“As Christianity Fades, The Birth Rate Falls And Third World Immigration Surges”

The White establishment is now the minorityThe demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

—Bill O’Reilly, November 6, 2012

y now we’ve all noticed that some of the adults in the Republican Party are talking about the party doing some soul-searching, making it more appealing to women, Latinos, young people, and, yes, even African-Americans.

These Republican grownups, folks like political gurus Steve Schmidt and Mike Murphy, realize the electorate is changing before their eyes and know that Republicans have to change too.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Not only are the extremists in control of the Republican Party not going to change—can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh embracing immigration reform, for God’s sake?—it makes no sense for them to change, given what it is that really animates most of them.

There are two major forces that serve to energize the base of the Republican Party today. One is fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist religion, which is waging war against Constitution-blessed secularism. The other is an increasingly acute cultural anxiety over the browning of America.

Those two forces meet and merge in the mind of Pat Buchanan, who wrote three years ago:

In what sense are we one nation and one people anymore? For what is a nation if not a people of a common ancestry, faith, culture and language, who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, and share the same music, poetry, art and literature?

…The European-Christian core of the country that once defined us is shrinking, as Christianity fades, the birth rate falls and Third World immigration surges.

You see, to people like Pat Buchanan—I give him credit for honesty—a diverse nation is not a nation at all. True Americans must all have European blood and belief. All others represent an existential threat to the country.

About one-half of all American children under five have Buchanan skin, a fact that makes Buchanan’s thin cultural skin crawl. And there is evidence that Americans are slowly embracing the secular nation that our Constitution establishes.

Thus it is that those in the Republican Party who care deeply and disturbingly about the threat to the “European-Christian core of the country” —those misguided but earnest folks who nominated Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, for instance—are not going to tolerate any talk of moderating the party’s positions on the social issues.

The Republican Party platform in 2016 will look much like it did this year, a document that reeks of uncompromising extremism, such as the party’s stance on reproductive rights and the status of homosexuals. The party primary process will continue to produce extremist true-believers who honor that extremist document.

Because people who are moved by faith and fear, folks who are on a mission from God or who are defending their waning cultural dominance, will not be deterred by an unfavorable election outcome. They will not be coaxed or coerced into compromise by people in their party who don’t share their enthusiasm for lost-cause crusades.

So it is that we will continue to see Tea Party-types dominate the Republican Party until such time that there is nothing much left to dominate, at least on the national scene. Republicans will always have a voice at the local and state level, even a voice in the Congress, but with uncompromising crusading conservatives in charge of its national prospects, it will one day become irrelevant as a governing national party.

When that happens, when the browning of America forces Republicans into waging only regional and state and local battles, then perhaps the adults can take the party back.

And America would be all the better for it.

Tuesday The Thirteenth

Todd Akin, like one of those Jasonesque characters in a sequel-begetting fright flick, just won’t go away.

A sometimes Democrat-friendly polling firm, Public Policy Polling, finds that Akin is only down 48-44 to Claire McCaskill (women support Claire 55-38), even after Dr. Todd shared his pre-Neanderthalic understanding of rape and the female reproductive system with Missouri voters.

The survey found that although Akin’s favorability rating is at only 29%—that’s not a typo—his good standing among Republicans in this state has gone up from 74% to 79%. Apparently, a vast majority of Missouri Republicans have decided that Akin’s medieval pseudoscience, which claims that women’s bodies have special recognition devices that can detect sperm planted through “legitimate” violence, is the kind of science that GOP Jesus loves.

Surprisingly, among independents the race is, uh, tied, 46-46. What that means is that some of those who claimed they are independents are lying through their conservative teeth or don’t have the slightest idea what “independent’ means (not out of the question here in Missouri). Those who claimed they were not Republicans or Democrats amounted to 32% in this survey. And no one can convince me that 46% of true independents are voting for the pre-Neanderthal in this race. If that is so, Allah help us.

Also, it appears some extra dough is finding its way into the state in support of Dr. Todd.  The New York Times’ “The Caucus” reports that Akins “is receiving an influx of more than $2 million in the final days of his campaign.” The skinny:

Nearly a million of those dollars on television ad buys are coming from Mr. Akin’s campaign, while the rest is from outside groups, and there is speculation that organizations that previously distanced themselves from the six-term Congressman could be behind some of the new spending.

One of those organizations suspected of sending Akin money is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (chaired by Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is so conservative that he once almost compared homosexual marriage to a man marrying a box turtle—I kid you not), which had pulled the plug on Akin when it appeared he would not survive his lecture on evangelical gynecology. But now that he is, like Jason, alive and well, Cornyn may be funneling money to the state Republican party, which has never stopped its support of Dr. Todd.

But I want to pass on something that may help those of you who, like me, have feared that the pre-Neanderthal can pull off a win and not only embarrass Missouri, but help speed up the ongoing erosion of women’s rights.

On Sunday, I was helping to contact local potential McCaskill voters. Several times we ran across Republican women who were voting for Claire, despite the fact their husbands were not. One woman said to us:

Tell her I am a rock-ribbed Republican but I am supporting her.

I took that as good news that although the race will be mind-mindbogglingly close—considering what kind of candidate Akin is—there is a goodly number of Republican women out there who haven’t yet lost their minds.

Intrusive, Vagina-Probing, Have-The-Rapist’s-Baby-Or-Else Big Government

From HuffPo:

Notice the “at least” in the subheader. There could be more. And remember, too, that Romney and Ryan are just as extreme, when it comes to their preferences, even though Romney, but not Ryan, has tried to have it three or four or more ways on abortion.

Again, for the record, Romney’s real position, as ABC News reported in 2007 after a Republican debate:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

As for Paul Ryan, he said in an interview with WJHL in Roanoake, Virginia:

REPORTER JOSH SMITH: Our viewers would love know…specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?

PAUL RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

These are radicals. These are reactionaries. These are, in fact, radical reactionaries. Democrats have to keep pounding this into Americans’ heads, not just American women’s heads. These folks mean it when they say they want to use government—intrusive, vagina-probing, have-the-rapist’s-baby-or-else big government—to eliminate all abortions. All of us have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, about what is happening. Then we have to keep reminding them.

Even 76% of non-candidate Republicans believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape, for God’s sake, which is why Romney has tried to hide his extremism by copping a relatively less radical, but still radical nonetheless, position summarized as “only legal in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”  In the context of what he have heard from the mouths of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, that sounds like a pro-choice liberal speaking. But it isn’t. It’s still a reactionary speaking, still a radical position to hold. And besides that. Romney is still—still!—supporting Mourdock.

Whether it is this year’s crop of Republican senate hopefuls, or whether it is Mitt Romney’s expressed delight in signing a potential law that would eliminate all abortions, or whether it is Paul Ryan’s strange claim that rape is, in terms of the abortion issue, just another “method of conception“—God, that’s offensive—the message that these extremists would radically change the cultural landscape for women in this country has to be broadcast far and wide and often.

These zealots aren’t kidding, and Americans need to be told that again and again and again.

How Obama Can Win The Debate And The Election

It’s simple really.

The Obama campaign—with the help of the mainstream press—seems to have moved away from the one thing that was working against the slippery Mittens and was giving them a comfortable lead in the polls: the guy is a radical conservative who will radically transform the country into something only the Tea Party could love. Period.

They need to stop trying to paint the guy as a flip-flopper—everyone can see that by now—and tie him directly to the Republicans in Congress, particularly the Tea Party contingent, which he has supported in every conceivable way, including picking one of the most extreme VP candidates—and Tea Party favorite—in history.

Here, look at this graph from Gallup, published a month ago:

Look at those low, low, low numbers for Congress. Who could run against that bunch and lose? All Obama has to do to execute the winning strategy is to put the focus on extremists in Congress, including highlighting legislation that has come out of the Tea Party Republican House (as well as some that has come from Senate Republicans, like the radical Blunt amendment, which Romney was against before he had to backtrack), and then tie Romney’s flip-flopping body to that stake and watch him burn.

The President can point to some of the more extreme wackos in Congress—there is a rather large crop from which to choose—and ask the country: Do you want a president who will make these extremists even more powerful? Do you want to see Michele Bachmann and Allen West on your TVs every night, as they wield real power?

The president should say something like this during Tuesday’s debate, which I offer the campaign free of charge:

If you think Todd Akin is nuts, if you think his mind is frozen in Iron Age ignorance, then I’ve got news for you. There are a bunch of Republicans in the House who are as strange as he is. And Paul Ryan—who Mitt Romney chose to be his running mate— is one of them. He voted with Akin on a bill that originally tried to redefine rape, the old definition not quite good enough for these people. Ryan is as far right on the issue of a woman’s right to choose as Todd Akin. He really is that wildly far right. Yet Romney picked him to sit in the White House and help him make decisions, decisions that will affect you and your daughters.

Have you ever heard of Congressman Steve King? He’s an extremist nut from Iowa. Never mind that he doubts I am an American. Never mind that. Among other crazy, extremist things, he has suggested that states should still have the right to stop couples from having access to contraception. Yes, here in 2012 he thinks that. And Congressman King backed up Todd Akin recently and even added that he had never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. Never heard of it.

And you can go on his website and find out that he would force women “requesting” an abortion—even women who were raped—to undergo ultrasounds “and review the life within her.” I’m not making that up. He would use government force to require women to do that. Go there and look for yourself. He’s serious. He’s deadly serious.

And you know what? Mitt Romney endorsed this guy! About this wacky congressman, about this Tea Party nutjob, Romney said, “I want him as my partner in Washington!”  Partners. That’s what you are voting for if you vote for Mitt Romney. A partner with extremists in Congress. Make no mistake about it.

In fact, the entire Republican Party has been captured by such people as Steve King. People like him run that party. Just a couple of days after Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, the Republican Party voted to put in its official platform a provision that would prevent women who are raped or who are incest victims from choosing whether to have the rapist’s baby. They would force a woman, perhaps a relative of yours, to bear the child of her attacker. Do you really want to put these people in charge of the government? Huh?

And as for the economy. Things are turning around despite the fact Republicans in Congress all joined together in an effort to sabotage the economic recovery. They have admitted that. That’s not controversial. They got together on the night of my inauguration and plotted how they might keep me from getting this economy repaired and have a second term. I’m not kidding. I’m not making that up. You all need to know how extremist this bunch in Congress is. So extreme as to jeopardize the well-being of the country just so they can get complete control of it.

And as far as entitlement programs go, you all heard what Governor Romney thinks of half the country, you know, when he was standing in front of fat cats in Florida.  He thinks people don’t want to take care of themselves. He thinks half of the population wants to be dependent on government, even people who have earned their benefits, even people who worked hard for them and are truly entitled to them. He thinks that. He said that. And you know who else thinks that? Tea Party Republicans in Congress. That’s what the whole Tea Party movement was about, remember? Do you want these folks in charge of the government? Do you want these people, most of whom have never cared all that much for our safety net, deciding the future of Social Security and Medicare? Huh?

And finally, as far as foreign policy and national security goes, we have kept the country safe. We have taken down much of al Qaeda’s leadership, including bin Laden. I got us out of Iraq and I am winding down the war in Afghanistan. But you know what? That’s not good enough for some of these extremists in Congress. That’s not good enough for Governor Romney. They want us to get more involved in Syria. You’ve seen them on television. You’ve seen them say we’ve got to do more. They want to start a war—yes, I said it—they want us to start a war with Iran, before we have even given the punishing sanctions we put in place time to work. That’s what they want and that’s what they will get if you put them in charge.

Governor Romney has surrounded himself with advisers who got us into the mess in Iraq. You want more of that? Some in Congress, even the Governor himself, seem to want us to stay and stay and stay in Afghanistan. You want to keep troops there for another ten years? Huh?

Another adviser to the Romney campaign has called on Congress to authorize war with Iran. That was after the Republican leader in the Senate called for the same thing. I’m not kidding. He wanted a vote on the authorization of force against Iran. The leader of Republicans in the United States Senate called for “a more forceful approach.” More forceful.  What does that mean except war? Another Romney adviser, who worked for George W. Bush as U.N. ambassador, is not only itching for a war with Iran, he has suggested that Israel use nuclear weapons! Again, I’m not kidding. 

There are people in Congress who would have us in wars all over the place. They want to drastically increase our defense budget, even while giving tax cuts to rich people and cutting aid to the poor here at home. And the only thing stopping them right now is you, you the voter. That’s it. If you elect Mitt Romney, if you put him and Paul Ryan in charge, you are putting the Tea Party in charge of the entire government. And all of them are hell-bent on taking us back to a time when people were begging in the streets. A time when folks didn’t have the health care they needed. They are hell-bent on getting us back into protracted wars in a strange part of the world.

Look. I’m not going to BS you. If you give me another four years, there are some tough choices that have to be made, both here at home and across the sea. We do have to cut spending even more than I have already. We do have to address the long-term entitlement problems. And we do have to consider seriously whether we want to start a war with Iran, should the sanctions in place fail to convince them to stop advancing toward a nuclear weapon. These are hard things. They will require us to make some hard choices.

But I trust you know me. You know how I have conducted myself these past four years. You know how sober-minded I am and how I don’t do things rashly or act without good reason. I don’t have to play Macho Man on the world stage in order to look out for American interests. I don’t have to send young men and women to die to prove how strong our resolve is.

And you have seen the extremism on the other side. You have seen Governor Romney, a man who made his fortune in what a member of his own party called “vulture capitalism,” embrace the most extreme elements of his party and the most extreme policies imaginable. You’ve seen that. 

It comes down to this: Who do you trust to do the right thing as America moves forward?

Dangerous Stuff

emember John Hagee?

He was the freaky and bigoted pastor from Texas whose endorsement John McCain sought in 2008 and whose endorsement he got in 2008 and whose endorsement was eventually rejected by John McCain in 2008 because, well, the guy is part of the Christian Taliban.

This year Hagee is conducting what he calls “40 Days of Prayer,” going on until the election on November 6.  Evangelicals are big on large prayer meetings, especially when a Muslim is sitting in the White’s House. Hagee’s prayer, don’t you know, involves repentance for “the sin of idolatry“:

…we have under the banner of pluralism and hedonism, embraced and worshipped the gods of this world…

Our silence has produced a secular nation and all nations that forget You, shall be forsaken. We ask that You hear our cry, for we need You, in these desperate times, to lead us out of our politically correct fog of constant confusion and take us back to Your moral clarity.

Among the election results Hagee is praying for is the defeat of Barack Obama, although he doesn’t use his name. But we know it is Obama  because, well, just read it for yourself:

O Lord our God, You have promised to raise up righteous leaders into high places and to remove those who have displayed unrighteous authority. We earnestly pray that You will once again exalt the upright and expose the deeds of the ungodly…

We pledge to exercise our God given rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in voting for future leaders from the county courthouse to the White House who obey and honor Your Word.

We pledge to vote the Bible in selecting those that will govern our country.

Gee. I wonder who he means by “remove those who have displayed unrighteous authority“? To which party is he pledging his—and his followers’—vote?

But that last line, “We pledge to vote the Bible” should trouble any thinking American, those that haven’t been poisoned by Talibanic teaching. What the hell does “vote the Bible” mean? What can it mean? The Bible is a rather large book, full of contradictory claims and prescriptions.

Monday night on The Last Word I saw remarks made by another member of the Christian Taliban, but this one is not a loopy pastor in Texas. He is Paul Broun, a Republican who hails from, where else, Georgia. Broun has called President Obama “a Marxist” who “is destroying everything that’s made this country great,” but that’s not what is so disturbing about him.

Broun sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  Yes, Science, Space, and Technology, the same committee with a member named Todd Akin, of legitimate rape and creepy gynecological theory fame.

Just as Pastor Hagee and countless evangelical and fundamentalist Christians do, Paul Broun has a Supreme Boss, an Iron Age book, which leads him to a startling conclusion:

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that all that stuff I was taught about evolution and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.

This would be a good time to remind you that he sits on the Science, Space, and Technology committee in your House of Representatives. More:

And it’s lies to try to keep me, and all the folks who were taught that, from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young earth. I don’t believe that the earth is but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

Science, Space, and Technology, people. More:

What I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. That’s the reason as your congressman, I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I live in Washington, D.C, and I’ll continue to do that  [raucous applause].

Besides the obvious, the Science, Space, and Technology committee has jurisdiction over “scientific research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor,” as its website puts it.

Just why would Republican leadership put men like Todd Akin and Paul Broun on such an important committee? Because evangelicals have taken over control of the Republican Party, my friends. People who think the earth is nine bleeping thousand years old are in positions of power in our government, and are threatening to take the whole damn thing over.

I know these people. I know who they are and how they think and how much they hate anything that contradicts their interpretation of the Bible. This is dangerous stuff in terms of the future of the country. These folks mean business when they say that what science teaches, like evolution and the Big Bang theory, are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” These are not just crowd-pleasing one-liners. Paul Broun means it with all his heart.

And he means it when he says that the Bible will be his guide to governance because “it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society.” The Bible is our teacher. The Bible, a book that is a collection of tales and claims written by ignorant and scientifically illiterate men living in an age when the wheelbarrow represented an advancement in technology and a time when men scribbled their divine thoughts on papyrus.

I have said this countless times, but I will continue to say it. We, you and me and other Americans not shackled by Iron Age theology, have to mount an aggressive rhetorical offensive against these fundamentalist reactionaries whenever and wherever we encounter them, on the street, in the workplace, in school, or, uh, in church. I repeat: this is dangerous stuff.

It’s our job as good citizens to point out the scandal of a Paul Broun, who thinks climate change is a hoax, or a Todd Akin, who thinks women have special rape-sperm recognition devices, sitting on, dare I say it again, the Science, Space, and Technology committee in this the twenty-first century.

Mainstream journalists won’t do it. Most politicians won’t do it. We The Thinking People have to help scientists defend science, as Bill Nye, commenting on Paul Broun’s claims, is doing:

Since the economic future of the United States depends on our tradition of technological innovation, Representative Broun’s views are not in the national interest. For example, the Earth is simply not 9,000 years old. He is, by any measure, unqualified to make decisions about science, space, and technology.

Unqualified, and dangerous.

Watch another Republican congressman invoke the Bible in a discussion about public policy followed by Paul Broun:

Roy Blunt, False Witness

The Old Testament tells us that the Lord hates “a false witness that speaketh lies.”

Uh-oh.

Without much of a pushback from Candy Crowley, Roy Blunt appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to speaketh lies about Mitt Romney’s once-prominent promise of tax cuts for all. After playing a clip of Romney saying “don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes,” Crowley asked,

What do you make of that? Sounds like people aren’t going to get a tax cut.

BLUNT: Well, I — actually I think that’s what the governor’s been saying all the time, and it’s what most Republicans have been saying all the time. Get the rate down, eliminate the — a lot of the intricacies of the tax code…

CROWLEY: But hasn’t he been — I’m sorry. Hasn’t he been campaigning on cutting taxes?

BLUNT: No, no, no, he has always said we’re going to lower the rate and we’re going to eliminate the complexity of the tax code. That’s what he’s said consistently. It doesn’t mean revenue would go down. That would mean that people would have some sense that everybody’s paying the same thing based on the same rules, both at the corporate structure and the individual structure and I think that’s very consistent…

No, no, no,” he said. “It doesn’t mean revenue would go down.” Well, I am used to Blunt telling unchallenged lies to Missourians, but one would think when he tells lies to the nation that Candy Crowley would at least press him on it. But nope, she didn’t.

If you go to Mitt Romney’s website—in light of his “47%” comments laughingly subtitled, “Believe in America” —you will find this:

Reduce taxes,” it says, “through…tax reform.” Nothing could be clearer than that. It doesn’t say “reduce tax rates,” but “reduce taxes,” with “reduce” being commonly defined as “to bring down.” Romney promised to bring down taxes, despite Blunt’s claim that  it was really “rates” he meant. A false witness, indeed.

But that wasn’t Blunt’s biggest sin on Sunday:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the state of the race in Missouri. This is where you had Congressman Akin, who made a very controversial remark, which you condemned, which others condemned. You, in fact, said at the time, “We do not believe it serves the national interests for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in the race for Senate. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.” 

As we all know, Todd Akin did not step aside. He is running as the Republican. And you are looking as though — the Republicans are looking as though they’re going to lose that race because Akin stayed in it. 

BLUNT: I think at the end of the day, that race does largely become a debate about the majority in the Senate. Harry Reid is majority leader. What happens there? I think that becomes really big in that race. Frankly, I think that anybody else would have been a candidate that clearly would have won, and Todd very well may win. He is on a ticket at a time when people are looking at a Senate that’s not doing its work, and the only way to change the Senate is to change the majority in the Senate. 

CROWLEY: So you are going to sell it as a party race as opposed to the individual of Congressman Akin? 

BLUNT: I think it becomes a party race in our state and lots of other places as well, as people look at these Senate races. And I’m not — I think they look at them to a great extent independently of whatever has happened in the presidential race, but I think the presidential race is going to be decided by the economy, and the economy is not where people want it to be.

Get that? Blunt believes, or says he believes, that Missourians will overlook Akin’s stupidity because otherwise Harry Reid will remain Majority Leader. Forget “legitimate rape” people, we’ve got to make Mitch McConnell, the chief Republican obstructionist in Congress, Majority Leader!

In other words, Blunt, who sacrificed what principles he had left on the altar of political power, hopes Missourians will do the same thing. He said a bit later:

It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Todd does.

Yeah, let’s see how Todd does.

My question would be this: Is there nothing a Republican candidate could say or do that would earn Roy Blunt’s permanent disapproval? If Charles Manson were a Republican and could give the party a majority in the senate, would Roy Blunt say, “It’s a race about the majority, and let’s see how Charlie does“?

Huh?

Sadly, the reason Blunt has recanted his disapproval of Akin is because, believe it or not, the man with a cave dweller’s understanding of the female reproductive system and “ladylike” behavior and who wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, actually has a chance of winning in cave-rich Missouri.

If he had no chance, Roy Blunt wouldn’t come within a Jack Abramoff scandal of him.

For his part, Akin, with a zeal befitting an evangelical zealot, has said that there is “an amazing correlation” at work here:

When you do the right thing, you end up winning anyway.

Well, there is one thing we know: no matter who wins, neither Akin nor the principleless Roy Blunt will have done the right thing.

And if Akin ends up in the U.S. Senate, those Missourians who put him there will be just as principleless as Blunt and will have brought shame to not only their state, but to the whole country.

McCaskill Sends A Warning To Republicans

As Todd Akin, that brilliant medieval scientist, continues his “Give ‘Em The Finger Tour” around Missouri (he essentially kicked it off here in Joplin), and as he attempts to make Missouri the butt of all political jokes, Claire McCaskill appeared on MSNBC this morning and offered this rather unladylike warning to the honchos in the GOP:

Watch the national Republicans. You know, they’ve all said it was unacceptable what he did, and I think Scott Brown and Linda McMahon and a lot of candidates out there are really going to be in trouble if the national Republicans now go back on their word and come in here and try to fund Todd Akin.

McCaskill’s senate counterpart, Roy Blunt, has already decided to put political power ahead of principle and support Akin. But he has his own personal reasons for doing so. If Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s congressional liaison, can help Republicans gain control of the senate by helping to engineer an Akin victory, he will be able to move up the leadership ladder—he is now the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

McCaskill is counting on national Republicans, who don’t share Blunt’s narrower interests because they have to look out for other candidates in bluish states, to keep to their word and not flirt with Akin and his goofy gynecological godliness imported from the Middle Ages.

So far, Texas Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, claims he has “no plans” to put money in Akin’s campaign, but we are talking about the Republican Party here. If the race is close in a couple of weeks, I’m betting the money will flow.

As for that other money-man, Karl Rove—who famously said of Akin that, “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts” —he probably won’t sink any money into Akin’s race, just as he didn’t offer any dough to GOP senate candidates and wingnuts Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, or Christine O’Donnell in 2010.

But again, these are Republicans. If it appears that an Akin victory is possible, and a Republican-controlled Senate is still in play, then even the murder-minded Rove may make a cash dump in Missouri.

In the mean time, the fact that Todd Akin still has his political legs, after all he has said and done, says a lot about how far Missouri politics has been corrupted by a corrosive brand of conservatism.

Leading From Behind Todd al-Akin

How many times have you heard Republicans criticize President Obama for “leading from behind”? A bunch. Here is an example of what right-wingers mean by their criticism:

To sum it up, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is based on the belief that we have surrendered or had taken from us our leadership role in the world. He’s operating intentionally as a failure.

Yeah, that’s our president, alright. He’s not only a failure, he’s means to be one!

Yesterday I heard Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and a man ass-deep in Bush’s decision to not lead from behind and start a foolish war in Iraq, criticize President Obama on TV  for failing to get Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to “step down.

My, my, my. I wonder why al-Assad won’t listen to the President of the United States and do what he is told? Maybe it is because Mr. Obama is a defective leader? A failure? Yeah, that’s it. I mean, if a leader asks a bad actor to get off the stage and that actor chooses to remain in the spotlight, it’s the leader’s fault, right? He has failed to lead, right? He’s a wimp, right?

Well, okay. Here’s what Dan Senor’s boss said about Todd Akin, Missouri’s torturously Talibanic Republican candidate for senate—and part-time gynecologist—after Akin’s ignorance and/or stupidity was revealed to the world:

As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.

That was on August 21. Naturally, being a leader of epic proportions, Romney’s declaration that Akin should “step aside” immediately caused Akin to, well, step aside, right?

Not exactly:

Todd Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race

Despite calls from Republican Party leaders to step down, Rep. Todd Akin announced he will remain in the Missouri Senate race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Dammit! What’s wrong with Mittens’ leadership? If President Obama is expected to snap his fingers and have a miscreant like Bashar al-Assad disappear, then making a little twerp like Todd Akin go away ought to be easy pickin’s.

But nope, Akin remains with us, which, of course, means Mittens has failed as a leader. And not only did Akin defy him, but others have kicked sand in Romney’s face.

Among the sand-kickers are Akin’s reactionary friends who are coming to his aid, folks like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, and, no surprise, the author of the infamous “Blunt amendment“—a blatant and reactionary attack on women’s health choices—Roy Blunt:

Blunt backs Akin’s Senate bid after deadline to exit race passes

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced his support for Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) Senate bid after the deadline passed for Akin to exit the race.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Blunt, a venerable figure in Missouri politics and the GOP establishment in Washington, flipped on his earlier call for Akin to exit the race.

“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change. From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I’ll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin,” he said in the statement.

Not too long ago Blunt said in a joint statement with other Missouri Republican “leaders” the following:

We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

Dammit! There’s that pesky phrase “step aside” again. Blunt tried and failed to get Akin to quit and that means Blunt is also a wimpy leader. Shoot, when it comes to Akin, there are wimpy Republican leaders all over the place. In terms of revealing leadership qualities, little old Todd Akin is the Bashar al-Assad of the GOP!

But in Blunt’s case, instead of moaning and groaning about Akin’s tin ear, instead of telling Akin to go straight to hell, Blunt, being a resourceful, if wimpy, leader, has chosen to follow Akin and help him get elected.

Now that’s what I call leading from behind!

Godspeed, Todd al-Akin!

Todd Akin’s Hunger Games

The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, was on Morning Joe this morning talking about child hunger in America. Appearing with Bill Shore, of Share our Strength, Bridges shared this sobering stat:

Almost 16 million American kids—one in five—live in poverty.

From the Share our Strength website, we can follow the progression of what happens if kids—students trying to learn—go without food:

1. That child who doesn’t have enough to eat isn’t going to do as well in school.

2. And is likely to get sick more often.

3. She’s less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which will have a negative impact on her economic future.

4. If this happens, then twenty years from now, she’s much less likely to be able to earn enough to feed her family.

Seen that way, combating child hunger, apart from the obvious morality of it, is simply an investment in America’s future well-being.

And Mr. Legitimate Rape, Todd Akin, is on the wrong side of this moral and practical issue, too.

According to an article in the Forum section in Sunday’s Joplin Globe, 646,000 Missouri students received free or reduced-price meals at school in fiscal year 2011. A lot of those kids benefiting from that Truman-era federal program live around here, in conservative Republican-dominated Southwest Missouri, and from its beginning the federal school lunch program was opposed by—guess who?—conservative Republicans.

Todd Akin is one of those.  The Joplin Globe reports:

According to a report in The Columbia Daily Tribune, Akin said he wasn’t opposed to feeding children, but that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to pay for it.

The state, he said, is responsible for education, and if providing breakfast and lunch was important then state and local governments could pick up the tab.

If providing breakfast and lunch was important? Huh? The Globe continued:

Akin was one of only 13 members of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution expressing support for the National School Lunch Program. In March 2010, Akin voted against House Resolution 362, a resolution expressing support for the goals and ideals of the school lunch program.

Those 13 “members” who voted against expressing support for the school lunch program were actually all Republicans, and they represent many of the nuttiest of the nutty Tea Party conservatives. Here’s a partial list, just to give you an idea of the kind of company Akin is in:

♦ Ron Paul (Yep! that one from Texas)

♦ Paul Broun (of GA; he once suggested Mr. Obama was ready to establish a Marxist dictatorship)

♦ Jason Chaffetz (of UT; this federal school lunch hater is a big-time Romney surrogate)

♦ Virginia Foxx (of NC; who once suggested that old folks would be “put to death by their government” if Democrats’ health reform passed; she also said we have more to fear from it than “any terrorist right now in the country”)

♦ Scott Garrett (of NJ; creationist birther)

♦ Doug Lamborn (of CO; Big Bird hater; the most partisan man in Congress and a man who suggested President Obama was a “tar baby”)

♦ James Sensenbrenner (of WI; introduced The Patriot Act in the House; if that ain’t enough, he referenced the First Lady’s “big butt”; to give you a sense of his temperament, Jon Stewart said after a weird episode in the House: “Oh my God, he literally took his gavel and went home; we are officially being governed by children.”; Rolling Stone referred to him as “the dictator”)

♦ John Shadegg (formerly of AZ; a man who called the health care reform effort, “full-on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care,” and believes Muslim spies are invading Congress

You can see that Akin, given his history of reactionary weirdness, can hold his own with these folks, and you can also see that his opposition to the federal lunch program is based on some strange moral principles that, for now, only a tiny minority of Republicans in Congress hold.

As far as “state and local governments” picking up the tab for school lunches, the Globe cites the Columbia Daily Tribune as saying,

ending federal subsidies for school lunches in Missouri would add $260 million to state spending. Budget and education officials say that money is not available, and Missouri requires a balanced budget.

Missouri has already made cuts for school buses, Career Ladder programs, teacher professional development and Parents as Teachers.

So, it is clear that there is no money in the budget and no chance that Missouri legislators, overwhelmingly Republicans, would raise the revenue necessary to keep kids from going hungry at school.

And Todd Akin, who is as we speak representing Missouri in the House of Representatives and wants to represent our state in the U.S. Senate, knows that. He knows that if his opposition to the federal school lunch program ever became the GOP majority view, if his party successfully killed it, that Missouri students would go hungry.

He knows that. And all Missourians should know that he knows that.

______________________________

For her part, Claire McCaskill, who supports the federal school lunch program—which over this year will cost about the same as two month’s worth of the Afghanistan war does right now—said,

Do I want the federal government to spend less? Yes. But I don’t want to turn out the lights and go home on the most important parts of our economy.

Akin Is “Our Guy” Says Ozark Billy

Southwest Missouri congressman Ozark Billy, who recently and stupidly said, “We’re not the land of the free anymore,” has now thrown his considerable weight—that’s not really a metaphor—behind the embattled Todd Akin, according to Politico:

First-term Rep. Billy Long, who represents the conservative southwestern portion of the state, said Akin was the party’s candidate, whom he planned to support.

“The people of Missouri voted for him, and he’s our guy,” Long told POLITICO. “And either you’re for Todd Akin and I’m not for Claire McCaskill. … He’s been an underdog his whole life, he won a lot of races he wasn’t supposed to win, so I think he can win.”

Yep, against the stream of establishment sentiment, our own Ozark Billy is making a gallant stand for ignorance and bigotry, but he’s not the only local embracing  Todd Akin’s “gaffe,” which, of course was not a gaffe but a rare moment of honesty and clarity.

Jasper County pooh-bah and resident Christian moralist-slash-Glenn Beck fan, John Putnam, said Mittens “needs to rescind” his demand that Akin give up the fight, and he offered this:

I think Reince Priebus and Roy Blunt and all the people need to support the candidate that the folks from Missouri nominated and picked in the primary. I think the GOP party bosses that are trying to drum him out are creating a bigger split in the party than Todd Akin is.

We’ll see whether Romney, true to form, or Priebus or Blunt waffles on Akin and accepts the Jasper County Republican’s godly counsel, but I have to admit that, for once, I agree with John Putnam. Party bosses—and right now there ain’t no bigger boss than Mittens—are creating a “split” in the party between evangelicals, who actually believe the nutty stuff they say, and regular party guys—characters who wouldn’t know Jesus if he jolted them with a bolt of overdue lightning—who use those evangelicals to obtain political power.

But my guess is that the evangelicals who are being used will, despite their Akin-induced dissatisfaction with the party honchos, nevertheless come to GOP Jesus and work hard to get their superiors elected, what with that Black Devil, Barack What’s-His-Unholy Name, lurking in the electoral shadows.

Meanwhile, the Black Devil’s Missouri handmaiden, Claire McCaskill, will likely save her job, despite the fact that the faithful, led by conservative crusader and buffet king Billy Long, will try their best to exorcise her evil self from the United States Senate.

Remarks And Asides

I don’t see what the big deal was over Kansas Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder taking his love truncheon for what was, no doubt, a short dip in the Sea of Galilee. I mean, what bored kid in Sunday School doesn’t dream of doing that? Huh?

Fortunately for all involved, my own congressman, Ozark Billy, kept Mr. Winky in his drawer on his $11,789 junket to Israel—paid for by an arm of AIPAC, the Israeli lobbying group—which occurred a week later than the one in which Congressman Yoder’s tallywacker sort of made diplomatic history.

______________________________

Speaking of Israel and the GOP, I have it on good authority that God is so pissed at the Republicans for slandering his name that he may send Isaac in to Tampa to get their attention. Nothing demonstrates God’s wrath like a windy patriarch.

______________________________

Speaking of the Republican convention, Todd Akin has been disinvited. Gee, was it something he said?

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The Secret Service arrested a man in Washington state for emailing threats to President Obama. Needless to say, when an agent and a policeman went to his door, he greeted them with a shotgun. Like most of us, he also had a gun in his ankle holster.

His poor mum said,

He has a good education, he’s a good boy, but he’s done a stupid thing. Never got arrested, was in the military, has a college education. And I’m just a little bit upset and shocked.

Let me see, he was in the military and has a college education. I wonder which one of those things would best explain why a guy would threaten the president and greet the cops with a gun?

______________________________

Remember when a woman was attacked by three men, who stripped her and carved homophobic slurs in her flesh? Well, forget it:

A former University of Nebraska women’s basketball star who claimed to be the victim of an anti-gay attack appears to have staged the attack herself out of a desire to spark social change, police say.

Hmm. You mean to tell me that there is such a shortage of homophobia in America that you have to make stuff up? Damn. We are making progress.

______________________________

There’s been a lot in the news this year about the Supreme Court and obviously people are paying very close attention:

…even with all that debate over the Supreme Court and its rulings,  two-thirds of Americans can’t name any justices, according to a survey released Monday by FindLaw.com, a legal information Web site.

Okay. So people aren’t paying attention, particularly to institutions that can dramatically affect their lives.

But they are paying attention to important stuff like this:

Kelsey Grammer Wants to Have 9 Kids!

Wow! Who’s Kelsey Grammer?

______________________________

Let’s get serious:

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama “robbed” from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled…

Marilyn Moon, vice president and director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research, calculated that restoring the $716 billion in Medicare savings would increase premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next decade; in 2022, the average increase would be $577.

Man. Romney better hope Kelsey Grammer keeps on procreatin’.

______________________________

Finally, and speaking of Mittens, it turns out that the “doctor” at the heart of Todd Akin’s theory regarding the special birth-control powers of “legitimately” raped female bodies was a Romney surrogate last time Mittens offered his services to the American people:

Today, Dr. John Willke, a founder of the Pro Life Movement, endorsed Governor Mitt Romney and his campaign for our nation’s highest office. Dr. Willke is a leading voice within the pro-life community and will be an important surrogate for Governor Romney’s pro-life and pro-family agenda…

Welcoming Dr. Willke’s announcement, Governor Romney said, “I am proud to have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement in our country…I look forward to working with Dr. Willke and welcome him to Romney for President.”

Rumor has it that the guy who came up with the eat-a-vulture-to-cure-syphilis idea has endorsed Mittens and is about to be welcomed into the 2012 Romney fold.

Bon appétit!

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.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Republicans are a funny lot.

Yesterday, Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and now morning blowhard on MSNBC, was adamant that Mitt Romney use the occasion of Todd Akin’s national stupidity as a “Sister Souljah moment,” a time to demonstrate his leadership over the extremists in the GOP by telling Akin “every day” to “get out!” of the race.

Well, Mittens failed to do that when given his first opportunity, of course, just as he has failed to assert any leadership over other extremists in his party—on the contrary he has essentially embraced them—whether it be Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Allen West or Michele Bachmann or, gawd, that list is almost inexhaustible.

But today’s Joe Scarborough was perfectly fine with Romney’s rather gentle suggestion that Akin,

take these next 24 hours to spend time with himself and his family and conclude what’s right for him and his family and also for the things he believes in for the country.

There was no Sister Souljah moment there. No demands that Akin leave the race and stop embarrassing not just his party but the entire country. Nothing like that. Oh, Romney did say Akin’s “comments about rape were deeply offensive,” but we got no sense of how deep was the offense. But we do know Romney’s comments fell way short of what Scarborough called for on Monday.

But this is Tuesday. Today Scarborough said,

I think Mitt Romney did what was, I think, politically best yesterday.

Politically best? Scarborough explained what he meant when he was challenged earlier:

What would happen if Romney said, “I’m offended by this” and “Get out of the race today!’ and Akin goes, “Screw you”? What are the headlines the next day going into the convention? “He can’t even control a little congressman.” We would all be saying it. “Nobody respects Mitt Romney!” “He can’t even control a little congressman who is an extremist in his party.”

I guess leadership means never taking a risk that someone won’t follow your lead, right, Joe?

So, today, rather than calling for a Sister Souljah moment, Scarborough opts for Pee Wee Herman.

Sanity?

“I’m not a quitter. By the grace of God, we’ll win this race.”

—Todd Akin to Mike Huckabee

et’s review what it was that Todd Akin said about rape:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

It is hard for folks not acquainted with evangelicalism—I used to be one, remember—to understand how a man living in the 21st century could not only say such a thing in public but actually think it in private.

Akin last year declared that,

at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.

Akin’s ability to say such ridiculous and offensive things is really the product of his evangelical mind, a mind taught to analyze everything in the context of the evangelical conception of an all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Thus, it’s not really that hard to understand that deep within his evangelical psyche lurks an idea that somehow there is a mysterious, God-created mechanism in a woman’s body that would “shut that whole thing down“—if the woman were really raped, as opposed to her somehow secretly desiring or “asking for” or, dare I say it, “enjoying” the experience.

Before you object to that and call it a stretch, think about it. That has to be the subtext behind Akin’s comment or it doesn’t make any sense at all to utter it: “If it’s a legitimate rape…” Just what does it imply if a woman claims she was raped but her “female body” doesn’t “shut that whole thing down” and she gets pregnant? Huh?

A version of this idea existed in medieval times, as pointed out by The Guardian:

The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots. The legal position that pregnancy disproved a claim of rape appears to have been instituted in the UK sometime in the 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta, has a clause in the first book of the second volume stating that:

“If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

This was a long-lived legal argument. Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence contained the same idea as late as 1814:

“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

This thinking horrifies most of us today, even if it may not sufficiently horrify those with Akin-like minds, those who see God as exercising a detailed control over nature and thus in control of who gets pregnant and when.

So it can be that an evangelical candidate for the U.S. Senate actually suggests that nature-God makes a woman’s body such that it would reject the sperm of a rapist if it were “legitimate rape”—presumably defined by whether the woman had “an excitation of lust or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act.

Now, Todd Akin didn’t quite say all that, but think about what he did say and what he could possibly have meant by it and you can see he must have been thinking something very close to it.

Evangelicals of the sort Akin is believe in all kinds of strange ideas about human nature, including that homosexuality is an abomination, a sin, a curse, or that women are glorified servants of men. And these ideas come from a misplaced, often fanatical insistence that the Bible, read and understood and affirmed as the Word of God, is an authoritative guide to understanding the nature of man and the nature and meaning of existence.

But the Bible is an ancient book full of ancient ideas, many of which have been fully discredited by the only practical tool of genuine understanding we have: science.

And science has something to say on the matter of rape. A 1996 study found:

RESULTS:

The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion.

CONCLUSIONS:

Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.

Up against that, we have the evangelical Todd Akin:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

National figures in the Republican Party are beginning to sound the death knell for Mr. Akin. He naturally is clinging to God and to the possibility of victory. He says Missourians need him to put “some sanity back” in Congress. I for one wish he would stay in the race because I think he does represent a large swath of the Republican Party today.

And we need to find out just how many of our fellow Missourians are willing to embrace such ignorance and superstition and call it “sanity.”

I Told You Todd Akin Was Missouri’s Freakiest Conservative

I told you so. Todd Akin is freaky. He’s bizarre, outlandish, queer. He’s unusually strange. Weird. Dangerously dizzy—and “legitimately stupid.”

Watch the offending 30 seconds below and notice the response of the interviewer, Charles Jaco. He has just been told something—by a man who wants to be Missouri’s U.S. Senator—that is monumentally dumb, offensive, and obviously newsworthy. What does Jaco say? “Let go to the, uh, uh, economy.”

Nope, let’s go to the tape:

Claire McCaskill said in response:

It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.

Nope. It is perfectly comprehensible, if you have snooped around in Todd Akin’s trove of extremism. It’s just that this time he is on a national stage for all to see and hear.

Sarah Steelman, Akin’s opponent in the primary (and who I thought would win), tweeted:

Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” were inexcusable, insulting, and embarrassing to the GOP.

Notice it is the GOP she is worried about in her tweetful response. And there is reason to worry. So much reason that the Romney campaign, which is directing the larger war on women,  issued a statement about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and his willingness to force rape victims to bear the rapist’s child:

Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

Well, first of all, Paul Ryan can’t disagree with Akin’s statement all that much because he too opposes abortion even in rape cases and has sponsored legislation that would grant “personhood” rights to embryos.

Second, that meek statement obviously won’t be enough to stop the tide that is coming. The consensus on Morning Joe this morning, including Republican Joe Scarborough, was that this is a test of leadership for Mittens. Scarborough, who said, “this is a nightmare for Republicans,” and that it “hurts every candidate,” forcefully argued that this should be Romney’s “Sister Souljah moment,” in which Romney should call Akin “every day” and tell him to “get out!

Well, it will be very difficult for Romney to express much outrage over Todd Akin, when by his side as his running mate is a man who sponsored an outrageous anti-abortion bill as one of the first acts of the Tea Party House.

Zerlina Maxwell of the New York Daily News wrote:

Akin and Ryan were the original co-sponsors of the controversial bill H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which initially included language which changed the definition of “rape” to “forcible rape,” until public pressure forced the bill’s supporters to remove that unacceptable and narrow definition. As I wrote previously, Paul Ryan is not just anti-choice, his anti-choice views are extreme and just plain bad for all women.

So, if Romney comes down too hard on Akin, he will have to answer an important question:

In what way is Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment different from the language that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin used in H.R. 3’s original version?

And as long as he is fumbling around trying to answer that question, he is only reminding women across America why they can’t trust Republicans with their personal life decisions.*

As for Akin, he may survive this train wreck, and given the hatred for Mr. Obama in the hinder parts of Missouri—voting against Claire McCaskill is a vote against Obama, don’t you know—I am sure he would still overwhelmingly win my part of the state.

The bright side, though, is that perhaps folks in other, more sober parts of Missouri, will, as Claire McCaskill said this morning, pay attention to the race because,

This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind.

And at least now, if Akin is not forced to withdraw from the race, he will have forced folks here in Missouri, and across the country, to look through that window and consider the craziness and creepiness within, a craziness and creepiness that also describes the minds of many Republican Tea Party candidates.

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* My congressman, Billy Long, also sponsored H.R. 3’s original language, which I pointed out in February of 2011 in “Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape.’ 

Goodbye, Kansas, And Missouri May Be Right Behind Ya

The state of my birth and Missouri’s now radical neighbor to the west has officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.*

And Missouri, with Rep. Todd Akin becoming the state’s GOP offering to unseat moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill, may soon join Kansas—which when I lived there actually could elect a Democratic governor!— as a place where teapartiers try to out-tea party each other in their efforts to destroy 21st-century government.

On Tuesday, Kansans settled the war in the Republican Party between moderates (yep, these days that’s what we call GOP conservatives who won’t quite put a full set of teabags on their hats) and the Brownbacks (as in Governor Sam), those hard-core Koch-heads who want to dismantle large parts of the government and ask some folks to live like 19th-century settlers.

Most prominent among the moderates defeated in the GOP primary was Senate President Steve Morris, who waged something of a resistance movement, in alliance with Democrats, to stop some of the draconian legislation—wild-eyed anti-abortion and anti-union and anti-education bills, for instance—that the extremists were otherwise very close to passing.

That’s not to say Morris was a left-winger. He and other “moderates” went along with tax cuts (read about that sordid tale here) that will end up crippling the state and enrich Koch-heads at the expense of working folks and kids, as well as a voter ID law that would have made it difficult for my late mother, a former poll worker, to vote.

But enough about Kansas. It’s too late to save that state. Missouri? There’s still time, and defeating Todd Akin would be a good place to start our comeback. Remember in April when President Obama said, as reported by HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yep, that’s right. He was talking about—no laughing at—Todd Akin, a U.S. Congressman who once suggested Obama should be impeached and who said this about the President:

He is a complete menace to our civilization.

Obama is not just a menace, you see, but a complete menace.

In any case, as Claire McCaskill said before Akin was officially anointed  as the state’s freakiest conservative (he’s always held that title in my book):

Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Among the larger lights Akin wants to turn out are Medicare (voucherize it) and Social Security (privatize it). Go to truthaboutakin.com and read the details. Can’t wait to see those first McCaskill ads explaining to voters how Akin wants to flip the switch on those wildly popular government programs.

Finally, Democrats in Missouri should ignore the polls, especially this late faulty one that showed Akin with a slight lead in a match-up with McCaskill, but which also showed John Brunner beating Akin by 16 points!

Which leads me to say that Todd Akin did Democrats a favor by beating Brunner. Missourians were bombarded by Brunner ads—$8 million worth in our mailboxes, on our radios and constantly on our TVs—and he would have been a stronger general election candidate than Akin. But Akin will have plenty of money spent on his behalf, mostly to darken McCaskill’s complexion, if you know what I mean.

So, my progressive friends, let’s all cough up a little dough and send it Claire’s way. While she hasn’t been a force for liberalism in the U.S. Senate, the alternative is unthinkable.

______________________________

* I suppose it is only fair that the Koch’s get first dibs on buying the state, since Koch Industries—the nation’s second largest privately held company— is headquartered in Wichita.

Akin And Blunt Embarrass Missouri

Ah, to live in Missouri.

First, there’s one of our state’s zaniest Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin, who is trying to become Claire McCaskill’s replacement as U.S. Senator. (By the way, as The Washington Post reported, “Independent conservative groups have already spent more than $3 million on television and radio ads” against McCaskill.)

Akin had the distinct pleasure of being the butt of a joke by the President of the United States involving the issue of increased interest rates for student loans. From HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yes, it’s true.  Todd Akin, who has been endorsed by Michele Bachmann and Iowa’s goofy representative, Steve King,  did say this:

America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in.

Now, Akin isn’t the only Missouri politician making news about student loans. Roy Blunt, who is Mitt Romney’s front man in Congress, told a whopper about the Affordable Care Act and the interest rates charged to students taking out loans. He told Andrea Mitchell:

Why is that rate as high as it is? Because it was one of he pay-fors in the President’s health care plan. If the health care plan goes away, as the court very well might decide, there’s no longer an argument about this loan rate because it was used to take money from students and pay for health care, and largely health care for people who aren’t students.

Of course this is a complete lie. The law that lowered interest rates (from 6.8% to 3.4%) was signed by President Bush in 2007 and it is set to expire on July 1 of this year, which is what the current fuss is all about.

Some people think Blunt got that law confused with the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was attached to the ACA. That Act cut the bankers out of the student loan loop (which pissed off Republicans bigtime), thereby saving the government tons of money that Democrats then reinvested in low- and middle-income students via grants. (Presumably, that is what Todd Akin meant by “stage three cancer of socialism“!)

In any case, confused or not, what Blunt did was stand in front of a television camera and tell a falsehood—without immediate challenge from Andrea Mitchell. Thankfully, though, The Ed Show exposed Blunt’s tall tale later that night in the following segment:

McCaskill: Her Opponents Want To “Turn Out The Lights On The Federal Government And Go Home”

I saw Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on Saturday in Springfield. She seemed to be quite enthusiastic about taking the fight to Republicans this fall. She said some nice things about the stimulus plan passed in 2009, which saved many jobs and helped cover state budget shortfalls, including here in Missouri. It was good to hear her not run away from the major achievement of Democrats, in terms of helping turn around the economy.

She also talked about her potential opponents in the upcoming election. Since there has yet to be a Republican primary, there are three of them, extremists one and all.

Today, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, she talked about her politics, her opponents’ politics, and the Senate race: 

McCASKILL: The Senate has done its best work around the table of compromise. And compromise happens because of moderates. And many of your listeners may not want to hear this, but honestly, if we don’t have moderates, we’re not going to get things done on behalf of the American people.

I am, in this campaign, going to talk to a lot of Missourians–I’m going to cover the state like a blanket, I’m not going to get very much sleep–and I’m going to proudly tell them that I’m part of a moderate middle that believes compromise is a value that we need to cherish in this democracy. If we’re just at opposite ends of the room screaming at each other, we’re never going to solve the hard problems.

And that’s why I think moderation is important, and believe me the folks running against me, I mean they are so extreme, they make some of these people that are in the house look like moderates. They are very, very extreme folks.

MATTHEWS: Are the Tea Party folks still running the party out there?

McCASKILL: Yes. By and large. In fact I think that some of the moderate Republicans tried to get somebody else to run against me. They all took a pass. And so we have three people running that are all fighting over whether or not they’re the Tea Party-endorsed candidate. One of them got one Tea Party endorsement and the other two said, “Well, that’s not the real Tea Party, we have the Tea Party endorsement.”  So, this is all about fighting for the far right-wing base of the Republican Party. That’s who’s going to get the nomination in my state, and so Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Now, as a liberal, I’m not exactly glad to hear that Senator McCaskill is proud to be a moderate. And I certainly object to her saying that “compromise happens because of moderates.” It actually doesn’t. Compromise happens because folks on each side of an issue decide to meet in the middle to get things done. By her reckoning, if you are already in the middle, then you most certainly aren’t compromising, right?

In any case, she does have it right about the candidates running against her:

Todd Akin, a congressman representing the western ‘burbs of St. Louis, is a certifiably unhinged Obama-hater.

John Brunner is a bidnessman who thinks that qualifies him to run the world (I think the family bidness makes deodorant and nail polish remover and, oh yeah, Germ-X).  His right-wing kookiness bona fides: he once was the state chairman of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

Sarah Steelman (who I think will win) gives me another opportunity to play the priceless interview she did with Ozark Billy Long, my brilliant congressman. The interview speaks for itself, but as I said when I first posted it, it is a case of the blind leading the blind:

Here is McCaskill’s complete appearance on Monday’s Hardball:

Missourians Mooing Over Sacred Cows

Let’s start with this:

The U.S. Department of Defense has been pressed to cut its budget by President Barack Obama and by a compromise Congress passed last summer to raise the federal debt ceiling.

To make those cuts, the Defense Department recently submitted to Congress a budget that requests authority to do base closures and realignments in 2013 and 2015.

At a Senate hearing in Washington last month, Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn said base closures are needed as the U.S. draws down operations in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

“The math is straightforward,” she said. “Force reductions produce excess capacity, excess capacity is a drain-on resources.”

Now, with all the talk out there about cutting the deficit and reducing the debt our children will have to pay one day, all of the above sounds like a common sense way to reduce federal government spending, right?

Wrong.

Vicki Hartzler, Todd Akin, and Blaine Luetkemeyer are three of the most conservative legislators in the House of Representatives, if not the Milky Way.

All have enthusiastically supported the Ryan-Romney budget plan, which Paul Krugman characterized as possessing “inconceivably cruel priorities.” All three are enemies of Big Gov’ment. All three have pledged to save our kids from deficit spending.

Here is Hartzler from her website:

It is time to get runaway spending under control. The current situation is simply not acceptable…It is immoral to keep borrowing today and to pass the bill along to future generations…The U.S. Constitution puts forth a very lean vision of government…

Here’s Akin’s website blowing on about how the Congressman is gonna chop down the big government tree:

Every dollar of new deficit spending represents new compounded interest that this generation’s children – or their children – will have to confront…As a member of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, the Congressman continually works on solutions to actually reduce the size of government while performing core government responsibilities more efficiently.

Luetkemeyer says:

Over the past few years, the federal government has ballooned to an unsustainable level and has spent taxpayer dollars recklessly. ..Because of the federal government’s out-of-control spending, I have supported numerous measures to freeze funding for, and often cut, federal programs.

Now, after all that deficit hawk-talk, one might be surprised to read this:

Jefferson City —Three more members of Missouri’s congressional delegation on Wednesday signaled their opposition to possible military base closures or realignments in the state, moves that are being considered as the federal government looks for ways to save more money.

Guess who those “three more members” were. Yep:

Speaking at the Missouri Capitol, Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler told a crowd of businesspeople, state and local officials and former military personnel that programs at Whiteman Air Force Base and Ft. Leonard Wood are too important for military planners to consider either for cutbacks or closures.

They are “too important” because:

Hartzler’s western Missouri district encompasses both of the state’s biggest military installations. The freshman congresswoman was joined at the state Capitol by fellow Republican U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Todd Akin, who is running for U.S. Senate this year.

This kind of fiscal duplicity is not uncommon on the right. They do this stuff all the time. They don’t mind cutting government to the bone, as long as the bone is on a part of the body they’re not using.

And to be fair, our own Senator McCaskill, who has fashioned herself as a Democratic deficit hawk,  has come out strongly against the potential base closings here in Missouri. She reportedly said at that Senate hearing in March that there was “absolutely no room for compromise” on the issue of base closings.

An item on her website dated March 21, 2012, began this way:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told top military officials today that, as Chairman of the Senate panel with jurisdiction over base closures, she will not allow any plan to move forward this year to close U.S. military bases here at home.

Because Missourians are slowly advancing themselves into the 19th century, McCaskill, who is up for reelection this year, has had to loudly demonstrate how serious she is about cutting the budget. Here is a blurb from her site:

Claire believes the growing national debt is a huge danger to our children’s future. If left unchecked, it will weaken the economy and give too much influence to foreign creditors. She thinks the federal government needs to eliminate wasteful spending and return to the sound fiscal practices that produced budget surpluses in the 1990s.

Again, it appears that “wasteful spending” is not wasteful if it happens in Missouri and “sound fiscal practices” are those practices that should be soundly practiced in other states.

But it would be a mistake to completely equate McCaskill’s position on the base closing issue with that of her conservative colleagues, mainly because she at least supports increasing revenues to help pay for keeping military installations open in Missouri.

All of our Missouri Republicans in Congress—and I mean all of them—are opposed to raising taxes to actually pay for our state’s sacred cows. They just want to slash federal spending  by slaughtering other state’s sacred cows.

In the mean time, with no new revenues and no one willing to kill their own cows, all those cows need more and more hay.

And judging by the way the deficit hawks reacted to only potential base closings here in Missouri, our kids’ haybarn still has plenty to plunder.

Missouri Politics Catch Up

I think I have neglected Missouri politics lately, so let’s catch up:

Whoops! Somebody call the cops!

First, the Missouri GOP caucus mess. For a party that likes to think of itself as the most competent to manage the world’s affairs, including lowering gas prices and taming foreign governments, a St. Charles County Missouri caucus proved more than it could handle:

One of Missouri’s largest Republican Party presidential-nomination caucuses got shut down early — and inconclusively — after a chaotic argument led two Ron Paul supporters to be arrested on Saturday.

Minimum Wage? What’s That?

Steve Benen wrote:

It’s no longer unusual for statewide GOP candidates to oppose the minimum wage, child-labor laws, the existing structure of Medicare and guaranteed benefits, restrictions on torture, collective bargaining, and unemployment benefits.

Not too long ago, this would have been largely unthinkable, and such candidates would have been labeled “extremists,” unable to even compete in a statewide primary.

Benen was referencing Greg Sargent at WaPo, who noticed the sad fact that the three GOP candidates hoping to end the senate career of Missouri’s Claire McCaskill not only didn’t know what the federal minimum wage actually is but two of them—Todd Akin and Jon Brunner—”seemed to come out for doing away with the minimum wage entirely.”

Well, here in Missouri these days it would be “unthinkable” for Republicans to not hold such extremist views.

Stimulus Is Gone, Now What?

Speaking of extremism, let’s look at what our Missouri state legislators have planned for the new session. This is the way the St. Louis Beacon reported the return from spring break of Missouri’s plucky lawmakers:

House Floor Leader (and speaker-in-waiting) Tim Jones, R-Eureka, agrees with Senate leaders that economic development will take center stage again.

But so will the state’s financial problems, which have been softened by federal stimulus aid over the past three years.

You mean the stimulus helped Missouri? That can’t be right because everyone knows that Obama’s stimulus was a failure. Must be a misprint.

Missouri Vaginas Versus “Employers’ Wishes”

Most Missouri women will be happy to know that our legislators have not forgotten about their reproductive real estate and how it might be put to improper use:

Jones said the House and Senate also are working on similar bills that would allow employers to exclude contraceptives from their employees’ health insurance. The aim is “strengthening the employers’ wishes’’ about what they want their insurance to cover, he said.

In Missouri, Republicans are worried more about “the employers’ wishes” than about anything else. And to prove that, please read on.

Workers’ Rights Are Wrong In Missouri Legislature

Late last week, Nixon vetoed two…bills, which sought to tighten the state’s workers compensation laws and to curb workers’ ability to sue employers for discrimination. Both measures had been sought by business groups, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Republican leaders in both chambers, including [speaker-in-waiting Tim] Jones, blasted the governor’s action. But Jones acknowledged in an interview that it’s unlikely the House will override the governor’s vetoes. That means new versions must be crafted or the issues deferred to the next session.

“We spent a great deal of legislative time on two measures that are now gone,’’ said Jones.

Regardless of what Nixon’s vetoes may imply, said Jones: “We didn’t pass these bills to score political points.”

Oh, yes you did.

And thank you, Governor Jay Nixon, for helping to protect Missouri workers.

Republicans Not Too Proud To Make Workers Beg

Republican attacks on Missouri workers continue. The state Senate is itching to pass a “right-to-work beg” law, and “a compromise” between the Republican-dominated House and the Republican-dominated Senate (see? that is what we mean these days by a Missouri compromise!) on the “prevailing wage” issue is predicted by Jones.

Keep your veto pen inked up, Gov’nor.

For Sale: Missouri Legislators

The Missouri Supreme Court recently kiboshed, on technical grounds, ethics legislation designed to make ethics-resistant politicians ethical, or something like that. But Democrats are pushing the issue again this session. On Monday they introduced a bill that would restore at least some limits on purchasing our politicians:

The Democrats’ proposal would set the top donation limit at $5,000 per election, more than twice the old limits.

Perhaps many of you have forgotten that Republicans erased any limits in 2008, when they effectively and arrogantly overturned the will of Missouri voters, who approved Proposition A (The Missouri Campaign Contribution Limits Proposition) in 1994.

When one looks at the results of that state-wide vote (the statute provided for dramatically lower limits than politicians are willing to live with today), it is hard to see why Republicans felt free to give the finger to Missouri voters:

The truth is that Missouri Republicans are so confident that conservative rural voters will keep sending them to Jefferson City, they can flip the electorate the bird with each hand and get back a friendly wave.

The Blind Bleeding The Blind

As for budget issues, let me see, House Republicans are planning to kill “the state’s longstanding assistance for the blind.” Floor leader Jones called this “an extra benefit” (it helps 2,800 blind folks who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid), saying:

in tough economic times, extra programs that are specifically targeted to specific classes of individuals have to be looked at first.

Yes. Here in Missouri the first individuals to get a look in terms of budget cuts are the blind. I suppose somebody has to sacrifice to keep taxes low enough to attract all those bidnesses that never seem to get the message that they should pack up and move to Missouri.

Proper Role?

Speaking of bidnesses who aren’t moving to Missouri, I want to point out something important that House floor leader Jones said:

There’s a proper role for state government to create the environment by which businesses want to move here and create jobs here.

In Missouri, that means keeping taxes low, keeping wages low, keeping unions at bay, weakening already-weak workers’ compensation laws and other workers’ rights.

Oh yeah, I forgot about booting the blind from the budget. That’ll get bidnesses’ attention.

George Will Proves Himself Wrong About The Constitution

On Sunday’s This Week With Christian Amanpour, the Constitution, naturally on Independence Day weekend, was the topic.  The panelists were Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown, Jill Lepore of Harvard, and Richard Stengel, editor-in-chief of Time magazine, and, of course, conservative commentator George Will, whose views on the nature of the Constitution I want to discuss.

Will’s position can be fairly summarized in two excerpts from his commentary on the show, beginning with this:

It’s one thing to say it’s open to interpretation, which it obviously is. It’s very open-textured language. On the other hand, I mean, when you say unreasonable searches and seizures, what’s reasonable? We argue about that. But to say that the Constitution is a living, evolving document, as you did, is almost oxymoronic. A Constitution is supposed to freeze things. It is an anti-evolutionary device as Justice Scalia said. It is intended to put certain things beyond the reach of transient majorities.

Here is another selection from later in the program:

The framers were not narrowed and blinkered men. They were men of the enlightenment. They believed in progress, to which end they included in this document an amendment provision. They said there will be changes made.

The difference is, do you amend the Constitution by the casual weak interpretation of it, or do you candidly, when you want to change the structure of the government, change it by the amendment process they provided?

Now, these two sections seem to me to be a fair representation of the general conservative understanding of the nature of our Constitution and of constitutional interpretation.  They certainly represent the view I held as a conservative, and one reads or hears a variation of this idea from the lips of most conservative thinkers today.

The problem is that the conservative view is simply mistaken.  And George Will proved it during the subsequent discussion.

Will ask the following question, in the context of the health insurance mandate, of his fellow panelists, a question he no doubt thought would prove the superiority of his position:

Let me ask the three of you. Obviously, obesity and its costs affect interstate commerce.  Does Congress have the constitutional power to require obese people to sign up for Weight Watchers?  If not, why not?

Two of the panelists eventually answered the question, sort of:

RICHARD STENGEL: If something is unconstitutional, people out there tend to think like some alarm will go off if something is unconstitutional. It’s unconstitutional if the Supreme Court decides it’s unconstitutional. And by the way, this can go to the Supreme Court, and we can see whether that happens.

GEORGE WILL: Well, does Congress have the power to mandate that obese people sign up for — do they have the power to do this?

RICHARD STENGEL: I don’t know the answer to that.

GEORGE WILL: You don’t know.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, the beauty of that is, the not knowing…The basic foundation is set.

GEORGE WILL: Is that a yes, Congress does have the power to mandate?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: It’s open. If they decide that they will, they will have the power to do so.

The truth is—putting Stengel’s and Dyson’s thoughts together—that Congress does have the power, in Will’s formulation, to “require obese people to sign up for Weight Watchers,” if, and only if, the Supreme Court says it has the power.*

In the case of the health insurance mandate, if the Supreme Court ultimately rules that Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause to tell Americans they have to purchase health insurance, then they have to purchase health insurance or suffer the consequences.  Period.  There is no appeal from such a ruling, except via the formal amendment process. Likewise, if the Court says that Congress doesn’t have that kind of power, the Affordable Care Act’s mandate would be dead.

You see, this is the way it works, under a genuine, small “c” conservative understanding of the Constitution: The Congress acts, the Supreme Court decides if congressional action is constitutional, and we move on.  This dynamic is why liberals rightly call it a living, breathing document.

And despite the fact that conservatives like George Will believe our founding document is designed to “freeze” in time certain principles, the truth is that the Constitution gives—through Chief Justice John Marshall’s bold assertion in 1803 of an otherwise only implicit constitutional power—the Supreme Court the right to judge whether Congress’ actions shall stand or fall.

And, more controversially but unmistakably, it gives the justices—even conservative justices who pretend to believe in something called originalism—the de facto right to interpret the document in novel ways (see, for instance, the 2010 Citizens United decision in which corporations became people with free speech rights).

Finally, George Will really undermined his own claim about a frozen Constitution with this remark:

In the first decade of the 21st century, that 18th century amendment—Second Amendment—pertaining to bearing arms, was settled in this sense — the Supreme Court finally said, based on extraordinary scholarship on both sides, that it does protect an individual right, not the collective right of militias.

Think about that. It took 217 years to “finally” settle the meaning of the Second Amendment? Remember what Will said before:

…to say that the Constitution is a living, evolving document, as you did, is almost oxymoronic. A Constitution is supposed to freeze things. It is an anti-evolutionary device as Justice Scalia said. It is intended to put certain things beyond the reach of transient majorities.

But what about transient majorities on the Supreme Court?  How can anyone argue, “a Constitution is supposed to freeze things,” when it has taken so long for us to understand what the Second Amendment means?  How about the First Amendment, the crucial meaning of which is still debated as it applies to twenty-first century life?

The point is that we know the Constitution is alive because new or nuanced interpretations of it keep breathing into its 18th century lungs the breath of life. And nothing confirms that truth more than the recent decisions by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, notwithstanding the phony constitutional philosophy championed by those conservative justices and their defenders on television.

__________________________________

* This, of course, overlooks Congress’ power to define and therefore limit the apellate jurisdiction of the Court and preclude constitutional challenges to some of its actions. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution says in relevant part:

…the supreme [sic] Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

Many conservatives see this provision as a check on “judicial supremacy,” and advocate that Congress pass laws that contain restrictions on judicial review, thus legislating the courts out of the mix.  So much for “separation of powers.”

In fact, none other than Missouri’s Todd Akin, the extremist congressman from the 2nd district who wishes to replace Claire McCaskill as our senator, introduced a famous jurisdiction-restricting bill in 2004 involving protecting the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill, which ultimately didn’t become law, did pass the House.  It had an amazing 226 co-sponsors, as conservatives in both parties couldn’t help but jump on the side of God and the Pledge.

Here is how Akin’s official House site, bragging about House passage of his bill, describes it:

Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) praised its passage of his bill to protect the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. “This is an essential step in stopping the overreach of activist judges and will free the vast majority of children and adults who wish to use the words ‘under God’ in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance from the threat of censorship,” said Akin…

Exercising Article III of the Constitution, the Act (H.R. 2028) protects the Pledge of Allegiance by removing from the jurisdiction of the federal courts the question of the Pledge’s constitutionality.

Here are some notable Republican co-sponsors of Akin’s bill, who not only put themselves on the side of “under God” in the Pledge, but also believe that Congress should from time to time limit the jurisdiction of the courts:

Roy Blunt, Sam Graves, Tom DeLay, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Jim DeMint, Jeb Hensarling, Paul Ryan, Darrell Issa, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Pat Toomey, Joe Wilson.

In my experience, it is usually religious conservatives who want to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction on “vital issues” like the “under God” in the Pledge, and also over display of the Ten Commandments and the “defense of marriage.”

Ozark Billy Snubs The Erstwhile Conservative

On Saturday, I continued my tradition of attending the annual Joplin Tea Party rally.

Unfortunately for organizers, though, there weren’t that many teapartiers who were willing to continue their tradition of attending.  This year’s contingent was much smaller than last year’s, which was much smaller than the year before. 

But the sparse crowd—maybe 150 folks—was nevertheless thrown lots of blood-red meat from the speakers, which besides the usual locals, included would-be senator Rep. Todd Akin, who has never met a Democrat who wasn’t also a socialist, and, of course, Colonel Ozark Billy Long.

Now, I happened to be standing in the back of the crowd, when I spotted Colonel Billy trying to slip away from the area where the speakers were huddled:

Sensing a chance to talk to the Colonel one-on-one, I hurried over to where I thought he was heading, camera in tow.  I was prepared to make and post a newsworthy video for my faithful readers.  As I was walking, I looked up and saw Ozark Billy staring at me as I approached, with an unwelcoming look on his face. Nevertheless,  I pressed on, again, with camera in tow.

As I walked up to my congressman, my representative, I introduced myself and told him I was from Joplin, clearly identifying myself as one of his constituents.  I asked him if he minded if I interviewed him with my camera on.  No, he said.  Really? I asked.  No, he said, I don’t want you to do that.  Well, I protested, why can’t I use it?  He anxiously looked around as if he were waiting on someone, then responded again that he didn’t want me to use the camera. He said, what is it you want to ask me?

Okay, I thought. No camera, thus, no record of our conversation, but I must soldier on.

I told him I wanted to talk about his vote on the Ryan budget plan the previous day, which essentially does away with Medicare while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.  I asked him how he justified that vote.  We have to do something, he said. He told me that what the plan does is merely give people a “cafeteria” plan like he gets as a government employee.  Since Ozark Billy didn’t know I had been a government employee, I suppose he thought that his response would suffice to shut me up.  But, of course, it didn’t.

I hurriedly explained to him—he was getting fidgety waiting— that the Ryan Medicare plan would end Medicare as we know it, and the so-called voucher proposal for those under 55 would not be sufficient to purchase insurance and people would have to pay much more out of their pockets.  I added that those under 55, even while receiving reduced benefits themselves, would be forced to pay for the current Medicare system, the beneficiaries of which will continue to receive the current generous benefits for many, many years.

He didn’t dispute that but merely reiterated that something needed to be done because the system was designed when people only lived to be “48 years old.”  Aghast at that, I responded with a “that’s simply not true,” and was poised to explain why.  Except that a vehicle—the one Ozark Billy had been so anxiously awaiting—pulled up beside us. And without even saying goodbye, in went the Colonel and off went the car. 

I, one of Congressman Long’s constituents, was left standing on the sidewalk, camera in tow.

Long returned a short time later and gave a speech that was mostly a repeat of an interview he gave to local right-wing radio station, KZRG.  He even gave us another rendition of his now-famous “auction chant.”  The small crowd cheered.  I turned red with embarrassment.

But toward the end of his speech, Ozark Billy said the following to the crowd, and to me, the camera-toting constituent he had earlier snubbed:

We’re just having a lot of good success helping people. But it is the House of Representatives. Never forget that. It is the House of Representatives.

I’ve got a Bozo on the front of my truck—a lot of people say how come you got Bozo on the dash?—that’s to remind me—and I’ve had it on there for years—that’s to remind me not to take myself too seriously. I’m doing your work in D.C., and I was standing right down there last year with ya and I’ll be back down there in a minute…

Good! I thought to myself. He’s doing “our” work. And he’s coming down “here” among “us,” the folks. That would give me a chance to continue my conversation with him. What a man of the people!  Colonel Ozark Billy Long, man of the people!

Except that after he finished his speech,  I watched him leave the podium, walk over to his Bozo-guided truck, and get in the passenger side. Then I watched someone drive him away. 

Still holding my camera, all I could think to say was, Bye-bye, Colonel Billy! Thanks for stopping by and chatting with your constituents!

Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape

One would think that those job-jobs-jobs House Republicans would by now have come up with a magic law that would cause the unemployment rate to fall to Clinton-era respectability. One would think.

And one would think that H.R. 3—the third bill out of the House Republican moot chute—would be named something like the, “Get The Lazy Unemployed Back to Work Act.

But nope.  H.R. 3 is titled, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.”  Get that?  After two years of complaining about Obama’s economy and bemoaning the lack of job growth, newly empowered Republicans have managed to pass a futile health reform repeal bill and now are working on what Sady Doyle at Salon has called, “John Boehner’s push to redefine rape.”  And Billy Long is right in the middle of it.

Yes. Our congressman, Ozark Billy, is co-sponsoring a bill that redefines rape.

The proposal is ostensibly aimed at prohibiting “taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections, and for other purposes.”  It’s those “other purposes” that should worry women everywhere. 

Sady Doyle discusses the proposal and those other purposes in the context of the Hyde and Stupak amendments, major topics during the health care reform fight last year:

Whereas Stupak-Pitts provides an exemption if “the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest,” and Hyde contains exemptions that are similar, H.R. 3 only provides exemptions if the pregnancy results from “an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.”

Get that? “Forcible.”  “If a minor,” it must be “an act of incest.” The changes are intentional and they are not trivial, says Doyle:

This is a calculated move, which will make exemptions for rape and incest survivors practically unenforceable.

I know it’s hard for some people to believe, but there are anti-choice folks out there who don’t think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, rape or incest included. And whittling away at the definition of rape certainly narrows the field of potential candidates. 

Doyle makes her case about what the choice of language means:

Those who were raped while drugged or unconscious, or through means of coercion, would not be covered. Survivors of statutory rape would not be covered: “if a minor,” one is only covered in case of incest. And if one is a survivor of incest, and not a minor, that’s also not covered. Studies of how rapists find and subdue victims reveal that about 70 percent of rapes wouldn’t fall under the “forcible” designation.

Doyle also points out that there is no definite legal understanding of what constitutes “forcible rape,” and then the kicker:

…every survivor who finds herself in need of abortion funding will have to submit her rape for government approval.

Government approval.  Not only would the rapist victimize her, but a woman could be victimized again by a bureaucrat or judge—a rape panel?—who may determine her case doesn’t comport with the “ancient, long-outdated standard of rape law: ‘Utmost resistance’“:

There’s an example of how “utmost resistance” worked in the 1887 text Defences to Crime. In this case, a man was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. (A minor, but not incest: Already convicted by current standards, not enough for H.R. 3.) The attacker held her hands behind her back with one of his hands. I asked my partner to test this move’s “forcefulness,” by holding my wrists the same way; I was unable to break his grip, though he’s not much larger than I am, and it hurt to struggle. The attacker then used his free hand and his leg to force open her legs, knocked her off-balance onto his crotch, and penetrated her.

His conviction was overturned. Because the girl was on top. Then, there were the witnesses: One man watched it all, and noted that “though he heard a kind of screaming at first, the girl made no outcry while the outrage was being perpetrated.” The physician who examined her testified that “there were no bruises on her person.” It was therefore determined that the encounter was consensual. In the words of Defences to Crime, “a mere half-way case will not do … this was not the conduct of a woman jealous of her chastity, shuddering at the thought of dishonor, and flying from pollution.” Stopped screaming eventually? You wanted it.

Rape law is filled with cases like these,” Doyle says. 

The good news about all this is that led by Doyle, there is something of a public outcry about the games anti-choice fanatics are playing with the language.  The bad news is that even if the language is corrected, the bill will move ahead and may become federal law. 

Besides Ozark Billy Long, here are other co-sponsors from Missouri: 

Vicky Hartzler; Todd Akin; Jo Ann Emerson; Sam Graves; Blaine Luetkemeyer

And out of only a handful of Democratic co-sponsors, naturally the Democratic impostor from Oklahoma, Dan Boren, is on the list.

Here is Billy Long’s contact information:  

Joplin:   2727 E. 32nd St., Suite 2    ZIP: 64804

Springfield: 3232 E. Ridgeview St.    ZIP: 65804
Phone: (417) 889-1800   Fax: (417) 889-4915

Washington, DC: 1541 Longworth HOB     ZIP: 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6536  Fax: (202) 225-5604

Official website contact page: https://long.house.gov/contact-me

“If I Had Good Insurance…”

Congressman Todd Akin represents Missouri’s 2nd District.

He’s nuts.

Okay, he says nutty things.  Just scroll down this list from FiredUp!Missouri.

Today, FiredUp! featured a transcript of an interview Akin did with Don Marsh of KWMU in St. Louis:

AKIN: I believe that charity is a legitimate way — Americans are very generous people — but we’ve come to believe that government is going to take care of it all, and therefore we just sort of dust our hands to say, you know…

HOST: Would you like to give up your Congressional health insurance for — and rely on charity?

AKIN: Well, I wouldn’t rely on charity.  I’d try and save my money and buy health insuranceYeah. No, I mean, I think you have to be, people have to be responsible. If we don’t take responsibility for the decisions that we make, then the whole country doesn’t work.

HOST: You probably have the best health insurance in the country though. I think [chuckle] Members of Congress, it’s pretty much conceded they have a wonderful health insurance.

AKIN: No, I wouldn’t agree to that at all.  No.  I mean, people say that, but I don’t think it’s true.  I had health insurance as a state rep, and I can guarantee you that was not very good health insurance. Because I could never see the doctor. 

And it turned out when I got to the Capitol, when I was first elected to Congress, I marched in to get my first physical in years.  They said, “Yeah Todd, you’re doing great except a little detail. You have got cancer.”  And that’s something that if I had good insurance, it might have, there would have been incentive to get that physical every couple of years.

HOST: And if you’d had no insurance…?

AKIN: Yeah. It — and again, it’s expensive to try to find somebody to do it.

Now, Sean at FiredUp! made the point that Members of Congress have damn good health insurance benefits, including:

Lawmakers also get special treatment at Washington’s federal medical facilities and, for a few hundred dollars a month, access to their own pharmacy and doctors, nurses and medical technicians standing by in an office conveniently located between the House and Senate chambers. 

But I want to make an additional point (besides Akin missing the host’s claim regarding the insurance of Members of Congress) about Akin’s assertions.   Let’s review what he said:

I could never see the doctor…if I had good insurance…there would have been incentive to get that physical every couple of years.”

Let that soak in.  One might think that such an excellent point—that his cancer may have been detected earlier if Akin would have had “good insurance“—would come from the mind of a supporter of the new health care reform law.  After all, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known derisively as Obamacare, provides insurance coverage for millions of folks who don’t have it—some of whom may have cancer that can be detected early— and also includes,

numerous health-related provisions to take effect over a four-year period, including expanding Medicaid eligibility, subsidizing insurance premiums, providing incentives for businesses to provide health care benefits, prohibiting denial of coverage/claims based on pre-existing conditions, establishing health insurance exchanges, and support for medical research.

You may have guessed that, despite his claim of a relationship between “good insurance” and early cancer detection, that Akin is not a supporter of Obamacare.  In fact, he not only doesn’t support it, he declares himself,

a vocal opponent of the Democrat takeover of the health care system in the United States…

Using his best Beck-speak, he says:

Today Americans are reacquainted with the danger of an arrogant all powerful government, a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington.

In spite of nationwide opposition socialized medicine is being forced down our throats. That medicine is toxic to freedom. But freedom dies hard in America.

I do not believe that the majority of Americans will submit passively to the gold chains of socialism.

True patriots choose the bright light and fresh air of freedom where people can dare to dream- to succeed or fail.

I have confidence that freedom will rise from the ashes of socialism and that this nation under God will have a rebirth of liberty and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Whether he’s nuts or just says nutty things, he is a glittering jewel of Tea Party extremism.  And these people will be running the country, if Democrats don’t close the “enthusiasm” gap.

[Couple photo found here]

A Heart Doctor With A Heart

Dr. John M. Cox, a cardiologist at Freeman Hospital, has written yet again on the subject of health care reform.  This time, he has commented on last month’s “prayercast,” which was an attempt by righteous Republicans to bring divine intervention into the health care reform process.

The prayercast event* featured a prayer by Tony Perkins, who, according to Frank Schaeffer, is the “well known paranoid and delusional moralist leader of the Family Research Council.”

The prayer included the following:

Life and death hinges on the Senate health care bill.

Now, a rational person might conclude that the succeeding invocation of the Almighty would include a petition that He might convince recalcitrant and gainsaying Republicans to get on board and make sure that the 45,000 folks who die each year because of a lack of insurance might have a “right to human life.”

Nope. The prayer continued:

We face significant threats to the God-given right to human life through government funding of abortions, our health from rationing, our family finances from higher taxes, and our general freedoms posed by the government plan to take over health care.

So, invoking the God of Tea Party Heaven, was actually a ploy to derail health care reform. 

That’s where Dr. Cox comes in:

I wonder if God is “for” insurance companies denying coverage to those with pre-existing illnesses. I wonder if God is “for” canceling insurance policies whenever individuals get sick. I wonder if God is “for” continuing to allow 35 million Americans to have no health insurance coverage. I wonder if God is “for” allowing many more people than died on 9/11 to die monthly because they cannot afford to get health care.

Apparently, Dr. Cox sings from a different hymnal than our Tea Party Holy Rollers:

In certain parts of this country, political theater is wrapped in Christianity. Politicians continue to cynically use the conservative Christian movement for their purposes. This is not about making people healthier. This is not about making insurance companies do the right thing morally. This is about scoring political points by a party who is, at present, out of power. The use of prayer vigils for this purpose sickens me.

Finally, Dr. Cox, the heart doctor with a heart, concluded with this flurry:

The proposed bills are not perfect. However, as I have stated before in previous communications, the status quo will quickly drive us off a cliff. All this anti-government rhetoric is just that. We all drive on government-built roads. Many of us already have government-funded insurance. Our skies are safer as a result of government air traffic controllers. Our country is a reasonably safe place in which to visit and travel because of government police and firefighters. When private industry chews people up and spits them out, it is the rightful place of government to try to make that right. Health insurance companies have not been our friends. I, for one, will applaud when something is finally done legislatively.

And I suspect so will the Almighty, notwithstanding the prayers of his “followers.”

_______________________________________________________

*For those interested, here is a list of some prayercast attendees, either in person or via video:

James Dobson: “I just pray that you will frustrate the plans of the Evil One.”

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who reportedly said the Pilgrims believed “that the Bible was a blueprint for all of mankind… to tell us about economics, to tell us about education, to tell us about government.” Obviously, the Pilgrims didn’t have the foresight to include health care.

Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Sam Brownback, who apparently believed that the valiant effort by the Senate’s 40 Republicans—to frustrate Democrats and confuse the public—needed supernatural tweaking.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who in a moment of personal clarity that she kindly expanded to include all of us, prayed:

“And we say oh Lord we deserve your wrath. But would you yet give our nation mercy? We ask for your mercy. We cry out to you oh God this is our moment and this is our time Lord. We are at the end of ourselves and now we need you. We need you Lord.”

Lord, have mercy, indeed.

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