Here’s What Really Should Be Pre-Election News

In a better world, that is, in a world where journalists weren’t obsessed with ultimately meaningless and self-serving polling results, the Sunday news shows before Tuesday’s elections would not have been all about the results of this or that poll, or the likelihood that Republicans are going to take over the Senate, or the idea that people have turned on President Obama. Nope. In a better world the Sunday shows would have featured a stunning—and depressing—investigative news report titled, “Jim Crow Returns: Millions of Minority Voters Threatened by Electoral Purge.” Here’s how that report, which was released last week, began:

Election officials in 27 states, most of them Republicans, have launched a program that threatens a massive purge of voters from the rolls. Millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, are at risk. Already, tens of thousands have been removed in at least one battleground state, and the numbers are expected to climb, according to a six-month-long, nationwide investigation by Al Jazeera America.

Now, that’s news. That’s the kind of stuff journalists ought to be doing and the kind of reports that ought to be the focus of endless hours of pre-election political chatter on TV, including Sunday shows like NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week with jim crow returns from al jazeeraWhoever’s Turn It Is, or CNN’s State of the Union. I mean, if Al Jazeera America’s report isn’t worthy of at least a segment on any of the pre-election Sunday news programs, then one has to wonder just what kind of democratic values do TV journalists respect or give a damn about?

Without going into too many details (you should read the report for yourself, written by Greg Palast after a six-month investigation), the person in the middle of this absolutely anti-democratic scandal is Kris Kobach, the ghastly but influential Republican from Kansas whose day job is supposed to be secretary of state. He apparently invented a system called the Interstate Crosscheck program, “which has generated a master list of nearly 7 million names,” supposedly representing “legions of fraudsters who are not only registered but have actually voted in two or more states in the same election — a felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.” Problem is, it’s all bullshit.

The original selling point of the program was that it “would match possible double voters on multiple points: first, middle and last name; date of birth and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.” Turns out that most of the matches were of names only, and the program even mismatched middle names and Social Security numbers. As Greg Palast noted:

In practice, all it takes to become a suspect is sharing a first and last name with a voter in another state.

The result of that intentionally sloppy practice is that the purge lists disproportionately include African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans. Why? Because, for cultural reasons, “a sixth of all Asian-Americans share just 30 surnames and 50 percent of minorities share common last names, versus 30 percent of whites.” Here’s what the results look like in graph form:

crosscheck program and minorities

That’s no accident, folks. Blacks (93%), Hispanics (71%), and Asian-Americans (73%) overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2012. In 2008, it was 95%, 67%, and 62%, respectively. Republicans had to do something about such numbers, since changing their extremist ideology wasn’t an option. So, they figured out a way to purge as many minority voters as possible from the rolls under the cover of preventing non-existent “voter fraud.” Pretty slick. And pretty sick.

Here’s the way it affects three states, including important battleground states this election cycle:

tagged minorities as double voters

In close races, like the Senate races in North Carolina and Georgia, those numbers can mean the difference between victory and defeat, between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. Yet, not a word about the Interstate Crosscheck program or the extensive Al Jazeera investigation on Sunday’s “news” shows. Apparently, unless such reporting comes from The New York Times or The Washington Post, it ain’t worth talking about.

NBC’s Chuck Todd did mention voter ID laws to his guest Rand Paul, as did CBS’s Bob Schieffer. Both of them, though, let Paul escape rather easily (Paul claims he generally favors voter ID laws, but thinks the GOP shouldn’t make it a “big issue.” What the hell does that mean? They have made it a big issue.). CNN’s Candy Crowley allowed Paul—is it just a coincidence that Paul, who is trying to snuggle up with African-American voters, appeared on three Sunday shows in order to explain how friendly he is to them?—to advertise his very good idea about restoring voting rights to millions of convicted felons who have served their time, many of them African-Americans. Fine. That would be a great accomplishment. But what’s the chance of getting a majority of Republicans, especially House Republicans, on board? Zero. Ain’t gonna happen. In the mean time, what about the efforts by Republicans all over the country to purge minorities from the rolls? Huh? Silence.

But we did hear from Jonathan Karl, a conservative pretending to be an objective correspondent for ABC’s This Week, that,

in a bid to boost the African-American vote, some Democrats are resorting to scare tactics.

The only reason Republicans like Kris Kobach can get away with voter suppression efforts is because of shitty journalism like that.

As a final note, the state of Missouri is listed by Al Jazeera America as a participant in Kobach’s Interstate Crosscheck program. Our secretary of state is a Democrat, Jason Kander. I have met him and like him very much. So, I called the media contact for the secretary of state’s office, Laura Swinford. I talked with her about the Al Jazeera article and Crosscheck. She didn’t think Missouri was utilizing the program in the same way that Kris Kobach of Kansas and others were doing so, but she said she would get back with me after I sent her the link to the article. I’ll let you know what I find out, if anything.

Dumb Republicans

Conservative Republicans, it being their nature, say and do some dumb things. Take, for instance, this one:

A Michigan Republican with a criminal record for breaking into cars and masturbating is urging residents to move out of state to avoid the “homosexual agenda.”

You’ll be happy to know that this guy is running for a seat in the Michigan legislature. And, if you live in Michigan, you’ll be happy to know that he thinks “as long as there are those that love God here, we can win souls and see God move in this city and state.” Yes, in case you didn’t know, legislating is all about winning souls watching God “move.”

And speaking of God moving, mysteriously he was moved yesterday to reveal to the Huffington Post a video he shot of Joni Ernst, the testicle-hating senatorial candidate from Iowa, telling folks at some gun rally in 2012 that she packed heat and reserved the right to use it against “the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” As many have now pointed out, this is the same wacky ball-hater that wants to castrate the rights of women to control their own reproductive health.

But even slightly more sober conservatives say and do dumb things. Chris Christie recently said to his Chamber of Commerce pals that he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.” Then, after he realized how dumb it was to say something so dumb, he said something equally dumb:

My comments are never almost universally interpreted the way I mean them.

And we can see why.

But some Republican conservatives not only say dumb things, they say dumb and dangerous things, things that scare and mislead people. Rand Paul, plagiarist and self-certified ophthalmologist, said recently that the Obama administration has inaccurately described Ebola to the public and has “tried to downplay the transmissibility” of the disease, when, in the opinion of the self-certified ophthalmologist, Ebola “is something that appears to be very easy to catch.”

Man, that level of numb-headed irresponsibility makes Chris Christie look good, which is no small feat.

Speaking of small feats, there is my congressman Ozark Billy Long. Let me show you a still from a campaign commercial that is airing here in Hooterville, and I should tell you this commercial was actually “Approved by Billy Long. Paid for by Billy Long for Congress”:

billy long commercial

Shouldn’t the Democrat running against Long, Jim Evans, be running that ad? I mean, Long is bragging that he did something 56 times that failed. He was recently accused of being an ineffective legislator and it turns out his own ad proves it! Brilliant stuff that.

On the darker side of local politics around these parts, I present to you a scene from a campaign commercial running here in Joplin put out by Rep. Lynn Jenkins. She is a Republican from Kansas who represents my old home town and who, in August of 2009, told Kansans that “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.” Here is a screen shot of the ad I saw last night:

jenkins ad against wakefield

Just who is that woman in the ad? And who is that shifty and scary looking negro standing behind her? Well, the woman is Democrat Margie Wakefield, who happens to be Jenkins’ opponent and who happens to be giving Jenkins a run for her money. And I think you all know who the other guy is. He is The Scary Negro himself. And, man, doesn’t he really look like he’s up to no good? Maybe he has a gun in her back or maybe he’s about to stick a shiv in her. Maybe he’s about to rob her and take her money or, God forbid, something worse like force her to support ObamaCare. What other reason would he be standing so close and looking so creepy?

Sad thing is, this ad doesn’t really qualify as another dumb thing conservative Republicans are saying or doing these days. It’s actually pretty smart, in a Southern strategy political sense, to remind people in mostly rural Kansas that The Scary Negro is out there, ready to do something ugly. But whatever ugly thing that Barack Obama might do between now and the end of his term, it won’t be nearly as ugly as that ad.

No ENDA In Sight, Thanks To The Roy Blunts In Congress

If you were searching for something online on Monday, you no doubt noticed this Google Doodle:

google doodle and Shakuntala Devi

November 4 was the birthday of Shakuntala Devi. She was an arithmetically-gifted child prodigy who could do seemingly impossible calculations in her head. Initially that was her claim to fame. But she was also celebrated later for writing an important book on homosexuality in 1977, The World of Homosexuals, which Wikipedia calls “the first study of homosexuality in India.” Here’s more from the site:

The book, considered “pioneering”, features interviews with two young Indian homosexual men, a male couple in Canada seeking legal marriage, a temple priest who explains his views on homosexuality, and a review of the existing literature on homosexuality. It ends with a call for decriminalising homosexuality, and “full and complete acceptance—not tolerance and not sympathy”.

Long before anyone had ever heard of Shakuntala Devi, there was Sigmund Freud, who also had an interest in homosexuality, albeit in a time when it was poorly understood. The Skeptic’s Dictionary plainly states that Sigmund Freud’s personal invention, known as psychoanalysis, is,

the granddaddy of all pseudoscientific psychotherapies, second only to Scientology as the champion purveyor of false and misleading claims about the mind, mental health, and mental illness.

An example of such nonsense, as the Dictionary points out, is how Freud viewed schizophrenia:

Freud thought he understood the nature of schizophrenia. It is not a brain disorder, but a disturbance in the unconscious caused by unresolved feelings of homosexuality. 

Fortunately, real science has advanced beyond such mumbo jumbo. Schizophrenia is no longer “a disturbance” related to feelings of homosexuality, unresolved or otherwise. But there are folks among us who still have strange views of homosexuality itself, notwithstanding Shakuntala Devi’s call for “full and complete acceptance” of it a generation ago.

And many of those folks are in Congress.

By now you have heard that a so-called gay rights bill in the United States Senate, officially known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has survived a procedural vote by a margin of 61-30. All Democrats (except for Claire McCaskill, who had attended a funeral for former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton in Lexington, Mo., and missed the vote) voted to advance the bill and a mere seven Republicans (minus a likely “yes” vote from an absent Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) voted with them.

The bill, as ABC News reported, “would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The assumption behind the bill, of course, is to apply Shakuntala Devi’s “full and complete acceptance” of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity to the American workplace.

Missouri’s other senator, Roy Blunt, did not vote and I don’t know why or where he was. But I do know that in 2007 a right-wing Christian website called “Americans for Truth About Homosexuality” featured Blunt, who was not my senator but my congressman at the time, specifically because of his opposition to ENDA:

Rep. Roy Blunt: Democratic Majority’s ENDA Bill Takes Dead Aim at Religious Freedom

blunt and ENDAIn a piece published by the reactionary website Human Events and appearing almost six years ago to the day, Blunt explained the basis of his objection to ENDA. You can go there and read it for yourself, but I will here summarize his objections:

1. Ensuring that there is no employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity represents a threat to the practice of Bible- and Quran-believing religion.

2. Employees in Christian or Muslim businesses would be forced to “choose” between their faith and their pocketbooks out of fear of litigation.

3. The whole ENDA exercise is a “whim”—defined by the Free Dictionary as an “arbitrary thought or impulse”—of Congress.

4. Your “freedom to practice religion” could be “greatly impinged” by some judge “sitting on a bench” in a particular state on a given day.

To condense Blunt’s objections into one sentence: Homosexuals have no rights which a conservative Christian (or Muslim) is bound to respect. 

All of this, of course, at least for Blunt and his Bible-believing constituency, stems from the Bible’s rather hostile view of homosexuals. You know, like this from Leviticus:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So, you can see that what Roy Blunt was protecting in 2007 (and presumably today) in terms of his opposition to ENDA, is the Iron Age beliefs of people who thought (and some who still think) that there is something so seriously wrong with homosexuals that executing them, if they practice their “sin,” is necessary.

Where is Sigmund Freud when you need him? His views are quite civilized, at least compared to the view Blunt is defending.

And by the way, Rand Paul, the duel-loving serial plagiarizer and faux-libertarian superstar, a man who in theory is in favor of “more individual freedom,” voted in favor of honoring Iron Age notions of sexuality and the bigotry that goes with them, allowing the Bible- and Quran-thumpers to keep discriminating against homosexuals, or perceived homosexuals, in the workplace. He too, like Roy Blunt, apparently believes that such folks have no rights which religious zealots are bound to respect, especially religious zealots who happen to own businesses.

Below is a video of Roy Blunt arguing against ENDA in 2007 in the House. While it is unlikely that ENDA will ever become law, so long as one side of the Capitol remains under theocratic control, you will, no doubt, hear arguments similar to Blunt’s should this matter ever get debated in the teavangelical-dominated House of Boehner:

Remarks And Asides

I liked President Obama much more when he wasn’t dining with Republicans.

_______________________________

Apparently, so did a lot of Americans:

Obama’s Approval Rating Now Underwater, Poll Shows

________________________________

Mitch McConnell, fresh off the revelation that he is more of a scoundrel than we otherwise thought, nevertheless managed to expose the mainstream press, which rather than focus on McConnell’s willingness to tolerate the trashing of Ashley Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” instead focused on his call for an FBI investigation into the alleged illegal recording that revealed his sliminess.

And that is how miscreants like Mitch McConnell stay in power.

_______________________________

Conservatives are attacking Obama for hurting old folks. Liberals are attacking Obama for hurting old folks. So, why is Obama hurting old folks?

______________________________

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, whom President Obama considers a “friend” and who gets much credit for not being a nutty Republican, nevertheless called the emasculated agreement on background checks for gun purchases, worked out by Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey under the watchful eye of the NRA, “a government takeover of gun shows.”

Let’s get this straight: There are Republicans who don’t want the government sticking its nose in the gun business, but insist on the government sticking its nose in vaginas all over the country.

_____________________________

Senator Rand Paul, Tea Party Wonder Boy at the moment, went to the historically black college, Howard University, on Wednesday and told those gathered that the Republican Party hasn’t changed a lick since, oh, Frederick Douglass was a baby, or something like that.

For his next stand-up comedy routine, Paul will team up with  Alaska congressman Don Young and tour central California and explain to the immigrant workers why “wetback” is a term of endearment and it really shows how Republicans are, and always have been, the party of immigration reform.

_____________________________

And speaking of keeping the GOP up to date, Congressman Joe Barton, naturally from Texas, said not to worry about climate change, since the Almighty’s got everything under control and always has:

I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.

_____________________________

Speaking of brilliant Republicans, Dick Cheney told Republican lawmakers that “We’re in deep doo doo” with North Korea making all those threats and that because of his personal experience of misreading the mind of Saddam Hussein, “you never know what they’re thinking.”

What brilliance, what stupefying brilliance.

_____________________________

Speaking of Dick’s stupefying brilliance, it didn’t take a Dick to figure this out:

Penis Size Study Shows Women Find Men With Big Genitals More Attractive 

______________________________

Speaking of weiners, some of them have eyes but still can’t see:

Anthony Weiner Is Eyeing A Return To Politics

______________________________

Ann Coulter, a skinny version of Rush Limbaugh, “joked” about murdering Meghan McCain, John’s daughter, and all that will happen to Ann Coulter is that conservatives will buy more of her books.

______________________________

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which hands out awards— “Jefferson Muzzles”— to deserving anti-free speech advocates, handed an award to one of Missouri’s bright-light state legislators, Mike Leara:

There are some…who believe that merely proposing a law that restricts gun rights should be a criminal act. Earlier this year, Missouri State Representative Mike Leara proposed a bill that provides “[a]ny member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony.”

Congratulations, Mike! And wear your muzzle proudly!

Even A Blind Rand Paul Finds A Nut Now And Then

Senator Rand Paul, as you all have seen or heard by now, is, as I write this, conducting an honest-to-goodness filibuster in the U.S. Senate over the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA. Paul started his filibuster at 10:47am Central Standard Time this Wednesday.

Despite the fact that I dislike, rather strongly, Rand Paul, and despite the fact that he has said some dumb things during the time he has been speaking, I have exactly no problem with what he is doing, for a couple of reasons:

1) The filibuster should be conducted in the way Rand Paul is conducting it; that is, he is actually doing the (relatively) hard work of standing up and speaking, and speaking, and speaking, as opposed to just technically initiating a filibuster without the accompanying necessity of standing on the floor and paying the price—in terms of the sheer physical strain, as well as the public exposure—of his convictions.

2) His point for conducting the filibuster, as far as I can tell in the time I have listened to him, is a valid one. I admire anyone who is willing to stand up for hours upon hours in defense of a recognizably legitimate principle.

I will summarize his objection, the ostensible reason for his filibuster, by quoting something he said at 6:37 pm Central time—almost exactly eight hours after he began:

If you have a war that has no end, if you have a war that has no geographic limit, and then if you have strikes that have no constitutional bounds, basically what you have is an unlimited, imperial presidency.

I cannot and will not argue with that.

Now, I confess that a year ago to the day, I wrote about drone strikes on Americans in foreign lands (Can The Government Kill Citizens Overseas?), and I haven’t seen or read anything that would make me change my mind (reluctantly, I said “yes”).

But what Rand Paul is arguing, again, as far as I can tell between the bouts of nuttiness, is something different. He seems to be mostly concerned with a president’s authority to use drones, or presumably any other method, to kill Americans here, on American soil. And I can say that there is no way, under any set of normal circumstances, I would support using drones to kill Americans on American soil, without an independent due process of law. No way.

And I would expect Barack Obama, as our leader and as a Democrat, to feel the same way. I think he does, even if, just to protect his executive turf, he is somewhat reluctant to say so. And I think his Attorney General, Eric Holder, feels the same way. I believe Holder’s letter to Rand Paul, which you can see here, comes close to satisfying my concerns, since he writes:

It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

I say it comes close to satisfying my concerns because I think it could have been worded more clearly and more directly, sort of like this:

Senator Paul,

Unless there is a rare circumstance of an imminent catastrophic attack, such as happened on December 7, 1941, or on September 11, 2001, there is no way the Constitution permits the authorization or use of lethal military force on terrorist suspects on United States soil. None.

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States

The problem with what Rand Paul is doing is not his message. It is the fact that such an otherwise silly man is delivering a message that merits our attention. And the fact that Senator Ted Cruz, a most disgusting and calculating opportunist from Texas—who does a mean impression of Joe McCarthy—is supporting Paul makes it all the worse.

But at the end of it all, what remains is a legitimate demand, by at least one member of the legislative branch, that its executive branch counterpart recognize the supremacy of the Constitution in its treatment of American citizens here at home.

And, as much as it pains me to say so, Rand Paul is doing a good thing in this case.

The State Of The Union, In Three Speeches

As always, I recommend actually reading President Obama’s speech from Tuesday night.

There was simply too much in it to absorb fully with the eyes and ears. HuffPo did a pretty good job of summarizing it:

huffpo sotu

Overlooked in all the post-speech coverage I saw was the brilliant opening:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.”   “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.”  

Progress and improvement. That was what President Obama’s speech was all about. And he called upon Congress to help, but the reason Congress won’t help much is because of what we saw and heard in the second, then the third, speech of the night, given by Marco Rubio and Ron Paul, both of whom on the day they gave their speeches voted against the Violence Against Women Act, for God’s sake.

Like his political philosophy, Rubio’s palate was dry, causing an embarrassing dip for a drink worthy of any amateur on YouTube making his first video. His speech, really an audition for 2016 GOP primary voters, was mostly warmed-over Ryanism, with an ethnic twist.

The straw man Rubio vanguished last night is one Republicans have murdered many times:

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

That Rubio believes such a thing I don’t doubt. That he expects a majority of Americans, many of them victims of genuinely reckless behavior in the financial industry, to believe it, I do doubt. Most of the true-believing government-shrinkers in the country have now given up on selling the nonsense that do-gooders in government caused the Great Recession.

Rubio plodded on, though, confident that his target audience—both softcore and hardcore teapartiers—would find his argument convincing, even though they are already convinced:

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty. Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

The real uncertainty, of course, has been created by Republicans in Congress. And that uncertainty hasn’t been created by “more government,” but by dysfunctional government: That government is best that governs chaotically.

And speaking of chaos, we have the mind of Rand Paul. He argued in his speech for “a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution!” (yep, that exclamation mark is in the original text). He said he “will propose a five-year balanced budget.” But later added:

We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!

Those caps and punctuation are, once again, in the original. This guy even SHOUTS when he WRITES!

The muddled and immature philosophy he gets so excited about is this:

Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.

An opthmalmologist by training, Paul has taken to practicing short-sighted voodoo economics. He’s sticking pins in America, hoping this time the voodoo ritual will work. But he’s confused. About the GOP he says,

Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.

Huh? Earlier in his speech he informed us that,

Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses…I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending. But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.

No one. Just him. Just him and his voodoo.

The Tea Party, Ted Nugent, and The Republican Renewal

Tonight, Marco Rubio, a far right, Tea Party Hispanic Republican, will act as first responder to any fire Barack Obama’s State of the Union address might ignite.

This morning on The Daily Rundown on MSNBC I heard a lovely Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson, exalt Rubio this way:kristen anderson

I’m looking forward to him getting this national exposure. I think he’s the right person at the right time to lead the Republican Party into this period of renewal.

Period of renewal? Rubio is the leader of a Republican renewal? The man who had to prostrate himself before Rush Limbaugh’s prostate in order to get the broadcaster’s blessing on immigration reform? That Rubio? Come on, lovely Republican pollster. Slurping perspiration from between Limbaugh’s butt cheeks isn’t Republican renewal, it’s old-school Republican politics. Rush was Tea Party before Tea Party was and wasn’t cool.

And speaking of the imaginary Republican renewal, tonight Senator Rand Paul will also give a response to Barack Obama, a president so politically hot he needs two Republican first responders to put out his fire.

Rand Paul, whose Tea Party extremism was first exposed on television by Rachel Maddow, recently fantasized about being president, which is one of the scariest thoughts in the world, next to being struck by a beam of gamma rays. No, wait. I’ll take the gamma rays.Rand Paul

Pretending to be president wasn’t the only time Paul fantasized about being in charge. In 2006, he imagined himself being the governor of Kentucky. And, to boot, he was the governor of Kentucky with an ethics scandal. His solution: he would pardon himself! Case closed, people!

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul will not, however, be the best representatives of the Republican renewal on display tonight. That honor belongs to Texas congressman Steve Stockman.

Stockman is the one who made news recently by offering to do the GOP’s dirty work of impeaching President Obama over his executive orders related to gun violence. That, of course, made him a Fox “News” hero. Tonight he will attend the SOTU address accompanied by another proud Republican renewalist and Vietnam War draft-evader, Ted Nugent.

Now, I’ve written about NRA board member Nugent before and offered numerous quotes from him that prove he has been infected with an extra-terrestrial form of Obama- Clinton-hate. Here is an example from 2007, addressed to dupes dumb enough to pay money to watch him perform:

I think that Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail. It is clear that Barack Hussein Obama is a communist. Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up. …Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.

From a Detroit radio interview in 1992:

Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK?  So anyhow-and I’m dead serious…

From an interview in 1994:

About Hillary Clinton: “You probably can’t use the term ‘toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

About national health care: “The government must stay out of my life. If there are weenies who are in the liability column of our nation, tough shit.”

About Social Security: “To be forced to have a Social Security number in this country is illegal. It’s against the Constitution. I can’t tell you the specific language, but I reviewed it, and I know it’s illegal. The clusterfuck that is Social Security insults people who work hard for their living.

In our culture, such people as Ted Nugent are normally promoted by sleazy characters out to make a quick buck from a freak willing to be publicly outrageous for fifteen minutes.

But tonight, at the State of the Union address, a Republican congressman will apparently show up with Ted Nugent, a man who was recently investigated by the Secret Service, on his arm.

And you will not hear one word from Republican leadership in the House or Senate or anywhere else. That, my friends, is the real Republican renewal.

A renewal of the GOP’s vows to extremism.

_____________________________________________________________

ted nugent

President Rand Paul

I watched in its entirety Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning.

Predictably, the biggest grandstander in the current Senate, John McCain, did his grandstanding for his Fox “News” Channel fans. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did the same. No doubt, both will be guests on Fox today and tonight.

But the biggest grandstander of them all was Rand Paul who, unbelievably, uttered this sentence:

Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi and did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.

Now, although she is rather feisty and capable of putting Senator Paul (God, that makes me cringe) in his place, Hillary Clinton did not really do that. I, though, will write the response that she should have given the Senator from Kentucky:

Senator Paul, you said, “if you had been president” you would have fired me. Let me explain something to you: If there ever is a future time when the American people are stupid enough to put you in charge, nobody would have to worry about firing me. I would grab my family, those whom I love, and get the hell out of the country. As dangerous a place as Libya is, I’d rather live there than live any place in which you had real power.

Now, if you please, the thought of someone like you ever becoming president has made me ill yet again and I will have to take a break.

 

Know Your NRA History

Via a comment on “Why The NRA Is Different From You And Me,” Writer89 sent me a link to an AlterNet piece by political writer Steven Rosenfeld titled, “The Suprising Unknown History of the NRA.”

This was the second time a commenter referenced the NRA’s interesting history (John McNight did so earlier), a history that will shock you, given what the organization is today.

I urge anyone interested in the gun control debate going on right now to read in its entirety Rosenfeld’s short piece, but if you don’t, at least absorb this from the article:

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.

As with so many organizations on the right these days—including the Republican Party—the NRA has become radicalized in ways unimagined by the people who founded it. And for the NRA, or its congressional allies like Sen. Rand Paul, to insanely attack those who are proposing modest measures to regulate guns in America, is to insanely attack its own history.

Senator Rand Paul’s Blueprint For Debt-Ceiling Turmoil

Yesterday morning I wrote a depressing post largely about the upcoming fight over the debt ceiling. I said,

I believe that there is a contingent of Republicans in both the House and Senate who believe the thing to do to fix the country is to ruin it first.

Oh, I know some of you thought that was a bit of hyperbole, a little overstatement for effect. Oh, yeah? Last night, on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox, I watched this exchange between a very strange Sean Hannity and a very strange but also dangerously strange, Senator Rand Paul:

HANNITY: Where do we go with the debt ceiling? Are Republicans gonna take the stand, that I don’t see any Democrats taking, are they gonna be willing to shut the government down, really take a stand and demand that Washington be responsible?

PAUL: There is a way to do it without scaring the markets, and we tried to do this last time and we’re gonna try again. And what we do is we need to pass legislation that says, “the tax revenue that comes in will go to pay for the interest on the debt, pay for Social Security, pay for the soldiers’ salaries,” but it won’t fund all of government. So we will continue to pay our bills, but we may be able to extend that deadline then, the longer we extend it the more pressure we would put on the President to say he would come to the table with us and help us fix entitlements.

But the only way he’ll ever do it is if we actually go through the deadline but give him instructions that he takes tax receipts and he doesn’t default on the debt. Then we wouldn’t scare the markets, and I think then we would increase our leverage with every day we went beyond the deadline.

If that kind of ejaculatory talk doesn’t scare people—talk that comes through the lips of a United States Senator for God’s sake—if it doesn’t scare “the markets,” then the country is in a very bad way.

But besides trying to get your head around the fact that a sitting U.S. Senator would be willing to play such games with the fiscal fate of the country, think about how delusional is the Republican senator from Kentucky. His plan to force the president—excuse me, “give him instructions” was the language Paul used—involves an act of Congress. Paul said, “what we do is we need to pass legislation,” and presumably, unless Paul has yet another plan to suspend the Constitution, any legislation passed (forget that the scheme would not get through the Democrat-controlled Senate) must be signed by the President to become law.

Now, surely even Sean Hannity is sharp enough to figure out that the President, even if the 55 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus were hypnotized and voted for Rand’s plan, would not sign such a bill, right? Surely, Hannity was ready to challenge Senator Paul on his ridiculous scheme, right?

Come on, you know better than that. Hannity was himself ready to ejaculate at the prospect of such a thing:

HANNITY: But for that to happen, Senator, that means every Republican in the House and every Republican senator is going to need to be united—and I would argue to save the country…so, will the Republicans go through with it?

PAUL: Well, there are going to be repercussions if we don’t do anything, and I hope we will wake up and come to our senses and do something. I for one will stand firm. I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we get a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution because so far I’ve seen no objective evidence to trust these people. They blow through all of their caps; they set spending limits, but they go beyond them. They are not trustworthy with money or very good with it, so we shouldn’t give ‘em more money. We should cut spending and make government smaller.

HANNITY: Alright. Well, Senator, I’m with you. Hold strong. If we’re gonna save America, save this country, and stop robbing from our kids, that’s the only way to do it, so, we’re gonna need people that our leaders like yourself, so keep up the good work.

PAUL: Absolutely.

Ejaculations complete. In order to save America, we have to ruin it first.

What Rand Paul did was reveal the thoughtlessness and recklessness behind the Republican’s debt-ceiling threat, not to mention the utter disregard for the nation’s well-being behind their threat to shut down the government.

Paul also revealed how dishonest a man he is. He first said the exercise of shutting down parts of the government were meant to put “pressure” on President Obama so that,

 he would come to the table with us and help us fix entitlements.

Isn’t that nice? These caring Republicans just want to “fix” Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, that’s all. They care about these things deeply, as their vote two years ago on Paul Ryan’s kill-Medicare-as-we-know-it-and-cut-the-hell-out-of-Medicaid budget demonstrated. To the extent this whole thing is even about these so-called entitlements, what Republicans want, of course, is for Democrats to get in bed with them and undertake a bipartisan screwing of the beneficiaries of these programs.

But fixing entitlements is not what this is really about for people like Rand Paul. And he said so himself, not only by revealing that he would not vote to raise the debt limit without a balanced budget amendment—which he knows is not going to happen—but also by revealing, perhaps in a spasm of passion as he reached his climax with Hannity, his real purpose:

We should cut spending and make government smaller.

That’s it, you see. Making government smaller, a lot smaller, is the real goal here. That’s what all the fuss is about. That’s what Rand Paul’s and other Republicans’ call for a balanced budget amendment really means. They would simply slash government spending in order to balance it with the pint-sized revenues that Republicans are willing to accept.

Rand Paul knows that any real reform of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid would not make “government smaller.” Genuine reforms would only slow the growth of the programs. They and government would still, of necessity, get bigger, as the boomer population ages and as ObamaCare insures more poor Americans.

What Senator Paul and Sean Hannity together demonstrated was just how unhinged right-wingers are, as they stroke each other on television for their own pleasure and for the pleasure of other radicals who have become the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Remarks And Asides

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

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

___________________________

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

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

____________________________

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

____________________________

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

____________________________

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

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

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

_____________________________

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

_____________________________

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

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

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

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

The statement also said:

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

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

_______________________________

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

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

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

_______________________________

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

Senator Ayn Rand

I found the following clip via Jonathan Chait at The New Republic.  It demonstrates, as Chait points out, just how philosophically deranged devotees of Ayn Rand are:

Get it?  If you believe people have a right to health care, then you believe in slavery.  It’s just that simple in a Randian mind.  And that is the dominant mind of the Republican Party these days.

Democrats need to make the 2012 election a referendum on this Randian philosophy.  They need to make it clear that a vote for a Republican is a vote for a party that has unmistakably embraced a dark and disturbing selfishness, which in the world of Ayn Rand and her followers, is a virtue.

America Held Hostage, Act Two

Almost exactly as I predicted, Democrats, fearful of a government shutdown, paid yet another ransom to Republicans, who have become quite good at holding the country hostage and extracting concessions from the “party of government.”

Last night, President Obama was almost giddy in making the announcement of the budget deal, which he said—no, he bragged—contained “the largest annual spending cut in our history.” He followed with this:

Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them.  And I certainly did that.

Hmm. Let’s see. Since this was supposed to be a “budget” deal, let’s talk about the money involved. The Republicans wanted $61 billion in cuts. Democrats gave them $38.5 billion.  That’s not exactly a 50-50 compromise.  More like 63-37.  Republicans won that one in a landslide.

So, let’s look at the “deal” in the budget deal.  What did the Democrats manage to extract from the Republicans in exchange for meeting them 63% of the way (some calculations have it at more than 70%) on the budget cuts?  Did Democrats get a tax increase on the rich?  Did they get an elimination of tax breaks for oil companies? 

Well, uh, no.  They didn’t get any agreement on revenues.  Nothing.

Oh, they did get Republicans to drop their ridiculous demands to defund Planned Parenthood, NPR, and the Affordable Care Act, and they did get them to drop the rider on stripping the EPA of regulatory authority on greenhouse gases.  But that’s not a victory, unless you think that it is a victory to pay a knife-wielding kidnapper the ransom he demands, as long as frees the hostage he’s holding.  If he gets away scot-free with the money, he won.  Period.

But in a way, the whole hostage-ransom metaphor explains why this play works so well for Republicans.  A real knife-wielding kidnapper, with his knife to the throat of the hostage, can be expected to use the knife to kill the hostage because presumably he doesn’t care about the hostage as much as he cares about the potential ransom.  The negotiators who pay him the ransom are under pressure from the hostage’s family and friends to give the kidnapper what he wants because they don’t want to see their loved one harmed.

Democrats, who believe in government, are fearful that Republicans, who are holding a knife against government’s throat, will actually use it. They worry that Republicans will slash government’s gullet if they don’t get what they want. Thus, Democrats are under pressure to pay the ransom.  Every time.  It happened last December.  It happened last night. 

The sad thing about all this is that after last December’s agreement on the Bush tax cuts and after last night’s budget deal, President Obama, rather than tell the American people the truth about what happened—that he had to give in to Republican demands or they would kill the hostage—”thanked” John Boehner for his “leadership” and “dedication.”  He said last night:

A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground.  Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. 

With this kind of attitude, as we move toward the real fight over the debt ceiling and next year’s budget, I’m not encouraged that some on our side—including President Obama–understand just how ruthless the current crop of GOP extremists are.  In fact, I’m quite discouraged today.  It doesn’t look good going forward.

In any case, you might remember how often Obama and the Democrats have told us that we need government spending—stimulus—first to start the recovery and then to keep it going until the economy could make it on its own.  We need government spending, not budget cuts, they have said time and time again.  The President has repeatedly said that now is not the time to pull back.  And there are plenty of economists who concur.

But even as Republicans this morning are insisting that the latest budget cuts are only a down payment on more to come, to show how even more depressing is the current state of affairs, I want to end with a quote from one of the parties in the latest budget deal, who said last night:

…beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs…

That wasn’t John Boehner or Michele Bachmann or Rand Paul.

That was Barack Obama.

Is The Tea Party Overrated?

We are not a wing of the party.  We are the party.

—Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ

On The Last Word last night, we had a chance to see a preview of things to come within the Republican Party, in terms of what the leadership is facing with Tea Party candidates, who, by the way, not only think they represent every single American in the country, but think they now control the entire government.

Richard Viguerie, a veteran right-winger and Tea Party ally, who famously said last month, “We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2,” was a guest on the show,  along with Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation.

Viguerie has put the Republican Party on probation and said he had no worries about the Rand Pauls and the Michele Bachmanns and the Jim DeMints in the party.  He was sure they were onboard the Tea Party Demolition Train. He had others in mind:

What we’re concerned about is these establishment Republicans. People say, “Richard, how you gonna pressure them? How you gonna keep ‘em true to their promises?” And my response is to add on to what you were saying earlier—about taking over the Republican Party—I think that’s what conservatives need to do, and the Tea Party people, is just replace these people.  We are not a wing of the party.  We are the party.

Phillips, for his part, was just as emphatic:

We’re going to all the Republicans—the Senators and the Congressman—and we’re gonna be saying, “Hey, you all ran on conservative principles this time; this time you all are gonna have to live up to your conservative principles. You’re gonna have to get the out-of-control spending under control.  You’re gonna have to reduce spending. You’re gonna have to do something to get this economy going—perhaps a pretty-good tax cut.”

Now, although the conventional wisdom has it that the Tea Party was an overwhelming positive for Republicans, it’s important to remember that these Tea Party folks may or may not have helped Republicans win only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government. 

And it’s also important to remember that they may have cost the Republicans control of the Senate by nominating and supporting Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck.  It’s quite possible all three of those seats would have gone Republican, if conventional Republican candidates had won the primaries.

Justin Wolfers, at Freakonomics, wonders out loud just what would have happened, if there were no Tea Party to supposedly energize Republicans.  What about the Senate?  He says:

It’s likely that just about any Republican could have won in those races where the Tea Party lights shone brightest — Rand Paul’s election to the Kentucky Senate seat, Marco Rubio defeat of Florida Governor Charlie Christ in their Senate race, or Mike Lee’s win in Utah.

And in Alaska, voters appear likely to have done an end-run around the fervent Tea Partiers, electing the newly-independent Lisa Murkowski.

As for the House, he says:

…perhaps there were some congressional races where Tea Party enthusiasm carried the day.  But you’ve got to balance this against the possibility that unpopular candidates in the headline Senate and gubernatorial races actually hurt other Republicans down the ticket.

Such counterfactuals are impossible to validate, of course.  But my view is that given the state of the economy, Republicans would certainly have taken control of the House even if there were no Tea Party.  And it’s quite possible that we would be looking at Mitch McConnell as the Majority Leader of the Senate, if Tea Party extremists had not intervened in Republican primaries.

But what I am certain of is this: If Tea Party enthusiasts keep trash-talking like Richard Viguerie and Judson Phillips for the next two years—with a haughty certainty that they speak for all Americans—then they will definitely wake up a sleepy Democratic electorate in 2012.

And that’s not even counting what their arrogance will do to the guts of the Republican Party between now and then.

Here’s some of the segment on The Last Word:

Now What?

Some Americans, trembling over the trembling economy, called the Republican bluff last night.

Republicans, prodded by extremists on the right, have pledged to cut spending and the size of government, repeal health insurance reform legislation, and reduce taxes.  Just how they are going to make these Tea Party dreams come true was never explained during the campaign.

When pressed on what significant cuts Republicans would make to reduce government, they refused to answer.

When pressed on just how they would repeal health insurance reform, they gave us no strategy.

When pressed on how they were going to “pay for” more tax cuts, especially on the wealthy, they passed off the question as meaningless.

Starting next January, House Republicans will have to put their cards on the table and reveal just how they intend to do all the things they promised fidgety Americans they would do, including creating jobs.

Oddly, if you listened to understandably giddy Republican leaders last night, you heard them call on President Obama to “listen” to the American people and be willing to change his ways and they would “work” with him.  Here is Speaker-elect John Boehner’s advice to the President:

The American people have sent an unmistakable message to him tonight, and that message is, change course…We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making the changes they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.

Now, that’s odd because if you remember all the way back to what is ancient history now—2008—voters clearly expressed their will by firing Republicans in favor of a boatload of Democrats, including a Democratic president.  And if you remember, the Republicans were not willing then to commit to the changes the American people were demanding and certainly weren’t willing to work with Obama.  In fact, they worked against him.  It was their strategy, designed to get them to today.

And even if Obama and the Democrats were now in the mood to do what Republicans never did—be responsible—there is little evidence that there is someone on the other side with whom they could work. 

Because you see, the Republicans were bluffing.  They don’t have any chance of implementing their so-called Pledge to America. They don’t have any chance of repealing health insurance reform. They don’t have any chance of balancing the budget, while giving wealthy constituents tax cuts. 

Republicans knew they couldn’t just go to Washington and have their way.  There are still a lot of Democrats there.  And a lot of Americans voted for those winning Democrats—and even in the losses last night, there were a lot of close races and a lot of Democratic votes—and Democrats aren’t simply going to sit back and watch all the work they did the last two years go to waste.

That’s why Republican leaders have conspired to put the burden on President Obama.  That’s why they are loudly suggesting to the American people that all of the responsibility is on him to listen to the people’s “message,” a message they never heard when it was directed toward them two years ago.

And when President Obama does not yield to their demands—when he refuses to become a victim of their insurgency—he will once again become the target of their transparent plan to retake the White House in 2012.  They will construct Tea Party-satisfying legislation that has no chance of becoming law. And then they will blame the President for their failure to keep the promises they made to tea partiers.

That’s what all the talk today is about. That’s why Republicans are already avoiding the responsibility of governing by placing it squarely on Obama and demanding he surrender.

Republicans don’t mean to work with the President or Democrats on anything that matters.  What they mean to do is to destroy Obama and take over the entire government, and compromising on meaningful legislation would just get in the way of doing that.  To hell with the country in the mean time. 

We’ve come to take our government back!” screamed Rand Paul last night.  That doesn’t exactly sound like a man who is going to Washington to work with the other side, now does it?

As for John Boehner, he pledged last night to the Tea Party: “I’ll never let you down.”   

Never is a long time, Mr. Boehner.

_______________________

Other than the fact that Harry Reid kept his job last night, I found several bright spots, which I will write about later.  For now, I want to mention Congressman John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, Kentucky, who won his race last night with 55% of the vote. Here is what he said as he celebrated his victory, and let’s hope this spirit stays strong among Democrats, as they are about to defend the work they have done:

I almost wish there were another podium here tonight, because I feel like Nancy Pelosi has been in this campaign the whole time. And Nancy ought to take a victory lap with me. And maybe President Obama as well. The disservice and disrespect that has been leveled on them has been so outrageous and so unjustified that it makes me really fear for this country. When you have two people who work every day to make life better for every American and they put up with the nonsense. … [I]t’s not only unjustified, it’s un-American. I voted with Nancy Pelosi a lot of the time.

Yarmuth also pledged to “remain a tireless, passionate voice for making this country a country that works for everybody, not just the privileged few.”

Now, that’s the message Democrats need to keep telling themselves and the American people, even when it seems some of the people aren’t listening.

Unless You’re A Tea Party Manly Man, Never Kick A Girl When She’s Down

In what can only be characterized as a symbolic moment in this campaign season, a man wearing a Rand Paul shirt stepped on a member of MoveOn.org last night in Lexington, Kentucky, site of the latest Jack Conway-Rand Paul debate. 

The manly Paul-man in the video put his foot on the woman on the ground in an act of Tea Party bravery.  This short video clip, more than anything I could write, demonstrates what life might be like in a world dominated by Tea Party libertarians:

In a news report, which can be found here, an anchor remarks, over a different video of the incident, that Lexington police are trying to determine if the man “stepped on her intentionally.” 

Yes, it just might be possible that the cowardly bastard was actually a good Samaritan chiropractor who was merely trying to realign her spine.

Ron Paul And A Quick Lesson About The Tea Party

Lawrence O’Donnell is a unique interviewer, although you would need to see him do it a few times before you would know what I mean. 

Last night on The Last Word, during an interview with Libertarian-Republican-Tea Partier Ron Paul, he had a strange exchange with him regarding Medicare, and by strange I mean strange in the way Paul danced around the question, “You would abolish Medicare, wouldn’t you?” 

Paul just couldn’t bring himself to say the words, but it is clear what he wants to do.  As outspoken as Paul has been in his career, why couldn’t he bring himself to say the words, “I want to abolish Medicare“?  Of course, we all know why.

And O’Donnell ask him about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Paul’s comment that,

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom.

Even better than the job Rachel Maddow did on Rand Paul, O’Donnell hammered him on this point, as Ron Paul attempted, à la Glenn Beck, to turn Martin Luther King into a Libertarian.  It was Ron Paul’s worst performance on television, and it demonstrated that when challenged, libertarians—at least those who want to stay in office—have a problem explaining themselves.

At one point, O’Donnell says to him:

Congressman, let’s not try to pretend libertarianism is what changed segregation in this country.  It was activist liberal government that changed segregation in this country, otherwise it would still be with us.  It took activist liberal Washington government in the Civil Rights Act to end that segregation that you properly decry.

Paul called O’Donnell “discourteous” at the end, as if politicians shouldn’t be held accountable for their views, particularly the extremist views of Libertarians.

Watch a few minutes of the interview, which I have clipped beginning with the Medicare discussion:

Dueling Globe Columnists

Okay.  So, a contributing writer to the Joplin Globe editorial board, Anson Burlingame, got pissed about a piece written by a guest columnist, Elliott Denniston, so he shot back with a column of his own:

Elliott Denniston really crossed the line in negative “campaigning” in his guest column (Globe, Oct. 3) and must be rebutted, strongly. I vigorously challenge his shallow research and obvious partisan conclusions in trying to paint all Republican candidates nationally with only the colors of the few.

Denniston’s apparent sin was daring to point out that some of the candidates running as Republicans this fall were, well, let’s just say, extremists of one sort or another.

Here is a summary of what Denniston noted:

Christine O’Donnell: Believes that there are mice with fully functioning human brains.  Believes that witchcraft is a sin but once dabbled in masturbation.  No, wait. I got that wrong. She believes masturbation is a sin and once dabbled in witchcraft.  Whew!  And finally, O’Donnell owes back taxes and “has lived off her campaign contributions for many years and has no other apparent income.”

Although Burlingame challenged Denniston’s “shallow research,” the things he said about O’Donnell have the virtue of being factual. So, let’s move on:

Abortion: “Five Republicans nominated for the Senate want the government to ensure that women who are raped are required to have their rapists’ babies,” Denniston wrote.  He then went on:

Yes, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Jim [sic] Miller of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ken Buck of Colorado, and O’Donnell, although they hate government intrusion into our lives, believe that the federal government should force women to give birth to babies forced on them by rapists or created through incest.

Although Burlingame challenged Denniston’s “shallow research,” the things he said about these five Republicans and their extremist views on abortion have the virtue of being factual. So, let’s move on:

Sharron Angle: “Implied that armed insurrection against the federal government might be a plausible course of action if the government does not change course,” what she called “Second Amendment remedies.”  Denniston also wrote that Angle once spoke against fluoride as “a Communist plot to undermine Western democracy,” and he said, “Ms. Angle also believes that autism is a phony condition that people use to get extra health benefits.”

Although Burlingame challenged Denniston’s “shallow research,” the things he said about Sharron Angle have the virtue of being factual. So, let’s move on:

Social Security: Denniston says there are Republicans running who want to “eliminate” Social Security “as it now stands and replace it with a system of privatized funds.” He names them: Mike Lee, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, and he lists Ken Buck as an opponent of any federal involvement in health care and retirement and Marco Rubio as an advocate for raising the retirement age to 70 and who wants “to cut benefits to younger workers.”

Although Burlingame challenged Denniston’s “shallow research,” the things he said about some Republicans relative to Social Security have the virtue of being factual. So, let’s move on:

Various: Denniston offers that Mike Lee of Utah “wishes to eliminate the income tax“;

that Joe Miller of Alaska “believes that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional“;

that Rand Paul of Kentucky “would scrap the Americans with Disabilities Act and believes that the Civil Rights Act went too far in requiring restaurant owners to admit black Americans“;

that Rick Scott of Florida ran “a health care company that systematically defrauded the government on Medicare charges, earning the company the largest Medicare fine in history — $1.7 billion“;

that Carl Paladino distributed “racist jokes and very explicit pornographic photographs to a large group of supporters; one of these was a photo-shopped image of Barack and Michelle Obama as a pimp and a prostitute.” (Apparently, Denniston wrote his column before Paladino threatened to “take out” a New York Post journalist.)

Although Burlingame challenged Denniston’s “shallow research,” the things he said about the Republicans above have the virtue of being factual. So, let’s finish up:

You see, it really wasn’t the “shallow research” that spiked Anson’s piss meter.  It was Denniston’s “obvious partisan conclusions,” and his “trying to paint all Republican candidates nationally with only the colors of the few.”  As if the editorial page isn’t a place for partisanship and advocacy; as if Republicans aren’t themselves trying to nationalize the election and tie every Democratic candidate to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama.

But I will say Anson has a point about one thing:

If you want to understand, in principle, where many Republicans are “coming from” or “headed,” go read and think carefully about the Pledge to America.  There is more than enough in that broad, even sweeping, statement of principles to scare any Democrat.

Yes, it’s true.  The really, really scary thing about Republicans and their non-specific Pledge, is that it represents a sycophantic salute to the Tea Party and that movement’s extremist generalities about government.

And I think Denniston was just using a few Tea Party extremists, who happen to be Republican candidates for high office, to point that out.

How Old Is The Earth? And Other Tests Of Republican Rationality

I am weary of homeschoolers, most of whom are homeschooling because they want to indoctrinate their children into the ways of some form or other of fundamentalist Christianity.

While I support religious freedom, I’m not sure our country can afford to support the freedom to isolate children from the intellectual lifeblood of the nation, so their parents can condition them to believe that the Bible, a book two to three thousand years old, is a greater source of scientific knowledge than modern science itself.

But that’s for another day.

Today, I want to point out how powerful the fundamentalist-evangelical voter is in the Republican Party and suggest a question the Joplin Globe could put to all local candidates for political office.

A Kentucky blogger, Barefoot and Progressive, posted a video of Rand Paul‘s appearance at a conference of Christian Homeschool Educators last Friday.  The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked a question by one of his Christian brothers as to how old the libertarian-conservative believed the earth was:

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Obviously, the questioner put Paul in a political dilemma—no matter what his views are.

If he believes the earth is only 6000-10,000 years old—the typical fundamentalist belief—then he certainly can’t say so and risk losing what little intellectual credibility he has left with the rational world.

If he doesn’t believe the earth is about the same age as Joan Rivers, but instead believes it is 13.7 billion years old, then he certainly can’t say so at a conference of homeschool educators, especially in Kentucky, where conservative Christian voters make up a large chunk of the electorate.

So, what does he do?

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Well, I’m not going to let him pass.  I’m going to assume, since he won’t defend Reason—remember, he is supposedly a rational libertarian?—that he is a boneheaded fundamentalist fool, who believes  Adam and Eve were real folks who lived about 6,000 years ago.

All of which leads me to suggest something to the Joplin Globe, currently running a weekly Sunday feature called the 100 words project, in which the paper solicits questions from local folks (so far, local conservatives) to ask the zillion candidates running to replace Roy Blunt, who are supposed to answer in 100 words or less.

Here’s my simple question suggestion, the same one which Rand Paul was asked:

How old is the earth?” 

Or, how about one I use as a test of rationality:

Were the biblical Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?

The answer to either one of those questions would tell me more about the candidates than a thousand questions like,What specific steps will you take, if you are elected, to make sure you are responsive to your constituents back home?

What say you, Joplin Globe?

 

Rand Paul Will “Take Our Country Back” — To The 1950s

For an ophthalmologist, Rand Paul doesn’t see very well.

I have a message from the Tea Party,” he told us Tuesday night after his victory in the Republican primary in Kentucky, “We’ve come to take our government back.”

Yeah, back to segregated lunch counters.

I watched him last night on television flopping around the truth, in an attempt to avoid answering an obvious question:

Do you support the civil rights law that forced private businesses to serve black folks?

The answer, of course, is that he does not support such a law.  You see, he is a proud libertarian.

Now, having flirted with libertarianism myself, I have written critically about it because I believe it is a rather immature political philosophy, and nothing illustrates that better than the trouble now brewing around Rand Paul (which was inevitable), who wants to represent the people of Kentucky—whites and blacks, entrepreneurs and consumers—in the U.S. Senate.

First, Rand Paul is not a racist because he opposes Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guarantees that people cannot be discriminated against “in places of public accommodation” because of “race, color, religion, or national origin.”

He’s just being silly.

Last night, arguing with Rachel Maddow, he insisted that if the government can force private businesses to serve all folks no matter their race, color, religion or national origin, then the government in effect “owns” that business and it has become  a public enterprise.

He tried to illustrate this goofy point by recourse to the Second Amendment.  He said since the regulated business is no longer a “private” business, that the possibility exists that a gun owner could walk into a restaurant or a bar carrying a gun, claim the restaurant was a “public” place, and the owner of the business could not refuse to serve him, even if the owner did not permit guns on his property.

No doubt, Mr. Paul, like his father, is attempting to be faithful to his “small government”* political philosophy.  That’s the problem.  It’s just not possible to be faithful to a philosophy that leads one down such untenable roads.

When I registered my truck with the state of Missouri, I did so knowing that I had to follow certain rules laid down by the state. I had to pay a fee; I had to show proof I paid my taxes;  I had to agree to display the state’s license plates; I had to agree to have insurance. And so on.

Now, because the state demanded such obedience, does that mean the state owns my truck?  Further, because the state demands that while I’m driving the truck I must obey the traffic laws, does that mean the state owns my truck? 

The state tells me I can’t drive drunk.  Why can’t I? It is quite likely that I could drive drunk every day of the year and not have an accident, so why is the state restricting my liberty?  And because it does restrict my liberty, does anyone consider my truck public property?

That’s how silly all of this is.

The government has an interest in ensuring that the roads are as safe as possible for all drivers.  And the government has an interest in ensuring that when it comes to public accommodations, all people are treated equally. It’s just that simple.

Only a libertarian has trouble seeing the logic of the Civil Rights Act, which is odd for an ophthalmologist-turned-teapartier.

For those who want to watch, here is Rand Paul’s rope-a-dope appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show:

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*”Small government”? I realize a lot of media folks call his views that, but here is something from his website that demonstrates the falseness of that claim and demonstrates how “flexible” a “principled” libertarian can be when he wants to be :

I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life. [emphasis his]
I will always vote for any and all legislation that would end abortion or lead us in the direction of ending abortion…

I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade.

Paul has no problem using federal power to foreclose on the abortion issue, but he has a problem using federal power to ensure that all Americans have a right to sit at any lunch counter and eat.
 

Is that a small government position?

 

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UPDATE:

After exposing his views to a national television audience via the Rachel Maddow Show, Paul now regrets his appearance and is naturally seeking refuge in the friendly confines of talk radio.

Today, he told Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly with boobs, that it was “a poor political decision” to appear on Maddow’s show because, he charged, that Maddow “went on and on” about claiming that Paul “believed in beating up people that were trying to sit in restaurants in the 1960s.”

Of course, as anyone who actually watched the segment knows, Maddow did no such thing. She simply tried to get him to answer a question he was obviously trying to avoid.

 

So, besides holding a political philosophy that’s fit for a middle schooler, we now find that Paul is a pusillanimous politician who is trying to hide his libertarian views from the general public.

 

Congratulations to the Kentucky GOP!

 

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