep truths, and the policies that flow from them.

As of their kickoff speeches in Ohio, Romney and Obama have both chosen economics as their major campaign theme. And thus the question of how they frame the economy will be crucial throughout the campaign. Their two speeches could not be more different.

Where Romney talks morality (conservative style), Obama mainly talks policy. Where Romney reframes Obama, Obama does not reframe Romney. In fact, he reinforces Romney’s frames in the first part of his speech by repeating Romney’s language word for word — without spelling out his own values explicitly.

Where Romney’s framing is moral, simple and straightforward, Obama’s is policy-oriented, filled with numbers, details, and so many proposals that they challenge ordinary understanding.

Where Obama talks mainly about economic fairness, Romney reframes it as economic freedom.

And Romney, capitalizing on almost four years of Republican attacks on government, understands how best to close the deal, using tough and forceful language:

Romney attacks The Public, speaking of “the heavy hand of government” and “the invisible boot of government.” …Romney’s “invisible boot” evokes the image of a storm trooper’s boot on your neck. The government is the storm trooper, your enemy. You are weak and in an impossible position. You can’t move — a metaphor for being held back and not being able to freely engage in the economy.

Republicans these days have no problems saying what they mean, when it comes to demonizing The Public, but the Democratic message, as Lakoff and Wehling suggest, should strongly—how about getting pissed off?—counter such an attempt to nullify the value of government:

The Private depends on The Public. It is The Public that provides economic freedom. Give a vision of responsible, progressive business. Talk freedom — as well as fairness. Point out that the hoarding of wealth by the 1 percent kills opportunity, as Joseph Stieglitz has discussed at length. Speak of an “Economy for All — not just rich bankers, managers, and job killers like private equity firms.” Yes, Romney and those like him are job killers. Say it. Point out that during the economic recovery of 2010, 93 percent of the additional income went to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.

Yes, Romney and those like him are job killers. Say it.” Say it! All of this is based on the superior (say it!) “moral position” of Democrats and Obama, which the authors summarized nicely:

That democracy is based on empathy (citizens caring about fellow citizens), responsibility both for oneself and others, and an ethic of excellence (doing one’s best not just for oneself, but for one’s family, community, and country).

When it comes down to it, what we will find out in this election—if Democrats properly frame the issues with tough, descriptive language—is whether America at this point in time is a country where appeals involving empathy and social responsibility will still move voters, or whether the tried-and-failed philosophy of let-the-rich-have-it-all-and-hope-some-trickles-down will once again dominate our politics.

For the sake of folks like Robin Layman of rural Tennessee, who desperately need the Democratic Party but are often too ignorant to know that, Democrats must win.

Of Chicken Shit And Billionaires

I want to begin with a story that appeared on the front page of the Joplin Globe this Friday morning:

Moark is a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes in Minnesota and is the second largest distributor of fresh shell eggs in the country (about 6 billion eggs sold each year). Naturally, when millions of chickens are concentrated in one area there is a problem with waste and smell, which tend to diminish the quality of life for those residents who happen to live nearby.

The point of the Globe story was really to chronicle the lack of interest on the part of those nearby residents to resist this latest expansion of Moark’s production, since citizen resistance to an earlier expansion in 2005 met with utter failure. The state sided with the corporation.

Dave Boyt, one of those who challenged Moark’s 2005 expansion said this time:

People get tired of beating their heads against a wall. We knew during the earlier expansion what we were up against. We knew that the chances of stopping the expansion or getting even some concessions were absolutely minuscule.

Another nearby resident said:

Ordinary people can’t afford to fight something that big. Money talks, and as a little guy, unless you’ve got the money to fight them, you really can’t do much.

Such resignation may be behind the tendency, when one discusses money in politics, to resort to a “both sides do it” stance and just hope the wind blows the smell of chicken shit the other way.

But, folks, what Republicans are doing this election cycle ought to scare the complacency out of you, if, that is, you give a damn about our democracy. Last night on MSNBC, Ezra Klein (subbing for Saint Rachel) presented this graphic:

What this comparison shows is that Karl Rove, W. Bush’s Turd Blossom, will spend this election cycle, through his Crossroads group, nearly as much as the entire McCain-Palin campaign did in 2008.

But that’s not the whole story, of course. As Politico reported:

POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.

Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago.

So, from just two sources, Rove and Koch, Romney’s effort to become CEO of America will have funding amounting to about twice as much as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate had last time.

But that still doesn’t include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the super PAC supporting Mittens (Restore our Future), which when added to the Rove-Koch dough will exceed $1 billion. Can you smell the chicken doo-doo yet?

But we still haven’t got to what the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee expects to raise—according to Politico about $800 million!

Add it all up and we are damn close to $2 billion that Republicans will have to slander and trash Obama and other Democrats. But we’re still not at the end:

Chicken caca, anyone? That Forbes article relates that the Las Vegas billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, who “has made more money during the Obama administration than just about any other American, based on Forbes tabulations,” will do “whatever it takes” to defeat the President. Adelson is quoted as saying:

What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives…I believe that people will come to their senses and not extend the current Administration’s quest to socialize this country. It won’t be a socialist democracy because it won’t be a democracy.

It won’t be a democracy because people like Sheldon Adelson—worth a reported $25 billion—and the Koch brothers—combined net worth of $50 billion—and other wealthy Republicans will have cannibalized it, if voters don’t stop them.

And, again, if all this isn’t enough to get folks to electorally rebel against this hostile takeover of our politics—aided greatly by the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court—then the American experiment with democracy—with government of, by, and for the people—will soon be over.

The people will have surrendered to the oligarchs and America will become a much different place, one where the Adelsons and the Kochs will rule and the Moarks of the world can pollute the countryside with impunity.

Kreeping The Faith

A man named Gary Kreep—a prominent birther and right-wing Christian in California—may become a Superior Court judge in San Diego County. With about 13,500 votes left to count, he and his opponent,
Garland Peed, are separated by a few hundred votes (out of about 400,000 cast), with Kreep currently holding the edge.

Kreep is the Executive Director of a right-wing nut group called the United States Justice Foundation, which has lately attempted to convince courts that President Obama is not our legitimate leader.

Mr. Kreep recently failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to take seriously a case brought by the reactionary freak Alan Keyes and other assorted kooks, but he may have been successful in convincing enough voters in San Diego County to take him seriously as a judge.

All of which makes the roughly 200,000 voters who voted for Kreep creeps themselves.

_________________________________

Meanwhile, speaking of creeps and right-wing Christians, the popular website WorldNetDaily (WND), the flagship of a flaky fleet of Obama-haters and birthers, is promoting this:

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – WND-TV will provide gavel-to-gavel, live video coverage of the latest challenge to Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility in a courtroom hearing that could deny him ballot access to this all-important electoral swing state in November…The hearing will focus on Obama’s claim to be a “natural born citizen,” as required under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution.

You see, even if Obama were really born in Hawaii (and God knows he wasn’t), he’s still illegitimate because he was “not born to two citizen parents.” Tune in on Monday, June 18, at 9 a.m. Eastern and find out if Obama can really call himself “President” Obama or must refer to his lying self as “the black man illegitimately and temporarily sitting in the White’s House waiting for that rich white guy to take it back.”

To give you an idea of the mentality of the fans of WND, here is a headline from about a month ago:

The founder of WND  is a man named Joseph Farah, an evangelical Christian allegedly with Jesus-love in his heart for everyone—except our phony president.  Farah, who has helped Rush Limbaugh write his book-form trash, has nothing but a heart full of hate for Mr. Obama and particularly is focused on Obama’s right to be president of the United States.

But Farah also has a heart full of hate for our culture. In response to a question about how he protects his five homeschooled daughters, he said the following in 2003:

Don’t scan the radio. Don’t even turn on the television. The whole culture has become so degraded that there’s no escaping it outside the home. So we work at home, we school at home, we do everything at home. We still have to go get the groceries and go to the bank, that sort of thing. If you follow our example you will be insulted from time to time, but at least you will minimize the consequences of cultural poisoning for your children…

We try to teach our children to be rebels. That is what Christian, moral people are in our society today, like it or not. Most Christians and other moral people don’t like it. Most of them don’t think of themselves in that way and few truly are rebels. But I think we need to be. That’s one of the things I advocate in this book: a whole new orientation of mind.

And forget this idea of being conservative. It’s too late to be conservative. To be conservative in a society that’s become as degraded as ours has become means settling for what we see all around us. I don’t want to settle for that. That’s not good enough for my kids. I want better. I want to go on the offensive.

Well, apparently these days reorienting the Christian mind and going on the offensive involves undermining the legitimacy of President Obama, even if doing so violates the very scripture that people like Mr. Farah say they trust and revere. Here speaketh Paul the Apostle in Romans, Chapter 13, verse 1:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Undoubtedly, the meaning of that text would also include President Barack Hussein Obama, but, in a spasm of convenience all too typical of Bible thumpers like Mr. Farah and his fellow Christians who gawk at WND, the Apostle’s admonition is swept away by a rather unholy and Kreepy tide of Obama hate.

Out Of The Closet, Into The Attic

With church attendance falling in Britain, only one in four marriages is conducted in a church.”

The New York Times, 6/13/2012

he Brits are entertaining a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage and, of course, the usual reactionary suspects are mobilizing to stop it. Roman Catholic bishops and the Church of England and, uh, Muslim leaders, are using what cultural clout they have left to try to keep their Iron Age theology in force.

One would think that conducting only a quarter of the marriage ceremonies in the country would not entitle British religious zealots to claim they are speaking for a majority of folks, and indeed they don’t so claim. What they do claim, though, is that they are speaking for God:

In common with almost all other Churches, the Church of England holds, as a matter of doctrine and derived from the teaching of Christ himself, that marriage in general – and not just the marriage of Christians – is, in its nature, a lifelong union of one man with one woman.

It is the nature of dogmatism, I suppose, for theologically rigid folks to force their beliefs on others. And in this day and age it appears to be necessary to lie about why they are doing so:

Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.

Of course that is false. What motivates these folks is cultural power and relevance, which they are fast losing. In short, just like here in the United States, the fight over same-sex marriage is a fight for survival of religious fundamentalism.

And speaking of the states, from USA Today:

A referendum that seeks to nullify Washington state’s recent law legalizing same-sex marriage has qualified for the November ballot, election officials announced today.

Now, all of this would be understandable, if the proposal in Britain or the law in Washington state forced churches to marry homosexual couples. But no one is arguing that priests or pastors or rabbis should have to offer their dubious services to couples they believe shouldn’t receive the Almighty’s blessing. They would remain free to discriminate against homosexuals and practice their doctrinaire theology within the walls of their churches or synagogues.

So, it is clear to me that the battle is really over whether Iron Age thinking will continue to enjoy the influence it has historically had in the West or whether it will take its place with other quaint relics we have put away in our cultural attics.

And as 60 percent of North Carolinians proved last month—as that state became one of the 30 that have banned gay marriage in the United States—some people aren’t ready just yet to put away their ancient and unenlightened beliefs.

Do Evangelicals Hate Obama More Than They Love Jesus? We’ll Find Out In November

As a former evangelical Christian who was taught that Mormonism is a cult, I wonder how faithful God- and Obama-fearing evangelicals will be this November when it comes time to cast their votes. In order to rid themselves of our funky President, they will have to validate the funky religion of Mitt Romney.

And I will enjoy watching them wrestle with their biblical angst, as the election nears.

Mike Huckabee, at one-time a Romney rival,  gave us a peek at this theological anxiety when he famously asked in 2007, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Claiming the question was a “traditional smear” of the Mormon faith, Romney accepted Huckabee’s subsequent apology. Except what Huckabee suggested wasn’t a smear. Mormonism does consider Jesus and Satan brothers, but scholars assure us that long ago God had the good sense to give the rebellious bro a celestial ass-kicking and send him packing.

All of which goes to illustrate how strange is Mormonism, the 19th-century religious concoction that conservative evangelicals have always regarded as an ungodly cult. And it also shows how eager Mormons are to get the theological blessing of their fellow political conservatives.

According to a Pew Forum poll last November, 75% of U.S. Mormons support the Republican Party and 66% call themselves conservative. And while about half of all Americans consider Mormonism to be Christian, I have never met an evangelical who does. So, this November can conservative evangelicals really come to peaceful theological terms with an LDS church that considers itself the only true church?

Will they authenticate, via their votes, a religion that believes God actually bonked Mary to produce Jesus? Can they accept the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead by proxy? Or that Romney actually baptized some (hopefully grateful) dead folks himself from time to time? Or can they accept the contention that Jesus made a pit stop in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection? Or that all of us eternally existed as some kind of intelligence?

How about the Mormon idea that God has a body? And a wife? In fact, wives. Can right-wing evangelicals actually pull the lever for a man who is by all accounts fiercely dedicated to a church that believes that? Or that believes The Book of Mormon is also the Word of God? Or that humans can become gods?

It may startle some local conservatives when they consider that the Mormon writer Cleon Skousen—whose book, The 5,000 Year Leap, has been heavily promoted by Jasper County Republican honcho John Putnam during local Tea Party rallies—says that our earth was actually created near a star-planet called Kolob and then sort of U-Hauled to our solar system. I’d hate to see the size of that trailer hitch.

And Missouri evangelicals may cringe at the Mormon contention that the New Jerusalem, where allegedly Jesus will one day rule, will be built right here in our state. Which is perfect, since Mormon founder Joseph Smith believed that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in western Missouri, a place only those in the know regard as the real home of the Talking Snake.

For his part, Romney, a former Mormon bishop, has mostly shied away from talking about his faith, mainly for the reasons above. But he said in 2007,

I’ve made it very clear, I do not try and distance myself from my faith in any way, shape, or form. I’ve been asked time and again, “will you distance yourself from your church, will you disavow this practice?” and the answer is “no.”

But there are plenty of evangelicals who are eager to tell us why Mormonism is a no-no. One of them is the Reverend R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, a stone’s throw (for God, anyway) from what will be the New Jerusalem. The Southern Baptist leader believes that Mormons worship a false god, believe in a false Jesus, and preach a false gospel, a heresy trifecta.

Roberts told The New York Times that he doesn’t much worry about Romney “using his position as either a candidate or as president of the United States to push Mormonism.” His worry is much more important for a conservative Christian theologian:

The concern among evangelicals is that the Mormon Church will use his position around the world as a calling card for legitimizing their church and proselytizing people.

You see, it is the legitimization of Mormonism as a Christian religion that the election of Mitt Romney will most certainly guarantee. If this severely devoted Mormon makes it to the White’s House—and he can’t without the help of evangelicals—it will be impossible for conservative Christians, who fervently believe this is a “Christian nation,” to claim ever again that Mormonism is a cult.

Is that a price Bible-believing evangelicals are willing to pay?

Church Gone Wild

Over the weekend I heard about Creflo Dollar, the megachurch pastor who allegedly punched and choked his 15-year-old daughter, the allegations coming from the 15-year-old daughter backed up by her 19-year-old sister.

As one might imagine, Dollar on Sunday denied the charges before his megacongregation, who supply him with megadollars, and I don’t expect at all that this prosperity gospel-preachin’ phony will suffer where it hurts folks like him the most: in the collection plate.

In fact, I would guess he is enjoying a bit of a windfall right now. In all the reports I saw, I never heard a single faithful follower utter even a tittle of criticism toward the black preacher, who to his disciples will remain as pure as the wind-driven snow.

In any case, I thought about my time as an evangelical when I heard about Creflo Dollar, because he was just getting started fleecing the flock when I was leaving the herd. I was part of the faith-and-prosperity movement that has been so very good to him (do you have two Rolls-Royces?) and that has scarred me for life.

Just to give you a personal example of the kind of mentality involved in the wide-scale scam that is the prosperity gospel, I once gave money to a member of my prosperity-gospel church. The man couldn’t pay his bills and asked me for help. He had a rather large family and a rather small desire to hold a job. But he believed in the teachings of folks like Kenneth Copeland—Creflo Dollar’s mentor in the mammon-is-marvelous ministry—the heart of which is this admonition from the unseen world:

Give men of God your money and God will give you back the money plus lots of divine interest, if you only believe he will.

That is essentially the message and it gets imprinted very deeply on the minds of the gullible, so deeply that the man I gave money to had a very earnest desire. Even though he was broke, dead broke, he planned on writing a how-to book on prosperity! I’m not kidding.

Now, even though I was caught up in the movement myself, I was still sober enough to figure out that there was something wrong with that picture. Just how could an idea become so powerful in the mind that it would delude a man into thinking such absurdities?

Well, that is the nature of such religious ideas. Everything occurs behind the curtain, out of sight of the audience, in the “spiritual” dimension. Thus, a clever man of the cloth can pretend he is peeking behind the curtain of this world and seeing into that better, higher world, and you, his follower, are fortunate to be the beneficiary of his knowledge.

If you will only have faith.

But such powerful, delusional ideas are not limited to the exchange of cash. Another story involving a Christian pastor was in the news a few days ago:

The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has hanged an effigy of President Barack Obama from a gallows on its front lawn, a move DWOC pastor Terry Jones said was in response to Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage, as well as his stance on abortion and what Jones called his “appeasing of radical Islam.”

In case you missed it, here is a photo of Pastor Jones’ godly work:

obama effigy hung

Behind this outrageousness is something that should concern every American whose brain hasn’t been pickled by propaganda from pastors and priests. Religious fanaticism is not just something associated with terrorist training camps in a distant land. It is right here in America, in some form or another, possibly living next door to you, and certainly comprising a significant chunk of the electorate.

Oh, I’m not saying that Creflo Dollar or even Pastor Jones are in the same league with the fish bait that was once Osama bin Laden. What I am saying is that they—and countless numbers of conservative ministers—use the same tools he used, tools that are effective on a disturbing number of people.

And the reason I write so frequently about this topic is because I believe we have to dull the edges of those tools so they will be less effective in the future. We have to keep reminding our well-meaning conservative Christian neighbors, who urge us to send our kids to Church camps and the like, that it is just plain silly to pretend that they or their fellow churchmen have the slightest idea what, if anything, is going on behind the curtain.

If we fail to do that on a regular basis, we are part of the problem.

_________________________

Just to reinforce the point, listen to this short, Nazi-evoking sermon on tithing from Creflo Dollar and know that he—just one preacher—has thousands upon thousands of followers all over the country (transcript below courtesy of KennethCopelandBlog.com):

Now, you know, we’re under the Blood of Jesus, so we can’t shoot and stone people like we used to. All we have to do is repent and God will forgive us and take us where we need to be. But I can tell you, man, if it wasn’t for the Blood, there’d be a whole lot of us being stoned and being in Hell right now over the tithe. But for ["if not for"?] the Blood of Jesus, we’d be doomed.

I mean, I thought about when we first built “The Dome,” I wanted to put some of those little moving bars and give everybody a little card. They’d stick it in a little computer slot. If they were tithing, beautiful music would go off and, you know, [Creflo sings] “Welcome, welcome, welcome to the World Dome.” [Congregation laughs.]

But…if they were non-tithers, the bar would lock up, the red and blue lights would start going, the siren would go off, and a voice would go out throughout the entire dome, “Crook, crook, crook, crook!” [Congregation laughs.] Security would go and apprehend them, and once we got them all together, we’d line them up in the front and pass out Uzis by the ushers and point our Uzis right at all those non-tithing members ’cause we want God to come to church, and at the count of three “Jesus”-es we’d shoot them all dead. And then we’d take them out the side door there, have a big hole, bury them, and then go ahead and have church and have the anointing. [Mostly silence in the congregation, but one or two still actually laugh.]

Aren’t you glad we’re under the Blood of Jesus? ["Yeah, yeah," from the congregation.] Because if we were not under the Blood of Jesus, I would certainly try it.

Folks, this is a serious thing.

A Tale Of Two Creeps

I have referred to Mitt Romney as creepy. Perhaps I have been too kind.

Way back when kids were getting drafted, uniformed, and sent off to Vietnam, Mitt Romney, apparently yearning for an authoritarian outlet that didn’t involve combat, donned the uniform of the Michigan State Police and commenced pulling folks over for jollies.

So says Joe Conason, of The National Memo, who posted this story:

Did Young Mitt Romney Impersonate A Police Officer? Another Witness Says Yes

The lede:

When Mitt Romney was a college freshman, he told fellow residents of his Stanford University dormitory that he sometimes disguised himself as a police officer – a crime in many states, including Michigan and California, where he then lived. And he had the uniform on display as proof.

The story is based on the accounts of Robin Madden, who happens to be a television producer and writer (among others, “Diagnosis Murder” episodes, as well as, ironically, episodes of “Walker, Texas Ranger”). Conason writes:

Said Madden in a recent interview, “He told us that he had gotten the uniform from his father,” George Romney, then the Governor of Michigan, whose security detail was staffed by uniformed troopers. “He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road. He also had a red flashing light that he would attach to the top of his white Rambler.”

Hopefully, Mitt Fife kept his one bullet in his shirt pocket.

Seriously, I’m not all that surprised that Romney attempted to live out his authoritarian fantasies by impersonating a cop. Isn’t that the point of his presidential campaign?

Mitt’s personality, as revealed by his deeds, is pregnant with rigidness, severity, bossiness. Here is a guy—a committed, hard-core Mormon for starters—who assaulted a fellow student in high school who was suspected of being gay; he let slip that he likes firing people; he made lots of money practicing vulture capitalism; he loved the Vietnam War—just not enough to actually fight it. The revelation that he dressed up as a cop—and apparently acted as one—is just not that shocking.

Now, you might not think that what follows is related to Mitt’s occupational cross-dressing, but I found the following on Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom, via Busplunge:

The proprietor of Bungalow Bill’s, conservative Clay Bowler, found the above picture on the Facebook page of a man named David Overcast. Mr. Overcast happens to be an Ozark, Missouri, police officer. Yes, that’s right. The man who posted the picture above, a loaded gun aimed at liberals, is an officer of the law here in southwest Missouri.

Here’s what Mr. Overcast looks like, when he’s not threatening liberals he has sworn to protect:

In case you’re confused, that’s Mr. Overcast on the left, and obviously that is a liberal fish.

In order to fully get the picture of what kind of guy is Mr. Overcast, here’s three more photos from his Facebook page:

Okay, maybe those photos don’t tell us too much about what kind of mentality we are beholding, but perhaps these images from his Facebook page will:

Now, my point in all this is not to paint Mr. Overcast as the gun-toting, Obama-hating creep he is, but to raise the issue of why some people have a hankering  to put on that law-enforcement uniform in the first place.

It’s no secret that some—some—cops get their authoritarian rocks off by throwing their weight around using their uniform and badge. Naturally such folks look for authoritarian traits in their politicians and thus tend to be conservative Republicans. And it so happens that today’s conservatism, as brilliantly explained by former Nixon man, John Dean, is defined by its embrace of such authoritarianism:

Authoritarianism’s impact on contemporary conservatism is beyond question. Because this impact is still growing and has troubling (if not actually evil) implications, I hope that social scientists will begin to write about this issue for general readers. It is long past time to bring the telling results of their empirical work into the public square and to the attention of American voters. No less than the health of our democracy may depend on this being done. We need to stop thinking we are dealing with traditional conservatives on the modern stage, and instead recognize that they’ve often been supplanted by authoritarians.

In the case of the Ozark bully-cop and the GOP wannabe-cop-president, we really don’t need any social scientist to explain that what is at work in the heads of David Overcast and Mitt Romney is nothing but a manifestation of the authoritarian impulse—despotic , dictatorial, domineering—the heart and soul of right-wing politics these days.

The only question is whether this November a majority of Americans will enable Mitt Romney to live out his ultimate authoritarian fantasy by giving him the badge and uniform of the presidency.

The Hangman Cometh

The results of the Wisconsin recall election were, of course, disappointing, although not unexpected. The movement to oust the governor was initially tied to his attack on public employee unions, which don’t exactly enjoy widespread support from the whole population—especially since Republicans have expertly used a divide and conquer strategy to exploit resentments between workers.

But for now I want to call attention to how union households voted on Tuesday. First, in the original 2010 election that brought Scott Walker to power, union households represented only 26% of all voters. In Tuesday’s election, they represented 33%, a substantial increase. Where were all these folks in 2010 when Walker could have been stopped then?

Scott Walker won that 2010 election with 52% of the vote, with about 125,000 more votes than Tom Barrett. The totals were:

WALKER  1,128,941

BARRETT  1,004,303

Tuesday’s recall election saw Barrett get 1,160,245 votes, clearly enough to beat Walker in 2010. Again, where were those folks back then? (Walker, obviously, also increased his totals, too, but we are talking about union motivation to vote; despite not completely revealing his hand, if Scott Walker didn’t frighten union folks in 2010, then they weren’t paying attention.)

Finally, given how Walker made no secret of his disdain for unionism, particularly unionism practiced by public employees, one would think that the opposition from all union households—whatever happened to solidarity?—would have been very dramatic on Tuesday. Well, it was dramatic, but not very. From the exit polling data:

As you can see, almost 4 in 10 who live in a union household voted for the union buster. As a union guy, I find that appalling, but I can assure you it would be worse if the election were held here in southwest Missouri.

Again, I have to marvel at how successful the right-wing has been in getting people to vote against their own economic interests and in getting a large number of folks to help build the gallows that will eventually be used to execute their middle class existence.

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