The Tea Party Was The Big Winner Last Night

If you want to know how Republicans manage to keep winning elections despite what they have done to the country, you need look no further than this headline:

mitch mcconnell

That may be the dumbest headline in the history of journalism. But it serves the purpose of portraying Mitch McConnell and other Republican winners last night as being less extreme than those radical Tea Party nuts. And sadly that headline pretty much captures what passes for the common wisdom among “objective” pundits on television and in print—that the Tea Party went down to defeat in last night’s primaries.

Fortunately, the body of the story gets to the truth of the matter:

Republicans can outfox their own: Call it the Orrin Hatch Rule, named for the Utah senator who won a seventh term in 2012. When conservatives on Hatch’s right came out hard to defeat the veteran GOP lawmaker, he focused early to win their support. The same can be said for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who assiduously courted his Kentucky colleague (and Tea Party darling) Rand Paul and hired a campaign manager with Tea Party cred.

In other words, those “GOP incumbents” did not “beat” a bunch of rebellious teapartiers as that headline would lead you to believe. Those GOP incumbents actually joined the rebellion. Almost the entire Republican Party has joined the Tea Party. And if almost all Republicans are teapartiers, the rebellion is over and the rebels won.

The USA Today article pointed out what one of the most radical right-wingers in the country had to say about last night’s so-called defeat of the Tea Party:

Tea Party ally Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks for America, which was out to defeat McConnell, argues that conservatives won the war by getting mainstream Republicans to embrace their agenda. “It’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here,” Kibbe said.

Here’s Kibbe’s entire statement from the FreedomWorks website:

When the establishment runs on our issues, it’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here. Constitutional conservatives and libertarians are setting the agenda in the Republican Party.

Kibbe is exactly right. To give you an idea of how right he is, another right-wing reactionary named Erick Erickson, whose RedState site is as Tea Party as it gets, said the following after it was clear that Mitch McConnell would win last night:

I will proudly support Mitch McConnell. 

Proudly, he said. And Erickson started things off with a financial contribution to McConnell’s campaign. That coming from a creepy guy who once said the following:

A while back, Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a ‘racist.’ Given all the terrorists, thugs, and racists Barack Obama has chosen as close personal friends (see e.g. Rev. Wright), it’s not a stretch to say it.

And:

Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back?…I assume not. I assume that Obama’s marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it…

About the retirement of Supreme Court justice David Souter, Erickson, with all the class of a teapartier, chimed in with:

The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

And my personal favorite quote from Erick Erickson is one that comports well with what a state representative from my neck of the woods said recently. Erickson didn’t like it when a county in Washington state banned certain kinds of dishwasher detergent:

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?…Were I in Washington State, I’d be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.

That guy, that Tea Party asshole, will “proudly” give his electoral love to Mitch McConnell. And it is all because Mitch McConnell and so many other Republicans running for office have given their love to him and other right-wing radicals. They are all sleeping in the same bed.

So, no, Republicans did not beat back a rebellion last night. The rebellion ended a long time ago. The GOP is now the Grand Old Tea Party.

 

Democrats Should “Turn Up The Volume” On Social Security Expansion

My favorite U.S. Senator is Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Not only does he look like Columbo, but he is as sharp as Columbo. And Greg Sargent quotes him today as being on the offensive on Social Security—a place where all Democrats should be.

Brown, who sits on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, knows that his Republican colleagues in the Senate are set to attack Social Security Disability Insurance. Fox “News” has already fired the first media shots by airing misleading segments on the alleged “Fraudulent Disability Claims Threatening Social Security Program.” The conservative media complex is following suit. The truth is that the only thing that threatens Social Security, whether it be the disability insurance portion or the retirement security portion, is the Republican Party. Brown says:

They want to separate “good” Social Security (retirement security) from ‘bad’ Social Security (disability insurance), to win support for structural reform. The attacks on disability insurance will accelerate. This is how they will try to back-door the dismantling of social insurance. But the public is with us on social insurance.

Sargent points out that Brown is “holding a Senate Finance sub-c0mmittee hearing tomorrow on the overall program” and that he thinks making Social Security an issue in the midterm election could benefit Democrats:

The electorate is older, so the field is fertile for Democrats to talk about this. We should turn up the volume.

Yes! A Democrat who gets it. But what does it mean to turn up the volume? Sargent explains:

Brown says Dems should seize this occasion to get behind a proposal that would lift or change the payroll tax cap, meaning higher earners would pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. Instead of getting drawn into debates about “Chained CPI” and other entitlement cuts, Brown says, Dems should make the case that stagnating wages and declining pensions and savings demand an expansion of social insurance.

Playing offense is the only way Democrats can save themselves this year. But, more important, playing offense on social insurance programs is the only way to ultimately save those programs, particularly when they are under assault by right-wing austerity zealots.

As Greg Sargent notes, Sherrod Brown isn’t alone among Democrats who want to play hardball with Republicans on Social Security:

Two Democrats in tough Senate races — Mark Begich and Jeff Merkley – have already staked out aggressive postures on expanding Social Security. It’s also supported by Elizabeth Warren and Tom Harkin, and 70 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Who would have thought that at this point in the process, when many pundits and some polls predict a tough race ahead for Democrats, that our side, at least some on our side, are fighting for expansion—I said expansion!—of Social Security. Brown says:

Democrats win the argument by saying Republicans again are cutting taxes on the rich to deny Social Security beneficiaries the expanded Social Security they should get and have earned. Most of us should be willing to make that argument.

Most should. But will they?

Related to Brown’s be-aggressive campaign argument, I want to point out something amazing about the press, particularly about what conservatives call the liberal or “lamestream” media. Here is the headline from a recent Washington Post article on its latest poll:

Post-ABC News poll shows Democrats at risk in November as Obama’s approval rating falls

That sounds rather gloomy, no? Here’s the lede:

Democrats face serious obstacles as they look to the November elections, with President Obama’s approval rating at a new low and a majority of voters saying they prefer a Congress in Republican hands to check the president’s agenda, according to a newWashington Post-ABC News poll.

Man. That sounds terrible. Except that if you bother to read down to the fifth paragraph, you find this:

Democrats are not without assets as the midterm election campaigns intensify. Americans trust Democrats over Republicans by 40 to 34 percent to handle the country’s main problems. By significant margins, Americans see Democrats as better for the middle class and on women’s issues. Americans favor the Democrats’ positions on raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage and on the broad issue of dealing with global climate change.

That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Why couldn’t the headline have read, “Americans overwhelmingly trust Democrats to handle America’s biggest problems”? Or, “Americans overwhelmingly distrust Republicans to handle country’s biggest problems”? Either of those would have been at least as true as the headline that was chosen. So why wouldn’t the liberal lamestream media use one of those alternative headlines? Because there ain’t no such thing as the liberal lamestream media, that’s why. Republicans and right-wing pundits just pretend there is in order to put pressure on outlets to falsely “balance” the reporting.

Finally, since the Post article left out some of the numbers that demonstrate just how overwhelmingly people trust Democrats over Republicans on several issues, here are three sets of them for your encouragement:

abc poll

As you can see, Republicans trail Democrats by a bunch on some of the most important issues facing us. And these numbers show why Democrats should take Sherrod Brown’s advice and go hard after tax-cutting, Tea Party-drunk candidates and talk about expanding programs and opportunities for all Americans. If we stay on offense, we just might hold our own this November.

And even if we don’t hold our own, at least we will have gone down fighting for the right things.

Christians Using Homophobia To Colonize Africa

Let’s don’t now argue over whether Christianity is, on balance, good or bad for human societies. I can come up with pretty good arguments for both sides of such a debate.

And let’s don’t argue whether or not earnest followers of Jesus, especially those who energetically attempt to convince people that their version of Christianity is the Truth, mean to do good, to improve society, to make the world a better place. Let’s assume at this point that they have the best of intentions.

But let us take a sober look at one case in the world where we know, we absolutely know, that Christianity, in its American evangelical form, has done, and is still doing, a lot of harm.

Let’s look at Uganda.

You probably remember that in February of this year, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed “The Anti Homosexuality Bill” (that’s actually the title of the legislation) into law, which would criminalize “any form of sexual relations between person of the same sex” and would criminalize “the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations.” So, if you do it or get close to doing it, you’re in trouble. And even if you don’t do it but promote it or recognize it you still have a big problem.

I will spare you the definitional details written into the law about what constitutes sexual activity, but you should know that anyone who so much as “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality” can be convicted and thrown in prison, where we know, of course, there is no homosexuality going on. Serial offenders can get life sentences (that is an improvement over the original draft that called for the death penalty, which is why people like Rachel Maddow were calling it the Kill The Gays bill.)

And the crime called “promotion of homosexuality,” which includes anyone who “acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices,” can also get you some time in the slammer.

Oh, I almost forgot. The authors of this totalitarian piece of legislation thought of everything. Don’t imagine you are safe if you are a Ugandan who has gay sex or promotes homosexuality outside of Uganda. The government may attempt to get you extradited so you can face justice at home.

Now, there is a long tradition of such anti-gay laws in most of the West. Ecclesiastical courts in Europe once handled such matters, since they were considered offenses against God. But starting with the “Buggery Act 1533,” passed by the English parliament during Henry VIII’s time on the throne, sodomy became a civil offense. And up until 1861 the punishment was death. These days most Western countries have done away with such laws in one form or another (the U.S. Supreme Court officially invalidated sodomy laws in 2003), but in some parts of the world, including in the former British colony Uganda, there is still fierce opposition to homosexuality.

According to the research firm Consultancy Africa Intelligence,

The majority of countries around the world that still criminalise homosexuality are former British colonies or territories.  Sodomy laws are a common feature in 16 of the 18 African Commonwealth nations.

Make no mistake about it, in Western societies and in the colonies and territories they used to control, the opposition to homosexuality was (and is) largely based on biblical literalism, the kind that has pretty much gone out of fashion for all but conservative brands of Christianity.  And those particular expressions of conservative Christianity are motivated by the Great Commission, in which Jesus commanded true believers to,

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…

If that sounds like a form of Christian colonizing to you, you are not alone. Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest and human rights activist from Zambia who has documented the attempt by American evangelicals to portray homosexuality as “evil,” has claimed that what American conservative Christians are doing in Africa is essentially “colonizing African values.” He writes:

Over the decades, the U.S. Christian Right has invested vast resources in promoting their ideologies across sub-Saharan Africa through  schools, universities, and perhaps most visibly, in the  television empires of Christian Broadcasting Network  and Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Kaoma notes that we first saw the extent of such influence during the initial controversy, beginning in 2009, over the anti-homosexuality bill that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed into law this year. Despite worldwide denunciation of the disturbing legislation, conservative Christians were successful in “painting LGBT-rights campaigners as neocolonialist intruders,” and eventually “anti-gay protests, policies, and violence increased.” Kaoma says,

Homophobia proved a powerful rallying point for many established leaders on the continent…These leaders found they could earn easy support from religious factions, while winning nationalist votes for denouncing the West as neocolonial.

God Loves Uganda trailer: http://ow.ly/l8WuaYou have to admit that the whole thing is pretty slick. The evangelicals are really trying to colonize African spirituality and morality by attacking homosexuality, but they are doing so by calling the defenders of human rights the real neocolonialists. And they are largely able to do all of this these days because of a coincidental relationship between African spirituality and American Pentecostal (called “charismatic” in many places) Christianity, which have in common the idea that religion is central to everything in life and that there are unseen forces at work around us at all times. When I was a Bible-believing Christian, I was part of the Pentecostal-charismatic-prosperity gospel movement and I understand what Kaoma means when he writes:

In Africa, Pentecostalism resonates with indigenous African religions and African-initiated churches holding strong belief in spirits and exorcism, speaking in tongues, prophecy, and convulsions when demons are cast out of people.

That explains why American Christians, especially those who believe that demon possession is real, are so popular in Africa and why their proposals to criminalize homosexuality and abortion, demonic to the core, are so popular. A Pew poll found that in Uganda, nearly half of the country has “experienced or witnessed the devil or evil spirits being driven out of a person.” Exploiting this ignorance, and then tying it to homosexuality (and abortion), is why that same Pew poll found that nearly 80% of Ugandans, for instance, think “homosexual behavior” is “morally wrong” (98% of Kenyans so think).

And that is why when the Ugandan president signed that notorious anti-gay bill this year, the Associated Press published the following photo of “Ugandan pupils from different schools” who were taking part “in an event organised by born-again Christians to celebrate the signing of a new anti-gay bill that sets harsh penalties for homosexual sex”:

Uganda Gays

This sad picture, this sad picture that shows kids, African kids who have been brainwashed by American theological colonizers, celebrating a form of hatred is why we here in America must be diligent to, at every turn possible, aggressively challenge the kind of religious zeal and bigotry that leads to such misguided celebrations and such hatred.

In an article posted today at Vox (“The story behind how American Evangelicals exported homophobia to Uganda”), we learn more about one guy who is trying to make evangelical zealots uncomfortable. Roger Ross Williams, a filmmaker who has won an Academy Award, made a movie last year called “God Loves Uganda,” which Vox says,

tells the story of how Americans — both abrasive political leaders and fresh-faced kids from the Midwest — exported their anti-gay culture wars to Ugandan soil.

Those fresh-faced kids from the Midwest are affiliated with an evangelical Pentecostal-charismatic organization—headquartered here in Missouri—called the International House of Prayer, whose founder allegedly heard a voice that told him to raise up a work that will touch the ends of the earth” and who has had Apostle Paul-like experiences of visiting “the throne-room of God.” These are the kinds of people doing such disturbing things in Africa and elsewhere.

Roger Ross Williams says the anti-gay law in Uganda,

is incredibly popular because the Ugandan public has been mislead to believe homosexuals and homosexuality are a threat to their life. But actually, homophobia is the real western import starting with the first missionary and sodomy laws.

He was asked, “Do you really think the average American evangelical is a party to state-sponsored homophobia in Uganda?  He responded:

An American Christian does not want to condone violence or hatred, no matter if they believe something is sin or not. But we need to keep hate out of the collection plate, and challenge pastors: you might think you’re giving money to orphans, but make sure it’s not funding homophobia! Religion is the biggest business in Africa. It’s about exposing this to Americans so they can stop the flow of money to big, massive homophobic churches that throw hate rallies. This is the reality this is what it’s like over there.

I hope Williams is right about American Christians, that if they know what is really going on in Africa that they will “stop the flow of money” behind the homophobic hysteria and direct it toward more worthy efforts. But judging by the evangelicals I have known in my life, it will have to be the younger generation of Bible believers who put a stop to it.

Obama Policy On Ukraine May Be Working: “Putin Is Hanging Himself By His Own Rope”

Charles Krauthammer’s most recent column—which continues the weird conservative criticism of the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign on behalf of those kidnapped Nigerian girls—takes a shot at President Obama for doing little about “Russia’s slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine,” what Krauthammer says is “the rape of this U.S. friend.” He accuses Obama of engaging in “rhetorical fatuousness.” 

The conservative columnist and Fox pundit is among many conservatives who think Obama is to blame for much of the Ukraine crisis and for Putin’s moves there. Senator Ted Cruz, echoing Krauthammer, said President Obama is “hiding behind diplomatic babble.” He told his fellow conservatives earlier this year:

When there is a vacuum of leadership in the world, it is not a good thing for America; it is not a good thing for freedom…What this administration doesn’t understand is weakness and appeasement only invites military conflict.

Hmm. Obama is standing by, weakly, as Russia rapes Ukraine and his weakness invites military conflict. Okay. Except that, so far, as Vox’s Max Fisher tells us, “Obama’s strategy of letting Putin hang himself is working.” Fisher writes:

obama putinThe official US position has been to threaten broader sanctions that seem unlikely to get the European support necessary to make them hurt, while arguing that Russia’s actions will be so self-defeating that the problem would just sort itself out.

It sounded silly, a shrug of a policy. And maybe it even was. But it also turns out to be working surprisingly well. Russian President Vladimir Putin has over-reached in Ukraine, creating problems for himself so bad that they may force him down as or more effectively than plausible American actions alone might have (although they helped). Putin is hanging himself by his own rope.

This has been so effective, and has apparently taken Putin by such surprise, that after weeks of looking like he could roll into eastern Ukraine unchallenged, he’s backing down all on his own. Official Russian rhetoric, after weeks of not-so-subtle threats of invading eastern Ukraine, is backing down. Putin suddenly looks like he will support Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election, rather than oppose it, although it will likely install a pro-European president. European and American negotiators say the tone in meetings has eased from slinging accusations to working toward a peaceful resolution.

As Fisher points out, Most of this is economic.” Global investors are backing away and “doing tremendous damage to Putin’s Russia, nudged along by the US and Putin himself.” While that phrase “nudged along by the US” isn’t likely to win President Obama any medals from Charles Krauthammer and Ted Cruz, it appears that Obama’s soberness, his careful nudging, his “hit singles, hit doubles” diplomacy is paying off. At the end of April, the President said this:

In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community.  Russia has never been more isolated.  A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them.  And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world.  And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia.  Well, what else should we be doing?  Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say.  That’s not what we mean.  Well, okay, what are you saying?  Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more.  Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?  Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?

As of right now, Obama was right and his critics were wrong. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And speaking of his critics, not all of them were right-wing cheerleaders for cowboy diplomacy. At least one of them, the left-leaning mega-columnist for The New York Times, Maureen Dowd, offered up some ridiculous criticism of President Obama’s diplomacy. In a piece titled as if to please Obama-haters on the right (“Is Barry Whiffing”), she wrote:

…you are the American president. And the American president should not perpetually use the word “eventually.” And he should not set a tone of resignation babe ruthwith references to this being a relay race and say he’s willing to take “a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf,” and muse that things may not come “to full fruition on your timetable.”

An American president should never say, as you did to the New Yorker editor, David Remnick, about presidents through history: “We’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”

Mr. President, I am just trying to get my paragraph right. You need to think bigger.

An American president should never say, as you did Monday in Manila when you got frustrated in a press conference with the Philippine president: “You hit singles; you hit doubles. Every once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run.”

Especially now that we have this scary World War III vibe with the Russians, we expect the president, especially one who ran as Babe Ruth, to hit home runs.

In the immortal words of Earl Weaver, the Hall of Famer who managed the Baltimore Orioles: “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers.” A singles hitter doesn’t scare anybody.

It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world…

What happened to crushing it and swinging for the fences? Where have you gone, Babe Ruth?

Maureen Dowd is one of those lefty pundits who every now and then needs to go against type in order to shock. That’s how she stays relevant, I suppose. But before she applies another baseball metaphor to foreign policy and diplomacy again, she should make sure she understands what she is talking about. She may long for a Babe Ruth Obama, but Ruth struck out 1330 times while hitting his 714 homers. And that doesn’t count all the other outs (4,196) he made in his 8,399 at bats. He failed to get a hit 66% of the time and failed to hit a home run more than 91% of the time.

And the world is just too dangerous a place, the lives of American troops are just too much to risk, on a commander-in-chief home run hitter, when we know that “swinging for the fences” will result in many more failures than successes.

 

Local Missouri Legislator Responds To Charge That He Apparently Condones The Use Of Violence Against The Government

Late last week I posted an email I sent to a local state representative named Charlie Davis. The issue was something Mr. Davis had said on a local right-wing radio station regarding a proposed amendment to our state constitution. Well, I heard from Mr. Davis on Monday.

For the purpose of tidiness, I will post my initial email to Rep. Davis, followed by his complete response, followed by my second email to him:

______________________________________

Representative Davis,

I heard you on KZRG this morning say the following about the proposed new amendment to the state constitution:

“It gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.”

Sir, I like to think of myself as one of those “common-sense folks” who lives here in Southwest Missouri. But I’ll be darned if I know what you meant by “overextension of government” in this context or exactly what kind of overextension of government would justify a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty. Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.

Sincerely,

R. Duane Graham
Joplin, MO

_________________________________________

Mr. Graham,

I appreciate your email and also for you listening to ZKRG Radio [sic].  I will try to answer your email in as short of a response as possible.  I believe in accountability when it comes to ownership of guns.  Unfortunately it seems like we have been attempting to get law abiding citizens to be accountable and not the criminals.  We pass legislation in this country constantly that attempts to ban more and more items or actions, yet it is only the law abiding citizens that are effected.  Criminals do not follow or comply with the law.  We have had a ban on murder and rape since this country was formed yet criminals continue to commit these horrible crimes.  We have banned the sale of alcohol to minors, yet I can take you to places in our neighborhoods that these teenagers drink and party it up.  We have banned drugs of so many sorts yet we have a severe drug problem in our country.  Simply banning things is not the solution, changing hearts is.  We have to educate our children about the adverse effects of drugs and ensure they are informed and have the opportunity to make the right choices.  We have banned God and morality from our schools, not so much in our area, and kids don’t know right from wrong.  They are taught there are no moral absolutes.  Laws are not the solution, changing hearts is.

We have seen a huge push over the years to ban as many “styles” of weapons, ammo and accessories as possible.  Even here in Missouri, Representative Ellinger filed a bill requiring law abiding citizens to turn in their guns and magazines within 90 days or be charged with a felony.  Who would have turned in their guns?  Law abiding citizens? Criminals?  We know the criminals would not have.  One study indicates that ‘legal’ guns are used 2.5 million times per year to properly and lawfully protect citizens. There’s also a possibility of the gun itself being legal, licensed to someone, but the criminal carrying it had stolen it. Approx. 95% of “gun crimes” are performed with a gun that has been obtained illegally.. Therefore, gun crimes won’t really decrease by not allowing law abiding citizens to carry guns.  You mentioned in your email “a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty… Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.” I am a bit confused, I don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone.  We have a legal right to keep and bear arms, ammunition and accessories because I feel it is our Constitutional right, I never said  we should use them against a specific individual.  Peace through strength.  We have alarm systems in our homes and businesses to deter crime, that is why we put stickers in the windows and in the yard.  I do not like RAP music because of the degrading messages in just about every song but I do believe in the Constitutional right to free speech.  I simply educate my children in the content and they choose to not listen to it.  Education, that’s the key.  Educate our citizens about their responsibilities with the liberties and freedoms our Constitution protects.  Just because something is not against the law doesn’t make it ok to do it or right.

I hope this answers your question.

Regards,

 cid:image001.jpg@01CEA64A.B286C310

Charlie Davis
Missouri House of Representatives
District 162
Room 201BA
Phone: (573) 751-7082
cid:image002.jpg@01CEA64A.B286C310

_________________________________________

Mr. Davis,

Thank you for the timely and courteous reply. 

I will not attempt in this email to address some of the dubious claims you made (like, for instance, “We have banned God and morality from our schools…”). Rather, I want to follow up on the original reason I emailed you.

Your response ended with, “I hope this answers your question,” and I want to tell you that it certainly does not answer my question. In fact, with all due respect, your response seems to, purposely or otherwise, miss the point I was making by asking you the question in the first place.

You say you are “a bit confused” and that you “don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone” and that you “never said we should use [arms] against a specific individual.” Okay, let me attempt to make the issue clearer. No, you didn’t say we need to kill anyone. No, you didn’t say we should use weapons against any specific individual. Of course you didn’t put it that way. But what you did say is that we need to expand our right to keep and bear arms in this state, including the right to keep and bear ammunition, because we need arms and ammunition to protect ourselves “from an individual or from an overextension of government.”

Now, presumably, if we are to use guns to protect ourselves from either individuals or from government (in context you were talking about the federal government), that suggests we may possibly have to do so by actually firing the weapons at real people, either individuals acting on their own or acting as representatives of government. We can’t always count on the mere brandishing of arms to do the trick.

I certainly understand what it means to use guns for protection against, say, someone who breaks into your home. I get that. Bang, bang! They’re dead. What I do not understand is what it means to use guns for protection against “an overextension of government.” That sounds a lot like what happened in this country’s Civil War or, more recently, what those Bundy-friendly folks in Nevada did when they chased away federal officials with guns. If that is what you mean, feel free to say so. If you think it is okay for citizens to ultimately settle disputes against the federal government by resorting to arms, admit as much.

But if that is not what you mean, if you really don’t think disputants have the constitutional right to shoot it out with the feds, please clarify what you said on KZRG. Please explain what it might mean to say that someone can use their right to bear arms against “an overextension of government” without actually having the right to fire on a government employee who is representing the interests of the government, of “we the people.” And please explain who gets to decide what “overextension” means.

Or you could simply say that you made a mistake. You could admit that you misspoke. You could tell Missourians that you did not mean to imply that they would—if voters approve the change to our state’s constitution that you champion—have the right to challenge the authority of the federal government by aiming at and, if necessary, shooting at one of its agents. That is up to you. But hiding what you mean behind a maxim like “Peace through strength” simply won’t do.

Sincerely,

R. Duane Graham
Joplin, MO

Local Missouri State Legislator Apparently Condones The Use Of Violence Against The Government

A local right-winger, who happens to be a state legislator, was on the local right-wing-nut radio station this morning and was talking about a recent vote by our increasingly reactionary legislature to present to Missouri voters this November a new and potentially dangerous amendment to the state constitution. Before I get to what Charlie Davis, of Webb City, said, here’s how the Associated Press described the bill:

The amendment would define the right to bear arms as “unalienable” and require the state to defend against any “infringement” of that right. It would also include keeping ammunition and defending one’s “family” with a firearm as guaranteed constitutional rights.

The state constitution already protects the right to bear arms in defense of an individual’s home, property and person. Supporters contend the measure would force courts to use a higher standard of review when considering the constitutionality of gun controls.

Here’s part of what Representative Davis said on KZRG this morning:

Representative Charlie DavisIt gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.

Hmm. Our local right-wing talk radio jock didn’t bother to ask Mr. Davis what he meant by “overextension of government.” Maybe our local right-wing talk radio jock knew what Davis meant without asking. But I don’t know what he meant. Thus, today I sent the following email to Mr. Davis at charliedavis@cableone.net  and Charlie.Davis@house.mo.gov :

Representative Davis,

I heard you on KZRG this morning say the following about the proposed new amendment to the state constitution:

“It gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.”

Sir, I like to think of myself as one of those “common-sense folks” who lives here in Southwest Missouri. But I’ll be darned if I know what you meant by “overextension of government” in this context or exactly what kind of overextension of government would justify a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty. Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.

Sincerely,

R. Duane Graham
Joplin, MO

 

Missouri’s Race To The Bottom Gets National Attention: “There`s No Liberal Or Progressive Opposition Really In This State.”

Regular readers know that I have tried, when my mental state permitted, to follow the race to the bottom between Kansas and Missouri. Each state is attempting to outdo the other, in terms of reactionary politics and bad governance. It’s very sad to watch.

Since nobody does it better than St. Rachel, I present the transcript (uncorrected) from her Wednesday show, which went into the god-awful details of what is wrong with not only this state, but so many red states across the country. Please read the following, but try not to get too damned depressed:

MADDOW: In the year 2008, the great state of Missouri got rid of its limits on campaign contributions. They said rachelanyone could give any amount for candidates and election issues in that state. And when Missouri made that issue in 2008, they got — drum roll, please — they got their own Missouri version of the Koch brothers or their own Sheldon Adelson, their own Art Pope.

Once Missouri said anybody could spend anything they wanted on Missouri politics, they got their own homegrown Missouri zillionaire who thought the policies of the whole s state should be remade in his own image. And this is a new species in American politics, right? Since we started getting rid of all the campaign finance rules. We`ve got these zillionaire guys, all of the country, a lot of them operating in national politics, some of them operating in just their home state.

But the one that Missouri got, he turns out to be a doozy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX SINQUEFIELD, RETIRED FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: You know what, there was a column written, and I hope I don`t offend anyone, but a published column who was a farmer judge in Missouri. He now owns and writes for a newspaper in central Missouri called the un-terrified Democrat. What a name. And it`s is Osage County, Missouri.

And he starts off and it`s something like this. He said, a long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said, how can we really hurt the African-American children, l permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And when they designed was the public school system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That man`s name is Rex Sinquefield, he`s the conservative zillionaire trying to use his own money to remake politics in the great state of Missouri.

He made that remark on tape there in February of 2012 when he explained it must have been the Ku Klux Klan that invented the public school system to really hurt African-American children permanently. The Klan invented public schools. He said that in 2012. He later apologized for it, saying he was sorry for making that reference.

rachel 2But after Missouri got rid of its campaign finance rules in 2008, that guy`s money is the money that has absolutely dominated Missouri conservative politics ever since. “The Wall Street Journal” profiled him in 2012. Actually, it was a few months after he made the Klan comments. “The Wall Street Journal” called him one of the super PAC men, comparing him to Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers.

By then, by the fall of 2012, Mr. Sinquefield had already spent over $20 million of his own money, all in Missouri, all since they dropped the campaign spending limits in that state. So, just between 2008 and 2012, he had already dropped more than $20 million of his own money, with plans to spend a lot more.

And that kind of money goes a long way in a single state. He said at the time that his two priorities for things he wanted to change in Missouri, were schools, which again you heard him say he feared were invented by the Ku Klux Klan to enslave people, schools and taxes.
In 2012, he personally bankrolled a ballot measure that would have basically killed all income taxes in Missouri altogether. No more personal income taxes, no more corporate income taxes. It would get rid of taxes altogether in terms of income and replace them all with a sales tax.

He got — he was working on getting that in the ballot, and unfortunately for him, polling indicated that people in Missouri basically hated the idea. And when the polling turned out really bad for his ballot measure on getting rid of all income taxes, he pulled that ballot measure in Missouri.rachel 3

But at the time, he said he thought he might be able to get Missouri to get rid of all its taxes anyway, even without this ballot measure idea that he had that didn`t work out. And he thought he might be able to get it done in Missouri anyway, because of something that was going on next door in the deep read state of Kansas.

Kansas, you probably know is in almost Oklahoma territory when it comes to how red a state it is. In 2008, President Obama won a grand total of three counties in Kansas. In 2012, he won a grand total of two counties in Kansas.

In Kansas, the Republicans control the statehouse by an almost 3-1 margin. They control the state senate, 32-8, and, of course, the governor is a Republican as well. The governor is former U.S. senator and former Republican presidential candidate, Sam Brownback, who won election in 2010 by more than a 30-point margin in Kansas.

But now, even in a state that is that red, even after Sam Brownback won the governor`s race in 2010 by more than 30 points, Governor Brownback now looks to be at risk of losing his seat this fall. He`s up for re-election in November. He`s running against a Democrat named Paul Davis, who was one of those very few Democrats in the Kansas statehouse.

The Real Clear Politics average of polling on that gubernatorial race shows that Sam Brownback is basically within the margin of error. He`s within 2 1/2 points of this very little-known Democratic challenger he`s got.rachel 4

The last Public Policy Poll in Kansas was in February. It had Paul Davis beating Sam Brownback by two points. Kansas is so red that Attila the Hun ought to be able to win an election in Kansas if he only had an “R” listed after his name on the ballot.

Sam Brownback is apparently no Attila the Hun, because Kansas is against him. His approval rating as governor is hovering around 33 percent. You think in a state that red, President Obama would have a terrible approval rating, you`re right, he does a terrible approval rating in Kansas. But Sam Brownback`s approval rating is even lower than President Obama`s is.

And some of Kansas`s bad feelings about their governor may be about all the recent reporting on a big FBI investigation into Mr. Brownback`s inner circle in state politics, including his longtime chief strategist. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether there`s pay-to-play corruption around Sam Brownback`s way of governing in Kansas, whether lobbying dollars and campaign contributions have been leveraged or even coerced in an illegal way as Governor Brownback has pushed through his legislative priorities.

So, that may be part of it, those FBI stories. There have been no indictments or anything yet, so nobody really knows what that reported FBI investigation is going to come to.
But regardless of whether team Brownback in Kansas got their favored policies passed through some illegal means or not, we`ll find out when the FBI finally speaks about what they`re looking into, whether or not they got those things, the things they got passed, passed by illegal means, the fact is, they did get a heck of a conservative agenda passed. And Kansas really seems to hate that agenda. They seem to hate those policies.

Like, this is from the internals on that Public Policy Poll. “Do you think public schools in Kansas are adequately funded or not?” Not, by a 28-point margin.

“Do you think Sam Brownback`s tax plan has been successful or not?” Not, by another giant 21-point margin.

Kansas is under complete Republican control. It`s Sam Brownback in the governor`s office, Republican control in the House, Republican control in the Senate. Their entire congressional delegation is all Republican as well.rachel5

And even after they had that total Republican control, in 2012, Sam Brownback went on a campaign of cleansing fire and worked actively to get Republicans who weren`t conservative enough ousted from the state Senate. He got nine Republicans in the Senate replaced with more conservative Republicans.

He`s not only got complete control in terms of party affiliation, he`s got complete control in terms of conservative Republican affiliation. And with that complete control, he pushed through the most important item in his agenda for the state, the biggest tax cut in Kansas history. By some measures, it is the biggest tax cut of any state in America in multiple decades.

And when Sam Brownback pushed through that really radical tax plan in 2012 and popularity expanded it in 2013, that was the policy move that got Rex Sinquefield, the Klan-invented public schools guy in Missouri, that`s what got him so excited about what might be possible next-door in Missouri.

He called what Sam Brownback did on taxes in Kansas, he said, it was, quote, “unbelievably brilliant.”

Mr. Sinquefield said in “Forbes” magazine that Sam Brownback`s visionary leadership was, quote, “schooling Missouri on tax policy.”

Sam Brownback himself wrote an op-ed claiming that his biggest tax cuts in history would be a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. And his biggest cheerleader, other than himself, was across the state line to the east in Missouri, this guy, Rex Sinquefield, who wanted Missouri to get rid of all of its taxes, too. And he thought Kansas` experiment, Kansas` Sam Brownback government experiment would go so well that Kansas getting rid of all of their taxes would be such an economic boon to Kansas that the state next door to the east would have no choice but to follow suit.

That was the thinking. And that`s how Missouri was going to get to zero taxes, by watching how wonderfully it worked out in Sam Brownback`s all-red Kansas. That was the plan.
Turns out what Sam Brownback did in all-red Kansas has turned out to be a disaster. In January, a big warning flare was fired by the nonpartisan research service from the Kansas legislature. They found that cutting all the revenue, cutting all the income out of the state budget meant — surprise, that there was no revenue in the state budget. There was a giant hole where the revenue had been. That was the official state report in January.

Then, in March, it got much worse, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that by law, by the state constitution, Kansas needed to increase what was it was spending on public schools, where is that money going to come from.

And then, in April, there was a huge shock in Kansas state government when the state realized that it was going to be taking in almost $100 million less that month than it expected for the month of April.

Revenues were already down a half billion year to year since last year, and then, oops, in April, it turns out, another $100 million they thought they were getting, guess we`re not getting that. That was last month. That was April.

And then, last week, the real hammer fell, when the Moody`s credit agency downgraded Kansas`s bond rating, citing Kansas` relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers and specifically calling out Sam Brownback`s magical thinking around these huge, unprecedented tax cuts, for which he apparently had no plan for the impact of. Quote, “Eliminating a tax that`s been in place for many years and has accounted for a large share of revenue entails risks,” says Moody`s.

So, Sam Brownback has created a mess in Kansas. And “The Kansas City Star,” they say he is suffering from a political brownout between the FBI investigation into his inner circle with and his right-hand man, forever, and into how he got all of these policies passed, the state bond rating getting downgraded, the governor`s plummeting popularity. They say, you take it all together, and this amounts to, quote, “new doubts about whether Governor Brownback`s ability to win a second term in a state that is as red as any in the nation.”

On the same day that Kansas got its bond rating downgraded, in the neighboring state of Missouri, the governor there, was named Jay Nixon, he vetoed a Republican proposal to cut Missouri`s taxes the way Sam Brownback cut Kansas` taxes. Missouri is one of the few states in the nation that has a solid AAA bond rating. Governor Nixon said, listen, we`re not going to jeopardize that by doing something as reckless as what Kansas just did when they flushed their economic prospects down the toilet with a tax thing like this. Jay Nixon said Missouri Republicans are, quote, trying to follow Kansas down the fiscally irresponsible path. He said he would not stand for it and he vetoed the Republican tax cut proposal in Missouri.

But now, now, Missouri Republicans overrode that veto. They have thereby forced through a Kansas-style fiscal disaster plan for the neighboring state of Missouri.

Even with a Democratic governor, Missouri has taken a real right turn under the tender ministrations and the tens of millions of dollars of Rex Sinquefield, right? The well-funded, newly emboldened Republicans in the state of Missouri, they blocked Medicaid expansion, which led to this dramatic protest in the state capital yesterday. The protesters actually shut down business in the state senate over the Medicaid decision.

rachel 6Republicans in Missouri are trying to enshrine strict scrutiny for gun rights into the state constitution. And that may not sound like much, but that is such a fundamentalist approach to gun rights that it has really wide implications that have scared other states that have tried this. But Missouri is steaming straight ahead to put that in their state constitution.

Missouri is down to one last abortion clinic in the entire state. This year, Republicans in the Missouri legislature introduced 32 separate pieces of legislation against that one clinic. They`ve got one abortion clinic left, 32 bills this session to try to shut down or curtail the activities of that one last clinic.

With no campaign finance limits anymore and with an eager conservative godfather funding every step they take further to the right, Missouri is doing everything it can to try to turn itself into a deep-south style red state, but with what they just did on this tax issue, did they just make a decision to follow Kansas off the cliff?

Joining us now is David Helling, political reporter for the “Kansas City Star.” Mr. Helling, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time tonight.

DAVID HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, what did push Missouri lawmakers to proposal these very, very deep tax cuts, even as Kansas was really flaming out because of them?

HELLING: Well, part of it is Rex Sinquefield, as you suggest. He`s been heavily involved for years, Rachel, in trying to push a no-income tax agenda in the state of Missouri, as you suggest. He`s tried to get that on the ballot. He`s really a supporter of turning to sales taxes instead of income taxes.

But part of it is just philosophy. Missouri, as you also point out, really had a choice about ten years ago, will we be Arkansas and Mississippi, or will we be Iowa and Minnesota? Missouri, as you might know, is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in most
years and then about 10 years ago, it started its slide into conservatism and it is firmly there now.

So, you put that sort of ideological approach together with Rex`s money and you get what you got this week in the legislature.

MADDOW: In terms of that path, that sort of decade-long path that you just described there, is there any equivalent force on the left or to strengthen the Democrats` hand in Missouri? Is this a transformation that`s really taken place entirely within conservative politics? Is there any counter-game?

rachel 7HELLING: Democrats have a role in Missouri, unlike Kansas where they`re virtually nonexistent. Democrats in Missouri do have some voice. Claire McCaskill, of course, is the senator, Jay Nixon the governor, both Democrats.

Republicans have not done extremely well at the statewide level. They lost the race for governor. They do have the lieutenant governorship in the state. But Democrats in Missouri have a unique challenge. They must appeal — if they are to win, they must appeal to rural voters as well as urban voters in Kansas City and St. Louis and to some degree in Columbia, in Jeff City. So, even people like Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon strike a populist, conservative, in some senses, moderate tone with voters in the state.

There is no real — with one or two exceptions, there is no real progressive movement in the state, and that showed up in the last state elections for the legislature, the House and the Senate. Jay Nixon has virtually no working ability in that statehouse at all, Rachel, owner to
sort of convince lawmakers by the sound of his voice, to change their views. And they often listen to Rex Sinquefield, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, also has a heavy presence in Missouri, as well as Kansas.

So, those are the voices they hear. There`s no liberal or progressive opposition really in this state.

MADDOW: I feel like I have heard that, really, just in my observations of Missouri politics, particularly with Claire McCaskill on the federal level. I continue to believe that she would make a very credible national level candidate for the Democrats.

Not because I agree with her on lots of policies. She`s nowhere near liberal like I am, but simply because she does talk in populist terms, very central terms, and she`s made that case, I think it was the Missouri Democrat way of talking to a big, broad audience.

And that`s why I was so surprised to see Governor Nixon making this case. Hey, we can`t do this. They just got their bond rating downgraded. We`ve got a AAA bond rating, we`ve got to hold on to that. That seems to me like sort of the ultimate fiscal conservative, centrist, kumbaya message, and yet, it just didn`t go anywhere.

HELLING: Right, and for that matter, Jay Nixon is a big fan in some instances of tax credits, tax breaks for big business. He tried to get the Boeing plant to come to St. Louis. He offered a huge package of tax breaks for that. He gave incentives to the auto companies to stay in the state, Rachel.

Again, that`s kind of a traditional country club banker Republican mentality. Give big incentives to big business to create jobs. That`s his approach. Again, he gets a bit of a pass, because Missouri is just that kind of a state. It`s hard to believe that an out-and-out progressive liberal candidate has any chance at the statewide level, and I think Jay Nixon senses that.

Now, a lot of — he`s not really popular among some Democrats. For example, he`s had a sort of a low-level feud with McCaskill for years about who really control s the party in the state. And Jay Nixon, to a degree, like McCaskill, really looks out for himself. You know, his own re-election is more important than electing more Democrats to the legislature so you wouldn`t have to go through what he just went through.

That`s a criticism you`ll hear of Jay Nixon. But, again, there may be a lot of self-preservation in that. Missouri, as I suggested, and as you suggested as well, is much more Southern in its approach to politics than it is industrial Midwest or in north of the state border.

MADDOW: And as you point out, that was a choice. That outlook was a choice and it has been a fascinating transformation to watch.

Dave Helling, reporter with the “Kansas City Star” — I really enjoyed your reporting on this, Mr. Helling. Thank you fore being here. I appreciate it.

HELLING: You bet. My pleasure.

Conservative Justices Rewrite The Meaning Of Government-Sanctioned Prayer

First, a little story:

Two neighbors lived peacefully in a small town. One was a committed atheist and the other a committed evangelical Christian.

It happened that the atheist needed an important favor from his Christian neighbor. The atheist asked if he might come over to the Christian’s house and talk to him about it. “Sure,” said the Christian, “be here tomorrow at 10 o’clock. But I want you to know that I will have a preacher here when you come.” The atheist thought about it for a minute. Did he really want to endure the presence of a preacher? Did he really want to subject himself to what he knew was coming? But the favor he needed was so important that he thought it would be worth it. “Okay,” said the atheist, “I’ll be there.”

The atheist arrived at the Christian’s house on time and was welcomed inside. Before the two neighbors talked about the great favor the atheist needed, the Christian asked the preacher to pray. Here’s what the preacher began to pray:

Heavenly Father, please bless these two men and give them wisdom to do the right thing today. We recognize that your son Jesus came to save us from all unrighteousness and we thank you for sending him to die on the cross for us. 

Obviously the atheist was very uncomfortable with the preacher and his prayer. It offended him and made him sort of feel hypocritical and it also served to bully him. But he needed a big favor and he dare not show his discomfort or disapproval for fear that his Christian neighbor would hold it against him and not grant his request. So, being a practical atheist—he rationalized that his neighbor was a true believer and no amount of objections to the preacher or the prayer would change his mind anyway—he kept his head bowed and his eyes closed and, more important for the task at hand, he kept his mouth shut. The preacher finished: “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

The atheist eventually received the favor he sought.

It so happened that the Christian neighbor was also a member of the local city council. And it so happened that some time later our atheist neighbor was scheduled to appear before the council in order to request final approval of a zoning change for some property he owned. And, of course, it happened that when the atheist showed up for the city council meeting he had to endure yet another Christian preacher who opened the meeting by asking everyone, including the atheist, to stand and pray with him. Here was the prayer:

The beauties of spring are an expressive symbol of the new life of the risen Christ. The Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles at Pentecost so that they would be courageous witnesses of the Good News to different regions of the Mediterranean world and beyond. The Holy Spirit continues to be the inspiration and the source of strength and virtue, which we all need in the world of today. And so I pray this evening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the city council meets.

After the prayer, some of the council members, along with some of the gathered citizens, made the sign of the cross, and there was a collective “Amen.”

Now, there are two different endings to this story. You decide which one is more likely in the real world, given the circumstances:

FIRST ENDING

“Dammit!” said the atheist to himself, “It is one thing to tolerate my neighbor’s religiosity in his own house, but it is quite another to tolerate such religiosity in this the people’s house. This is as much my government as it is any Christian’s! And I shouldn’t be subtly coerced into participating in this nonsense.”

Thus, the atheist objected to the prayer before he made his appeal to the city to rezone his property and went home to await the results.

SECOND ENDING

“Dammit!” said the atheist to himself, “It is one thing to tolerate my neighbor’s religiosity in his own house, but it is quite another to tolerate such religiosity in this the people’s house. This is as much my government as it is any Christian’s! And I shouldn’t be subtly coerced into participating in this nonsense.”

But, the atheist thought, “If I object to the prayer I might piss off the council members, all of whom profess some kind of Christianity. And I really need that zoning change.” So, the atheist sat there quietly and reverently and kept his mouth shut about the prayer. He made his zoning appeal and went home.

Question: Should the city council be allowed, under our Constitution, to open its meetings with the kind of prayer quoted above?

Answer: Yes! Or so saith five conservative Catholics on the Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway

catholics on courtThis week we found out how important it is that Democrats never lose another presidential election and the accompanying privilege of appointing Supreme Court justices. The Court, peopled by five conservative Christians appointed by Republicans, ruled, by a 5-4 margin, that explicitly Christian prayers (the second prayer I used in my hypothetical story is almost identical to one cited in the opinion) are appropriate for opening local town and city council meetings across the country and do not represent “an unconstitutional establishment of religion.” 

In the main majority opinion, one among many opinions in this case, we find that the supposed purpose of the prayers “is largely to accommodate the spiritual needs of lawmakers and connect them to a tradition dating to the time of the Framers.” As strange as that notion sounds to people who live in an age in which a lot of our horrible traditions have been eradicated (should we accommodate the need for someone to “connect” with the tradition of slavery or Jim Crow, for instance?), we also find a strange dismissal of the kind of intimidation that our atheist friend felt in my little story above:

The analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the five catholicsprayer opportunity. No such thing occurred in the town of Greece. Although board members themselves stood, bowed their heads, or made the sign of the cross during the prayer, they at no point solicited similar gestures by the public. Respondents point to several occasions where audience members were asked to rise for the prayer. These requests, however, came not from town leaders but from the guest ministers, who presumably are accustomed to directing their congregations in this way and might have done so thinking the action was inclusive, not coercive… Respondents suggest that constituents might feel pressure to join the prayers to avoid irritating the officials who would be ruling on their petitions, but this argument has no evidentiary support. Nothing in the record indicates that town leaders allocated benefits and burdens based on participation in the prayer, or that citizens were received differently depending on whether they joined the invocation or quietly declined. In no instance did town leaders signal disfavor toward nonparticipants or suggest that their stature in the community was in any way diminished. A practice that classified citizens based on their religious views would violate the Constitution, but that is not the case before this Court.

You see, if no town council member explicitly said that, say, a rezoning request was rejected because of a failure to participate in a public prayer, then the possibility of such a thing happening is not worthy of consideration. Apparently the majority on the Court assumes that a Constitution-offending city council would vote to turn down a proposal and then attach language to it that said, “We reject it because the applicant is an atheist.” Maybe there are a few public servants dumb enough to do such a thing, but not many.

But more than that, the majority completely dismisses the idea of the subtle form of coercion involved, especially when the Christian prayers are offered again and again as a matter of established practice. Our atheist friend, who thinks the entire enterprise of religious belief is City Council Meeting -Prayer 13-264.jpgnonsensical, nevertheless knows that if he were to object to the pre-meeting prayer, or merely sit quietly while others are standing during the utterance or offering “Amens” at the end, that his request for rezoning might not be seen in a favorable light by the Christian council members. That isn’t an unreasonable assumption. It’s certainly one that can be justified, knowing what we all know about human behavior. But the Court’s conservative Catholic majority said that because town leaders did not openly “signal disfavor toward nonparticipants or suggest that their stature in the community was in any way diminished,” that there was nothing to worry about.

Worse still, the two extra-extreme extremists on the Court, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia (who can’t even remember the meaning of his own opinions), went further and dismissed the legitimacy of coercion in these circumstances. Thomas wrote:

Thus, to the extent coercion is relevant to the Establishment Clause analysis, it is actual legal coercion that counts-not the “subtle coercive pressures” allegedly felt by respondents in this case…The majority properly concludes that “[o]ffense . . . does not equate to coercion,” since “[a]dults often encounter speech they find disagreeable[,] and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views in a legislative forum.” [...] I would simply add, in light of the foregoing history of the Establishment Clause, that “[p]eer pressure, unpleasant as it may be, is not coercion” either.

I find that a breathtakingly naive understanding of human nature, or a mind-blowing misrepresentation of how the real world works. Peer pressure by definition is a subtle form of coercion. In fact, here is how Wikipedia describes it:

Peer pressure is influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudesvalues, or behaviors to conform [to] the group norms

Here’s Dictionary.com’s definition:

social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values or otherwise conform in order to be accepted.

Yet, we have judges sitting on the highest court in our land who have, or pretend to have, no understanding of what peer pressure means or how powerful a force it can be in certain situations.

Writing for the four dissenters, Obama-appointed Justice Elena Kagan (herself a Catholic) presented her own hypothetical cases involving such peer pressure:

A person goes to court, to the polls, to a naturalization ceremony—and a government official or his hand-picked minister asks her, as the first order of official business, to stand and pray with others in a way conflicting with her own religious beliefs. Perhaps she feels sufficient pressure to go along-to rise, bow her head, and join in whatever others are saying: After all, she wants, very badly, what the judge or poll worker or immigration official has to offer. Or perhaps she is made of stronger mettle, and she opts not to participate in what she does not believeindeed, what would, for her, be something like blasphemy. She then must make known her dissent from the common religious view, and place herself apart from other citizens, as well as from the officials responsible for the invocations. And so a civic function of some kind brings religious differences to the fore: That public proceeding becomes (whether intentionally or not) an instrument for dividing her from adherents to the community’s majority religion, and for altering the very nature of her relationship with her government.

That is not the country we are, because that is not what our Constitution permits. Here, when a citizen stands before her government, whether to perform a service or request a benefit, her religious beliefs do not enter into the picture…The government she faces favors no particular religion, either by word or by deed. And that government, in its various processes and proceedings, imposes no religious tests on its citizens, sorts none of them by faith, and permits no exclusion based on belief. When a person goes to court, a polling place, or an immigration proceedingI could go on: to a zoning agency, a parole board hearing, or the DMVgovernment officials do not engage in sectarian worship, nor do they ask her to do likewise. They all participate in the business of government not as Christians, Jews, Muslims (and more), but only as Americansnone of them different from any other for that civic purpose. Why not, then, at a town meeting?

Why not? Because five conservative Christians on the Court said it is okay for local municipalities to essentially endorse Christianity by repeatedly invoking the name of Jesus at official government meetings. That’s why not.

[Photo credit: Laura Greene/HPE (city council at prayer)]

The Fight Against Oligarchy: “Don’t Give Up Hope On This”

Recently a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in South Dakota (unfortunately Democrat Tim Johnson is retiring), a doctor of medicine for God’s sake, posted on her Facebook page the following viral image with a typical Tea Party message:

How hilarious. A real knee-slapper.

That a doctor, who says that “God is calling her to serve a higher purpose and to fight back against an intrusive federal government,” would subscribe to such stupidity—military families are increasingly using food stamps and 83% of the money spent on the food stamp program goes to households with “a child, an elderly person or a disabled person”—says either a lot about the God she worships or about the God she wants to worship or about how evangelical Christianity mixed with Republican politics can stain the mind with a glorious Technicolor of ungodliness.

Sadly, the idea behind that viral message is shared not only by a lot of Republican candidates and politicians holding office, but a lot of average folks, some of whom benefit from government programs, like the food stamp program, and some of whom will not walk but run to a polling place in November and gladly vote for people like this doctor-candidate in South Dakota.

Why is that?

Let’s start with Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” is all the rage. Piketty’s book, which essentially is a look at the changes in the concentration of wealth over time, has surprised a lot of people, including the venerable liberal economist Paul Krugman. Here’s what he said to Bill Moyers (I highly recommend watching or reading the entire interview):

BILL MOYERS: Inequality’s been on the table for a long time. You’ve written extensively, others have, too. I mean, it’s a familiar issue, but what explains that this book has now become a phenomenon?

PAUL KRUGMAN: Actually, a lot of what we know about inequality actually comes from him, because he’s been an invisible presence behind a lot. So when you talk about the 1 percent, you’re actually to a larger extent reflecting his prior work. But what he’s really done now is he said, “Even those of you who talk about the 1 percent, you don’t really get what’s going on. You’re living in the past. You’re living in the ’80s. You think that Gordon Gekko is the future.”

And Gordon Gekko is a bad guy, he’s a predator. But he’s a self-made predator. And right now, what we’re really talking about is we’re talking about Gordon Gekko’s son or daughter. We’re talking about inherited wealth playing an ever-growing role. So he’s telling us that we are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth, “patrimonial capitalism.” And he does it with an enormous amount of documentation and it’s a revelation. I mean, even for someone like me, it’s a revelation.

BILL MOYERS: I was going to ask, what could– what has Paul Krugman had to learn from this book?

PAUL KRUGMAN: Even the title, the first word in the title, “capital.” We stopped talking about capital. Even people like me stopped talking about capital because we thought it was all about human capital. We thought it was all about earnings. We thought that the wealthy were people who one way or another found a way to make a lot of money.

And we knew that that wasn’t always true. We knew that in the Gilded Age or in the Belle Époque in Europe, which he prefers to talk about. That high incomes were mostly a result of having lots and lots of assets. But we sort of said, “Well, that’s not the way things work anymore.” And he says, “Oh yeah? It turns out that you’re wrong.” That’s true, that right now, a lot of high incomes in America are people who didn’t start out all that rich. But we’re rapidly moving towards a state where inherited wealth dominates. I didn’t know that. I really was– I should’ve known it. I should’ve thought about it, but I didn’t. And so then here comes this book with– I mean, it’s beautiful– absolutely analytically beautiful, if that makes any sense at all.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, I’m no economist, but I found this book, as I said in the opening, just very readable and suddenly there would be this moment of epiphany.

PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, it’s a real “eureka” book. You suddenly say, “Oh,
this is not– the world is not the way I saw it.” The world in fact has moved on a long way in the last 25 years and not in a direction you’re going to like because we are seeing not only great disparities in income and weakrugman on moyerslth, but we’re seeing them get entrenched. We’re seeing them become inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagine we’re nothing like.

BILL MOYERS: Here’s Piketty’s main point: capital tends to produce real returns of 4 to 5 percent, and economic growth is much slower. What’s the practical result of that?

PAUL KRUGMAN: What that means is that if you have a large fortune, or a family has a large fortune, they can — the inheritors of that large fortune — can live very, very well. They can live an extraordinary standard of living and still put a large fraction of the income from that fortune aside and the fortune will grow faster than the economy.

So the big dynastic fortunes tend to take an ever-growing share of total, national wealth. So once you– when you have a situation where the returns on capital are pretty high and the growth rate of the economy is not that high, you have a situation in which not only can people live well off inherited wealth, but they can actually pass on to the next generation even more, an even a higher share.

And so it’s all, in his terms, “r” the rate of return on capital, and “g” the rate of growth of the economy. And when you have a high r, low g economy [r > g], which is what we now have, then you’re talking not– you’re talking about a situation in which dynasties come increasingly to increasingly to dominate the top of the economic spectrum and a tiny fraction of the population ends up very dominant.

Not only does that “tiny fraction of the population” dominate the economic spectrum, but those same folks are dominating the media, with messages like the one spread by our Christian Republican candidate in South Dakota. Krugman says that,

…there’s a very effective apparatus of TV and print media and think tanks and so on who hammer against any suggestion of redistribution. It’s just, they’ve managed to convince a lot of people that it is somehow un-American.

Which actually, if you look at American history, that’s not all true. But they– it’s just been pushed very hard. I think also the United States, look, we have to admit, race is always lurking under almost everything in American life. And redistribution in the minds of a lot of people means taking money from people like me and giving it to people who don’t look like me…

That media “apparatus” is how a lot of people, who are either benefiting from government programs or who would benefit from an expansion of government programs, become sympathetic to that “don’t feed the humans because they’ll grow dependent on government” meme represented by that ridiculous viral image spread by a doctor who wants a seat in the U.S. Senate. Average folks are being manipulated by the moneyed class, a class of people who somehow feel oppressed:

BILL MOYERS: You wrote something the other day that’s hard to forget. You said, “We live in such an ugliness in America right now.”

PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah. This is one of the things that puzzles me actually about my own country, which is it’s one thing to have disparities of income and wealth and to have differing views about what we should be doing about it. But there’s a level of harshness in our debates mostly coming from the people who are actually doing very well.

So, you know, we’ve had a parade of billionaires whining about being– you know, the incredible injustice that people are actually criticizing them. And then comparing anyone who criticizes them to the Nazis. You know, it’s almost a tic that they have. This is– this is very strange. And it’s kind of scary because, you know, it’s one thing if someone without a lot of power seems to be going off and into a rage for no good reason. But these are people who have a lot of influence because of the amount of money they control.

Influence. Money buys influence. It always has and, thanks to the Supreme Court, it can buy more influence than ever. Here is one definition of influence:

the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something…

That is why we find so many average people supporting candidates who perpetuate such hateful nonsense about food stamps and government dependency—and who perpetuate the myth that we all can have the American Dream, if we’ll just keep working our asses off at two or three jobs and keep our heads down and our mouths shut. These average folks are actually doing the bidding of billionaires.

Obviously, if the rich have the means and the permission to buy tons of influence and thus effect the “character, development, or behavior” of people, the very idea of democracy is undermined. If what we see going on right before our eyes continues, we are just kidding ourselves that “we the people” actually rule.

But regular readers know that I try to find hope in and for the future and refuse to say that all of this depressing stuff dooms us forever. Refreshingly, Paul Krugman does the same:

BILL MOYERS: Given what you just said and given the fact that there’s this ugliness, what do you think it’s going to take? A mass uprising? Consistent demonstrations? Insurgent politics? How are we going to stem the tide that he says is taking us into oligarchy?

PAUL KRUGMAN: There’s a negative and there’s a positive take. Piketty argues — seems to argue through much of the book that we only escaped the old oligarchy for a while thanks to really disastrous events. Thanks to wars and depressions, which disrupted the system. That’s an argument you can make.

On the other hand, if you read histories of the New Deal, you know that it didn’t come– it didn’t spring out of nowhere. That we had a progressive movement and a lot of proto New Deal programs building for quite a long time.

There was, in fact, a move in America. There was an increasing political, philosophical readiness to take on inequality of wealth and power long before FDR moved into the White House. And so, I think there are better angels of our nature. That there is this ugliness which can be frightening. But there is also a redemptive streak in — here and in other places.

And that– don’t give up hope on this. That given consistent argumentation, given events, and perhaps you know, as people become more aware of what is actually going on, then there is a chance of changing things. Do we know that? No. But there’s nothing in what we know now that says you should give up hope of being able to change this even without a catastrophe.

If it is any consolation, and I admit it isn’t much, the doctor in South Dakota who posted that ignorance-inspired message on Facebook is losing in the polls. The problem is she is losing to a Republican man who will likely be the next U.S. Senator from South Dakota, former governor Mike Rounds, who right-wingers are accusing of being a RINO on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and who said in response,

Obamacare is bad for the country and I have always opposed it.

I didn’t say it would be easy to keep hoping.

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Another Erstwhile Conservative Exclusive: The Devil On Oklahoma’s Death Penalty Debacle

The devil was kind enough to take time away from his busy schedule to sit down with me for a short discussion on Oklahoma’s hurry-up-and-kill-‘em execution fiasco. Here’s the unedited transcript:

THE ERSTWHILE CONSERVATIVE: Thanks again for making time to talk about this important topic.

SATAN: No problem. I was here in your state anyway.

TEC: Oh, yeah? Why?

SATAN: I had some work to do in Jefferson City. Here, let me read to you what I got done yesterday: “Missouri senators have passed legislation that seeks to nullify some federal gun laws and punish federal agents who enforce them.” Isn’t that awesome? I’m pretty proud of that.

TEC: I bet it was hard to get—

SATAN: —Hard? Hardly. I thought it would take a real pro, which is why I came to Missouri, but it turned out that getting Republicans in your state to pass nullification legislation was so damned easy that I probably could have left it for them to do all by themselves. If we devils ever start thinking about starting another civil war, next to Texas Republicans, I can’t think of a more solid group of folks we could count on to fire the first shot.

TEC: That’s fascinating, but I really want to talk to you about that botched execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

SATAN: Botched? Did you say botched? It wasn’t botched, my man. The guy is dead, isn’t he? I checked myself and believe me, he’s dead. So Oklahoma didn’t botch a damn thing. They killed him as sure as I’m sitting here. In fact, they essentially tormented him before he had that heart attack, so I say kudos to Oklahoma! We should have more executions like that one! My only problem with what they did was they waited too long to close the blinds.

TEC: What do you mean?

SATAN: They waited 16 minutes. Look, people don’t need to know what their government is doing, especially when what their government is doing is so messy. When the government does good things like killing people, citizens shouldn’t be able to watch what is being done in their names. That’ll just make them a little squirmish about it all. Let’s say that this execution had been on television. (What a show that would have been!) People could have seen Clayton Lockett’s body struggle against the drugs he was given; they could have heard him moan and groan as he was writhing on the table. From my perspective, who wouldn’t want to see that? Forty-three minutes of sheer joy as far as I’m concerned. But I know what those do-goody liberals would do with those images. They’d make a big propaganda war against the death penalty and before you know it juicy killings like this one would stop. So, dammit, they should have closed those beige blinds sooner, or better yet, done it all behind closed doors.

TEC: But even if they couldn’t see what is going on, don’t people who support the death penalty just want it done humanely? Even for convicted killers like Clayton Lockett?

SATAN: Humanely? Are you kidding me? There ain’t no way for the state to kill someone humanely, son. However it’s done, it is killing plain and simple. And I love it. You can cut their heads off, hang ‘em from a tree, shoot ‘em in the heart, gas ‘em, or you can stick needles in ‘em and do it that way. I don’t care as long as death is the result. But there ain’t no such thing as the government humanely killing a prisoner, a guy they have locked up. All I’m saying is the stuff should be done out of sight of the public, lest the public start thinking, “Man, we tortured that guy like he tortured his victim. Aren’t we better than that?” You did know that Lockett put his 18-year-old victim through hell before he shot her and had her buried alive, right? And if the people start thinking that the state’s killing of Lockett looked more like revenge for his crimes than justice, then they might get all wobbly-kneed on the death penalty. And that would be a shame.

TEC: Well, I don’t know—

SATAN: And, look, besides all that, the truth is starting to seep out that more than 4% of people sentenced to death in America are actually innocent. I have a legion of demons assigned to the task of keeping that information from getting wide distribution to the public, because there ain’t nothing better than the state killing an innocent man! I get all goose-pimply just thinking about it. But it so happens that the latest study by liberal do-gooders came out in conjunction with the killing of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma (and don’t think demonic heads won’t roll over not preventing that). So, that makes it all the more disturbing that those damn officials in Oklahoma left the blinds open long enough so that those liberal journalists could write sensational stories about what went on in that prison death chamber and make a lot of noise about how “inhumane” killing a prisoner is. Now we’ve really got our work cut out for us, dammit!

TEC: I have one more—

SATAN: Sorry, but I’ve got to go. I’m due at a meeting with my top advisers on how to keep pushing the Benghazi scandal even when there is no evidence. ABC and Fox “News” here we come!

Who Makes The Game? For Too Many Of Us, They Do

Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been hammered by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and will soon be tossed out of the NBA’s mostly white ownership club for his racially-charged remarks to his girlfriend. That’s all good for the NBA and all good for society (and good for Donald Sterling, since he will get hundreds of millions of dollars when he is forced to sell his team, a team he paid about a buck and some change for in 1981.)

I was amazed at the swift action taken against him and the almost universal repulsion against his comments, which were widely reported as unforgivably racist. It’s says a lot for American society that we have come to the point where such remarks have no place in a polite, if still majority white, society.

But read again the following excerpt from the audio recordings that were made:

GIRLFRIEND: I don’t understand, I don’t see your views. I wasn’t raised the way you were raised.

STERLING: Well then, if you don’t feel — don’t come to my games. Don’t bring black people, and don’t come.

GIRLFRIEND:  Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?

STERLING:  You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?

Let’s move away from the “Don’t bring black people” remarks that have rightly outraged everyone and focus on something else: the utter arrogance of a man in business who thinks he is the center of the moral and economic universe.

Lots of people have interpreted Sterling’s remarks in the context of an old plantation owner in the South who thinks he is doing his slaves a favor by feeding and clothing them and providing them with other necessities. I get that. It sure looks like that is his attitude. But let’s go a little further and remove his words from the racial context and just look at what his comments mean as applied to all workers in the workplace (Sterling did, after all, have two white players). He asked,

Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners that created the league?

The answer clearly, in his mind at least, is, “I make the game” and “The owners make the game.” And because the owners make the game, because they created the league, they therefore “give” the players—the workers—food, clothes, cars, and houses. In other words, if it weren’t for the owners—the moneyed elite—no one would have a damn thing. It’s all dependent on them. The workers are just lucky that the owners provide for them. As the 2012 Republican convention theme put it,“We Built It,” in opposition to President Obama saying, “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own…If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.”

income inequality: raise the minimum wageAs I said, Donald Sterling’s comments about race rightly generated a lot of outrage. And wouldn’t it be nice if there were also a lot of outrage generated in response to his self-righteous stance as a business owner? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get to the point in this country where all workers were so highly valued that no “owner” dare talk down to them no matter their occupation or the color of their skin? That no businessman dare put himself above the workers that actually keep him in business?

Alas, that’s a long way off, as one recent commenter on this blog, Herb Van Fleet, pointed out. American business interests not only believe they are the center of the moral and economic universe, they also control our politics. Herb (as part of an upcoming column in the local paper) quoted from a new joint university study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page:

Gilens and Page comment that, “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

In other words, it’s tyranny by the minority.

If you think Herb is exaggerating with that “tyranny by the minority” comment, consider the following from the authors of the study:

Our findings indicate, the majority does not rule – at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

Tyranny by the minority, indeed.

The recent takedown of Donald Sterling by the NBA commissioner, and the upcoming vote by league ownership to force him to sell his team, was brought about by two things that give us some tiny twinkle of hope for wrestling control of our society from the economic elites, many of whom believe they not only own their businesses, but own our democracy and, ultimately, own us. Those two things were the unified stance the NBA players took against Sterling—they were prepared to boycott playoff games—and the widespread public reaction, including advertisers, against his expressed racism.

Now, if only we could generate such a unified workplace stance and such widespread public reaction against the economic elitism Sterling represents, maybe we could make more of those “I make the game” bastards squirm.

How To Think About Obama, Putin, And Toughness

On Monday President Obama expanded the sanctions against Russia, which, of course, still won’t quiet his critics, many of whom think he should, even without help from reluctant Europeans, do much, much more to try to keep Vladimir Putin from destabilizing and perhaps eventually annexing parts or all of Eastern Ukraine.

What that “much, much more” entails is never made clear, since it is obvious the Europeans—whose interests clearly run much deeper than ours—want to go slow in terms of putting pressure on the Russians. For some of the President’s most virulent critics, there is nothing our wussy President could do, short of starting a war, that would shut them up.

In that context, White House correspondent Ed Henry, pretending to be an objective journalist on a cable network pretending to do the news, did us all a favor yesterday by asking President Obama, who was in the Philippines, a question that only a Fox addict could appropriately love:

ED HENRY, FOX “NEWS”: …as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now.  And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness. 

Asking his question, the fair and balanced Fox correspondent managed to get in:

1. The whole “red lines” controversy that right-wingers have used to bash the President.
2. The idea that Obama does not have a “guiding principle” for his foreign policy, another criticism that right-wingers hurl at him constantly.
3. And most important, the notion that President Obama lacks toughness and is a weakling on the world stage.

All of that must have pleased Henry’s bosses and earned him a bonus. But, as I said, we should also thank him because his loaded question allowed President Obama to demonstrate to sane Americans how lucky we are to have him in charge rather than some tough guy blabbing on cable TV or pecking on a keyboard at The Weekly Standard. First he began with a shot at Fox:

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine.  And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.

No, Ed didn’t run them. Fox didn’t run them. And for one good reason: There isn’t anyone at Fox who would dare say anything complimentary about President Obama. That would be a good way to get yourself on the wrong side of the Republican’s War on the Unemployed. But the real attack on his critics on Fox and elsewhere—finally and decisively from the lips of the President—was directed at those who constantly say his balls are too small for the job. I will quote Obama extensively and all Americans should read all of the following with thankfulness in their hearts:

Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force.  And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?  And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?

My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely.  And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests. 

So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal.  And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops.  Well, what do you mean?  Well, you should be assisting the opposition — well, we’re assisting the opposition.  What else do you mean?  Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria.  Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike.  So what else are you talking about?  And at that point it kind of trails off.

In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community.  Russia has never been more isolated.  A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them.  And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world.  And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia.  Well, what else should we be doing?  Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say.  That’s not what we mean.  Well, okay, what are you saying?  Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more.  Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?  Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economcost of iraq waric pressure that we’re applying?

The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again.  Why?  I don’t know.  But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it.  There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us. 

But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe.  Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so.  And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them.  We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong.  That’s not how we make foreign policy.  And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.

And that may not always be sexy.  That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows.  But it avoids errors.  You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.  But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.

As far as I’m concerned, with that answer President Obama executed a perfect spinning headlock elbow drop on his war-hungry critics. Which ain’t too bad for a supposedly weak leader. We picked the right man for the job after all.ambassador mcfaul

Related to that, Michael McFaul, former United States Ambassador to Russia (who is now a Professor of Political Science at Stanford), said something important this morning on MSNBC regarding Obama’s alleged lack of toughness toward Vladimir Putin:

This talk of toughness, if I could just add a little historical perspective, do you know how many government officials the Bush administration sanctioned? Zero. Do you know many Ronald Reagan sanctioned after the crackdown in Poland? Zero. General Eisenhower, President Eisenhower, who ran on “roll back Communism”? Zero. So, you know, let’s have a little perspective here…

Okay. Will do. Since I’ve previously discussed George W. Bush’s failure to do anything about Putin’s invasion of Georgia in 2008,  let’s get some perspective on Eisenhower and Reagan in relation to the Russians during the Cold War.

Eisenhower agreed to hold, in 1955, the first meeting between Soviet and Western leaders since Potsdam in 1945, where, as the Miller Center put it,  he proposed “an ‘Open Skies’ program that would have allowed both sides to use aerial air surveillance to gather information about each other’s military capabilities.” Khrushchev rejected the idea, but can you imagine if President Obama had been the first to propose such a thing? What would his critics have said? (The idea was later taken up by President George H. W. Bush in 1989 and an “Open Skies Treaty” was signed in 1992, with Russia as one of the signatories.)

A little more than a year after that Eisenhower-blessed 1955 meeting, the Soviets invaded Hungary, bombing Budapest and moving in armored units to put down a revolt against the country’s oppressive Communist government. Over 2500 Hungarians were killed. And what did Eisenhower, our national war hero, do? Nothing. Thankfully, he sort of had an idea that wars were easy to start and hard to end.

Turning to Ronald Reagan, let’s remember that, like Eisenhower, the conservative president vigorously pursued arms control treaties designed to limit nuclear weapons. Reagan fiercely hated nukes and actually wanted to make a deal with the Soviets to get rid of them altogether. (According to the Heritage Foundation, “Reagan came to believe that the biblical story of Armageddon foretold a nuclear war.” Yikes.) To that end, he proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed by its critics as “Star Wars”), which included a space-based laser that was supposed to shoot down incoming missiles. (Some say he got the idea from a movie he made in 1940 called “Murder in the Air,” which introduced an “inertia projector” attached to a dirigible. The inertia projector eventually shot down the bad guy’s plane. Yikes, again.) Famously, and quite surprisingly, Reagan repeatedly offered to share the new missile defense technology with the Russians. If Obama had done that, he would have been excoriated and likely impeached. (Sarah Palin attacked him anyway out of ignorance or stupidity, your choice.)

During Reagan’s first year as president, in December of 1981, the Soviets finally forced the Polish government to squash Solidarity, the anti-Soviet trade union movement led by Lech Walesa. The government imposed martial law, arrested the movement’s leaders, and fired on Polish strikers and demonstrators, killing and injuring many. And what was tough-guy Reagan’s response? Some rather mild sanctions against Poland and the Soviet Union. The Europeans weren’t eager to do too much (sound familiar?) and the Reagan administration, as noted by Arthur Rachwald, “favored a flexible approach to Poland—a policy of carrots and sticks…” Rachwald writes:

..the Reagan administration’s considerable restraint made Warsaw hopeful that an improvement in relations was possible. The real test of Reagan’s long-term intentions toward Poland came at the beginning of February 1982, when the United States had to decided whether to pay $71.3 million in interest to U.S. banks that had made government-guaranteed loans to Poland. Several senators, including Patrick Moynihan, argued in favor of declaring Poland bankrupt. Such a decision would eliminate Polish exports to the West and make the Jaruzelski regime a financial ward of Moscow. This step would be the ultimate form of economic pressure on Warsaw and Moscow.

The Reagan administration, however, believed that declaring Poland insolvent would have irreversible consequences on Polish-U.S. relations.

Thus, Ronaldus Magnus paid the interest due and limited the damage inflicted on the two countries in hopes that future progress could be achieved. (Does that sound familiar, too?) Rachwald says:

The decision not to declare Poland bankrupt was a clear message to Warsaw that mutual relations were not beyond repair, and that the key to Poland’s access to Western markets and credits was in General Jaruzelski’s hands.

Well, as we know, it took eight years after that Polish crack-down on Solidarity before the Soviet Union began to disintegrate. Eight bleeping years. Sometimes it is hard to judge what toughness is. Sometimes being tough involves resisting the desire to be seen as tough. Sometimes it is, as President Obama suggested, settling for singles and doubles and only the occasional home run, as we try to “steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.” Regarding the present crisis in Ukraine, former ambassador Mike McFaul said quite wisely this morning,

I think we should judge this by what happens eight years from now, not by what happens eight days from now.

Amen.

 

“You Are Not Required To Donate In Order To Participate But Your Contributions Give Us The Resources We Need To Accomplish Incredible Things On Behalf Of The Tea Party Movement”

At least once a day, and sometimes three and four times a day, I get an email from a right-wing group called TheTeaParty.net. The emails are nothing more than soliciting tools, designed to get me to part with my money and give it to people who say they are fighting, well, I’ll just give you the latest example:

_________________________________________________

Dear Patriot,

We are facing great danger, my friends; an enemy from within. When Barack Obama was sworn in as President, he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Instead, he is abusing the office of the Presidency punish those who they perceive as their enemies. Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop him!

We cannot do this without you. Fundraising in the beginning of the year started off great and we thought we could do this. This year we can take back our country with your help. For those of you who have stepped up and donated, we are so very grateful for all of those donations. However donations have fallen off and we cannot keep up the fight without them.  Please donate at least $5 if not $10, $20, $50 or $100 right now, then go onto signing this petition and sharing with at least 3 additional people!

Standing for the Constitution makes you an enemy in Obama’s eyes. Stop him!

Believing in personal responsibility makes you an enemy to Obama. Stop him!

Barack Obama has shown us what lengths he will go to in order to punish those he sees as his political enemies.

He has used the IRS to target, intimidate, and harass every day, patriotic, freedom loving Americans in an attempt to silence them into submission.

We must stand together against his flagrant abuse of presidential power. Stand with us today! Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop Obama’s abuse of power in targeting political enemies!

*You are not required to donate in order to participate but your contributions give us the resources we need to accomplish incredible things on behalf of the TeaParty movement.

Thank you,

Todd Cefaratti

Freedom Organizer

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Yes, this freedom organizer needs resources in order to accomplish incredible things. Incredible, as in “impossible to believe,” is exactly right. It turns out that Todd Cefaratti is quite a marketing genius and has made a lot of dough by appealing to the worst fears of right-wingers who have more disposable dollars than sense. Here’s what the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights had to say about Cefaratti and his organization:

TheTeaParty.net, founded by Arizonan Todd Cefaratti, is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.

The organization’s parent group, Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net’s treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.

Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.

As you can see, most of the money that culturally frightened white people are giving to TheTeaParty.net is going into Cefaratti’s pockets or somewhere else other than to the causes dear to those who fear. But he’s not alone in using fear and white anxiety to make himself a pretty good living. There are plenty of grifters out there just like him:

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by theSunlight Foundation.

The Post tells us where the dough is going:

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

Perhaps my favorite detail is the fact that the chairwoman of the well-known Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, whose mug ought to be familiar to anyone who watches cable news or C-SPAN, “sets her own $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting — payments that have totaled $120,000 since July.” Not bad, no? Except that’s not all:

She also draws a salary as president of the Tea Party Patriots’ nonprofit arm — gettingmore than $272,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

Her twin salaries put her on track to make more than $450,000 this year, a dramatic change in lifestyle for the tea party activist, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and then cleaned homes for a period of time to bring in extra money.

Now, you have to hand it to these people. To go from cleaning crappers for change to peddling bullshit for nearly half a mill a year is pretty impressive, sort of a fulfillment of the mostly mythical American Dream, except that most people don’t dream of bilking the gullible as a way out of bankruptcy.

Even though this is all very unseemly, I suppose those of us on the left should be happy that a lot of right-wing dough is being wasted this way. And I suppose that one shouldn’t feel too sorry for white folks who think Barack Obama is “an enemy from within” and are willing to throw money at anyone who will say it loudly and often.

But this isn’t one of America’s finest moments, no matter how you look at it.

Cliven Bundy Just Put Away The Dog Whistle, That’s All

I don’t know, I really don’t know, what everybody is so upset about.

So Cliven Bundy said the following, via The New York Times:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

So what? Why are so many people, who jumped in bed with Cliven Bundy and began a rather lurid affair (Have a nice day, Senator Dean Heller!), now scurrying around looking for their clothes and the door? What is in Bundy’s racist remarks that hasn’t been endorsed, in one form or another, by any number of Republicans, especially during the 2012 presidential election? There are many examples to choose from, but I will give you only two.

Remember back in 2012 when two GOP presidential candidates—I said, presidential candidates, people!—Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, signed a “Marriage Vow” pledge that included the following as a preamble:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President, according to the document.

Translation from Cliven Bundy: “Are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things…?”

But we don’t have to go back to 2012, which featured Mitt Romney’s class warfare on the mooching 47%. His partner in that presidential run, Paul Ryan, recently made remarks that mirror Bundy’s comments about how blacks “never learned to pick cotton” because of all the government subsidies they enjoy. On right-wing Bill Bennet’s radio show Ryan said:

Bennett: You gave a talk about poverty, lifting people out of poverty. A great party has a plan to help people get out of poverty. What’s the plan? What are the broad outlines? What’s the roadmap, as someone might say?

Ryan: In a nutshell, work works. It’s all about getting people to work. And when you were one of the leaders of welfare reform in the late ‘90s, we got excoriated for saying you know what, as a condition of welfare, people should go to work and it should be a bridge, not a permanent system. And it worked very well, but there were dozens of other welfare programs that did not get reformed that have sort of overtaken events and have now made it harder for people to get into work. We call it a poverty trap. There are incentives not to work and to stay where you are; that’s not what we want in society. 

And later he told Bennett:

Ryan: And so, that’s this tailspin or spiral that we’re looking at in our communities. You know your buddy (conservative scholar) Charles Murray or (public policy professor) Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. 

The only difference, to my ears, from what Ryan said and what Bundy said is that Ryan was careful to substitute “inner cities” for “Negroes.” The rest of it is essentially the same idea: if you don’t make black people work by threatening to starve them to death, then what will happen is that all the older blacks will sit on the porch and count their food stamps, while their young girls get pregnant and then get abortions and their young boys commit crimes and end up in jail.

So, let’s get off Cliven Bundy’s racist ass and congratulate him for saying plainly what many, many Republicans have been saying in code for so long.

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Remarks And Asides

A South Carolina Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, a former chaplain in the Army Reserve named Ray Moore, recently called American public education “a godless, pagan school system” that “cannot be fixed.” He also said about the Culture War, which his side has been waging for decades, the following:

We cannot win this war we’re in asray moore long as we keep handing our children over to the enemy to educate…As conservatives and Christians, if you think you’re going to win this war you’re in, and leave your children in those schools, it will not happen…We are losing because we are handing our own children over to the enemy.

I think these folks are catching on.

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Speaking of religious zealots, the KKK has started a ‘hood watch in a town in Pennsylvania:

kkk neighborhood watch

The Imperial Lizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK said:

It’s just like any neighborhood watch program. It’s not targeting any specific ethnicity. We would report anything we see to law enforcement. We don’t hate people. We are an organization who looks out for our race. We believe in racial separation. God created each species after its kind and saw that it was good.

See? We are making progress with these folks. At least they now think black people are “good,” even though they’d be a whole lot better if they were white. From the group’s headquarter’s on the web (the physical headquarters, wouldn’t you know it, are right here in Missouri), we find:

WE STAND FOR WHITE SUPREMACY. Distinction among the races is not accidental but designed. This is clearly brought out in the one book that tells authoritatively of the origin of the races. This distinction is not incidental, but is of the vastest import and indicates the wisdom of the divine mind. It is not temporary but is as abiding as the ages that have not yet ceased to roll. The supremacy of the White Race must be maintained, or be overwhelmed by the rising tide of color…Purity of the white blood must be maintained. One of the crying evils of the times is the mixture of white blood with that of Negro and other mongrel races. 

How’d all that dark blood get mixed up with that white blood? Oh, they’ve got an answer:

The guilt for this state of affairs rests upon those members of the White Race who for a moment of sexual pleasure have betrayed their own kind and betrayed their own blood.

I confess I don’t get how God could be wise enough to create a holy and pure race like the white race and then be dumb enough to create in the white race a lust for the “Negro and other mongrel races.” I suppose even God can have days when he’s just not on his game, but that seems to me like a pretty big boo-boo.

______________________________________

Speaking of boo-boos, why couldn’t God have created a group of white people who don’t have any desire to be around black people? Oh, I guess he did. Some call them Republicans.

Don’t believe me? Let’s again go back to the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK, which has a political philosophy that sounds very familiar:

WE MUST KEEP THIS A WHITE MAN’S COUNTRY. Only by doing this can we be faithful to the foundations laid by our forefathers:
a. This Republic was established by White Men.
b. It was established for White Men.

How about a little guessing game? What political party comes to mind when you read that? Yep! You got it:

______________________________________

Speaking of white Republicans, we come to Spencer Bachus, a congressman from Alabama.

Bachus, who, thank GOP Jesus, is retiring, deserves special recognition for being the kind of phony politician that everyone should despise.  Dave Weigel writes about an episode in bankster-chasing Elizabeth Warren’s recently released book:

In A Fighting Chance, her new memoir, the senator from Massachusetts recalls when she was the hamstrung, unconfirmed adviser who was supposed to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Lacking access to the CFPB’s full powers, she darted through Congress, taking meetings with skeptics. A 2010 encounter with Bachus—months before he became House Financial Services chairman—stood out to her.

“He spoke movingly about people who had been swindled,” writes Warren. “He really seemed to feel their pain. He concluded by saying that if he had more courage, he’d go after the people who did that to families. I was stunned by his use of the word courage and his small, tight, smile.”

Was he climbing on board with Warren? Had the wizard given him courage? No and no. Warren remembers his “accent twanging” as he explained his next move: “I’ll go after the consumer agency, but I hope you understand, it isn’t personal.”

No, it’s not personal. It’s just disgusting. I think I prefer the honesty of Chaplain Ray Moore and the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK to the kind of cynical politics represented by Spencer Bachus, who not only plays deceptive games like Elizabeth Warren described, but once said to the Birmingham News that,

in Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.

Bachus may not be quite as honest as the KKK, but he too has a favorite color: green.

______________________________

Finally, and again speaking of white Republicans, we have Senator Dean Heller of Nevada. Last week, after Harry Reid called Cliven Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists,” Heller said that he had “a very different view”:

What Senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots.

Yes, he called a group of would-be thugs, who came armed and ready to fight the federal gubmint, “patriots.” Again, I think I prefer the standard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK over Senator Heller’s standard of patriotism. At least the racists pledge to obey the law:

We stand for the enforcement of law by the regularly constituted authorities. This order does not take the law into its own hands and will not tolerate acts of lawlessness on the part of its members.

It’s pretty bad when a group of white supremacists, claiming God as their KKKreator and KKKristianity as their religion, hold a higher view of the law than a Republican senator from Nevada.

Easter On The Sunday Talk Shows (Don’t Read This If You Are Allergic To Profanity)

I am pissed. Still. Thanks to ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

this weekOn Easter Sunday, the producers of “This Week” decided to take  a “closer look at the political power of evangelicals,” who represent only “15 percent of the adult population, yet in 2012 accounted for nearly a quarter of all voters.” Okay, fine. I get it. People need to know that a lot of what is going on in the reactionary Republican Party is due to the ridiculously outsized influence of conservative Christians. You tell ‘em, ABC!

But the segment (“Are Evangelicals Out of Touch With Mainstream Views?”) began with a setup piece by ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, who essentially told us that evangelicals were sort of mellowing out, not being so quick to offer their political opinions on divisive social issues like, say, gay marriage. Young folks in the evangelical churches are beginning to see the light. Okay, fine again. The right-wing Christians may be starting to adjust to the reality that they are losing the Culture War. I get that, too. That could be good news for the country. Go ahead and preach it, ABC!

Then a strange thing happened. After the setup piece, host Martha Raddatz introduced the evangelical guests. And guess who they were? The same old white- and right-wing reactionaries-evangelicals: Franklin Graham, Billy’s son; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, whatever the hell that is; and the sleazy Ralph Reed, the corrupt former leader of the old Christian Coalition, who was involved in one of Jack Abramoff’s scandals but now leads another Christian group that is damaging the country.ralph reed book

Conveniently for Ralph Reed, ABC News showed a picture of his new book for sale, after having previously promoted it on George Stephanopoulos’ blog. The book, “Awakening,” is subtitled, “How America Can Turn From Economic And Moral Destruction Back To Greatness,” and Chapter 1 begins ominously: “Are we watching our nation commit suicide?” If that isn’t puke-worthy enough, Reed writes:

…there is no denying that the United States, like Rome, is experiencing the downward spiral of the spiritual cycle today. As Americans have sought pleasure and comfort, they have rejected God and His law and substituted the twin idols of self-gratification and government.

Yep. Gubmint is the problem. So much for youthful moderation and the mellowing out of evangelicals.

But forgetting the unseemly Ralph Reed and his government-hating book, what really galled me about “This Week” was the following conversation between the host and the Reverend Franklin Graham:

RADDATZ: You heard Dan’s piece there and certainly the issue of gay marriage has been a big one. Reverend Graham, I want to ask you about this: just a few months after taking office, Pope Francis spoke out on the issue of homosexuality, saying if they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized, the tendency to homosexuality is not the problem. They’re our brothers. You recently said that Congress could learn something from President Vladimir Putin on the issue of homosexuals and adoption. Let’s take a look at what you said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Gays and lesbians cannot have children. Biologically it’s impossible.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: OK. It’s not but –

GRAHAM: Yes, they can recruit. I think — I agreed with Putin; I think protecting his nation’s children, I think, was probably a pretty smart thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: I suspect you still support that, what you said. You still support Putin?

GRAHAM: No, I think — I think Putin is going to do what’s right for Russia. And not what’s right for America, but for Russia. We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country. But we don’t seem to have that right now.

Dammit! I just can’t take that crap anymore. Why does any respectable news outlet put such trash on television, especially without challenging it? What bleeping president was Graham referring to when he ungrammatically said, “We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country”? Nixon? Was it the disgraced Richard Nixon, the man with whom Franklin Graham’s father essentially had phone sex and with whom he agreed that “Jews” had a “stranglehold” on the American news media? Why didn’t Martha Raddatz mention that to Franklin Graham, after he said such a stupid thing about President Obama?

Or why didn’t she mention that Billy Graham privately heaped praise on the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic Nixon, by saying, “Congratulations on everything,” and “I believe the Lord is with you, I really do”? 

Why didn’t Raddatz say to the Obama-loathing Franklin Graham, “You say Obama isn’t doing what’s right for the country. By that do you mean that he should sit in the Oval Office and spout racist and homophobic and anti-Semitic nonsense because the ‘Lord’ is with him? What Lord might that be? The Lord of the Flies? GOP Jesus?”

Or why didn’t Raddatz mention that a young Franklin Graham, by his father’s own account, said that Nixon was “the greatest president that we’ve ever had in the history of America”? Huh? That’s the same racist president who called blacks “little Negro bastards” and said they “live like a bunch of dogs” and needed to be “inbred” in order to “strengthen our country” in “500 years.” 

Of course Raddatz didn’t ask him a bleeping thing about any of that stuff. I guess evangelical preachers get a stupidity pass on Easter. Or maybe Martha was feeling all Jesussy in the company of such godly men.

Dammit, I’m still seething.

Now on to NBC’s “Meet the Press” and a comment that touches on Graham’s claim as to whether President Obama is in the business of “doing what’s right for this country” or whether he is sitting in the White’s House worrying about whether everyone thinks he is George S. Patton with balls the size of Dick Cheney’s Wyoming.meet the press

Host David Gregory was leading a discussion on the Russian thug Vladimir Putin and his takeover of Crimea and his threatening to take over eastern Ukraine, when all of a sudden out comes the following from one of the program’s conservative commentators:

DAVID BROOKS: And, let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I’ll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there’s an assumption he’s not tough enough.

Are you bleeping kidding me? Was I hallucinating this stuff? A “manhood problem”? A bleeping manhood problem, Mr. Brooks? And you think “a lot of the rap is unfair”? How much is a lot? A fifth? A third? A half? Were you suggesting that there was some way the President should demonstrate to people in the Middle East how tough he is by talking like a badass to the thugs causing all the trouble?

You mean maybe he should talk like a Chicago street thug, huh? Maybe he should say to Putin, “Hey, you mofo, if you don’t quit fucking around in Ukraine then, then, then, then, I’m going to send a lot of American boys and girls over there to die!”

Or he could say to Assad, “You bastard son of a bitch, if you don’t get the hell out of Damascus I’m going to, to, to, to, send a lot of American kids over there to get their arms and legs blown off!”

Or, “If any of you Russian or Middle East shitheads mess with me, I’ll drop World War III on your sorry asses.”

Yeah, that’ll show everyone how tough Obama is. That’s the way the President of the United States can properly project American strength in this world. And if the thugs don’t believe him, if he fails to convince them that he is a truly a tough guy, then, by God, Obama can send someone’s kids to die for his Cheney-approved machismo. Then maybe John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all those in the Middle East who think Obama is a pussy will be happy. Americans will die, but, dammit, presidential and American face will be saved!

Apparently that’s what we need right now. Someone who will do what is right for the country by talking us into another war.

Assholes.

Welcome To The Ozarks, Where Even The Tree Rats Are White

Less than an hour’s drive from Joplin is a town called Marionville, located about 14 miles south of Interstate 44. The town’s website describes it as,

a charming community located in the heart of the Ozarks in Lawrence County, Southwest Missouri. Marionville has a population of white squirrels, which is one of a handful of such populations in the United States.

Visitors come to Marionville in hopes of catching a glimpse of our white squirrels.

I kid you not. White squirrels.

The entire country had a chance to meet one of those white squirrels recently. His name is Dan Clevenger and you’ll soon find out where he hides his nuts. In the mean time, in case you’ve never seen a white squirrel, here’s a picture of one:

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Dan Clevenger owns an engine repair shop in Marionville. And, uh, he’s also the mayor.

In Marionville, not only are the squirrels white, but most of the population of 2200 is too. In other words, the town is like a lot of towns here in the Ozarks, without the white tree rats.

Mayor Clevenger is now famous for talking nice about the Jew-hating white supremacist who killed three Christians at two Jewish community sites in Overland Park, Kansas, this past weekend. One of the victims was a 14-year-old boy, who was killed along with his grandfather, who had brought the young boy to audition for a singing contest. The other victim was a 53-year old woman who was visiting her mother at a nearby senior living facility. The killer, Frazier Glenn Cross (aka Frazier Glenn Miller and Glenn Miller), lived near Marionville and was a “friend” of Mayor Clevenger’s, who told KSPR of Springfield that although the murderous white supremacist’s biased beliefs remained strong over the years, the mayor “kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much.”

As KSPR noted, though, the squirrely white mayor wasn’t always so reluctant to express his views:

Nearly a decade ago, Clevenger wrote a letter to the editor of the Aurora Advertiser.

“I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings,” wrote Clevenger. “The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United State’s workforce.”

The letter continued.

“Made a few Jews rich by killin’ us off.”

He also spoke of the “Jew-run government backed banking industry turned the U.S into the world’s largest debtor nation.”

Years later, Clevenger’s views haven’t seemed to change.

“There some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us.  We’ve got a false economy and it’s, some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there,” he said.  “The fact that the Federal Reserve prints up phony money and freely hands it out, I think that’s completely wrong.  The people that run the Federal Reserve, they’re Jewish.”

Now, it’s not that Mayor White Squirrel supports what Frazier Miller did. He made sure to tell us that he is against violence and that he doesn’t hate anyone and that the killer “didn’t have any right to that and I think he should pay with his life.” Good for the squirrel. But he made no effort to repudiate Miller’s basic views or the views he himself expressed a decade ago. When Talking Points Memo tried to talk to him yesterday, he said he’s “done doing interviews.”

The problem is that when Mayor Clevenger wrote in defense of the white supremacist ten years ago, he knew what kind of man he was. Frazier Miller had founded the White Patriot Party in 1980, “a paramilitary, Christian Identity faction of the Ku Klux Klan.” In the late 1980s Miller was accused of plotting to kill civil rights activist Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was eventually convicted of threatening Dees and of weapons violations, then ratted out 13 of his fellow haters as part of a plea bargain. Miller served three years in federal prison.

I wrote about Frazier Glenn Miller four years ago in a post titled, “Whites Unite! And Take Our Country Back!”  At the time he was running for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat (eventually won by Roy Blunt) and I dared to compare part of Miller’s white supremacist message with what I saw going on in the then-flourishing Tea Party. When a commenter challenged me on that comparison, I wrote:

Who was I supposed to compare this stuff to? Teapartiers are running all over the country yelling, “We want our country back!” Well, it turns out, so are the white-wing nuts. In fact, if you view the video from the 1980s of Glenn Miller’s White Patriot Party, you will hear the following points advanced:

1. Liberals are ruining the country.

2. Abortion is murder.

3. The government is the enemy.

Granted, all of the above is set in a context of white supremacy, but so is much of the rhetoric of the extremists in the Tea Party movement. See Tom Tancredo’s speech at the Tea Party Convention, for example. When teapartiers say, “we want our country back!” who is the “we“? You know who they mean, as well as I do. The frequent references to the Founders just reinforces the point.

As I pointed out in the Globe last June, people like the late Samuel Francis and MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan and other sulkers over the god-awful drift away from our “European” (read: white) roots, lament the state of our culture because white folks are losing control of it. While this isn’t the kind of in-your-face racism that Glenn Miller represents, it is related to it.

I stand by what I said in 2010. What the mayor of Marionville represents, besides white squirrels, is the kind of angst among white people that I have been writing about since I started this blog more than five years ago. Sure, almost all white people worrying about the state of the culture and their place in it as white people obviously condemn what Frazier Glenn Miller did in Overland Park. I want to make it clear that I am not accusing tea partiers or other Republicans of supporting hateful and murderous violence against non-whites or non-Christians or anyone. What I am saying is that to the extent that ideas motivated Frazier Miller to murder, those ideas are related to the angst that so many white people, especially in the South, feel these days, especially these days when an African-American is sitting in the White’s House.

The lastest example of what I am talking about happened in just the past few days. Hank Aaron, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, wrote a piece for USA Today in which he said,

Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country. The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.

A lot of white people don’t want to hear that these days, particularly coming from a black man. When Aaron was about to break Babe Ruth’s homerun record in 1974, he famously received all kinds of hate mail and death threats. After his USA Today newspaper article was published, the Atlanta Braves, for whom Aaron works, was the conduit for more up-to-date hate, according to the paper’s sports columnist Bob Nightengale:

Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week.

Yes, it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, with letters laced with the most hateful epithet known to African Americans.

“Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).”

With that, happy Jackie Robinson Day!

On a day when Major League Baseball celebrates Robinson, who broke the color barrier April 15, 1947, in one of the most momentous achievements of the civil rights movement, we have these letters to remind us of the racial hatred that still exists in this society.

Yes, of course. Racial hatred still exists. Against blacks, against Jews, against whomever it is that threatens the longstanding dominance of white culture in America. And although a small-town mayor here in southwest Missouri is quick to denounce the violence that, fortunately, only occasionally accompanies such racial hatred, he and too many others are not so quick to denounce the ideas that precede the violence.

__________________________________

Finally, from the AP:

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on Thursday and Friday to honor three people shot to death at two Jewish sites in Overland Park.

Dr. William Corporon and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, were shot and killed Sunday outside of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. A third victim, Terri Lamanno, was shot moments later at the Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement complex.

Memorial services for the three victims are scheduled on Thursday and Friday.

lamanno and corporon and underwood

Big Brother Is A Big Sister In Oklahoma

At first I thought it was one of those things you hear about that only Snopes can properly dispose of.

I received a text from someone who wrote:

How about that Oklahoma governor. Signed that wacko bill. No minimum wage laws allowed in her state. No paid sick leave or vacation days.

That Okie governor, of course, is Mary Fallin, a Republican in the mold of, say, well, I can’t say. GOP Jesus broke the mold when he made Governor Fallin. In any case, I discovered that what she actually signed two days ago was a bill that bans cities in Oklahoma from passing a higher minimum wage requirement than the state’s current minimum (which is set at the federal level of $7.25), and that bans those cities from enacting sick and vacation leave requirements on behalf of workers. I also found out that other states have passed such laws (mostly states that have been dominated by domineering Republicans, like in Texas, for instance) and that other states are considering such laws.

Now, because we’ve been over it before, I won’t harp on the false ideas that are behind keeping the minimum wage as low as possible, from the notion that minimum wage jobs are mostly held by kids in high school or college who are working part-time jobs (the average age is actually 35; one-third are at least 40 years old; more than one-fourth have kids to support; more than half work full-time), to the notion that a relatively higher minimum wage hurts job growth (the most one can say is that it is a mixed bag). And I won’t even harp on the outrageous idea that a family-values FALLINparty like the Republican Party pretends—pretends—to be would ban cities from passing sick and vacation leave requirements that would benefit workers in their cities (thank about that the next time you eat a fast-food burger that may have been cooked by a sick worker who couldn’t afford to stay home that day). No, I won’t harp on that stuff. We’re all used to the idea by now that Republicans aren’t exactly the friends of the working class, even if they’ve cleverly managed to talk a lot of working class folks into putting them in power.

What I will harp on is the hypocrisy of what Republicans have done relative to the cities in their respective states. This latest power grab in Oklahoma came about because there is an effort underway in Oklahoma City to establish a higher minimum wage than that anachronistic $7.25 federal wage. And Governor Fallin and the corporatists in her state can’t have the locals doing their own thing, if doing their own thing conflicts with larger business interests. So much for that “local control” that Republicans are always throwing at us when they talk about how much they hate big gubmint. It’s funny that when things start happening among the natives that right-wingers don’t like, they are the first ones to move in with the foot of the state and crush any grass roots movement, or in the case of women trying to exercise their right to control their reproductive health, Republicans move in with a government-mandated vaginal probe, which is a manifestation of Big Brother that even George Orwell never imagined.

Hanoi Huckabee And Hanoi Hannity

In 1972, actress Jane Fonda, at the height of her youthful popularity, went to North Vietnam, against whom we were still warring, and toured the country for two weeks. While there, she denounced U.S. military policy and did something she later said “was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done.” That something was posing for pictures on an anti-aircraft gun outside of Hanoi. “I will go to my grave regretting that,” she said in 2005, adding,

The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda’s daughter—just a woman—sitting on a enemy aircraft gun, was a betrayal. It was like I was thumbing my nose at the military. And at the country that gave me privilege. It was the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine. I don’t thumb my nose at this country. I care deeply about American soldiers.

Fonda did not apologize, though, for being photographed with seven American POWs and for making broadcasts for Radio Hanoi:

Our government was lying to us, and men were dying because of it. And I felt that I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies, and help end the war. That was my goal.

Obviously her trip to Hanoi earned her the lasting ire of many veterans, who would refer to her as “Hanoi Jane” forevermore. Many still consider her a traitor and many lies have grown up and multiplied around that trip in 1972, including a vicious lie, still circulating on the dark side of the Internet, that some POWs passed to her notes to take back home that she allegedly turned over to the North Vietnamese, who then supposedly beat to death some of those POWs.

Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam also made her a legend in the conservative movement, if only as a poster child for all that was wrong with liberals and leftists, all that was wrong with radicals who did not necessarily embrace the idea that if America was doing it, it must be right. Many conservatives over the years have used Fonda as an example of someone who portrays their own country as the “enemy,” and who is either unpatriotic or treasonous for doing so.

Now we come to Mike Huckabee. By now you have heard him say the following, uttered this past weekend at a gathering of Obama-hating right-wing extremists called the New Hampshire Freedom Summit:

Freedom of speech in this country, that for which the men grabbed their muskets off the mantel, did never mean that we’re to have fewer voices, but more voices…My gosh, I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States…

Especially in context, those remarks should offend and outrage any American, whether you like Barack Obama or not. I don’t think that Jane Fonda ever said anything as offensive or outrageous as comparing the United States unfavorably with a despotic shit hole like North Korea.

But before he said those offensive and outrageous things, Huckabee said something that I find even more outrageous. Read the following demagogic commentary the law-and-order-loving Huckabee gave on the dangerous drama going on in Nevada—where a delusional rancher has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal government land for twenty years and who says he doesn’t “recognize [the] United States Government as even existing” and who is essentially leading a group of crazed people with guns who are willing to kill federal authorities trying to enforce the law:

There is something incredibly wrong when a government believes that some blades of grass that a cow is eating is so an egregious affront to the government to the United States that we would literally put a gun in a citizen’s face and threaten to shoot him over it. [Interrupted by applause.] Here’s what I’d have to ask: Is this government more interested in some cows eating grass in Nevada than they are as to why Brian Terry was murdered with guns that our government provided drug dealers in Mexico? [More applause.] Somebody help me understand that? Is this government more concerned about a few hundred head of cattle grazing on some land than they are as to why four Americans were murdered in Benghazi? And nobody answered the phone at three o’clock in the morning! [More thunderous applause.] The threats and affronts to our liberty today are so incredibly frightening…

Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Mike Huckabee is saying here. Besides his attempt to appeal to the worst elements of the Republican base—those who think Barack Obama and Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton are essentially murderers or complicit in murder—he is essentially saying that the government should ignore a freeloading lawbreaker in Nevada, a freeloading lawbreaker who has become a folk hero on the right, because that lawbreaking rancher’s crimes aren’t worth enforcing the law. When Huckabee made those remarks he knew that right-wing groups, including Americans for Prosperity, had been championing rancher Cliven Bundy’s cause to the point that reactionary militia members from all over the country were on the scene in Nevada with their guns in order to provide an “armed response” to what the Bureau of Land Management was trying to do. Huckabee knew that. And yet he ignored all that and focused on Fast and Furious and Benghazi. I remind you that besides being a former governor, the man is a bleeping Baptist minister, for God’s sake.

Now enter Sean Hannity. After the Bureau of Land Management decided to wisely back down and not get into a shootout with hysterical reactionaries at this time, Hannity offered the Bundy family yet another opportunity to make their case against the federal government’s authority over the land in Nevada, the land that the Bundys had been profiting from by grazing their cattle on it for free (some dare call that welfare). I will provide you with part of the transcript of that disgusting Fox “News” segment, a transcript that appeared on Fox Nation under the headline:

Cliven Bundy on Harry Reid: ‘I Don’t Think There’s Any Hope for Him, He Needs to Be Kicked Out of Office’

HANNITY: This is a “FOX News Alert.” The federal government has caved to public pressure in the battle against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over cattle grazing rights. Now, in just a moment, Cliven, his two sons will join us for their first exclusive interview since the siege ended.

But first, the government surrendered this weekend after tensions escalated in the week-long standoff between Bundy family, supporters, and of course, federal agents. Now, the Bureau of Land Management released the 400 cattle that it seized from Bundy and removed its heavily-armed agents from the ranch.

Get that? The federal government “caved” and “surrendered.” Hannity was siding with the armed resistance. He was siding with the lawbreakers who believe the federal government is their enemy. And it was as if Hannity and Friends were cheering for a different outcome, one with, say, blood and death. Hannity even went so far as to claim that Democrats were involved:

HANNITY: …From my perspective, as somebody that follows politics very, very closely, I think that they — I think the politicians were watching this, Democrats in particular, and that they knew if something bad happened here, and they were the ones ratcheting this up – – I mean, we have rapist and murderers and bank robbers and pedophiles out there, and they’ve 200 agents, you know, surrounding your ranch because your cows are eating grass on land that they don’t even want or need and that you’re arguing isn’t even theirs.

So they realized, I think, at some point, politically, that this was going to backfire on them. So I think this was done for political reasons.

As outrageous as Hannity’s promotion of these right-wing extremists was, as outrageous as his claim that Democrats, presumably in Washington, surrendered to gun-toting lawbreakers in Nevada to avoid bad publicity, there was another outrageous thing that happened on his show. Cliven Bundy, the man at the center of this right-wing sanctioned freeloading and lawbreaking, had the following exchange with the Fox host:

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you, because Harry Reid just spoke earlier tonight and he said that, well, it’s not over. He said, quote, “We can’t have American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

What is your response to Harry Reid?

CLIVEN BUNDY: I don’t have a response for Harry Reid, but I have a response for every sheriff across the United States, every county sheriff across the United States. Disarm the federal bureaucrats. Take the federal United States bureaucrats’ guns away. That’s my message today.

What? “Disarm the federal bureaucrats?” Take their guns away? Sheriffs are suppose to walk up to federal agents and take away their weapons? Huh?bundy ranch sniper

Now, one would expect that Sean Hannity, who thinks people here without citizenship are lawbreakers who should pay fines and not get federal subsidies and should be forced to learn English and suffer other penalties for not being legal Americans like him, one would expect him to tell Cliven Bundy that he was out of his mind for thinking that sheriffs could and should disarm federal officials. One would expect Hannity, who refers to President Obama as lawless, to tell the disturbed rancher that this is a nation of laws and that no law gives a sheriff the right to take a gun away from a federal official who is authorized to possess it, and certainly no law gives people the right to get into a gun battle with government agents carrying out their official duties. But no. Our law-loving conservative host responded with this:

HANNITY: You said that to the sheriff, Cliven. You said to disarm the Park Service, meaning the Bureau of Land Management. I mean, there were, what, 200 people surrounding your ranch and there were snipers and — I mean, it was really a precarious situation there all weekend up until this got resolved, right?

CLIVEN BUNDY: Yes. And if the county sheriff had have taken away the weapons from the BLM, those pickets (ph) would not have to march before these guns. And that was — that’s a terrible thing to put American people in that situation, and — but they did.

And we didn’t have a county sheriff. We didn’t have a state government. And we the people marched, and the BLM backed down. Now, they backed down — let me tell you how they backed down. They backed down. They run. They got on the freeway and went to Mesquite and grabbed their stuff and moved out of the state. Now, the state — towards the state of Utah. Utah County sheriff’s finished this job that Gillespie didn’t do, take the guns away from these federal bureaucrats.

HANNITY: Is your contention that this is state land and that they have no authority or business being there?

CLIVEN BUNDY: They have no authority.

HANNITY: All right, let me ask you about…

“All right.” That’s it. No lecture to Mr. Bundy about the need to obey the laws. No admonition that he and his family were putting government officials in danger. No scolding him for picking and choosing which laws he would like to obey. No moral sermon about how awful it is for the Bundy family to be part of Mitt Romney’s 47% who are mooching off the federal government. No, none of that. In fact, Bundy later spoke again of disarming the enemy, the federal officials trying to enforce the law:

CLIVEN BUNDY: …They might have took over our Clark County sheriff, but they never took over we the people, the sovereign people of this nation. We’re standing and we’re going to stand until we take the guns away from those bureaucracies, and then we’ll start making America great one more time.

To that, I swear to God, our Constitution-loving, Obama-is-a-lawbreaking-radical-who-pals-around-with-terrorists Fox celebrity said:

HANNITY: Did you lose many cows? I understand that some of your cows died.

It’s all about the cows.

Conservatives, those who tacitly defend or openly promote what the Bundy family and their gun-packing fellow travelers are doing in Nevada, at the very least owe Jane Fonda an apology.

In the mean time, if you want a look at real stupidity and lawlessness and mob mentality, I suggest you watch the following video in its entirety (beware: the reactionaries call federal officials some vile and profane names), a video recorded by someone who is proud of what happened in Nevada:

bundy headlines

The Right Ronald Reagan

I am proud to be a Democrat, as I have said many times. Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the Democratic Party, at least in principle, has stood for the little guy against the big guy, even if the big guys have at times been able to get a lot of little guys to vote for the big guys’ interests.

In case you didn’t know, long before Ronald Reagan became the champion of the big guy, he was an outspoken critic of the big guy’s political protector, the Republican Party. And if you have never heard Ronald Reagan’s 1948 campaign statements supporting Democrats and criticizing, rather severely, Republicans, Lawrence O’Donnell did a great job presenting those statements on his “Rewrite” segment last night. It’s something everyone should hear:

You, Too, Can Phone Wobbly Republicans And Tell Them To Say No To Beggars Wages In Missouri

“So-called “Right to Work” laws are an attempt by CEOs and multinational corporations to eliminate unions and stack the deck even more in their favor. It’s a power grab by the same people who ship our jobs overseas and offshore their profits—and it would hurt all working people in Missouri.”

Missouri AFL-CIO

First it was Grover Norquist sticking his icky head in Missouri politics. Now comes FreedomWorks, the reactionary Tea Party group first funded by a Koch Bro, brazenly attempting to alter lives here in the Show-Me State. Extremists Going 'All In' to Make Missouri the Most Anti-Worker State in the U.S. We Can Change That

In Missouri FreedomWorks is targeting those it considers to be wobbly Republican House members, those few right-wingers in our Republican-dominated state house who may not yet be ready to decimate labor unions by voting for Right-to-Beg legislation.

“Right-to-Work protects Missouri workers from oppressive union tactics and cuts off funding to Big Government politicians,” says a post on FreedomWorks’ website. “It’s simple. No one should be forced to pay dues to a union.” No, it’s simple: People who lie should be ashamed of themselves.

Right-to-Beg laws actually don’t do anything except undermine the one thing that serves to protect workers, which is a union-negotiated and union-enforced contract. By allowing workers to get union benefits without paying for union representation, such laws threaten the very existence of the union and—the real point of such laws—do away with the voice of the worker in the workplace. That is why the efforts to pass such laws here in Missouri and elsewhere are supported by business interests, who enjoy the fact that they can pay their employees thousands of dollars a year less in Right-to-Beg states.

freedomworksWhen FreedomWorks or any other right-winging group or individual says that “No one should be forced to pay dues to a union,” they are purposely ignoring the fact that employees covered by a union contract aren’t forced, cannot in fact be forced, to join the union and pay union dues. What they can be required to pay is their share of the union’s cost of representing employees in that bargaining unit, including those employees who don’t want to join the union. Federal law mandates that unions represent all bargaining unit employees whether they pay union dues or not, and it is simply common sense that says if you get something from the union you should have to pay for it. If you don’t want to be represented by a union then you don’t have to go to work at a place where workers are represented by a union. But if you do take such work, then you should have to pay your fair share of the costs of providing you with and policing an employment contract.

In any case, the Republican targets of the FreedomWorks campaign in the Missouri House are listed below. If you want, you can counter the right-wing attempt to destroy unions and lower wages in Missouri by phoning them and urging them to oppose HB 1770:

Rep. Wanda Brown…Office Phone: (573) 751-3971

Rep. Sue Entlicher…Office Phone: (573) 751-1347

Rep. Chuck Gatchenberger…Office Phone: (573) 751-3572

Rep. Ron Hicks…Office Phone: (573) 751-1470

Rep. Bart Korman…Office Phone: (573) 751-2689

Rep. Jim Neely…Office Phone: (573) 751-0246

Rep. Donna Pfautsch…Office Phone: (573) 751-9766

Rep. Bryan Spencer…Office Phone (573) 751-1460

Rep. Kathy Swan…Office Phone (573) 751-1443

It’s Cheap To Be Rich

Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight blog posted a piece by Ben Casselman this morning with the title,

Inflation May Hit the Poor Hardest

Yeah, well, Mr. Casselman, everything hits the poor hardest. A bad economy. A good economy. Everything. You know why? Because they’re bleeping poor, that’s why. But to be fair to the author, he was making a point about the fact that not everyone experiences the same rate of inflation. He begins his piece with this:

It’s getting more expensive to be poor.

He says that “families earning less than $20,000,” because they spend a disproportionate amount of their money on things like rent and utilities,

are experiencing a higher rate of inflation than the public at large even as their wages have stagnated…

The poor experience a double whammy: stagnating wages and a higher rate of inflation that eats away a disproportionate share of their purchasing power. And it is even worse than that. Just watch last night’s 60 Minutes segment on the working poor in Virginia’s part of Appalachia. Those folks are not only victims of a faltering local economy, but they are victims of the Republican Party in Virginia, a party that refuses to allow those poor working people to get the health insurance they are entitled to under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision.

So, you’re damned right it is expensive to be poor in America.

But it is damned cheap to be rich.

Sheldon Adelson, from whom God sometimes has to borrow money till payday, is looking to buy himself a Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 race. Last time he spent almost $100 million in a losing effort. But don’t feel sorry for him. He made almost that much in two special hours last week. In any case, he told Forbes that this time he will “spend whatever it takes” to win. And whatever it takes will still be cheap for him.Republican Billionaire Sheldon Adelson

Unfortunately there are plenty of Republicans who want to be bought by Sheldon Adelson, including presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and the groveling Chris Christie, who if Adelson buys him will be getting a bargain, somewhere around $250,000 a pound—and that’s if Adelson only gives another paltry $100 million. Very cheap for a commander-in-chief who could blow up your enemies.

The Supreme Court, staffed by five conservative Republicans who believe that rich people should have a megaphone that matches their money, have now made it easier for Adelson and other moneyed folks to buy up what is left of American democracy. And although there ain’t much left to buy, thanks to Citizens United, what is left won’t cost those wealthy folks all that much. Last year Sheldon Adelson made about $22,000 a minute. In eleven short minutes he made enough to buy a pound of Chris Christie or a half-pound of Jeb! No problem! Cheap, cheap, cheap.

In the mean time, it remains very expensive to be poor, especially in western Virginia where, because of Republicans, folks have to rely on the occasional visits of two saintly nurses driving a raggedy 13-year-old Winnebago-turned-“Health Wagon” in order to stay alive.

health wagon2

The Reality Behind “Noah”

“Drowning itself is quick and silent, although it may be preceded by distress which is more visible. A person drowning is unable to shout or call for help, or seek attention, as they cannot obtain enough air. The instinctive drowning response is the final set of autonomic reactions in the 20 – 60 seconds before sinking underwater, and to the untrained eye can look similar to calm safe behavior.  Lifeguards and other persons trained in rescue learn to recognize drowning people by watching for these instinctive movements.”

—Wikipedia, “Drowning”

Judging by all the criticism coming from conservative Christians regarding the latest superhero movie, Noah, anything short of a Children’s Bible version of the story of Noah and the Ark would be unacceptable.

Locally, a man named Ronald Cansler, a conservative Christian who used to pastor the First United Methodist Church in Joplin but now shepherds students through Missouri Southern State University’s English department, said the following in the local newspaper the other day:

Some guy named Noah, a lot of water and a bunch of animals on a boat are the only similarities between the movie “Noah” and the account in Genesis 6:9.

Pastor/Professor Cansler is worried that “one aspect of the movie greatly offends against the biblical account.” He is referring to the movie supposedly misrepresenting “God’s plan,” which, according to Bible believers, involved Noah’s three sons and their wives dutifully bonking each other in order to “replenish the earth” after the flood.

As the makers of Noah are finding out, there simply is no pleasing biblical fundamentalists, although the attempts to try—the worst example being the attempt to appease Glenn Beck—indicate that this movie, for all the high-brow claims of its creators, is at least partially designed to get Bible-believing Christians interested enough to spend their money on the film ($44 million opening weekend in America, but no numbers on how many were true believers).

That is why, despite the fact that livelier Babylonian accounts of a destructive flood by vindictive gods are available for movie-making, the biblical version of the Noah-flood story is the basis of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I suppose there just aren’t enough Babylonians around these days from whom a big-time movie studio can extract a buck or two.

Now, let me declare that I haven’t seen the movie and have no plans to do so. I know there are reportedly some so-called progressive themes running through it, especially involving how we treat our environment and the other creatures we share it with, but this piece of criticism you are reading isn’t about the movie per se.

Nor is this about the absurdly unscientific story upon which Noah is based—come on, people, the Genesis account says that Noah was “six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth” and that “and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” with water for nearly a year and that the implausible ark housed “two of all living creatures” and that after Noah and his family and the animals were all safely inside the large vessel, the “the Lord” closed the doors!

No, this piece isn’t about all that. It is about the lack of attention that movie reviewers are paying to the apparently acceptable premise of the movie: that it was okay for an angry and disappointed God to destroy the face of the earth and everything living on it—babies and young children, included—save for Noah and a few family members that the Bible quite arbitrarily considered “righteous.” Such a stunningly immoral premise needs examination, if only because some people take all this quite seriously and most of those who do would never raise a moral objection to the purported actions of God, a being they claim is unquestionably good and just. We cringe today at any display of murderous human rage, so why isn’t everyone cringing at the disturbing display of murderous divine rage that serves as the background for the movie Noah?

Our local movie reviewer, Mr. Cansler, who despite his theological objections found the movie “a fun two-plus hours,” said that its presentation of God’s purpose for the flood—“that only the innocent animals are to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ while the family of zookeepers will be a dead end for humankind”—made the God of the Bible “appear bloodily anti-human, a misanthropic hyper-Malthusian.” Those of us familiar with the Old Testament know that the God of the Bible doesn’t need any help from filmmakers in order to make him appear like a human-hating brute. Just read the book, especially the entire biblical account of the flood.

Just before we are introduced to the non-Hollywood Noah in the Book of Genesis, we find this declaration:

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God.

That is a reaffirmation of Genesis 1:27:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

But just what is that image? Is it an image of one seeking ultimate vengeance? Of one using violence to squash perceived enemies or rectify one’s mistakes?

After strangely informing us in Genesis Chapter 6 that humans were increasing in population and that divine beings called “the sons of God” were having sex with “the daughters of humans,” (and after introducing the Nephilim, a race of “giants” who may have been the offspring of fallen angels and humans!), the Bible tells us:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.

Ignoring the theologically untenable claim that an all-knowing God had “regrets,” or the morally untenable assertion that a just God took his unlovely wrath out on all living things, guilty or not, here we see that God’s anger with mankind was stirred by “the thoughts of the human heart,” which were “only evil all the time.” Did little babies, who also perished in the flood, have evil thoughts in their hearts? All the time? How about four-year-olds? Teenagers? Shriveled-up old folks?

And even if one granted that all humans in Noah’s days, no matter their age or station, did have such evil thoughts in their hearts all the time, from where could they have obtained such thoughts? Or,  from whom could they have obtained them? Is it true that all of those whom God decided to murder with a mountain-topping deluge were created in his image, too? Yes. Of course. The Bible says so. But not in the way I was taught in Sunday school. The clues that reveal the nature of that imaging are in the reason given in the Bible for God’s drowning his image-bearers and the subsequent record of behavior of those post-flood folks God would bless with his army-conquering presence.

I suggest to you that, to the extent one takes the Bible’s claims seriously, those evil thoughts that God found so offensive were frequently manifested in much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, substantiating that well-known “God created mankind in his own image” claim in Genesis. In other words, those evil human beings whom God regretted making and then whom he murdered by drowning, actually reflected, quite accurately, the image of God we find in the Old Testament and, to some degree, in the New. That is why some critics claim that it appears the God of the Bible was actually created in man’s image.

Just read Joshua 6, for instance, where the conquering Israelites not only knocked down the walls of Jericho with trumpet blasts, but,

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Like father, like son. That matches nicely with 1 Samuel 15, where God tells Saul and the Israelites to, “kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” 

And it matches with other events recorded in the Old Testament. Long after the great flood in which God left no human survivors, except for Noah and his family, an Amorite king named Sihon would not let the ancient Israelites, who after escaping Egypt were on their wilderness-wandering way to the Promised Land, pass through his territory. Too bad for the king. God wasn’t in the mood to negotiate. According to Deuteronomy:

When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 

We left no survivors. The Israelites even murdered the children. Sort of like God did in the flood. Created in his image, indeed.

All of this is not to deny the existence of God. I have no idea whether there is a God or whether we are winging it as human beings. But I do say that those who claim that the God presented to us in the Bible is a good and decent and moral being whom we should emulate have to explain why he cold-bloodedly slaughters the innocent people he creates and encourages or supports others who cold-bloodedly slaughter them. And if the movie Noah has any redeeming value, it will be found not in providing us “a fun two-plus hours,” but in forcing some people to come to terms with the ugly and disturbing picture of divinity imprinted on the pages of their holy book.

An Erstwhile Conservative Exclusive: The Devil On ObamaCare

Tonight, of course, is the soft deadline for getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. I have been trying for months to get an interview with Satan himself so that I could get his take on all the controversy surrounding the new health care law. Finally, after a lot of effort, I was able to get the old devil to sit down for what I hope is only one of many interviews to come:

THE ERSTWHILE CONSERVATIVE: Thank you for your time. I know you’re busy on this important day for America, so I will make this quick. I guess my first question is: How hard have you been working to make sure the Affordable Care Act fails?

SATAN: Well, I’m glad you ask me that. Obviously it is in my interest that this plan fail and fail miserably. And because of that, I assigned several divisions of demons the task of destroying what we in hell sarcastically refer to as “ObamaCare”—a term your president, in what some thought was a moment of tactical brilliance, adopted in order to dull the force of the point, even though I think we have still succeeded, as the polls show, in dirtying the thing with his name.

I have put so many of my demonic assets into this massive and massively negative effort that we are a little short-staffed in other areas, like helping to deny people unemployment benefits and food stamps or making sure they don’t vote this fall in the mid-term elections. But I think we’ve done such a good job in the House the last few years that we’ll be okay. I just had to be sure that we were doing all we could to make sure people don’t sign up for affordable health care. The sicker and more fearful people are the better, as far as I’m concerned.

TEC: I see, I see. Just what do these anti-ObamaCare demons do?

SATAN: Well, the largest number of them get people to do things like lie about the law in print and on the Internet and on television. I think you know where I’m going here—

TEC:—Yes, yes, I do know where you’re going and I wanted to ask you about that—

SATAN—Oh, I’m happy to tell you about it. Journalism, or what passes for journalism these days, is very important in my business. We specialize, as you know, in using the trade to spread false information about a lot of things, from Obama’s birth certificate to Benghazi to phony vaccination controversies. The latter disinformation campaign has allowed us to gain back valuable ground we RougeoleDP.jpglost to those damned scientists who have found ways of combating many of the wonderful diseases I’ve been spreading around. Thanks to all the disinformation work we do, measles is making a comeback!  

TEC: Yes, you have done a great job in terms of spreading harmful lies, I must say.

SATAN: Yes, I have. And I’m damned proud of it. Jesus called me the Father of Lies, you know. 

TEC: Yes, I know that. He also said you were “a murderer from the beginning.”

SATAN: I know, I know. He is too kind sometimes! I’m very proud of the work I do and it feels great when you get recognized for doing a good job. Thank you, Jesus!

TEC: Besides spreading lies and misinformation about ObamaCare, what else are you doing to kill health reform?

SATAN: Well, obviously, merely lying about what the law is supposed to do and is actually doing isn’t enough because the other side has those awful truth-tellers out there who are always working against us. For that reason I assigned some Special Forces units—Rulers of Darkness we call them at home—to take the good news about ObamaCare out there and, like magic, turn it into bad news! Those Rulers of Darkness are amazing little devils!

TEC: Can you give us an example of how these Rulers of Darkness work? That sounds fascinating.

SATAN: Of course I can. Just the other day on Fox and Friends—God, how I love that show!—we had the co-hosts suggest that Obama is signing up Mexicans to get the enrollment numbers up! 

TEC: Mexicans?

SATAN: Yes! Mexicans! Isn’t that awesome? The fiendish discussion was an attempt to turn the positive fact that more than 6 million have signed up into a negative fact that the only reason the number is so high is because “illegals” are signing up at Mexican Consulates. Amazing isn’t it?

TEC: That is amazing.

SATAN: One of the co-hosts even mentioned some work I did back in 2009!

TEC: What was that?

SATAN: Don’t you remember when congressman Joe Wilson shouted out “You lie!” during Obama’s 2009 address to Congress? It was during the part where Obama said that the new law “would not apply to those who are here illegally.” Come on, I got personally involved in that one. You have to remember. Next to getting Sarah Palin to use the term “death panel,” that whole Joe Wilson thing was the best political work I did that year. You have to remember—

TEC: Of course I remember. Who could forget that?

SATAN: Well, the Fox host said that maybe Joe Wilson “had a point” when he shouted “You lie!” at the President. I tell you those Rulers of Darkness demons know how to put on a show! And you know what effect this kind of stuff is having? Let me give you an important example. There are families out there where either the husband or wife are not U.S. citizens, but their children are. And these folks are scared that if they sign their kids up for health insurance coverage that the government will move in and destroy their family through deportation. Thus, Latino enrollment in ObamaCare is far behind their population numbers and, as a hellish bonus, the kids are going to go without health care! Isn’t that awesome! I mean, trying to kill ObamaCare has featured some of hell’s finest work! People may actually die!

TEC: Speaking of that, how were you able to get all those Republican governors and legislatures to not expand Medicaid? I mean it makes good economic sense to expand insurance coverage and it certainly makes good Christian morals sense to do so, and since Republicans consider themselves to be economic and moral savants, it must have been hard to get, so far, 24 states controlled by Republicans to shut the door on the poorest of Americans and deny them health insurance, right?

SATAN: Wrong. It was pretty damn easy to tell you the truth (which I rarely do). All we had to do was make sure people connected the whole thing with that Scary Negro in the White’s House, and then talk radio and Fox, where some of our top-notch lying spirits are employed, took it from there. The result is that Republican politicians in all those states would not now dare expand Medicaid and make health insurance available to those who need it. And, again, more people will die! But I don’t want talk radio and Fox to get all the credit for the whole Medicaid expansion thing. I want to give a shout out to the demons we have assigned to the Supreme Court.

TEC: Huh?

SATAN: Yes, I know. Most people forgot what happened in 2012 when the Court unfortunately found ObamaCare constitutional. Under the original law, states were required to expand Medicaid or else lose Medicaid funding. But our guys, having failed to get Justice Roberts to strike down the damned law, made a nice recovery—I was about to come down hard on them— in getting him to agree to give states a choice in participating in the Medicaid expansion. And that opt-out has worked much better than we could have imagined.

TEC: How so?

SATAN: Well, I brought with me something that I’d like to read to you, if you don’t mind. It’s from the website Health Affairs, which was started by a bunch of worthless liberal do-gooders with the disgusting name of Project HOPE—damn how I hate that name! Anyway, I usually get all goose-pimply reading this, so bare with me, but it explains the effects of the failure to expand Medicaid:

Based on recent data from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, we predict that many low-income women will forego recommended breast and cervical cancer screening; diabetics will forego medications, and all low-income adults will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical expenses, and death. 

Isn’t that juicy? Isn’t that wonderful? I am so proud of that and of our guys at the Supreme Court.

TEC: I can see it in your face. Look, I know you have to go, and again I thank you for your time on this important day, but I want to ask you one more question: What do you think is your biggest achievement related to the Affordable Care Act?

SATAN: Man, that’s a hard one. There are so many. Let me see. Some would say that getting the Republican Party to cheer for the failure of the law would be a big accomplishment. Others might say that getting the news media to ignore how much effort Republicans have put into seeing to it that the law fails is a big deal. But I would have to say it comes back to those deaths I mentioned. We’re all about suffering and death where I come from and I admit I’m a bit prejudiced, but the probable fact that thousands of people suffer and die each year, at least partly because they don’t have health insurance, is something those of us on our side celebrate daily. I don’t much care if the number is 45,000 a year or something lower—obviously I want that number to be as high as possible—but as long as people are suffering and dying unnecessarily I am as happy as any devil has a right to be.

TEC: Thank you. I hope we can talk again real soon.

SATAN: I’ll be looking forward to it.

Lucifer

How To Get A Job On Fox “News”

I watched President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday at The Hague. Man, oh, man. What is it about those ABC News guys?

First, a little background:

When Fox “News” first opened up its fairly unbalanced doors in 1996, a 23-year veteran of ABC News, Brit Hume, joined them. Hume had been ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, and at Fox he was the anchor of Fox’s “Special Report” for ten biased years.

In 2003, another prominent ABC News correspondent, Chris Wallace, joined Fox. Wallace, son of Mike, still hosts the closest thing−and sometimes it isn’t that close−to a real news show on the network, “Fox News Sunday.”

John Stossel, who for years was a correspondent and co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 program, left ABC in 2009 to join Fox “News” and Fox “Bidness” Channel, where he preaches his libertarian ideas to, if not the choir, at least the gullible.

Earlier in 2009, Michael Clemente joined Fox as a Senior Vice President of News, after spending 27 years at ABC News, including a stint as senior broadcast producer for ABC’s World News Tonight and later for 20/20. His last job at ABC News was as Senior Executive Producer of the ABC Digital Media Group.

If you happen to watch Fox “News,” you will see Rick Klein, who is a “regular guest.” Except that Rick  Klein is the Political Director for, uh, ABC News! Now, I understand that ABC does not have its own cable news platform, but why allow your Political Director to appear so often on Fox? Is it because occasionally Fox promotes his stuff for ABC? If so, ABC News ought to be ashamed of itself.

All of which leads us to Tuesday’s press conference at the Hague. Jonathan Karl, who is currently ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, actually asked President Obama these questions:

Mr. President, thank you. In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?

If that sounds to you like something John McCain might ask, or something that Reince Priebus might ask, or something that Sean Hannity might ask, you have good ears. Karl is apparently auditioning for Roger Ailes and, as a long-time Fox monitor, I’d say he is well qualified for a job on the network. Or just about any reactionary operation. Here’s how a few right-wing sites reported on Karl’s performance at The Hague:

right wing responses to karl

And my personal favorite, posted by Jonathan Karl’s Fox friend Greta Van Susteren, includes a proud shot of the ABC News correspondent:

greta and jon karl

As you can see, Karl is something of a journalistic hero on the right. But that’s not just for what he did at The Hague yesterday. When you examine Karl’s body of work, you see why the right-wingers love him so.

He started his reporting career in a right-wing organization created to promote conservative journalism on college campuses, the same kind of collegiate journalism that gave us people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Karl also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which is basically Fox “News” in print. He has written articles for the right-wing Weekly Standard (including this embarrassing piece), a publication that helped bring us the Iraq War.  At ABC News, if you watch his reporting, you see a clear bias in favor of Republican talking points, including the need for austerity and tiny tales of government waste. Because I like Diane Sawyer, I frequently watch her newscast, and the best one can say about Karl’s reporting is that it slants to the right; the worst one can say about it is that, well, Karl is an undercover reactionary.

Nothing demonstrates his conservative bias better than his infamous mishap involving the Fox-created Benghazi scandal. Karl went on the air last spring and unethically fed into the Fox Benghazi narrative by erroneously “quoting” from an email that he himself had not read. The false quotes, presented as “exclusives,” made it appear that the White House (read: Barack Obama) and State Department (read: Hillary Clinton) had “dramatically edited” the famous Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice on all the Sunday news shows. We found out later that Karl was fed his false information by, uh, congressional Republicans. He sort of apologized for the error and ABC News should have sort of fired him, but on he goes.

Given Karl’s track record, you have to wonder why President Obama, who has publicly compared Jonathan Karl to Fox’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry, didn’t answer Karl’s question this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wow, Jonathan! Isn’t ABC treating you well? Aren’t they paying you enough? Did Roger Ailes promise you a job and a raise if you came here to the Netherlands and tried to claim how weak I am on the world stage? Isn’t that Fox’s “Obama meme du jour”? No, wait. They’ve been saying that for some time now. But, congratulations anyway! I think you’ve got the job you obviously want whenever you want it. I look forward to not calling on you at my next presser. Oh, and tell Mittens that Mr. President said “hey.”

Instead of that, President Obama, soberly and thoughtfully, answered in a way that demonstrated what real strength is and why we are fortunate the American people chose him to lead the country in these perilous times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of 20th century history.

I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus what is, I guess, implied in the question, that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.

You know, the truth of the matter is, is that the world’s always been messy. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to be able to do, is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms. And where our own self-defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don’t steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we care about.

So yes, you’re right, Syria — the Syrian civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has never been more isolated.

With respect to the situation in Ukraine, we have not gone to war with Russia. I think there’s a significant precedent to that in the past. That does not mean that Russia’s not isolated. In fact, Russia is far more isolated in this instance than it was five years ago with respect to Georgia and more isolated than it was certainly during most of the 20th century when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And what we have to make sure we’re…putting all elements of our power behind finding solutions, working with our international partners, standing up for those principles and ideals in a clear way.

There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There are going to be some times where that’s not in the interests — national security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to make the effort, or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong. And that’s what we’ve done.

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades — since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And you know, we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.

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