The Joplin Globe’s “Monkey House” Problem

In his response to my post about a local Joplin Globe columnist’s racist tweet, Anson Burlingame, a local blogger who sometimes contributes to the Joplin Globe and who often contributes to the comment section of this blog, wrote in to defend columnist Geoff Caldwell’s use of the term “monkey” in reference to President Obama:

…a monkey is another word for a funny and scatter brained like “thing”. When one is accused of “acting like a monkey” I never considered it a racist comment. Get off this liberal racist accusation against any and all opposing Obama.

Another frequent contributor to this blog, King Beauregard, wrote in response to Anson’s claim:

“Monkey” carries racial baggage and you know it, and more importantly, Geoff knows it. That was the entire point of his tweet.

Exactly. That was the entire point of the tweet, whether Anson realizes it or not. And another commenter, Henry Morgan, put some force behind King Beauregard’s claim:

Anson tells us that “a monkey is another word for a funny and scatter brained like “thing.”
Yes, and a “coon” is a small animal of American forests known for its fastidious eating habits.
And an “ape” is a member of a family of primates inhabiting tropical environs.
A “buck” is a male deer.
A “boy” is a young human male.
And most certainly, as Anson implies, one’s first meaning attached to these words when African-Americans are part of the discussion, is the denotative, not the connotative.
Gee, just nice, kindly words.

Brilliant stuff.

Another frequent contributor, Jim Wheeler, doubted whether Anson was unaware of the obvious fact “that the monkey reference is terminology historically used to deprecate the inferiority of the black race.” Jim writes:

Anson presents an apparently blind eye to this, despite having grown up in Kentucky. That he really didn’t understand the slur is about as likely as believing that Archie Bunker wouldn’t. But wait. I can picture Archie using it and not even realizing its effect, so never mind. ;-)

Okay. I’m going to assume, for the sake of argument, that Anson genuinely was not aware that the term “monkey” has historically been used as a racial epithet and worse. I’m going to assume that Anson didn’t see the story earlier this year about North Korea’s state media describing President Obama as a “wicked black monkey.” I suppose it could be that the North Koreans were just saying that our wicked president was a “funny and scatter brained like ‘thing.'” They’re known for their playful chatter, right? Not even Anson Burlingame would believe that, I am sure.

In any case, in order to help make Anson—and others tempted to think that a local columnist comparing our first African-American president to a monkey was just a playful form of criticism—aware of the awful history behind the connection, I’m going to introduce them to Ota Benga, a Congolese man who actually became part of an exhibition at the Bronx Zoo in 1906.  According to Encylopedia Virginia,

…tens of thousands of people came to see the famous Pygmy who shared a cage with an Asian orangutan, several chimpanzees, and a parrot…The so-called man and monkey show was immediately controversial. 

As Wikipedia notes, Benga was displayed in the zoo’s famous “Monkey House,” which closed in 2012. But pay particular attention to this historical fact on the Wiki page:

Displays of non-Western humans as examples of “earlier stages” of human evolution were common in the early 20th century, when racial theories were frequently intertwined with concepts from evolutionary biology.

It’s no accident when someone who wishes to disparage an African-American uses the term monkey. It’s not just “another word for a funny and scatter brained like ‘thing,'” as Anson claimed. And it is especially no accident when someone who literally despises Barack Obama tweets the following:

caldwell and monkey tweet

Geoff Caldwell, a disturbingly reactionary columnist for the Joplin Globe, may never have heard of Ota Benga and his appearance as an exhibit in the Monkey House at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. But he most certainly knows the awful and racist meaning behind calling President Obama a monkey. And that is precisely why he did it.

The only question remaining is whether the Joplin Globe will tolerate such behavior.

Joplin Globe’s Local Columnist Writes Racist Tweet

Every Wednesday someone working on behalf of the Joplin Globe throws trash in my yard.

That trash comes in the form of a column on the editorial page inside the “free” newspaper that is distributed to non-subscribers. That column is written by a man who is now a regular columnist for the Joplin Globe. His name will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog: Geoff Caldwell.

Caldwell is a troll that I banished from commenting on this blog a long time ago, details of which I won’t go into now. Neither will I go into the details of why I think calling Caldwell’s columns “trash” is, well, an understatement. But even though I hesitate to even bring attention to him—because he is starving for attention from me or anyone—I do think that my fellow Democrats out there, as well as independents, who support the Joplin Globe through subscriptions or daily purchases should be aware of what your money is subsidizing.

As we all know, President Obama decided recently to take executive action to defer deportment of some undocumented immigrants, which would, among other things, help keep families together. You would think that keeping families together would be something that self-professed “family-values” Christians like Geoff Caldwell could appreciate. But hatred for Barack Obama has poisoned the minds of so many teapartiers like Caldwell that instead of appreciation of a humane act, or instead of reasoned criticism of what some consider executive overreach, we get this:

caldwell and monkey tweet

Now, Caldwell may think he can get away with this obviously racist tweet because of the “banana republic” reference, but he and I both know better. We’ve been down this road before.

I am sure the Joplin Globe will continue to litter my lawn with Caldwell’s columns on Wednesday mornings in an effort to more widely distribute the advertising that is stuffed into that edition, as well as to pick up new subscribers. But I am also sure that as long as my local paper publishes a column by a pedestrian writer who calls our first African-American president a “monkey,” I will never again be a subscriber.

By the way, for those of you interested in expressing your displeasure to the Joplin Globe, the phone number is 417-781-5500. If you want to make a written complaint to the Globe’s parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., here is a link to its site: http://www.cnhi.com/general-inquiries/

The Randy Turner Case (Updated)

For those of you who tune into this blog for political opinion, I apologize for the following post, but I feel compelled to comment on something happening in my local school district.

Randy Turner is a teacher assigned to Joplin East Middle School. Until recently he taught English to eighth graders, and judging by the accounts I have read from current and former students, he was good at it.  He was once a finalist for the district’s Teacher of the Year Award. Turner is also a local blogger (The Turner Report), does some writing for The Huffington Post, and has authored several books.

The 57-year-old middle school teacher is now on administrative leave, having been escorted from school premises by a police officer on April 8—a mere six weeks before the end of the school year.

The charges against him, as related by Mr. Turner himself, can be found here. For the sake of brevity, I will condense the charges down to the two essential ones:

1) That he directed his middle-school students to a book he wrote, No Child Left Alive, which the district claims contained “sexually explicit and violent passages,” and that he promoted “obscene material” in the book “to 12, 13, and 14-year-old children through his blog for his middle school communication arts class.”

2) That he “marketed for personal gain” another book he wrote, Scars from the Tornado, that incorporated “stories, essays, and comments” from his eighth grade students about Joplin’s horrific storm experience, and that Turner allegedly “instructed” his students to contribute to the book.

Mr. Turner offers his public (and to me, plausible) defense against these charges on his blog and I will leave interested readers to draw their own conclusions, but there are a couple of things that bother me about the actions the school district has taken.

Before I offer my criticisms of the district’s actions against Turner, I want to make a couple of things clear. Randy Turner is not a fan of mine. I used to read the Turner Report now and then and even linked to it for a while, but he didn’t seem to appreciate my writing or my efforts on this blog, particularly when it was connected to the Joplin Globe, so I sort of wandered away from what he was doing.

But I have appreciated his criticism of our education system and the attempts to reform it, and I endorse many of his views. (His recent piece for HuffPo—“A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher”—was outstanding, if depressing—my youngest son wants to become a teacher.)

So, nothing I say is because Randy Turner is a friend of mine or an admirer. I don’t know him and have never met him.

That having been said, there is something fishy about what has happened to him. First, he has taught in this school district for ten years and has been honored for his efforts. No matter what one thinks of the charges against him, or his defense, any fair-minded person reading the essentials of those charges can easily see that the matter wasn’t so urgent that it could not have waited until the end of the school year, which was just six weeks away when a cop walked him out of the building—in view of the kids who were still at school at the time.

Second, if Randy Turner is known for anything outside of Joplin, it is for his general criticism of so-called education reform and the problems those reforms have caused and continue to cause for the classroom teacher. My daughter teaches high school English and I have heard her express nearly the exact criticisms of today’s classroom experience that Turner has offered, including his criticisms of what he called “overambitious administrators.”

My suspicions are that the hasty and apparently excessive actions taken against him have less to do with some naughty words in a novel than with silencing a contrarian, someone who is not afraid to speak up about what teachers actually experience in the classroom.

Third,  I’m especially bothered by the actions of the district’s superintendent, the much-praised C. J. Huff, who has become something of a local hero for the way he handled the devastation the tornado did to several of our schools, including my son’s high school. Huff, who deserved commendation for many of his actions after the tornado passed through (I thanked him in person myself), has enjoyed very positive publicity in our local paper.

But something I read in the Joplin Globe (amazingly, the story appeared two weeks after the teacher was placed on administrative leave) about the Turner case really bothers me. The paper reports that Huff said a “district employee” complained about Turner on April 4 and he was removed from the classroom four days later. Then the Globe reports:

After an investigation into the complaint by the administration, a 28-page “statement of charges” was given to Turner on Thursday, Huff said.

 That would have been on or about April 25. The Globe continued:

Huff said the investigation included “a review of any and all evidence” related to the complaint as well as interviews with people who might have had relevant information. Speaking in general terms, he said the people who were interviewed could have included district employees, students or parents.

Now, a fair interpretation of Huff’s statement, that the investigation included “a review of any and all evidence,” would lead one to believe that Turner himself was given the opportunity to substantially contribute to the investigation, to contribute “relevant information.” Yet, that didn’t happen.

Turner posted on YouTube the actual audio of an interview that the district’s human resources director did on the day Turner was removed from the school. The part of the interview in which she asked him questions lasted about four minutes. Four minutes. Turner said he was never questioned again, so those four minutes constituted his involvement in the so-called investigation.

I remind you that the subsequent charges against him were listed in 28 pages.  And I remind you that the so-called investigation began somewhere around April 4 and concluded somewhere around April 25. Thus, there were more or less three weeks to interview Turner and get more information before the charges were filed against him. But he got four minutes.

The Globe reported that Superintendent Huff said,

Under the school district’s due-process procedure, Turner can request a hearing in front of the Board of Education, at which time he would be allowed to “state his case,” Huff said. The board would review any evidence against him and then determine whether to continue his contract, Huff said. If a hearing is not requested, the board still would meet to consider whether to continue the contract, he said.

Now, that’s a funny way to do an investigation, isn’t it? You do an initial four-minute interview with a well-respected employee who has been accused of something, spend a couple more weeks talking to others and looking at websites and reading his books, then you never go back and talk to the accused again? Wasn’t there some other questions that the investigators might have had regarding something they discovered?

Or was the whole thing a done deal before Turner ever had a chance to speak on April 8?

Based on my extensive experience as a union representative, as one who has sat in on many “investigative” interviews of employees accused of wrongdoing, I can pretty much guarantee you that the district had determined before April 8 that Turner was guilty of some district policy infraction (there are many policies, of course, that one can trip over), and that the only reason for the “investigation” was to gather evidence to “convict” him before the Board of Education.

Again, based on my experience dealing with these kinds of matters, Mr. Turner, like many of the employees I represented, was already guilty in the eyes of management before he was asked the first question. The questions were designed not to obtain facts or shed light on known facts, but to build a case against him. Thus, there was no need to talk to him and have him further explain his side of the story as the phony investigation proceeded.

It’s true enough he will get his chance to “state his case” before the Board, as Superintendent Huff said. That hearing will happen on May 9.* But think about the odds against Turner. You have the school district’s superhero superintendent, and all the school district’s resources, stacked against a teacher who got four minutes—during an interrogation ambush and without any union representation—to contribute his side of the story, and obviously after conclusions were already drawn.

I don’t like his chances.

But there are, as the Globe reported, some local students and parents trying to help him. A site offering a petition to the school board to “Allow Randy Turner To Continue Teaching” has now reached 229 supporters. And a Facebook page has been created that now has 570 “likes.”

As for Turner’s state of mind at this time, he says:

I don’t want to let people know that I am worried to death about losing a job I love and worried that the steps that have been taken against me could end up marking the end of my teaching career.
 
Though I feel like a young man, let’s face it- I’m 57 and I have a pacemaker. Schools aren’t going to be lining up to add me to their faculties.
We should all hope, as citizens and as taxpayers, that the Board of Education will do its job and give Mr. Turner a fair hearing and actually give his defense the weight it deserves, considering his achievements as a teacher and the fact that we need folks in the classroom who give a damn about their profession of educating our kids.
_______________________________
* UPDATE: The Board of Education hearing that will decide Turner’s fate has been moved, according to Turner, from May 9 to May 23 at 9 a.m. He wrote:
I had been a bit concerned when I have heard that parents had planned to pull their students out of school May 9 to attend the hearing. Now that won’t be necessary, since the last day of school is Tuesday, May 21.On a sad note, this pretty much guarantees, barring some sensible intervention in this matter, that I have already spent my last day with this year’s eighth graders.

In Us We Trust

A former banker writing in the Joplin Globe a few days ago (Devaluing currency to offset spending is risky” ), spent 827 words trying to tell us something about inflation and debt and, well, lots of stuff, but very little of it made much sense to me. Bankers often don’t make much sense to me.

But the column reminded me of something I have always wondered about: How does money itself work?

Turns out the great Wonkblog posted a piece on Friday about that very subject, about “the nature of money.” And it turns out that, just as I suspected,

Money really is just a symbolic, mutually shared illusion.

We can hold dollars in our hands. They are real physical things. But they aren’t “money” unless they can buy stuff. Thus, although dollars are real things, “money truly is an idea rather than a thing.” The Wonkblog piece points out:

…what makes money money is what you can do with it. If you can purchase the goods and services that you want and need with it, it is money; if you can’t, it isn’t.  Money is memory, said Narayana Kocherlakota in an important 1996 paper (he is now president of the Minneapolis Fed). It is the way we as a society record how much capacity to buy stuff each of us possess.

I broached this subject for one simple reason, which Wonkblog’s Neil Irwin put very well:

Once you accept that money truly is an idea rather than a thing, it becomes clearer that there is no single “right” way to run a monetary system. It is merely trying to figure out, through trial and error (and mankind has had plenty of error over our history), what system works best.

You see? As human beings, who presumably are trying to find ways to improve our individual and collective well-being, we are always experimenting, hopefully always learning from our successes and failures. And that doesn’t just apply to our monetary system. In all aspects of our culture, particularly regarding those things that require collective consideration and action, we should be getting better at figuring out what to do and what not to do as we address the inevitable change we see around us. Progress not regress.

But these days we see so many powerful forces around us that respond to the changes the modern world presents to us by demanding we go backwards—like, for instance, returning to the gold standard—rather than building on the advances we have made.

Neil Irwin ends his piece with what he calls a “fundamental truth”:

To function in a modern economy, you’re always putting your faith in something, whether you like it or not. And you may not like putting that faith in a powerful, independent central bank imbued with power from the state, but the alternatives may just be a lot worse.

And I will end this piece with my own related fundamental truth:

To function in the modern world, we’re always putting our faith in something. And we may not like putting our faith in a large and powerful government, but the alternatives, like just letting corporations and banks operate without oversight, or just letting folks starve in the streets, may just be a lot worse.

The Joplin Globe: A New Low, Indeed

Perhaps because its bread is mostly buttered by conservative readers and advertisers, or perhaps because all of our local legislators are Republicans and it wouldn’t do to make them mad, but there really is no excuse for what the Joplin Globe did—really, what it didn’t do—in today’s otherwise excellent editorial.

The piece rightly criticized the move in the Missouri legislature to force anyone wishing to vote in our state to present,

either a valid Missouri driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a passport, a military ID card or an unexpired state or federal photo ID card.

The Globe pointed out that,

The legislation would end the use of other forms of ID, including student ID cards, utility statements and expired Missouri driver’s licenses. A county-issued voter registration card wouldn’t even be good enough. If the bill is passed, Missouri would rank with Indiana for the strictest voter ID law in the country.

The paper mentioned the cost to the state of issuing the ID cards and also made the incontrovertible point that all of the fuss is over nothing. Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander, according to the Globe, said in a report that,

no cases of voter impersonation fraud have been reported since the state’s current voter identification requirements were put into place in 2002.

That bears repeating: there is no fraud to fight with this new voter ID law. Nothing. Not one single case has come up in more than ten years. That is why the Globe asks,

Why are Missouri legislators so eager to invent problems that aren’t there?

Now, that is a very good question. The problem is that the Joplin Globe is in a position to answer it—and it didn’t. It failed Journalism 101.

First, the paper used the term “Missouri legislators” to describe the perpetrators of this scheme. While technically correct, the term manages to hide the truth: it is only Missouri Republican legislators who are inventing problems that aren’t there. Why didn’t  the Joplin Globe tell its readers that?

Second, the paper knows full well what is behind the scheme: disenfranchising Democratic voters. Couldn’t the paper have found a Democratic legislator to make that obvious claim and report that in its editorial? Sure it could have. I found a Democrat willing to call this for what it is on my first Google attempt:

“Jim Crow is alive in this room today,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia who served in the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 2009. “This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly.”

Would it have been too much to ask that the editorial—which after all is expressing an opinion—present to readers at least what Democrats believe—and what the editorial writer actually knows—is behind the voter ID bill? But we must remember, again, who butters the Globe’s bread and the ultimate objective of bottom-line journalism: don’t piss off your subscribers or the people they put in political office.globe logo

Third, the paper has a very cozy relationship with area Republican legislators and we are often treated to favorable coverage in the paper of their mostly reactionary legislative exploits. Thus, since the offensive voter ID legislation has already passed the Missouri House, a reader of today’s editorial might wonder: How did our local representatives, like Bill Lant and Bill White and Charlie Davis and Tom Flanigan and Bill Reiboldt, vote? The paper doesn’t mention them.

Further, the bill is now before the Missouri Senate and a reader might want to know what our local senator, Ron Richard—the majority floor leader and recipient of many puffy pieces in the local paper—thinks about it. But the reader is left to wonder.

The Globe offered us nothing in the way of discovering what our local representatives think about this bill, this bill the Globe calls in the headline of its editorial,

A new low

A new low? That’s pretty strong language. Yet the paper doesn’t bother to call out Republicans in general for what they are doing nor does it bother to name names locally.* Again, think about the butter and the bread.

I guess I should be satisfied that at least the Joplin Globe is on the right side of the issue, but it would help much more if the paper used its clout to call out our local legislators for their disgusting attempt to disenfranchise large numbers of Missouri citizens, uh, Missouri Democrats.

__________________________________

*For the record, all of our local House members (except an absent Bill White) voted for the bill the paper called “A new low.”

I also called state Sen. Ron Richard’s office in Jefferson City and asked what his position on the pending legislation was. The nice lady who answered the phone told me that he had supported voter ID bills in the past but she couldn’t say for sure what his position was on this present legislation. She took my number and said she’d get back to me.

Oh, she also told me that lots and lots of voter fraud is going on, including buses full of folks hauled into the polls to vote illegally. I asked her to send me the evidence for this startling claim. I’ll let you know what I get, if anything.

Socialism’s Surprising Supporters In Southwest Missouri

Let’s begin with a relatively lengthy selection from the Joplin Globe’s endorsement of Mittens Romney in 2012, and please follow the logic the paper used to toss its 2008 Obama endorsement under the editorial bus:

And on the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being — unchecked federal spending — this nation is more than stalled. It is in reverse. […]

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Let’s review:

♦ “Unchecked federal spending” “threatens our nation’s future well-being”

♦ A “debtor nation” should not spend money on “non vital” stuff, if it has to “borrow money from China to pay for it”

♦ Because Obama doesn’t  recognize what “non vital” stuff is and won’t therefore cut it out of the budget, “he is the wrong person for the job”

Got it? Okay. Now, we can proceed to this morning’s banner headline in the same paper that endorsed Mittens:

joplin globe headline on federal money

Just where, you might ask, will Joplin “get” all that dough? Oh, that’s easy:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin will receive $113 million from a $125 million state grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for disaster recovery.

And:

HUD statements said the award came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 29 that designates $16 billion for U.S. disaster recovery.

“President Barack Obama signed…” Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The scary socialist president sent our city some socialism-tainted simoleons.

Amazingly, Joplin’s city manager wasn’t expecting the windfall:

City Manager Mark Rohr said the grant was a surprise to city officials, who earlier had applied for $1.72 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for tornado recovery and received $45.2 million.

Rohr said city officials thought the $45 million award, made in January 2012, was the result of the application and did not know that more money would be on the way.

“We’re very pleased and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten, and we intend to use the money wisely to help the city recover in the best way possible,” Rohr said.

The city manager didn’t exactly say this money was “vital” to the needs of Joplin, did he? In fact, he sort of sounded like he—we—had won the lottery.

Well, this liberal—and Joplin resident—says good for Joplin.

But conservative readers of the Joplin Globe, especially readers who lauded the paper’s endorsement of socialism-hating Romney, had every right to expect, upon reading this story, that the paper would publish an editorial this morning expressing grave concerns about all that “unchecked federal spending,” right?

I mean, the Globe told us that we should not borrow money from China to pay for “non vital” stuff because we are such a “debtor nation,” so logic would dictate that the paper tell the city manager to wrap up the money and send it right back to President Obama, right?

Wrong.

In today’s paper, there was no such send-the-money-back-to-the-treasury editorial. Nope. Nothing about unchecked federal spending, debtor nation, or China. And I would bet ten-thousand Romney dollars that there will never be such an editorial in the Joplin Globe. Never.

Oh, by the way, speaking of the money the feds—no, the good people of the United States—have sent here to J-Town since the tornado in 2011, the Globe reports:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the block grant raises the amount of federal funding Joplin has received to more than $350 million. 

I’m not a math whiz but I think that amounts to about $7,000 for every man, woman, child, and editorial writer in this Romney-for-president town.

Finally, to top off the amazing account of all that federal money rolling into the Republican-red, socialism-hating streets of Joplin, we have this from the Globe’s story:

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office issued a statement saying that the award was the result of legislation Blunt sponsored that made the $45 million available to Joplin. He also has sought continued aid that is earmarked for the areas in most need, his staff said. Blunt, R-Mo., met at City Hall with Joplin and Duquesne officials within weeks after the May 2011 tornado to ask them what would be needed for recovery.

“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” Blunt said in the statement. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”

If you made it through that without spewing up your breakfast—because you remember that small-government Roy Blunt voted against helping victims of Hurricane Sandy—then maybe you can agree with me that the headline of this story should have been:

Joplin Benefits From More Socialism, Thanks To Selective Socialist Senator Roy Blunt

Is The Joplin Globe Rising From The Dumb?

Remember when the Joplin Globe endorsed Mitt Romney? Of course you do. How could anyone forget, “Joplin Globe Doubles Down On Dumb And Endorses Romney” or the related, “The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time” ?

And remember during the election when Republicans were openly calling Obama a socialist, and Romney, who didn’t want to directly call him one, suggested instead that the president “takes his political inspiration from Europe, and from the socialist-democrats in Europe” ? romney socialist adAnd remember a Romney campaign ad that The New Republic said linked “Obama with a triumvirate of famous socialists,” including the late Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara?

So, we had Republicans directly saying Obama was a socialist and Romney indirectly saying it and the Joplin Globe siding with Romney and endorsing him. It was enough to make a guy cancel his subscription.

Well, I don’t know exactly what energetic Democratic mole has dug into the hardened ground of the Joplin Globe editorial staff, but I applaud his or her efforts. Believe it or not, via an “Other Views” editorial written by the Scripps Howard News Service, the Globe published this sentence that could have been written by yours truly:

Those figures should give the lie to the charge that Obama is a socialist. If he is, he’s a very bad one.

“Those figures” were these figures:

While the private sector was adding 246,000 jobs in February, the public sector cut 10,000. Newsweek notes that since the spring of 2010, the private sector has created 6.35 million jobs; the public sector has cut 1.5 million jobs.

Let those numbers sink in. Government employment over the last three years has declined by 1.5 million. That’s 1.5 million Americans who could be working and spending and paying taxes and helping to reduce the deficit that has freaked out so many people, including the Joplin Globe editorial board.

Remapping Debate published an article in January (“The incredible shrinking federal workforce“) that examined the ratio of federal employees (federal only, mind you) to population, using the year 1978 as a basis. And get this: The population has grown 40% since 1978 and yet there are 20% fewer federal employees! If the the employment-to-population ratio were the same today as it was in 1978, there would be nearly 350,000 more Americans employed in the federal government. Let that number sink in, too, as you add it to the 1.5 million public sector jobs lost since 2010.

Finally, while you’re thinking about the incredible drag on the economy that a shrinking government workforce represents, keep in mind that it was the Joplin Globe that brought this fact to the attention of its many conservative readers, many of whom believe Barack Obama is a big-government-loving socialist. That is progress, people.

And speaking of the local paper’s progress, the Scripps Howard-Joplin Globe editorial actually made the point that there is “real progress” going on in the economy, even as “lawmakers lurch from one budget crisis to the next.”

Now, if the Globe will go all the way and start to acknowledge that those “lawmakers” responsible for all the lurching are Republican lawmakers, perhaps the paper can regain some of the credibility it lost by that very dumb Romney endorsement.

Fixing The National Debt, One Meal At A Time

Tuesday’s Joplin Globe editorial noted the effect sequestration, which has become reality at last, is having on “our area senior centers,” as they try to “meet the demands of a growing homebound meals program” :

Now, federal cuts that went into effect on Friday could result in an 8.5 percent reduction in funding for the Area Agency on Aging. Stan Heater, the executive director for our agency, said that could reduce the annual number of meals served by about 12,000.

The Globe didn’t publish this editorial, however, to criticize sequestration, President Obama, or, God forbid, the real cause of the sequestration mess, the Republican Party. Nope. The paper was merely urging folks to donate to the local senior centers to help offset the cuts.

Fine. If local folks want to do that, good for them. The Area Agency on Aging, a 501 (c)(3) organization, does good work. But the Joplin Globe at least should explain to folks who happen to read this editorial why it is that 12,000 fewer meals may not be served. Perhaps the paper should also tell us if it endorses the sequester, the result of austerity-drunk conservatives holding President Obama and the nation’s credit rating hostage in 2011.

In its endorsement of “severely conservative” Mitt Romney last year, the Joplin Globe also endorsed austerity-drunk conservatism. The paper explained to us that we should be very worried about the national debt and “unchecked government spending,” which it called “the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being.”

Perhaps it is. And perhaps it is so serious that it is worth reducing funding to organizations that serve meals to old folks. What’s missing a meal or two when we have all that debt to worry about?

In the mean time, we have this:

House Republicans are proposing this week to restore upward of $7 billion to operations and maintenance accounts for the four military services hit hard by the automatic cuts that went into effect Friday night.

I just wonder how many meals organizations like the Area Agency on Aging could serve to seniors with that $7 billion?

Yeah, I just wonder.

 

Guns, God, Hemp, And Ozark Billy

The local wingnuts have been busy.

The Joplin Globe reported:

More than 150 residents, local politicians and rally organizers attended what was described as a “peaceful demonstration to support and defend the Second Amendment” Saturday at Landreth Park in Joplin…

One of those residents is a man named John Broom, who the Globe said is trying to start a “permanent group” of locals in order “to support firearm rights.” Apparently for Broom the NRA isn’t doing enough.gun rally in joplin

Broom, I must say, did an excellent job—much better than I could do—of exposing just how misguided gun enthusiasts can be:

We want people to know what we are about and why we support this right. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. It’s not about competition or sport, and it really isn’t about self-defense. It’s about rights of the people to protect themselves from invaders and from tyrants. We have to start educating folks really quick.

Yep, really quick, I mean, quickly: before people figure out how dumb it is to sit around the house with a small arsenal, waiting for invaders and tyrants. In any case, thanks to John Broom for that enlightening interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Last Saturday proved to be a busy day for local reactionaries. The Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Days brought into Joplin none other than Tom Schweich, who is Missouri’s auditor. Schweich told his Republican congregation:

God is a part of the Republican Party.

Yep, he said it. And, as the Joplin Globe reported, he said it “to applause from the crowd.” God always gets an ovation around here, don’t you know.

Apparently, the Globe couldn’t get God to comment on the remark, or, more likely, the paper didn’t bother to ask Him. Maybe next time. Oh, and maybe the Globe could ask God about that ass whippin’ that Barack Obama and the Democrats gave His party last November and just what He intends to do to get even. Democrats would do well to remember: Vengeance is mine, I will repaysaith the Lord.

During his keynote speech, Schweich estimated that 70 percent of the gathered locals were Christian conservatives. He was way off on that one. I doubt you could have found anyone in the crowd who would have courageously testified to being, say, an Allah-loving Republican. It’s GOP Jesus or nothing around here.

And speaking of GOP-Jesus-loving Republicans, Ozark Billy Long was in attendance. My congressman did not disappoint. He gave my president a compliment:

We spent all our time saying Barack Obama was nothing but a community organizer. He organized his community and got out the vote.

That had to hurt the Sarah Palin fans in attendance. The former fractional governor and former Fox babe made a small fortune by making fun of the community organizer. But fearless Billy had more to say, as reported by the Globe’s Susan Redden:

Long, speaking at the local Lincoln Days event, noted that a recent National Journal ranking had placed him as more conservative than Reps. Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan.

Only in Southwest Missouri would a congressman actually brag about being nuttier more conservative than Michele Bachmann. And although Redden didn’t report it this way, I’m guessing that Long made his I’m-crazier-than-Bachmann statement “to applause from the crowd.”

Finally, Ozark Billy has been called out by, uh, The Weed Blog: Marijuana News and Information. It seems one of Billy’s constituents wrote him, asking support for the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. Yes, there is such a bill, and it has several bipartisan co-sponsors in the House (the Senate version includes Mitch McConnell as a co-sponsor).billy long and hemp

For those of you who don’t touch the stuff, industrial hemp is not marijuana, although both are prepared from Cannabis plants. As Wikipedia points out,

Hemp is refined into products like hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, and fuel.

The stuff in the Cannabis plant that gives you the munchies (THC) is very low or nonexistent in industrial hemp. Thus, when we’re talking about hemp farming we’re not talking about growing pot, as disappointed as that may make some of you out there, and you know who you are.

In any case, Billy Long responded to his constituent with a letter that, as The Weed Blog noted, indicated Long didn’t have the slightest idea what industrial hemp was. In the response letter, Long said,

While I am a strong believer in personal freedom, I do not support the recreational or medical use of illegal drugs regardless of whether the drug is marijuana, cocaine, or any other illegal substance.

The Weed Blog writer, Johnny Green, wrote:

I find it odd that someone who dislikes hemp so much, doesn’t even understand what it is. Is he serious?

Well, it’s hard to answer that question, Johnny. Perhaps Billy Long, somewhere in his past, had a bad experience smoking industrial hemp. Who knows? Smoking industrial hemp may explain a lot about Billy Long.

But I certainly don’t find it “odd” that Long, like so many Bachmannish conservatives, can dislike something without understanding it. That’s how they manage to stay in power in places like Southwest Missouri. From evolution to global warming to hemp farming, the less they understand, the more popular they are.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, everyone!

Jihadist Hookers From Joplin

Tuesday morning’s editorial in the Joplin Globe focused on a Washington Post article highlighting the efforts of folks from the United Arab Emirates to help Joplin rebuild after the 2011 tornado. The Globe noted:

In the big picture of dollars that have been donated to Joplin since the May 2011 tornado, the UAE contribution is just one example of generosity. Joplin students are now using computers to advance their education thanks to the donation has been key in getting Joplin back on its feet. And, just a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of the tornado, it was announced that a grant of $5 million from the UAE would support the construction of a children’s wing at the new Joplin Mercy Hospital.

So thank you again, UAE, for what you have provided Joplin.

My son is one of those Joplin High School students using a MacBook laptop instead of traditional textbooks. Most of the money used to buy those computers came from a place not only far away in geographical terms, but also in cultural terms. And needless to say, despite the gratitude of the Joplin Globe and local school officials and myself, accepting gifts from Muslim Arabs did not go over well with some of the locals or their conservative helpmates elsewhere.

The Post article included this:

When development director Kimberly Vann told her boss, Superintendent C.J. Huff, that the UAE government was willing to donate $1 million for laptops, he thought it was a joke.

“Back then, we were getting a lot of calls from people willing to help — but nothing like this,” Huff recalled. “I thought somebody was pranking us.” […]

The decision to accept the UAE money prompted an angry response from a few residents, and it sparked rants from some conservative radio commentators — one of them, Debbie Schlussel, accused the school system of taking “Islamic blood money” — but Huff stood firm. “I can live with the hate mail,” he said. “It’s the right thing for the kids.”

The hysterical Debbie Schlussel, a right-wing, Muslim-despising blogger, wrote in 2011:

Will the new Apple Notebooks the UAE is paying for also come with Muslim propaganda software installed?  And is the UAE supplying Joplin High with pro-Muslim, anti-Western, anti-Israel textbooks? Bet on it.

Well, I hope she didn’t bet on it. So far, my son hasn’t come home demanding our house conform to sharia law, nor does he flop down five times a day and pray (as far as I can tell). But, who knows, schlusselshorter.jpgSchlussel may win the bet yet. Those crafty Muslim Arabs aren’t limiting their help just to high school kids, as the Globe noted and the Post reported:

the UAE is spending $5 million to build a neonatal intensive-care unit at Mercy Hospital, which also was ripped apart by the tornado.

Now, that’s what I call propaganda. Convert the newborns to Islam while they’re hooked up to life support!

In any case, Schlussel wasn’t finished with the school angle:

Can’t wait for burka prom and “We Hate Israel Day” at Al-Joplin High. Anyone up for “The Holocaust Never Happened” school play?

What the heck kind of a country is this, in which we cannot afford to bail out our own high schools and put them in a situation where they must sell out to Islamic propaganda efforts in order to survive and continue?  What kind of people are the sell-outs of Joplin?  I’ll tell you what kind. . . .

The Joplin school district officials are dhimmi whores for jihad.  Period.

Burka prom? Al-Joplin High? Dhimmi whores for jihad? Huh? All of that right here in Southwest Missouri? Wow. For a mere million bucks the Muslims have bought a bunch of jihadist hookers from Petticoat Joplin! That seems like a small price to pay for establishing the Caliphate. The hookers should have held out for more stuff, say, better food in the school cafeteria. Emirati cuisine surely has to be better than beef nuggets and a chicken patty on a bun.

But seriously, Ms. Schlussel does ask one reasonable question: “What the heck kind of country is this, in which we cannot afford to bail out our own high schools“? I’ll tell you what kind of country it is: It’s Tea Party country!

For years now, conservative Republicans have been telling us that America is broke and can’t afford this, can’t pay for that. Thus, government needs to shrink, at least small enough so that Grover Norquist can do naughty things to it in his bathtub. And now some rich folks from the United Arab Emirates sort of feel our fiscal pain. They pity us. From the WaPo article:

The gifts are part of an ambitious campaign by the UAE government to assist needy communities in the United States.

Needy? Who, us? We—Bible-Belt believers—need help from Muslims? Oh, the shame of it all. The article goes on:

For decades, the United States has been the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, paying for the construction of schools, health clinics and vaccine programs in impoverished countries. It still is, but the level of donations has been increasing among nations with new financial clout, including China, India and oil-rich Persian Gulf states. And at least one of them now sees poor parts of the United States as worthy recipients for that same sort of assistance.

Ouch! That hurts: “Poor parts of the United States.” They’re talking about us, Joplin Tea Party lovers! And among those conservative Republicans who don’t mind taking Muslim charity is a man who for years represented this poor part of the country in the House of Representatives:

roy blunt and uae gift

After being promoted to the U.S. Senate in 2010, Blunt said his fellow Missourians were asking him:

Why don’t we get back to common-sense government?

Yes, let’s “get back” to the kind of government that relies on charity from foreigners to help educate its kids in the twenty-first century. And that’s the kind of government we will have if Tea Party thinking continues to dominate the Republican Party.

Allahu Akbar!

The Joplin Globe Gets Early Voting Kudos

Because I have sometimes been highly critical of the Joplin Globe’s editorial positions, I feel I have to offer up some praise when the local paper gets it right.

Perhaps coming out of its Romney-endorsing funk, the Joplin Globe has embraced an idea that every American should, but doesn’t, support: early voting.

Missouri doesn’t really have early voting, except for those willing to swear they can’t cast a ballot on election day. Those folks can vote absentee. But Secretary of State Jason Kander is trying to find ways to expand early voting, and to that end he put together a commission—which includes the mayor of Joplin—that will study the issue and hopefully come up with a plan.

Kander said:

We have to preserve security in our elections while increasing efficient access for eligible voters. An affordable plan for early voting could help alleviate long lines at the polls on Election Day by adding a much-needed convenience for Missourians across the state.

Who, besides scared Republicans, could oppose that? Thankfully, the Joplin Globe is on board:

Early voting speaks to the disenfranchised voter and sends the message that the system does not have to be so inflexible.

Speaking to disenfranchised voters is not exactly in the Republican playbook, but Voter ID is. And on that controversial issue, the Globe gets it right again:

Voter ID, on the other hand, is a solution looking for a problem. We don’t see that it is necessary.

The House will be taking up the issue of voter ID this week. We would challenge legislators to focus on laws that make voting easier and more efficient.

Way to go, Joplin Globe. Here’s hoping that this is a sign the paper, after forsaking its 2008 Obama endorsement, has come back to its senses.

Of Course We Need Economic Growth

Anson Burlingame, local conservative blogger and contributor to the Joplin Globe, commented on a piece I wrote (“Liberals Love Wealth“). His response included the following:

I have just completed a semester of study of macro economics at MSSU…

Not one word, not one textbook assignment, essentially not “anything” was taught about income distribution in the entire course. No “Keynesian vs Classical” theories, no debate of differing views over WHAT is the real income distribution, how do we measure it, what is “good” or “bad” income distribution or most important what to do about it.

That makes me wonder how the “science” of economics addresses that hot political potato of today…I only hear politicians and pundits opining on the matter. To me that is akin to political arguments over nuclear power without understanding to some degree at least the “science” behind such a source of electrical power…

As all of you discuss income distribution I offer this challenge to further consider. WHICH is more important today, growth in REAL production of goods and services that will SELL around the world, a competitive world OR redistribution of WEALTH, not just income, amongst various segments of America? CAN you achieve BOTH at the same time? I frankly don’t know the answer to that question nor have I “studied” such an issue in academia yet…

Anson

My reply:

Anson,

Your study of macroeconomics is admirable, and, like you, I would want (demand?) a discussion about what politicians and pundits argue about all the time: income (re)distribution, especially since, at bottom, what constitutes an economy is the way we collectively use our resources to produce and distribute goods and services.  I can’t think of anyone better suited to help us understand the issue you raised than folks trained to analyze the economy.

As far as how economists in the field address your question, there are think tanks, etc., on all sides that publish papers; there are economists like Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman (on my side) who write currently about your topic and appear on TV or radio, as well as countless others who have published works in the past. So, it turns out that economists do have a lot to say about the subject.

Among ordinary folks, talking about income and wealth  distribution is not really akin to talking about nuclear power for the reason that people don’t need a degree in economics to know what fairness-justice is (perhaps they do, though, need a course on John Rawls), and it is our collective sense of fairness (expressed through our political choices) that determines whether, say, we will spend X on redistributive social programs or nothing at all.

You asked which was more important, economic growth or “redistribution of wealth, not just income.” You also asked, “Can we achieve both at the same time?

I went back on your blog and looked at an exchange we had more than three years ago about “How Do We Pay For “STUFF” (your title). Your first sentence was:

I am not sure how the federal government can pay for all the “stuff” demanded by voters, are you?

My rather lengthy response (I was willing, in those days, to invest the time in debating you) included this sentence:

Without economic growth, there is no way to solve any of the fiscal problems.

I hope you read and reread that sentence I wrote three years ago, Anson. Often it is that folks on your side ignorantly claim that liberals like me don’t give a damn about economic growth, only about spending more rich people’s money. Hooey.

Of course growth is essential to doing the stuff we liberals want to do. We are keenly aware that too much taxation and regulation stifles growth, just as conservatives should be keenly aware (few are, though) that too little taxation and too little regulation stifles civilization.

But I said all that to say this: Of course we can have both growth and a more equitable distribution of wealth (and income). In fact, both are necessary for our national well-being. The economic story of America in the twentieth century is the story of how we grew into an economic badass and yet began to figure out how to divvy things up a little more fairly (at least until conservative thinking began to take root in government and media in the 1980s).

Now, just how we get more economic equality without negatively affecting economic growth is what makes public policy choices so difficult. However, we first have to agree—we liberals and you conservatives—that a more equitable distribution of income and wealth is a goal we should pursue. Very few on your side think so (beyond helping those who can’t help themselves), and that is the source of a lot of our disagreements.

I will agree with any conservative who believes that economic growth is the best way to fight poverty. The problem is that some among us inevitably won’t get much from that formula. Indeed, some will get left out altogether, for whatever reason.

What do we do about them? Their children? And what do we do about older folks who are no longer competitively productive?

I’ll give you a hint: we don’t leave them to fend for themselves or agonize in the streets. We should help them, provide for their children (bread, butter, and books), and give them some sense of security in their old age. In a civilized society, that is what we should do.

But those things are expensive. And to pay for them we need to get the money from those who have it. Call it redistribution, call it whatever you want. But in a myriad of ways we do it each and every day, and we should strive to do it better.

And economists can and should help us understand how to do so, and if your professor failed to even bring up the subject then you missed something important.

Duane

Afraid: The GOP War On Voting

I heard a conservative say on Sunday how “admirable” it was for folks to be willing to stand in line for six or seven hours to vote in Florida.

This morning I heard someone on the IQ-crippling morning show on Fox say essentially the same thing. How “dedicated” must those voters be.

All of us with a brain not poisoned by Fox “News” understand that what is going on in Florida and Ohio and elsewhere, in terms of how Republicans have intentionally made it more difficult for people, mostly Democratic people, to vote, would be a famous Fox-fueled scandal if it were reversed.

If Democrats were deliberately limiting or suppressing the voting opportunities of, say, white evangelicals, Fox hosts and guests—including Mitt Romney—would not be disingenuously fawning over those “dedicated” conservative Christians and their willingness to commit half a day—or night—to exercising their right to vote.

No, every minute of Fox broadcast time would be spent on how unpatriotic Democrats are to treat the voting process so shabbily, so self-servingly. “Our brave troops fought and died for that right!” they would sanctimoniously shout. They would demand the Justice Department put a stop to it. Hell, they would beseech GOP Jesus to send down a holy bolt of lightning to fry the oppressors.

The Joplin Globe, on Sunday, editorialized about voting, and offered quotes from famous Americans, including this one from John Kennedy:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

In an editorial about the importance of voting, the Joplin Globe had nothing to say about how “afraid” Republicans are of letting “people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.” Nothing to say.

♦ Nothing to say about Republicans in Ohio, particularly the secretary of state, who has done everything he can to make it more difficult to vote than it was four years ago, including his latest move, which may even be illegal, to give local election officials the power to invalidate ballots. (There will be a court fight on Monday, if nothing is resolved.)

♦ Nothing to say about onerous voter ID laws, which, as a Pennsylvania Republican stupidly but fortunately admitted, were designed to deliver the election to the Republican presidential candidate.

♦ Nothing to say about right-wing groups like True the Vote—founded just after Mr. Obama took office—whose real goal is to intimidate or delegitimize minority and young voters. Read this article by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and cringe at the inquisition-like tactics being used by Republicans—lily white Republicans—against people of color who have voted all their adult lives. (Local inquisitors like Republican honcho John Putnam are using True the Vote tactics here in Southwest Missouri, for God’s sake, a place where Democrats usually poll about 35%.)

♦ Nothing to say about what has been happening in Florida, the lines, the chaos and confusion, the suppression. Republicans there deliberately cut back early voting days, including the Sunday before election day, typically a strong day of voting by African-American voters. And the former Republican governor of that state, Charlie Christ, criticized the current Republican governor for refusing to extend early voting hours, as folks waited a ridiculously long time to vote:

The only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression. That’s unconscionable. I think it’s just the wrong thing to do. And the right thing to do would be to sign an executive order to make sure this doesn’t happen and you expand the hours.

As one voter there, who waited in line for almost two hours, said:

This is America, not a third-world country.

She forgot, I guess, that since 2010, Florida has been living under Tea Party governance, third-world or otherwise.

All of the disgusting Republican tactics are ostensibly designed to address voter fraud, a problem that doesn’t exist in the form that things like voter ID laws and registration inquisitions would help fix. The New Yorker article quoted a public-policy professor at Rutgers, who said,

It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.

Thus, it makes no legal sense that Republicans would spend so much time and effort to attack a problem that is not a problem, but it does make political sense. Again, as John Kennedy would certainly say today, if he were around to witness what Fox “News” and the Joplin Globe and even much of the national press refuse to witness, is that Republicans, who have embraced extremism wholesale, truly are “afraid” to allow people to “judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.

Because when it comes down to it, the conservative spirit, which animates Republican politics today, is and always has been afraid of We the People.

 

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

After The Storm Is Over

In my reaction to the Joplin Globe’s why-should-the-rich-pay-more reasoning in its editorial endorsing Mitt Romney, I wrote:

…let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

I had forgotten, when I wrote that, that Mittens had something to day during a CNN Republican primary debate about the kind of federal disaster relief that benefited folks here in Joplin:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though? 

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

The Joplin Globe, a paper that has spent the last 17 months chronicling the post-tornado recovery of Joplin, including stories on the large role FEMA and the federal government played in that recovery, endorsed a man who said that “we cannot afford to do those things” these days because neither he nor the Joplin Globe believe that the rich should pay a little more in taxes.

It will be interesting to see how many Republicans, those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, will refuse the help of the federal government after the storm is over.

I didn’t see any refusal of federal help around here in this very red Republican town after the tornado tore through the middle of it, and I don’t expect Governor Christie or any other Republican official or any other Republican voter will say after their storm subsides, “No, we cannot afford to do those things.”

 

Speaking Of Newspaper Endorsements…

I’m sure you all have heard about the Des Moines Register‘s turncoat endorsement of Mitt Romney the other day. It made all the news, especially all the right-wing news, since it was the first time since 1972 that the paper endorsed a Republican.

The Des Moines Register’s reasoning in its endorsement was almost as dumb as the Joplin Globe’s reasoning in its endorsement of Romney. Here is just one example:

Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened. That has hampered not only the economy, but the entire country. We remain a nation of red states and blue states.

Get it? Republicans “rebuffed” President Obama (and it wasn’t just “early in his administration,” either, it was throughout his term) and it is Obama’s fault for not continuing to allow Republicans to rebuff him. Therefore, the hardening of the “partisan divide” is Obama’s fault and we should elect a Republican to be president.

Such a dazzlingly dopey deduction is exactly why Republicans set out to sabotage the Obama presidency in the first place. The figured they could count on fools like the Des Moines Register editorial writer(s) to make it Obama’s fault.

But besides that Iowa paper’s confused and confusing endorsement, perhaps you didn’t hear, I know I didn’t until today, that the Salt Lake Tribune, way out there in Mormon land, actually endorsed Barack Obama. Yep, the paper, which had endorsed Obama four years ago, stuck with him, despite what must have been some cultural—and subscriber—pressure to jump ship in favor of Mittens. (The same kind of pressure which no doubt wilted the resolve of the Joplin Globe to stay with the President.)

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Obama endorsement is a profile in courage for a paper that  operates in a “largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state,” as its editorial acknowledged, in a year where a Mormon, Republican, and business-friendly Mitt Romney is a candidate. That must have been a tough business decision, if not a tough political one.

Keeping in mind my criticism of the Joplin Globe’s Romney endorsement—”utter phoniness” and “complete incoherence“—I would like to share what the Salt Lake Tribune editorial said about a man the state knows well.

After praising Romney for rescuing the 2002 Olympics in Utah, the paper said:

In short, this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.

Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

Romney is “shameless,” the Tribune said, when it comes to telling folks what they want to hear. In the Joplin Globe endorsement, that widely held view of Mitt Romney didn’t merit a mention. It didn’t come up. How can that be? How could our local paper not even at least acknowledge the one thing that is universally suspected about Romney—including by conservatives, who don’t trust him either—that he just might not do what he says he will do, whatever that is on a given day.

But more than that, Romney’s credibility problem, which the Joplin Globe editorial pretends doesn’t exist, is related to the one thing the paper insisted was its primary reason for endorsing Romney: his tax plan, which the Globe, despite all the contrary evidence, believes is legitimate. But it believes that on faith, not evidence. And given all the lies, given all the changes in Romney’s policies and his principles, how can anyone have faith in what Mitt Romney says?

The Salt Lake Tribune addresses the very issue that the Joplin Globe touted as its primary reason for endorsing Romney:

To claim, as Romney does, that he would offset his tax and spending cuts (except for billions more for the military) by doing away with tax deductions and exemptions is utterly meaningless without identifying which and how many would get the ax. Absent those specifics, his promise of a balanced budget simply does not pencil out.

You see, that kind of sound reasoning, as opposed to the silly, sophomoric shards of thought that characterized the Joplin Globe’s editorial endorsement, leads to the following conclusion:

In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.

Joplin Globe Doubles Down On Dumb And Endorses Romney

Just as I suspected it would, the Joplin Globe has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Thus will end my association with the paper, as I will soon cancel my subscription.

I don’t do so lightly, as I have always known the paper’s Republican leanings, even when I was receiving beer money from the Globe for blogging. But the utter phoniness of the editorial endorsing Romney, along with its complete incoherence, compels me to react in the only rational way I know how: say goodbye to an old friend who has not only disappointed, but who has disappointed in a way that is irreparable.

And I can now spend the $15 a month on a digital subscription to The New York Times.

The Globe lost some subscribers four years ago for its daring endorsement of Barack Obama. It will lose me for its stunning lack of faith in its original endorsement. It is clear that Globe management was not prepared to make the mistake of endorsing the locally unpopular president, despite his two visits here and despite his administration’s enormous efforts to help Joplin recover from last year’s tornado. Instead, the paper has invented ridiculous reasons for endorsing Romney, including this one:

But in regard to the issue that is front and center for Americans — jobs and economic recovery — this nation remains stalled.

Stalled? Don’t the members of the editorial board read their own paper? Huh? The nation is not stalled. GDP is in fact growing and has been growing for 13 straight quarters. The quarter before Mr. Obama took office the economy was shrinking at a pace of almost minus 9 percent. MINUS BLEEPING NINE PERCENT. And during the first quarter of his presidency the economy was shrinking at a rate of  minus 5.3 percent, a situation he had absolutely nothing to do with, since he was still trying to find his way around the White’s House at that time.

The most recent GDP numbers indicate we are now growing at 2 percent, which is nothing to brag about, but:

given the utter hole we were in,

given the obstruction presented by the Republican Party in terms of filibustering Obama’s additional economic efforts to get us out of that hole,

given the fact that Republicans created the so-called “fiscal cliff” that has businesses worried about the rules of the game next year,

given the fact that, according to an article in the Globe itself, “slower global growth has cut demand for American exports,”

given the effect this year’s expansive drought had on agriculture inventories,

2 percent ain’t all that bad.

It’s certainly a helluva lot better than the minus 9 percent growth Obama inherited, from an administration that was acting according to the exact same philosophy that Mr. Romney, to the extent you can believe a goddamn word he says, plans to act on, should voters take the Globe’s advice and put him in the White’s House.

And other economic indicators are improving, including housing, which has been the main drag on the economy. The private sector has added more than 5 million jobs over the last 31 consecutive months of job growth. And if it weren’t for the shedding of state and local government jobs—which the President has tried to get Republicans in Congress to help stop—the overall job numbers would be even better.

But perhaps the most nauseating part of the Globe’s endorsement, besides completely ignoring Romney’s many, many lies and his penchant for secrecy, was this:

Obama’s mistake was that he favored short-term, targeted solutions.

Are you kidding me? Of course he favored short-term, targeted solutions. You bet he did. You know why? Because the goddamned economy was in the toilet. Millions of American jobs were being flushed into the abyss of Republican economics. That’s why he “favored short-term, targeted solutions.” And so did almost every other economist this side of Rush Limbaugh.

And so did the Joplin Globe in 2008.

As I noted, the paper endorsed Barack Obama four years ago. You know what the paper said then? Here’s what:

Following the market collapse and the recent Wall Street bailout, we believe that the nation needs a new economic plan.

Obama’s plan to provide tax cuts for middle-income Americans is a welcome one, as is his plan to eliminate capital-gains taxes for small businesses and provide cuts for businesses that create and keep jobs in the United States.

If tax cuts for middle-income Americans and tax cuts for businesses aren’t “short-term, targeted solutions,” then what the bleep is? The Globe was calling for, in 2008, short-term, targeted solutions that it now opposes. What hubris. What hypocrisy.

Obama did the things the Globe asked in 2008. He cut taxes for middle-income Americans. He also cut taxes, including capital-gains taxes, for small businesses. Here is a list of those tax cuts from Politifact:

From the Recovery Act, HIRE Acts, and Affordable Care Act:   

1. A new small business health care tax credit   
2. A new tax credit for hiring unemployed workers   
3. Bonus depreciation tax incentives to support new investment   
4. 75 percent exclusion of small business capital gains   
5. Expansion of limits on small business expensing   
6. Five-year carryback of net operating losses   
7. Reduction of the built-in gains holding period for small businesses from 10 to 7 years to allow small business greater flexibility in their investments   8. Temporary small business estimated tax payment relief to allow small businesses to keep needed cash on hand
   
From the Small Business Jobs Act:
   
9. Zero capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses   
10. Raising the small business expensing to $500,000   
11. An extension of 50 percent bonus depreciation   
12. A new deduction for health care expenses for the self-employed   
13. Tax relief and simplification for cell phone deductions   
14. An increase in the deduction for entrepreneurs’ start-up expenses   
15. A five-year carryback of general business credits   
16. Limitations on penalties for errors in tax reporting that disproportionately affect small business   

From the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act:
   
17. 100 percent expensing

That’s an impressive small-business tax-cutting list, don’t you think? Yet, despite the Globe advocating for those things four short years ago, now suddenly the paper says, “long-range, core change is needed.” Yeah, that’s what a “stalled” America needs alright. Let’s austerity ourselves into prosperity. It’s working so well for the Europeans who have tried it.

The 2008 Globe endorsement of Obama also included this:

With the war in Iraq well into its fifth year, Obama has said that it is time for the Iraqi government to begin stepping up to take on financial responsibility for its country at a time when our country is spending billions of dollars (not to mention the human cost) each month in our efforts there.

And we agree that beginning a responsible drawdown of American forces will also require Iraq to begin taking more military control of its country, and allow our troops to place more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and bringing 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice.

Needless to say, Obama ended the war in Iraq. It’s over. Done. Finished. Just like the Globe suggested was necessary. He also put “more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” And about bringing that “9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice,” perhaps the Globe editorial board hasn’t heard the goddamned news yet: The sonofabitch is bottom-feeding in the North Arabian Sea, thanks to a courageous SEAL Team Six and their Globe-endorsed Commander-in-Chief.

End the war in Iraq? Check. Put more emphasis on the bad guys in Afghanistan? Check. Bring bin Laden to justice? Check. Joplin Globe endorsement? Uh, well, no. All those checks and plenty more, yet President Obama is not worthy of another term says the Joplin Globe.

Moving on from the paper’s moving goal posts, the Globe additionally argues,

Romney won’t raise any new taxes to reduce the deficit. Period….It’s true that the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent — individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 — can pay more, but why should they?

Yeah, why should they? Let’s balance the budget by getting the money from the poor, the elderly, the disabled. Or maybe we could rob the piggy banks of the countless kids getting free or reduced price lunches here in Southwest Missouri.

Or let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

Yeah, why should the rich pay more? Under Bill Clinton they were suffering mightily under those confiscatory 39.6 percent tax rates, weren’t they? God, how did they get by? How did they survive? And how did the economy create those 22 million jobs, given such a drain on those overburdened “job creators”?

The Globe continues:

Romney’s plan is to roll back individual income tax rates for all income groups by 20 percent, and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, while at the same time reducing personal and corporate deductions.

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Oh, Allah. Help me. How many times must this stuff be debunked? One can go all over the Internet and get various versions of the debunkery, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that the Globe repeats the Romney line that he will reduce personal and corporate deductions sufficiently to make his plan work. Oh, yeah? Which ones? Tell us, Joplin Globe. Tell us which tax deductions Romney will “reduce.”  He won’t tell us, so why don’t you? And if you can’t tell us, then you don’t know what the hell you are talking about by saying,

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Finally, I recently wrote a piece titled, “The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time,” based on its assertion that Romney’s plan to cut the chump change used to fund public broadcasting was part of “a serious conversation about the proper role and reach of the federal government.” Boy, was I a little premature with that one. In its Romney-endorsing editorial, the Globe doubled-down on dumb with this remarkable ending passage:

When it comes to systemic problems, think Big Bird. Recent posturing over that “Sesame Street” character is telling.

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Mitt Romney should be the next president.

Yes, Mitt Romney should be the next president because he courageously promised to save American taxpayers one dollar and thirty-five cents a year by cutting off funding for public broadcasting, even though he would have exactly no power to do so without a willing Congress. That is real courage, real commitment, real change.

Maybe he can go on from there and cut the federal subsidy for the goddamned Joplin airport. Next he can tackle those free lunches that the greedy freeloading kids around here eat at school. Then, after he is energized by such “serious” budget cutting, he can cut Medicaid, so Joplin’s poor and elderly can unceremoniously croak in our streets.

Yes, why should the rich, the Romneys of the world, pay more? When there are so many better alternatives?

Now, I can truly say, without fear of future contradiction, that I have indeed read the Joplin Globe’s dumbest editorial of all time.

The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time

In what appeared to me to be a prelude to an eventual Romney endorsement, the Joplin Globe praised Romney’s courageous attack on Big Bird and approved of cutting federal funding for public broadcasting, which the editorial admits only costs each American $1.35 per year.  Yes, a buck and some change a year.

As others have pointed out, the government spends about as much at the Pentagon in six hours as it does on public broadcasting for a whole year. Yet, the Joplin Globe, in what can only be considered its dumbest editorial of all time, asks:

Is it really the role of the federal government, which is now running deficits of more than a trillion dollars annually, to subsidize Big Bird?

This editorial did not appear to be a joke, since it was not published on April 1, so I have to take seriously the effort here to bend over backwards for Romney and his pitiful attempt, during his debate with President Obama, to camouflage the real damage his and his running mate’s budget proposals will do to the country, in terms of their effects on the poor, the elderly, the disabled, not to mention the middle class and Big Bird. (The rich will do just fine, however.)

The Globe says Americans need to have “a serious conversation about the proper role and reach of the federal government.” Yeah, we sure do. And a serious conversation doesn’t start with trimming $1.35 a year from each American’s tax bill.

How about starting a serious conversation with the following graph, courtesy of Rachel Maddow and Foreign Policy magazine:

The graph shows the base defense budget since 1950, and it clearly shows the buildups during war time, the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Reagan Cold War spending, the so-called War on Terror (Maddow reminds us that the George W. Bush-era numbers don’t reflect the two Bush wars, since they were “off budget” during his time).

The graph also shows that after those periods, defense spending came down dramatically, since there was obviously less of a need for it. But notice the War on Terror spending. The red line shows what the budget would look like if the trend followed the post-Cold War trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It would have fallen, quite normally, way below current levels.

Then notice the “fiscal cliff” sequestration cuts, which as draconian as they are advertised by both Democrats and Republicans, still are less than the normal post-wars decline. Then notice the Obama proposed defense spending, which is way over the normal post-wars decline. Then, if you can stomach it, notice the Romney defense spending increases, which go off the chart.

That is what the Joplin Globe ought to want to start a conversation about, not Romney’s cheap attempt to score points with right-wing ideologues, who have always hated public broadcasting, apparently the Joplin Globe now among them.

Pastor In The Sky With Diamonds

Mack Evans used to pastor one of the largest churches in Joplin. In March of 2010, I wrote a piece about a televised sermon he gave on the end times—you know the kind: Jesus is coming soon and he’s pissed!—in which Evans said that passage of the much-debated health care bill, the Affordable Care Act,

may be one of the final blows to bring down the finances and the political—politics—of this country.

That message is essentially the message of the Republican Party, which as most conservative evangelicals know, is the Party of God. So, I wasn’t too surprised to hear one of God’s spokesmen connect Obamacare to the End of Days, a time when God’s wrath will be revealed, a wrath that will mean the death of billions of unrepentant earthlings.

Damned Obama!

Well, Pastor Mack, as he is known, is back, but this time he isn’t peddling fear about the future. He’s got a new, uh, ministry:

That’s not a parody, my friends. This is not culled from the ONION. The ad actually appeared in the Joplin Globe on September 1. (I redacted the phone number.)

The guy, who actually lives in Diamond, Mo, is using a diamond he found to entice folks to come to his church to hear his sermon on how you can find your diamond! God, he’s brilliant!

If you had taken the bait and attended on Sunday, you would have heard “JOCK EVANS & THE BLACK SHEEP BAND” (definitely not this band) doing “I”m Just An Old Chunk of Coal, But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Some Day.” Again, I’m not kidding. By the way, Jock Evans “likes” Mitt Romney. Go figure.

I do want to note, however, that Pastor Mack may be straying from GOP Jesus and the Romney-Ryan campaign, at least a little bit. According to a preview of Sunday’s sermon, “Buried Treasure,” I found on The Sheep Shed‘s Facebook page,

If you’re not careful, you can waste your life looking for your treasure somewhere else. It is not so much “where you are” as it is “what you are”. Most people will never be rich; they are not sitting on a diamond mine nor a gold mine.

Most people will never be rich“? Are you kidding me? The meme that riches are just around the corner, that personal wealth will come your way if you only keep your nose to the grindstone—and keep voting for Republicans—is what keeps the American “sheep,” particularly the poor sheep around these parts, in line.

Otherwise they might wander off—leave the sheep shed—and vote for Democrats.

____________________________

Now, if you’re a city-boy like me, you probably didn’t know there was such a thing as a sheep shed.  And, naturally, the sheep shed needs, uh, cleaning every now and again. The following video features that chore. Some of my favorite dialog:

GRANDPA: “Mmm. This is all the good sheep manure we use in grandma’s garden. Look at this stuff! Boy oh boy!  Grandma does it smell pee-yoo-ee?

GRANDMA: “Yes it does.”

GRANDPA: “Pee-yoo-ee!”

You gotta love Youtube:

Todd Akin Is The Legitimate Candidate, No Matter What The Joplin Globe Says

I’m not sure why the Joplin Globe would say this in its Tuesday editorial:

If it were up to us, Mr. Akin would reach deep into his soul and do the honorable thing. He should drop out of the race and open the door for a legitimate candidate.

Legitimate” candidate? Huh? Todd Akin is about as legitimate a candidate as the Republican Party can offer in this part of the country. As the Globe’s news story on Akin’s rape remarks pointed out:

Akin won every county in the Joplin region in the primary.

Get that? Every bleeping county. And the head of the Jasper County Republican Party, our old friend and evangelical Christian John Putnam—who was just reelected as county committeeman with 70% of the vote!—is not only standing by Akin, he is doubling down on Akin’s stupidity:

Akin’s response “was poorly worded,” Putnam said. “He has apologized for not speaking more clearly and compassionately.

“What he was talking about is forcible rape. There are established studies that show in cases of forcible rape, pregnancy is rare.” Putnam cited an article titled “Rape Pregnancies are Rare,” by John C. Wilke, M.D., from an April 1999 publication called Christian Life Resources.

In case you’re not familiar with Dr. Wilke, The New York Times described him as,

a general practitioner with obstetric training and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee.

Well, that last bit gives him away, doesn’t it? He’s a fanatic that won’t let facts and science get in the way of his extremism. He said on Monday:

This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.

“Spastic”? I’ll resist the temptation to say what you all are thinking.

The Times quoted a couple of real experts regarding Dr. Wilke’s claims about rape and pregnancy:

“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” said Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, said, that “to suggest that there’s some biological reason why women couldn’t get pregnant during a rape is absurd.”

Nuts and absurd. That pretty much sums it up. But that doesn’t stop evangelical zealots like our local John Putnam or the fanatics at Missouri Right to Life or the insanely conservative American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer from embracing such nonsense.

Local bidnessman David Humphreys, who the Globe described in its online story accurately as “a heavy-hitter GOP contributor,” but in its print edition less accurately as merely a man “known as a GOP contributor“—wonder why they’d do that?—told the paper via “a one-line statement sent to the Globe by an adviser” that,

Akin is a moron.

Wow. Besides being an awesome bidnessman and a “heavy-hitter GOP contributor,” Humphreys is also a great judge of mental acuity. It’s just too bad he didn’t tell his fellow Republicans that before Akin won the primary.

Thus, moron or not, Akin is the only legitimate candidate the GOP has to offer voters in November, notwithstanding what the Globe may claim. He won the race fair and square and he isn’t any nuttier today than he was when he won it.  People like “heavy-hitter GOP contributor” David Humphreys use evangelical creepiness to win elections, and they should have to live with it when it is on full display.

And now that his nuttiness is out there for all to see and appreciate, it’s about time voters make up their own minds whether crazy evangelical fanatics like Todd Akin are fit to represent them or whether they will soundly reject such people—and the extremists who support them.

The Joplin Globe And The Truth About Obama’s Welfare Reform Waivers

The Joplin Globe recently published a guest column written by a right-wing extremist, Marilyn Beasley. Now, that’s normally nothing to get excited about, since the paper often prints the rantings of local reactionaries. But this particular piece was based on a demonstrable lie:

On July 12, 2012, President Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services released an official policy directive that undermined the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy uses an old bureaucratic device called a Section 1115 waiver to declare the actual work standards written in the law null and void.

Before we get to the heart of the matter and uncover the unholy lie in that paragraph, let’s look at a brand new ad released by the Romney Hood campaign:

If you watched that ad, you saw this:

Here is the way Beasley put it in the Globe:

In other words, this administration is sending a message to all welfare recipients that they no longer need to make the effort to find work. The government will be more than happy to send them a monthly check for doing nothing.

All this coded language is familiar to anyone following Republican politics at least since Ronald Reagan’s infamous Welfare Queen Campaign, in which conservatives first found it politically fruitful to pick on alleged welfare cheats and the Democrats who “enable” them.

Taxpaying folks naturally don’t like to think there are those out there taking advantage of them and the issue is ripe for exploitation by morally challenged folks like Marilyn Beasley and Mitt Romney (both religious zealots, to boot!), who apparently don’t have a conscience when it comes to telling lies about Obama.

Here’s the truth, as explained by Steve Benen:

Romney’s lying. He’s not spinning the truth to his advantage; he’s not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he’s just lying. The law hasn’t been “gutted”; the work requirement hasn’t been “dropped.” Stations that air this ad are disseminating an obvious, demonstrable lie…

Some Republican governors this year asked the Obama administration for some new flexibility on welfare standards — the governors had some ideas about moving folks from welfare to work and needed the White House to sign off. Obama agreed — existing work requirements would stay in place, but states, if they want to, can take advantage of new flexibility when it comes to experimenting with existing law.

At the time of the flexibility change, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this about the requirements under welfare reform passed in 1996:

Those requirements are fundamental to gains made in the past 15 years for moving people from welfare to work. This administration opposes any effort to undermine work requirements. The changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to accelerate job placement by moving Americans from welfare to work as quickly as possible.

There will be no waivers of the time limits in the law, and only waivers with compelling plans to move more people off of welfare to work will be considered. This policy will allow states to test new, more effective ways to help people get and keep a job.

Carney also pointed to past Republican governors—including the one now running for president!—who before Obama granted them didn’t have a problem with waivers:

I have been surprised by it, by the hypocrisy of our critics. Many of them have in the past supported and even proposed such waivers. Gov. Romney. Gov. Barbour. Gov. Huckabee. Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sen. Grassley who have all supported these kinds of waivers for states in the past.

In a 2005 letter to the Senate, Republican governors, including then Gov. Romney, requested such waivers. Under President George W. Bush, HHS Secretary Thompson put forward a proposal that would allow quote ‘super waivers.’ The Senate, under Republican control at the time, passed a bill authored by Sen. Grassley with broad waiver authority.

Just last year, states led by Democrats and Republicans, called for these very waivers so they could have more flexibility in putting more people back to work faster. Given this long, documented history of bipartisan support, it is surprising to say the least, to see this kind of flip flopping on the part of Republicans.

Surprising that Republicans would flip flop after Obama embraced one of their ideas? Hardly. It has become commonplace. But it should still be uncommon for candidates to brazenly lie about such things and for television stations to broadcast the lies and newspapers to publish them as if they were facts. As Steve Benen asked:

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney’s lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney’s lies about taxes.

The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.

The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

The cynical response to an ad like this is that the lies are routine — it’s just something “everybody” in politics does. That’s wrong. An ad this dishonest is a genuine scandal and it’s time for political observers treat it as such. Reporters within earshot of the candidate shouldn’t ask, “What about the gaffes?” They should ask, “Why are you lying about welfare policy?”

And as far as the Joplin Globe is concerned, before it prints and promotes such trash as offered by Marilyn Beasley, it ought to at least ask itself just what kind of journalistic standards does it have?

Lazy Journalism

Nothing angers me more than lazy journalists, like the kind I heard on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning discussing the state of our national politics.

The easiest thing in the world is to say about what is happening what Mike Barnicle said this morning:

There’s no certainty in this country as to what’s gonna happen to my children. We are now living in a country, where—because of the way this campaign is being waged on both sides—where too many people no longer can afford to dream, and that’s a huge hole in the American fabric. A huge hole.

The huge hole, of course, is in Barnicle’s careless, almost comatose, analysis. If he built his journalistic career on such sloppy, inattentive thinking he has been one lucky guy.

The uncertainty in the country belongs squarely on the Republican Party, whose leaders from the beginning of Obama’s term decided that the best political course for them to follow was to create as much uncertainty and cultural angst as possible. There is simply no disputing that.

And the Romney presidential campaign is following that myopic political script written after the 2008 election by trying to capitalize on the almost complete Republican obstruction of the Democrat’s attempt to fix the massive economic problems left to them by years of governance according to Republican Party principles.

On that note, today’s Joplin Globe editorial played the same kind of game that Mike Barnicle was playing on television this morning. Oh, the piece, titled, “Stop pointing fingers,” started out just fine:

In 2001, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the federal government would collect surplus funds in the amount of $5.6 trillion during the period 2002 through 2011.

Instead, we incurred a deficit of $6.1 trillion resulting in a gross loss in federal revenues during that period of time in the amount of $11.7 trillion. The question, of course, is why such a miscalculation occurred.

Well, that is certainly one question. But another one would be, who was responsible for the reversal from surpluses to deficits? Huh?

On the way to answering its question, the Globe cited some studies by the CBO, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Government, and the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, all of which came up “with the same answers”:

 • The overall weakened economy was the primary cause. Growth for the entire period was predicted to be 3 percent. But from 2002 through 2007, growth was only 2.6 percent. Then during the period 2008 through 2011, growth was only an average of 0.2 percent. This overall lower-than-expected growth caused a 27 percent drop in federal revenue expectations during those years.

• The second highest cause was a 13 percent drop in federal revenues caused by enactment and continuation of all the Bush-era tax cuts, amounting to a 13 percent drop in federal revenues. Other smaller contributors were the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, increases in discretionary spending, defense spending increases not related to wars, the Obama stimulus, and the 2010 tax cuts.

Now, a fair-minded person, upon discovering that the Republican Party was in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House during most of the time the country’s economy was in decline and collapsing and when the path toward massive deficits was first being cleared of surplus brush, would naturally blame the Republicans for most of the mess. Right?

Except that the Joplin Globe editorialist, shielding Republicans from the blame they deserve, had a better idea:

It seems rather naive to be arguing about which party alone caused today’s American economic problems. Again, they both did so big time by cutting federal revenues as shown above, yet continuing to spend at historically high levels.

“Both sides” are apparently equally responsible, it turns out, despite the facts cited in the piece and despite what is plainly clear to anyone paying attention.

All of this, from Mike Barnicle’s dumb statements this morning to the Joplin Globe’s dumb editorial conclusion, serves the right-wing reactionary Republican Party very well, as it requires very little thought to simply assert that both parties are equally guilty, that both parties are equally to blame for the mess we’re in, and therefore the economic philosophy that brought us to our knees can be tried again.

What You’re Missing If You Don’t Live In Rural Missouri

From the Joplin Globe:

A rural Jasper County woman is accused of pursuing her boyfriend with an ax Saturday afternoon, and damaging their trailer and truck in the process.

The woman, Pamela Caldwell, is 55 years old, and must be in pretty good shape to be totin’ and swingin’ an ax in such fashion:

According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, Caldwell’s boyfriend told sheriff’s deputies that she struck their trailer with an ax and then came after him with it during an argument. He told deputies that he managed to keep their truck between him and her, but she swung the ax and smashed the vehicle’s windshield.

Caldwell reportedly told deputies that her boyfriend had gone into their residence to get a beer. She was mad at him, told him he couldn’t have the beer and tried to block his way as he was coming back out of the home, she reportedly told the deputies.

Maybe next time the guy will ax first, before he gets a beer.

Goodbye, Joplin Globe

The problem with newspapers isn’t the quality of their journalism but the weakness of their business model. It’s ironic that readership of newspaper content in print and online is at an all-time high while the revenues of the US industry are at a 60-year low. We should be focused not on preserving newspapers but on preserving journalism.”

—Paul Gillin, of Newspaper Death Watch

 should tell you that the Joplin Globe has given me the left foot of fellowship.

The beer money I was earning for writing this blog affiliated with the paper proved too much for its finances to bear.* Man, these are hard times when a newspaper the size of the Globe can’t afford to pay a pittance for quality commentary!  Maybe if John McCain had been president, the economy would have blossomed such that the paper could afford my meager wages. Damn, maybe I should have voted for McCain, but the Joplin Globe told me not to.

In any case, as grateful as I am to have had the conservative Globe’s blessing as a liberal blogger, I am now untethered from of our local newspaper, which means that if this blog continues it will do so as a labor of love.  For now, I plan to keep writing through the November election. I began this endeavor just after Obama took office in 2009, and I want to keep at it at least until voters have their say on his presidency.

And besides that, I have some scores to settle with a couple of (now former) conservative Globe bloggers, which I will hopefully get to in time.

As for changes, the only thing I can foresee now is that I won’t be so concerned about profanity. Regular readers who don’t appreciate cursing and coarse talk are now forewarned that I will no longer censor some of the language that most people—even religious people!—use  in everyday life.

I once audited a class out at the local ultra-conservative Christian college where a very capable Greek teacher held an enlightening discussion about profanity. He (unwittingly) convinced me that we make way too much of such words, and give them too much power over us.

William F. Buckley, whose writings I have read with great care and enthusiasm (as a conservative) and with great care and dismay (as a liberal), sometimes used words that stuffy folks considered profane and sacrilegious. He defended such use on the grounds that some words perform a function peculiar to those words and that a writer ought to use all of the resources of the language. On that I still agree with Buckley.

Finally, this would be a good time to thank all of the faithful readers of this blog. The readership has grown steadily since I moved to WordPress in September of 2009, and I appreciate your time and attention.

______________________________

*Most of the Globe blogs were on WordPress and thus readers could avoid going to the Joplin Globe website to read them. And since most readers bookmarked my site and did not go through the Globe (only about 3% of the traffic came from the link on its site), the paper’s management likely reasoned that they weren’t benefiting from my readership. The most obvious solution for the paper, if it wants to be a complete player in the digital age, would be to develop its own blogging platform.

“Hallelujah!”

The bold headline said it all:

The lede:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Voters in the Joplin School District on Tuesday approved a $62 million bond issue by less than 1 percent of the required majority, giving the district the funds to rebuild schools that were destroyed in the May 22 tornado.

I must say I had serious doubts whether the thing would pass—it required a four-sevenths majority—and there wasn’t much room to spare, but as Superintendent C. J. Huff said this morning, a win is a win.

In Jasper and Newton counties combined the bond issue received 57.68% of the vote—just a tad over the 57.14% needed for passage, a mere 45 vote cushion.

Congratulations to Dr. Huff (who has done unbelievably great work since last May 22) and his staff and the Joplin Globe (the paper supported passage) and all those in the community who worked to see this through.

One commenter on the Globe’s Facebook page said this:

I wish more people realized that great schools attract great employers, which attract great wages. This is an investment in your community, not an expense.

“Investment”? Is that how employers see it? Well, yes.  Here is a paragraph from an accompanying Globe story:

Susan Adams, human resources director for Able Manufacturing & Assembly in Joplin, and Lori Scott Dreiling, human resources manager at Modine Manufacturing in Joplin, said approval of the bond issue will make it easier to recruit people to the area.

“When we recruit from out of the area, the first thing people want to know about is the school system,” Adams said.

Selling them on a community where children attend school in a converted warehouse and a big box store isn’t easy, she said.

“All of this is going to go a long way toward convincing folks this is a community with a viable future,” Adams said.

Dreiling said that when Modine tries to recruit senior managers and specialized positions such as engineers from outside the area, some have a perception that Joplin was blown away by the tornado.

She doesn’t find it hard to make the candidates the job offer, but getting families to visit is tough.

“I had one candidate ask me if school was being held in FEMA trailers,” Dreiling said.

An estimated $185 million worth of investments in our local schools will now materialize rather quickly, Dr. Huff said this morning. All thanks to insurance proceeds, federal and state government funding, and the 4,982 voters who bothered to cast a “yes” vote on Tuesday.

As Susan Adams said, “Hallelujah!”

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