The House Of Babel

Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul; let them be turned backward and put to confusion that desire my hurt.”

—King David in Psalm 70:2, or Barack Obama today

Going right up to the brink of a total Homeland Security defunding, the House of Representatives, led by that pusillanimous patriot John Boehner, approved a bill that funds our nation’s mammoth security agency for, uh, one week.

And the truth is that without Democrats, even the one week Band-Aid wouldn’t have been timely applied to an embarrassingly self-inflicted wound. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, curiously, wrote a letter to her members urging them to pass the short-term bill:

We are asking you once again to help advance passage of the Senate passed, long-term funding of DHS by voting in favor of a 7-day patch that will be on suspension in the House tonight.

The speculation is that Democrats only went along with this nonsense because they were promised a vote on a clean funding bill in the coming week, one that would keep the agency running until the end of the fiscal year in September, without any provisions that would limit the president’s executive power on immigration law enforcement.

Still, the fighting among Republicans—the utter confusion and disarray—was something to behold on Friday. All of it was related to the right-wing’s obsession with President Obama’s deferred action on deportation. Since immigration law enforcement is part of Homeland Security, the zealots decided that they would hold funding for the agency hostage unless Democrats in the Senate—who have been using the filibuster with Republican-like efficiency—caved in to their demands to include provisions in the law that would prevent Obama from using his executive power to pick and choose just who he would deport.

All of this befuddlement reminded me of a tactic God used in the Old Testament. In case you don’t know, God had a habit of using confusion to get his point across, to realize his divine desires, to prevent mankind from doing what he didn’t want them to do. Most famously, in Genesis there was the Tower of Babel incident in which God feared that “the people are one and they all have one language…now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” So, God said, “let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 

That is what happened on Friday in the House of Representatives. Confusion. Republicans not understanding one another’s speech. And all of it was over whether the U.S. government ought to have an aggressive policy of deportation, dividing paperless immigrants from their paper-proper family members. The Shrub Part 3 Jeb Bush once said, before he was trying to court haters in his party:

The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally … and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.

That Jeb Bush, the one who sensibly talked about undocumented immigrants in the context of  “an act of love,” will decrease, and a meaner Jeb Bush will increase. That is the nature of the case, when it comes to Republican primary politics in the age of the Tea Party. But all those reactionaries, those who believe the Bible is their guide to salvation, ought to pay attention to Deuteronomy 28:

But if you don’t obey the Lord your God’s voice by carefully doing all his commandments and his regulations that I am commanding you right now, all these curses will come upon you and find you:
♦ 
You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the field.

♦ Your basket and kneading bowl will be cursed.
♦ 
Your own fertility, your soil’s produce, your cattle’s young, and your flock’s offspring will be cursed.
♦ 
You will be cursed when you are out and about and cursed when you come back.
♦ 
The Lord will send calamity, confusion, and frustration on you no matter what work you are doing until you are wiped out and until you disappear—it’ll be quick!—because of the evil acts by which you have abandoned him…

♦ You might get engaged to a woman, but another man will have sex with her. You might build a house, but you won’t get to live in it. 
♦ You might plant a vineyard, but you won’t enjoy it. 
♦ Your ox will be slaughtered while you watch, but you won’t get to eat any of it.
♦ Your donkey will be stolen right out from under you, and it won’t come back.
♦ Your flocks will be given to your enemies. 
♦ No one will save you…
♦ The immigrants who live among you will be promoted over you, higher and higher! But you will be demoted, lower and lower! They will lend to you, but you will have nothing to lend to them. They will be the head of things; you will be the tail.

On Friday, and so many times since Tea Party members started renting space in John Boehner’s head, we have seen “the tail” wag a very confused dog.

Unions Have Long Memories

I just heard a conservative on Fox say that Scott Walker’s comparison of union members to ISIS beheaders was a “fake gaffe.” He said that this will be “forgotten next week.”

Oh, yeah? Betcha.

Walker responded to a question during his appearance on Thursday at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—an event that demonstrates the surprising truth that turds can talk—about how he would handle ISIS:

I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their [sic] power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message, not only that we will protect American soil, but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.

Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the teachers' unions, protesting against Walker's bill.If you can restrain yourself from puking up your lunch, you may recall that Walker’s efforts in Wisconsin to destroy public employee unions wasn’t exactly popular with working people, and thousands came out to protest and show their disapproval. It is those protesters—working men and women—whom he compares to Islamist zealots and psychopaths who have committed unspeakable crimes against humanity.

And if anyone thinks that working people and the unions who represent them will forget Walker’s remarks, look out. Even without that stupid and offensive comparison to fanatical killers, union folks will be stirred up in 2016 against what has become an obvious Republican hatred of collective bargaining rights for workers. But throw Walker into a general election, with his claim that “taking on” protesting working people qualifies him to fight ISIS freaks in Iraq and Syria, and you will see an effort to defeat Walker like you have never seen.

It has become quite clear that Walker is the favorite among the worst of the worst on the far right. One of the reasons he is their favorite is his aggressive anti-union stance, something he highlighted in his well-received CPAC speech on Thursday. Comparing union protesters to Islamist killers will only endear Walker to the legions of union-hating freaks on the right, and should Walker wrestle the Republican nomination from the well-funded third leg of the Bush triumvirate, Walker can absolutely count on one thing: union people won’t forget what he has said and, more important, what he has done.

Jon Stewart On Right-Wingers: There Is No Satisfying “The Beast”

The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple reminds us that after Jon Stewart announced his upcoming retirement from “The Daily Show,” the on-air talent at Fox “News” wasn’t exactly sad about it:

Most notably, prime-time host Megyn Kelly riffed as follows: “I can tell you my own feeling on Jon Stewart, while I enjoy consuming his news product — this fake news product, you know at home and laughing at it,” said Kelly. “I don’t think overall he’s been a force for good. Because I think especially in his later years he got a little nasty. I think he got a little burnt-out. And I can speak personally to a lot of the attacks that were levied on me, had no foothold in the facts.”

stewartIt is beyond ironic that a Fox “News” host claims to sit at home and laugh at a “fake news product,” especially when so many people get a kick out of watching the Sultans of Fake on Fox do their best Colbert imitation day after day and night after night, as they pretend they are presenting the news.

I, however, don’t have much fun watching Fox and its stable of propagandists and, in some cases, liars (hello, Billo!) for the conservative movement. Rather than make me laugh, it depresses me to know that so many of my fellow citizens embrace the hate and misinformation that makes up so much of Fox’s programming day. It is obvious to me now, as a former conservative and “dittohead,” that America became a dumber and meaner place after right-wing zealots took over talk radio in the late 1980s (thanks to Ronald Reagan).

But since it’s appearance on the media scene, the Fox “News” Channel has taken dumber and meaner to new heights, or, more accurately, new lows. And some people have a hard time understanding why it is that so many Americans embrace, with a jihadist’s enthusiasm, such mind-dumbing and heart-numbing programming. But Jon Stewart pretty much gets it.

On Wednesday night, Stewart once again directly took on Fox by, first, playing a loop of “50 Fox lies in 6 seconds.” He noted that there were “plenty more” lies but his time was limited to 22 minutes. The entire 10-minute bit was the best stuff Stewart has done in a long time. It was hilarious. But it was more than that. The segment was insightful.

After playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh claiming that “Jon Stewart had helped to polarize the country by poisoning the Republican brand,” Stewart then played clips of Limbaugh saying a series of stupid and hateful things and followed those with the following observation:

How do you poison a cyanide factory? But see the little game that they play here is, “The only reason the right looks bad is that these guys are unfair liars to us”…My point is that we don’t lie. We don’t distort…The point is that on the right they’re pretending that our truthfulness is what’s really important to them, which ironically is not true. What matters to the right is discrediting anything that they believe harms their side. That’s their prime directive…

Look, this mission drives their attack on all the institutions that form the foundation of the country they purport to love so dearly. And what, pray tell, is wrong with these institutions? [He plays clips of Fox personalities or guests decrying “liberal bias and anti-Americanism” and “the cancer of liberalism” and the like.] …Each institution suffering from the same malady of liberalism  and what can be done?

This is their genius. They purport to want to fix things, but conservatives are not looking to make education more rigorous and informative, or science more empirical or verifiable, or voting more representative, or the government more efficient or effective. They just want all those things to reinforce their partisan ideological conservative viewpoints. Because in their minds, the opposite of bad isn’t good; the opposite of bad is “conservative.” The opposite of wrong isn’t right…it’s “right-wing.” They judge solely on the level of conservative content in everything. It’s their only litmus test…

He then played clips of Fox personalities blaming liberal Hollywood bias against Clint Eastwood for the fact that Eastwood’s film “American Sniper” did not win “Best Picture” at the Oscars. Stewart took on that “stupid shit” and then began his criticism of those who try to appease the right-wing lying machine:

You know the saddest part of all this? Republicans, conservatives, are so fucking relentless in their drive for ideological purity, that those institutions they complain about continue to cave for the same reason, I guess, that you always seem to end up going to the same restaurant the four-year-old wants to go to: “Fine! We’re going to get Fribbles again! Just stop crying!” 

Stewart went on to mention that “15 states have approved voter ID laws in the absence of any meaningful evidence of voter fraud.” He noted that in Oklahoma a “House committee voted to ban A.P. History for not sugar coating slavery enough” and that “Abstinence is approved sex education, and scientific fact isn’t reported now, it’s debated.” Then he says to all those who should know better but who are tempted to cave in to the demands of the ideologues:

So, let’s just stop. Let’s stop pretending that these concessions to the right will at any point sate the beast…So let’s just stop giving in to them. Guys, take it from someone who’s been watching what they do for a blessedly-almost-over 16 years or so. Their chronically angry war for ideological purity, where every aspect of life becomes a two-dimensional battle for America’s soul, it ages you…

As a former conservative, as a former fan of right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, as someone who spent much more time than Jon Stewart listening to and watching this stuff—as a true believer and a repentant critic—I can say that he’s right about the “chronically angry war for ideological purity” and the “two-dimensional battle for America’s soul.” There are no fifty shades of gray with these people. There is no gray at all. It’s black and white. You are either with them or against them. Thus, as Stewart says, there is no point in making tactical concessions to them.

You simply cannot satisfy the beast.

Donkey Shame

Rather than boycott a controversial appearance by the Israeli prime minister, most Democrats plan to be there when Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a joint session of Congress on March 3.

If that’s not bad enough, Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democrats in order to, they said, “maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress.” Netanyahu said no thanks, amazingly claiming that to meet with Democratic senators “could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.”

The truth is, of course, that there is no “misperception” of partisanship related to Netanyahu’s visit. It is clearly quite partisan. Speaker John Boehner invited him to speak so that he could dope-slap President Obama in front of Americans and undermine any potential deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons aspirations.

And if Netanyahu were to meet with Democratic senators, that would piss off his Republican benefactors in Congress, who sometimes have a hard time understanding that Israel is not our fifty-first state, or, like some Democrats, have a hard time telling the difference between Israeli interests and our own.

We all should keep in mind that if we fail to make a deal with Iran, if we fail to find a diplomatic way to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, that may quite likely mean war at some point. And a U.S. war against Iran seems to be what Netanyahu, and some Republican members of Congress, want for us and our future.

We now know that not only has Netanyahu been selectively leaking misleading details about our negotiations with Iran, but during his 2012 U.N. speech—the one in which he wielded a weird cartoon bomb drawing worthy of The Road Runner Show—Netanyahu misrepresented the truth about how close Iran is to making a nuclear bomb. He told the world then:

“By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

Except that top-secret documents leaked to the press show that Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, believed at that time that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich uranium “to higher levels.” And because that is Netanyahu’s  home-controlled source of intelligence on the matter, he clearly knew what the intelligence assessment was and chose to mislead the world about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Worse than that, Netanyahu has played this game since 1992. Back then, twenty-three years ago, he said Iran was three to five years away from nuclear weaponry. And according to the Christian Science Monitor, Republicans also joined in the hysteria:

The same alarm bells were already ringing in Washington, where in early 1992 a task force of the House Republican Research Committee claimed that there was a “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.”

Thus it is that some people have been pushing us in the direction of war with Iran for some time now. And we should be able to count on Democrats in Congress having President Obama’s back when he is trying to avoid such an outcome by using diplomacy to find a solution to the potential problem of a nuclear armed Iran.

But we apparently can’t count on that, as it appears that most Democrats will legitimize Netanyahu’s untimely speech to Congress by showing up and listening to him. The right-wing prime minister is clearly trying to undermine President Obama’s foreign policy—a policy that thankfully includes the principle that war is the last resort—and Democrats shouldn’t help him do so.

However, on March 3, they will sit and listen and some will applaud, as Netanyahu essentially tells us why avoiding war with Iran is a bad idea.

Radical Hope

“Language figures in human life in many ways. We inform, we request, we persuade, we interrogate, we orate, and sometimes we just schmooze. But the most remarkable thing we do with language is learn it in the first place.”

—Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought

Psychologist, cognitive scientist, and linguist Steven Pinker says that language is the greatest of our human faculties, “ubiquitous across the species, unique in the animal kingdom, inextricable from social life and from the mastery of civilization and technology, devastating when lost or impaired.” 

I’m going to take a break from the rather depressing domestic and international political scene and present to you a couple of really remarkable, and remarkably uplifting, stories via YouTube. Both of the videos below have to do with forms of human communication and interaction and will together take you less than 20 minutes to watch. I promise it will be worth your time.

Last night 60 Minutes paid tribute to a journalist’s journalist, Bob Simon, who was killed in an auto accident in New York City recently. One of the featured stories was one I had not seen before. Simon reported on a place called Cateura, which is a town in Paraguay that was essentially built near a large landfill so that its residents could rummage through the garbage and harvest something of value. Needless to say, Cateura is one of the poorest places in South America.

But what Simon’s story reveals is just what amazing creatures we human beings can be, especially when someone with an idea—and the will to carry it out—comes on the scene and brings the light of a radical and transformative hope, a hope that a better, fuller life is within reach. You will hear the words that summarize the work of Favio Chavez: “Go on, send us your garbage. We’ll send it back to you as music.” Watch:

The next story, only four minutes long, is equally inspiring. Before you watch it, let me give you a basic definition of the word “language”:

the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other

“To express thoughts and feelings to each other.” But what if you had never had that experience? What if you were 15 years old and had never expressed any thoughts or feelings to anyone? In the video below you will meet a young man named Patrick Otema, who was born deaf in a remote part of Uganda. You will also meet a saint of a man, Raymond Okkelo, who, like Favio Chavez did in Cateura, Paraguay, also brought the light of radical hope to desperate people. In the face of Patrick Otema, you will literally see what that radical hope looks like:

In both of these stories you can see how Favio Chavez and Raymond Okkelo are really doing the same thing: bringing the gift of higher humanity, of civilization, to their fellow human beings. And after several days of listening to Republicans question the patriotism and religious beliefs of Barack Obama, after years of listening to them tell me how much he wants to destroy the country, I needed some inspiration.

Racist Rudy And The Republican Party

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

—Rudolph W. Giuliani, at a fat-cat fundraiser in New York for Governor Scott Walker

Thanks, Rudy!

Rudy Giuliani, who now has finally qualified to have his own hate-talk radio show, has done what years of liberal commentary could not do: he has outed the GOP as not only the Stupid Party, but as the official home of 21st-century racists. I personally have spent six long years trying to do what the former mayor of New York City—and a very establishment Republican—did in about a minute. That’s efficiency!

After uttering his stupid and racist comments on Thursday, and after Scott Walker refused to condemn them, and after Bobby Jindal, who has his own history of bigotryjoined in on the fun, Giuliani told Fox’s Megyn Kelly last night:

I’m right about this, I have no doubt about it, I do not withdraw my words.

Bravo! No sense backing away now, Rudy! No sense jeopardizing your future as Rush Limbaugh’s replacement. What next? Are you going to call “Moochelle” Obama a slut? Offer her an aspirin to put between her knees? No sense pretending that you didn’t mean to slander our African-American president. And there really is no sense in denying the obvious, although you told The New York Times:

Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

Let me see. What Rudy said couldn’t possibly be racist because Obama has some good old white blood in him! Thatta boy! Pure genius!

obama and giulianiPerhaps the saddest part of this whole episode is that what Giuliani said should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Republican politics since 2007, and particularly since The Scary Negro took up residence in the White’s House and the angst-ridden wingnuts starting hanging teabags from their hats.

We have heard this stuff before, and on Fox last night Rudy, after studying all day, rehearsed many of the old lies: Obama is a Frank Marshall Davis communist; he “worked under Saul Alinsky”; he listened to Reverend Jeremiah Wright say “goddamn America!” and stayed in his church; he prefers Muslims over Christians, Islam over Christianity.

When asked about the civility of his remarks, he told Kelly:

I think it was perfectly civil. I think that is a perfectly reasonable opinion, but the president and his comments, if we look at all of his rhetoric has not displayed the kind of love of America, the kind of love of American Exceptionalism that other American presidents have displayed, that he has gone abroad and criticized us over and over again, apologized for us. Every time he does it, it embarrasses me.

Yes, it “was perfectly civil” and “a perfectly reasonable opinion”—for a Republican these days. And that is the point.

I have seen a local Joplin Globe right-wing columnist refer to Barack Obama as a “monkey.” Yet you can still find his columns in the paper.

I have heard convicted felon and conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza say the most vile things about our president—just the other day he tweeted racist remarks—yet many of his ideas are embraced and repeated by Newt Gingrich and other conservatives and D’Souza and Gingrich are still major “intellectual” figures on the right.

I have heard Mitt Romney’s top campaign surrogate, John Sununu, call the president “lazy,” by which he obviously meant to suggest “lazy nigger.” No condemnation from Romney.

I have heard Ted Cruz, a United States Senator for God’s sake, say that President Obama is “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.” And Ted Cruz is a hero to a vicious cult of Obama haters in Congress, not to mention his popularity among citizen teapartiers.

I have heard a Republican congressman from Arizona claim that Obama is essentially pretending to want to destroy ISIS. I heard a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania say that our president, the president of our country, is “really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.” He went on to say that that he is reluctant to give President Obama “the authority and power to take action” against ISIS because “he actually might use it to further their cause.” Not a peep out of John Boehner.

I have heard radio and television commentators, night and day, make ridiculous and racially-charged comments about the president, and the money keeps rolling in. Racism, or something very close to it, pays very well on the right, as Rudy Giuliani will likely find out.

In the mean time, President Obama has endured a staggering amount of disrespect from his utterly disloyal opposition and yet he presses on, head held high. It’s as if he knows that, in the end, when the history of his times are written, he will look very big and the Rudy Giulianis and Rush Limbaughs and the other pathetic Obama-haters on the right will look like the pint-sized pricks they are.

The Roots Of Gay Oppression Are The Same Here As There

Let’s start with this lede from a recent NBC News story:

ISIS has released images that appear to show gay men being hurled off buildings and then stoned to death, part of the militants’ self-professed mission to crack down on “sexual deviance.”

That unspeakable horror, committed by people whom President Obama suggested have a “twisted” interpretation of Islam, happened in a land far, far away from Missouri. But let’s look at an event that happened a lot closer, courtesy of a recent article in The Los Angeles Times:

In a move that shocked progressive advocates in Kansas, the state’s Republican governor on Tuesday issued an executive order to remove discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgender state employees.

State employees in Kansas can now legally be fired, harassed or denied a job for being gay or transgender, critics said.

Now consider this lede from an article in The Washington Post posted just a few days ago:

The Republican campaign against gay rights continued last week, when Arkansas legislators passed a bill barring local governments from protecting gay people against discrimination.

Lest we Missourians think we are above our neighbors, we’re not. Our state does not have laws that protect people from employment discrimination or public accommodations discrimination that is based on sexual orientation. We have a constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. In so many ways, people who don’t have sex the way evangelicals and other Christians say they should have it are second and third class citizens.

So what is the link between hurling gay people off tall buildings and booting gay people off their jobs? It’s that whole cracking down on “sexual deviance” thing. One way to crack down on the deviance is to kill the deviants. Another is to deprive them of their constitutional rights.

Sure, the tactics used here in America to fight what conservative Christians—just like ISIS and other groups of zealots—call sexual deviance are much, much kinder than the methods used by fanatical psychopaths in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere. We can all see and appreciate the fact that reactionary fundamentalism here in America is expressed much differently than in places controlled by ISIS and other similar hate groups and death cults. Here it is expressed mainly through Republican legislators and governors. But make no mistake about it: we are talking about the oppression of people based on their sexual orientation. And we should admit that although the methods of oppression are thankfully different, the roots from which such oppression grows are remarkably the same.

ISIS is obviously making a show of killing homosexuals and has a “rationale” for doing so. As The Advocate puts it:

By “clamping down on sexual deviance,” ISIS says it will save the Muslim world from the “downward spiral” of morality that the West has allegedly suffered since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

When I was an evangelical I heard that same sentiment about the “downward spiral” of morality expressed countless times. Here is how the so-called Traditional Values Coalition puts it:

The Bible clearly condemns all sexual behaviors outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments as an abomination and a violation of God’s standards for sexuality. We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.

Often, our brand of religious reactionaries also tie such “normalization” to the ’60s. Here are a few excerpts from a Conservapedia article on “Moral decline“:

The decade of the 1960’s would begin the most dramatic moral change in America’s history…The rejection of Biblical and traditional sexual laws and promotion of sexual promiscuity and homosexuality would result in a greatly increased incidence of infectious diseases and premature death, with a half million of Americans dead because of AIDS.

You get the idea. Bad things happen when you don’t follow God’s way. In fact, that is the whole reason the infamous Westboro Baptist Church exists: to warn people of what will happen if they continue to accept or embrace Bible-condemned behavior. That particular group of haters says it will be at the Academy Awards in a few days:

Image result for westboro baptist church and sam brownbackWBC will picket the Oscars at Dolby Theater to remind this nation that God hates your idols! america [sic] has turned the Hollywood scene into one of her favorite idols.  Shame on you!  We will warn you to flee from the show business perversion machine that embraces sinful filth at every level including promoting such abominations as fag marriage.  You play with fire when you allow such base men to lead you down the path of destruction, just as they did in the days of Noah…Instead of worshiping men, you should be spending your time and energy obeying your God!  Cast down these idols and OBEY TODAY!  Repent or Perish!

As I said, at least these American religious fanatics aren’t throwing the “fags” off buildings and pounding them with rocks if they survive the fall. But their theological justification for picketing the Oscars or discriminating against homosexuals in the workplace or refusing them the rite of matrimony is exactly the same.

Family Values My Ass

George W. Bush’s time as president is, in so many negative ways, still touching our lives today. We see it clearly in the Middle East, as the repercussions of the Iraq invasion and occupation have profoundly destabilized the region, which has led to thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, not to mention the unspeakable horrors we have witnessed lately.

But we also see the negative effects of Bush II’s compassionate conservative presidency here at home, even though they are sometimes harder to see. With the Great Recession now clearly behind us, maybe we are tempted to think that the gift that was George W. Bush has finally quit giving.

Not so.

Enter Andrew Scott Hanen. He’s the federal judge in Texas—appointed by George W. Bush—who gave the finger not only to President Obama and his executive action of deferring the deportation of millions of paperless immigrants, but he gave the finger to families. That’s an odd gesture for a political party that, quite falsely, prides itself as being the party of family values.

Illinois congressman Luis Gutiérrez was on television this morning and he got it right. What Judge Hanen and the Republicans who brought the lawsuit against Obama’s executive order have done should be characterized as “an attack on families.” There simply isn’t any other way of describing it.

In his own way, President Obama said the same thing:

…keep in mind that this is something that we necessarily have to make choices about because we’ve got 11 million people here who we’re not all going to deport.  Many of them are our neighbors.  Many of them are working in our communities.  Many of their children are U.S. citizens.  And as we saw with the executive action that I took for DREAMers, people who have come here as young children and are American by any other name except for their legal papers, who want to serve this country, oftentimes want to go into the military or start businesses or in other ways contribute — I think the American people overwhelmingly recognize that to pretend like we are going to ship them off is unrealistic and not who we are…

We should not be tearing some mom away from her child when the child has been born here and that mom has been living here for the last 10 years, minding her own business and being a important part of the community…

That’s what it is all about. Tearing moms from their children. Separating families. That is the policy position of the Republican Party. That is what the party proudly—proudly!—stands for these days. They are so proud of it they are willing to deny funding to the Department of Homeland Security in order to achieve their goal of dissecting families.

As Congressman Gutiérrez said this morning to Republicans: “This will come back to haunt you.” Whether it will be in the 2016 election, as Hispanics punish them at the polls, or whether it will be when the God who family values Republicans allegedly worship dispenses his own justice, it will most certainly come back to haunt them.

 

Some Liberals, And Too Many Other Americans, Are Adopting The McCain Doctrine

Hysteria. That’s what I am witnessing. Plain hysteria.

It is one thing for John McCain and other Republicans to go on television, time after time, and argue that we need to do more to defeat ISIS, by which they mean defining the effort in terms of a religious war and bringing in American combat troops to fight and die in that war. I have come to expect such talk from warmongering right-wingers.

But it is another thing altogether to hear liberals arguing for the McCain Doctrine, a strategy that if followed to its logical conclusion would have us occupying several more countries, losing thousands more lives and spending trillions more dollars.

Last night I heard Ed Schultz on MSNBC say that the beheading of Egyptian Christians by ISIS zealots in Libya “amounts to a religious war” and that “what we’re doing isn’t strong enough, isn’t working.” He offered this criticism of Obama’s declaration about combat troops:

As I see it, the United States is going to have to have continual review of its strategy. We can’t sit back here and watch hordes of people get their heads cut off. And why would we tell ISIS there’s no way we would ever put ground troops in combat situations?

Shultz wasn’t alone on MSNBC. Later Chris Matthews chimed in on the mass murder of Coptic Christians in Libya:

What can we do? Can we do nothing? …We can’t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the sports page or the financial news or what’s at the movies or who’s going to win the Oscars and act like America, our country, is not being morally humiliated, because it is, with the lives of at least some of these people, who must, in their last minutes, have to be wondering if there’s any chance the people in the United States could be coming to their rescue because that’s how we were taught that we conduct ourselves. We don’t leave people behind.

I don’t know where Matthews has been. I don’t know what Ed Schultz has been smoking. But we are doing something about ISIS. It’s not like ISIS is some powerful, unconquerable army having their way while we, the United States, are ignoring them. We are killing the bastards every day from the air. We, along with Kurdish fighters and others, are helping to stop their advancement.

But I’m afraid ISIS is succeeding in doing what it is they want to do in another, perhaps more important, sense: they are slowly convincing people that we should see this as a religious war and that we should send American and other Western troops to fight them so they can, as their apocalyptic theological nonsense informs them, usher in the end of this world.

CNN’s National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen, explains:

A key window into understanding ISIS is its English language “in-flight magazine” Dabiq. Last week the seventh issue of Dabiq was released, and a close reading of it helps explains ISIS’ world view.

The mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor. Instead, as the magazine documents, its ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.

The name of the Dabiq magazine itself helps us understand ISIS’ worldview. The Syrian town of Dabiq is where the Prophet Mohammed is supposed to have predicted that the armies of Islam and “Rome” would meet for the final battle that will precede the end of time and the triumph of true Islam.

In the recent issue of Dabiq it states: “As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubrā, (‘the Great Battle’ to be held at Dabiq) the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.” In other words, in its logic, you are either on the side of ISIS or you are on the side of the Crusaders and infidels.

When American aid worker Peter Kassig was murdered by ISIS in November, “Jihadi John” — the masked British murderer who has appeared in so many ISIS videos — said of Kassig: “We bury the first crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the rest of your armies to arrive.”

In other words, ISIS wants a Western ground force to invade Syria, as that will confirm the prophecy about Dabiq.

Unfortunately, public opinion has been swinging in the direction of giving ISIS what it wants. A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 58% of Americans now think, quite wrongly, that our military action against ISIS is “going poorly.” That’s up from 49% last October. But here is CNN’s scariest and most troubling graphic:

ground troops pollAs you can see, the country is divided on the matter of ground troops. However, back in September of last year, only 38% of respondents favored “sending ground troops into combat” against ISIS. Something has obviously happened to change minds. And if you think it is the way journalists, particularly on television, have reported on ISIS and its evil doings, you are right.

ISIS manipulates the news cycle at will. These terrorist freaks are doing everything they can to bring about their imaginary end-times apocalypse, and that involves broadcasting, or getting others to broadcast, horrific images or stories about horrific murders all over the world. And if we put American combat soldiers into the mix of actions we are undertaking to destroy ISIS, we are playing right into the freaks’ deluded strategy. And if President Obama starts officially referring to this as a war against a form of Islam, as many people are suggesting he do, then we are characterizing the fight exactly the way the jihadists want us to.

Beyond all that, all those people out there who are itching to send in American soldiers to die in a ground war with ISIS should be required to tell us just exactly what will come next. What will come after we have defeated ISIS? How long will we occupy Iraq and Syria and Yemen and now Libya in order to make sure they don’t come back? What other countries are we prepared to occupy, after radical religious zealots pop up and start murdering elsewhere? And how many dead Americans will it take before we are no longer “morally humiliated” by a band of Islamist fanatics with guns and little else besides small slices of territory here and there that they are constantly having to defend?

The truth is that we are right to fight ISIS. A lot of the reason there is an ISIS is because of a colossal mistake we made in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which triggered destabilization across the region. But our fight shouldn’t involve ground troops. As many have said, there are plenty of reasons for the regional parties to get involved with combat troops, many of them existential reasons. We shouldn’t let them off the hook by doing the job for them, especially since it will inevitably be a never-ending job.

A Moonly Man From Missouri

Midway between Joplin and Springfield you will find Missouri’s House District 157. Interstate 44 cuts right through the rural paradise.

Representing this rustic district is an extremist Republican farmer (you guessed that, didn’t you?) named Mike Moon. In a special election in 2013 that enabled him to get his foot in the legislative door, Lunar Mike got a whopping 3,668 votes, compared to 2,507 for the Democrat. He trounced his 2014 opponent 76% to 24%. Apparently the locals liked either his style or his substance. Let me give you an idea of what kind of substance Lunar Mike is made of:

Loves Jesus. A lot.

Homeschools his five kids.

Filed an article of impeachment against our Democratic Governor.

He says“I do not believe that global warming exists.”

He believes that “the responsibility of providing welfare to persons who have true needs” belongs “to churches, companies, and individuals.”

He offers this as his position on “State Sovereignty”: “We do not need the permission of the Federal government to take action as a sovereign state.”

As far as a woman’s reproductive rights, he is emphatic: “Abortion is wrong!” (I invite you to follow this link and look at his reasoning; it is nothing short of Onionesque.)

Now we come to ObamaCare, courtesy of RawStory today:

State Rep. Mike Moon sponsored a resolution that calls on lawmakers to “insist that each member of the Missouri Congressional delegation endeavor with ‘manly firmness’ and resolve to totally and completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, settling for no less than a full repeal.”

Reaching back to the Declaration of Independence and our spat with King George III, Lunar Mike determined that “manly firmness” was appropriate language to apply to Missouri’s three women in Congress, two of whom have voted thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The other unmanly member of Missouri’s congressional delegation, Democrat Claire McCaskill, handled Lunar Mike with womanly firmness:

“I don’t think you prove your manhood by kicking folks off their health coverage and once again letting insurance companies discriminate against women and sick people.”

McCaskill apparently knows nothing of Republican manhood. Doing such things is exactly how today’s Republicans, man and woman, prove their manliness.

In any case, McCaskill’s press release pointed out that Moon’s flacid manhood “would strip more than 200,000 Missourians of health insurance coverage, and—according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—would raise the national deficit by billions of dollars.”

But Lunar Mike continued flexing his turgid limb and was unmoved by the plight of a couple hundred thousand of his fellow Missourians:

We just want them to know, every man and lady who is representing us, that we are demanding, as citizens of Missouri, that Obamacare be repealed and make it clear we don’t want a replacement.

Manly. No, Moonly.

 

Any Excuse For Obama-Hate

Kayla Jean Mueller, a brave American who had been held hostage by murderous Islamist freaks, is dead. Naturally, rather than honor her Christian service to others—her Christian service to Muslims who were suffering—this is a time for right-wing haters to celebrate their pathological contempt for President Obama.

Commenting on an article on The Wall Street Journal website (“U.S. Confirms Death of American Hostage Kayla Mueller”), the haters wasted no time:

MARYNIA MACKIEWICZ
President Barack Obama in a statement offered condolences to the Mueller family and vowed to bring those responsible for her death to justice.
Hey Barry, look in the mirror!
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Robert Eisenhauer 
“President (sic) Obama Vows to Find and Bring Justice…”

Lovely!  Our Muslim-Marxist EO-dispenser is going to “bring to justice” those who behead women and burn men alive.  Someday.  Perhaps.

Sure wish we had an American president, FEARED by our enemies! One who understands enemies like ISIS need to be turned into ash, and all of their assets in molten ruins, right now.  We do not have such a president.

_______________________

JEANNE RODGERS 
I hope every reader of this brief article goes to FOX online today and listen to Katherine Herridges’s (sp?) video for more details.  It is time to stop politely speculating that Obama is not serious about fighting terrorism.  He is a Muslim sympathizer.  When he is out of office, I hope he is charged with complicity in the death of this woman. He is a dreadful human being and we should be ashamed we elected this man twice.
_________________________

I remind you that those comments were among the first to go up on WSJ’s website this morning. More, and worse, will certainly follow.

But none of them will be as bad as what a commenter posted on what, these days, is a mainstream right-wing website: Breitbart.com. The site published an article (“OBAMA VOWS JUSTICE AFTER ISIS KILLS AMERICAN HOSTAGE KAYLA JEAN MUELLER”) that as of right now (11:15am) features the following comment (I had to censor the photograph for you because it is gruesome):

obama and isis photo from breitbart

I don’t know what kind of mind would want to capture and hold and likely kill a 26-year-old girl doing humanitarian work mostly to benefit Muslims suffering unspeakable horrors. And I don’t know what kind of mind would want to cut off the head of a man who also came to help the victims of violence in and around Syria. And I certainly don’t have the slightest idea what kind of mind would cut off a man’s head and place it on his back and take a picture of the scene and proudly send that picture all around the world.

But whatever kind of mind it is that could conceive and carry out such atrocities, that mind may not be all that far removed from the kind of mind that would make a sick joke and attach the picture above, a picture taken by Islamist killers and doctored for a laugh, to an article announcing the tragic and heartbreaking death of a beautiful American girl, inside and out.

Or the kind of mind that would allow such a photograph to remain on a popular conservative website.

Scott Walker And “The Money Power”

Catching up with Charles P. Pierce’s irreplaceable The Politics Blog, I found a gem that needs to be passed around and admired by all who can appreciate it. Pierce, who graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, zeroed in on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s stupid attempt to change the mission of the state’s university system—known and celebrated as the Wisconsin Idea, which was born out of early 20th-century progressivism—and Walker’s subsequent lies about what he was doing.

Pierce summarized the history of the Wisconsin Idea, mentioning “its greatest political advocate, Robert LaFollette,” and Teddy Roosevelt, who appealed to it “as the source of the Progressive movement.” Then Pierce produced this sparkling description of the dangerous political game being played by some powerful Republicans:

The forces that Scott Walker represents are the same forces, dressed up in modern drag and operating with the speed and efficiency of modern communication, that Roosevelt and LaFollette and the rest of them saw as threatening to the creative process of self-government back at the turn of the last century. The money power does not need the political entity that is the United States of America except as an organizing infrastructure through which private profits can be insured and increased. The money power does not need its fellow citizens as anything but disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits. That is the political and social reality against which The Wisconsin Idea was raised up to combat. It depended vitally on the intellectual ferment of the state’s universities, and the products of that ferment as applied in pursuit of a better life for all the state’s citizens. The forces for which Scott Walker is only the most recently popular front man are threatened by education, and by knowledge, so they use all the power they have to frighten people about new ways of looking at things, about fresh knowledge, about the process of education itself. They force a kind of mental surrender of the rights of the people to create and sustain a self-governing political commonwealth by convincing those people that anything done together, through the mechanisms of self-government, is a threat to personal, private liberties. You can see it in what Walker’s trying to do to the University of Wisconsin, and you can see it to a smaller degree in the way that potential Republican presidential candidates have bamfoozled themselves on the subject of childhood vaccinations. We conquered polio, and smallpox, and measles because we all worked together, and when intelligent people offered us a cure, we made a national movement out of the effort to eradicate these diseases. The government and the universities and the people they produced showed the way, and the country made that cause its own, and we by god eradicated these diseases. We didn’t do this as a mindless and fearful herd. We did this because we educated ourselves on what the experts told us was the best way to prevent these diseases. and then we acted on the knowledge that we had gained for ourselves.

Now, though, a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything. They have nothing to say to us. We have our good old common sense which, I have learned, grows less sensible as it grows more common. This has been a lesson devised by people whose power is threatened by the act of creating a political commonwealth in which their power needs must be scrutinized and, if necessary, limited. That is the game Scott Walker is playing. It is far from a new one, and it still can be lost.

That line—“a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything”—describes perfectly right-wing radio and Fox “News” and most of the rest of the conservative media complex.

Sitting at or near the top of that complex is a man named Matt Drudge and his The Drudge Report. Guess who Drudge is pushing as the Republican presidential nominee? Yep:

Details on how Drudge is promoting Walker, a radically conservative union-buster, can be found at Media Matters (“Clear GOP Frontrunner”: How The Drudge Report Shills For Scott Walker). With Drudge in his corner, Walker can count on Limbaugh and Hannity and most of the other know-nothing zealots on the right, on radio and television, to support him during a bruising primary battle with Jebby the Bush.

As for the rest of us, Charles Pierce is right: Scott Walker is playing a very old game on behalf of profits-above-people forces, those “money power” folks who see the rest of us as little more than “disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits.”

“Mr. Obama Does Not Believe In America Or The Values We All Share,” Says a Republican. So, Heck, Why Does He Keep Going To Those Dang Prayer Breakfasts?

I am told that when ISIL burned alive Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the captured Jordanian pilot, the bastards committed an “unspeakable and anti-Islamic” act. At least that is what many Islamic clerics are saying, even as ISIL went to a lot of trouble to justify the act, citing scholars without names and, quite likely, without existence.

I don’t know who gets to judge what is and what isn’t an anti-Islamic act. As many have pointed out, there is no Muslim Pope, no first-among-equals cleric who can settle the matter, presumably as Allah’s mouthpiece. There are just a lot of Muslims out there who, like a lot of Christians, read their holy writings and come to their own conclusions about what constitutes faithfulness to the faith.

Which leads me to yesterday’s prayer breakfast in Washington. I turned on C-SPAN to watch the solemn festivities—that’s how they appear to me. I knew as soon as I heard President Obama utter the following words, shortly after he called ISIL a “brutal, vicious death cult,” that he was going to be in trouble with the Christian jihadists and their sympathizers:

…lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

It didn’t take long for the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue to appear on, uh, Fox and tell the faithful foxers that Obama had insulted Christians by donohue on foxcomparing their atrocities to Muslim atrocities. In his press release, Donohue even went so far as to say there were no Christian atrocities related to the Crusades or the Inquisition. Those episodes were, respectively, either justified (“a defensive Christian reaction against Muslim madmen of the Middle Ages”) or were the fault of others (“secular authorities”).  And like any religious zealot who wants to defend his religion against criticism, Donohue produced quotes from scholars to prove it.

Donohue, amazingly, had nothing to say in his press release about slavery or Jim Crow, two institutions that without a doubt had the support of most of Christian America at the time. I suppose that’s one way to deal with what Obama said. Just ignore the parts that inconvenience you.

The Washington Post published a piece on the matter (“Critics pounce after Obama talks Crusades, slavery at prayer breakfast“) that featured this shot at the President fired by former Virginia governor and Christian warrior Jim Gilmore:

The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.

At least Gilmore had enough honesty to admit what this was really all about: Obama is no Jesus-loving American. He is essentially on the side of the Islamic jihadists, a claim either suggested or made plain by a lot of nuts and near-nuts on the right.

Trying to make a slightly more intellectual case against Obama’s remarks, out came National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, wanting to make sure that his formerly august journal (my how that publication has fallen since William F. Buckley passed on) chimed in with criticism of the President, using the same logic as Bill Donohue but also attacking Obama for not properly labeling the real enemy:

It is perverse that Obama feels compelled to lecture the West about not getting too judgmental on our “high horse” over radical Islam’s medieval barbarism in 2015 because of Christianity’s medieval barbarism in 1215.

It’s also insipidly hypocritical. President Obama can’t bring himself to call the Islamic State “Islamic,” but he’s happy to offer a sermon about Christianity’s alleged crimes at the beginning of the last millennium.

Goldberg, in his zeal to attack his target, actually should have paid closer attention to Obama’s remarks. The President never actually talked “about Christianity’s alleged crimes” at all. He never blamed Christianity itself. He talked about atrocities committed “in the name of Christ.” Just like some Muslims are trying to say that ISIL is not the fault of Islam itself, but the fault of extremists committing brutal acts “in the name of Allah.” That distinction, of course, may or may not be legitimate, but Obama made it and obviously believes it, and it is lost in the fog of Obama-hate, and Goldberg is certainly enveloped in a lot of that fog (just look at some of his tweets over time).

At least Goldberg had the good sense to toss in a word or two about Christianity’s role in much more recent obscenities that Obama mentioned:

The church often fell short of its ideals — which all human things do — but its ideals were indisputably a great advance for humanity. Similarly, while some rationalized slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. by invoking Christianity, it was ultimately the ideals of Christianity itself that dealt the fatal blow to those institutions. Just read any biography of Martin Luther King Jr. if you don’t believe me.

So, here we are back to who gets to decide what constitutes being faithful to the faith. In Goldberg’s reckoning, Christianity was “a force for the improvement of man” and all those bad things done by people who called themselves Christians were nothing compared to all the good that was done. I suppose Goldberg ought to take that up with a victim of the Spanish Inquisition or a slave in pre-Civil War America or a lynched Negro in the Jim Crow, Christian South. Maybe they would appreciate his historical hair-splitting.

But there was something in Goldberg’s attack on Obama and defense of Christianity that was even more off-putting. He wrote:

When Obama alludes to the evils of medieval Christianity, he fails to acknowledge the key word: “medieval.” What made medieval Christianity backward wasn’t Christianity but medievalism.

Man, that had to sound so good as Goldberg transferred that thought from his fog-shrouded mind into his word processor. How clever. How quickly he turned the tables on a hopelessly ignorant Obama. It was the spirit of the times, the Middle Ages, that was responsible for the violence and bloodshed, the slavery and oppression! Why didn’t I think of that?

Better yet, why don’t Muslims think of it now? Muslim clerics and scholars, instead of wasting their time condemning ISIL barbarism and saying it has nothing to do with Islam, should instead just use Goldberg’s logic:

“What makes 21st-century Islam so violent and barbaric isn’t Islam, but the 21st-century!”

See how easy that was?

Will Missouri Elect A Todd Akin-like Governor?

hanaway cartoonThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial that, quite rightly, condemned a Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate, Catherine Hanaway, for stupid and insensitive, and as the Post-Dispatch argues, disingenuous remarks she recently uttered at a reactionary event called the Educational Policy Conference 26 in St. Louis. Here is part of the editorial’s complaint against her:

Ms. Hanaway, the first female speaker of the Missouri House and a former U.S. attorney, said that the so-called liberal “culture of sexual permissiveness” leads directly to the belief that “everything is OK” including, she said, child pornography. To borrow some of her words, if you “pursue the course” of her logic in the rest of her speech, Ms. Hanaway demeaned working women, single mothers, people on welfare, and gays and lesbians.

I don’t really want to focus specifically on the dumb remarks made by Hanaway at this “education” event. People who go to conferences like this one say dumb things all the time, since these conferences are mainly attended by people who talk longingly about a very conservative God and who have the obnoxious habit of calling each other “patriots.” And this particular conference apparently meant to demonstrate that God is white, since all the speakers were white and since one of the speakers was the great-great grandson of the American traitor, Jefferson Davis. His topic for the occasion: “The Constitution vs. Anarchy – How Jefferson Davis Reconciled States’ Rights, Slavery and the Constitution.” God bless his pale soul.

The point I want to make about these Christian zealots is that, despite what the Post-Dispatch later alleges about the insincerity of Ms. Hanaway, most of these folks do sincerely believe that “government schools” are turning our children into God-hating, hell-bent sinners. And the only way for the zealots to fix things is to get the federal government out of education, take over state and local institutions that control what public schools teach, and get their version of God back in the American classroom. They believe they can accomplish all this primarily via grassroots organization, by infiltrating the Republican Party and by doing things like getting their people elected to school boards, both local and state.

One speaker at the St. Louis conference was a man named Don McLeroy, who, according to the EPC Conference website, was “a member of the State Board of Education in Texas for 12 years.” As a member of that extraordinarily influential school board (text book publishers pay a lot of attention to Texas), McLeroy led “the efforts to rewrite the English, language arts, and reading standards and led the SBOE to adopt science standards” and “helped lead the board in adopting new history standards that require that students be taught the founding documents, American Exceptionalism, and the national mottos of ‘In God We Trust’ and ‘E Pluribus Unum.'” Yikes.

But his Christian jihadist credentials don’t stop there:

His work on the board also includes passing a resolution requiring accurate coverage of Islam in future textbooks.

Allah only knows what “accurate coverage of Islam” might mean. But what is clear is that these folks see themselves involved in a Holy War, a war that pits conservative, Bible-believing Christians against everyone else. These zealous souls believe an important battleground in that war is the minds of children, and they are convinced that liberals, through government initiatives like Common Core, are brainwashing those minds. And they want to replace what they see as liberal brainwashing with what is most obviously conservative brainwashing. The whole reactionary effort to reestablish control of the education system in America is an effort to control the minds of kids. And the people behind that effort are very powerful in the Republican Party, which brings us back to Catherine Hanaway and her quest to become governor of Missouri.

The Post-Dispatch editorial clearly argues that Hanaway is not a genuine right-wing zealot. She has a “lucrative law career” at “a firm with high national ratings for diversity.” She is merely “pretending” to be a Todd Akin-like nut in order “to try to pander to the sliver of Republican voters who she thinks can help her win a primary.” The editorial ends with this blast:

The Catherine Hanaway we have known throughout her political and professional career is better than that. That she thinks she has to demean herself in order to win a primary says a lot about what she thinks of Republican voters.

It says even more about her own values.

Frankly, Ms. Hanaway, you’re worse than Todd Akin.

At least he was sincere.

It may be true that Ms. Hanaway isn’t sincere. But none of us should dismiss the fact that there exists in the Republican Party more than a “sliver” of people who are sincere about a Christian jihad, who are organized and active and who can, if only for a season, turn otherwise sophisticated people like Catherine Hanaway into know-nothing yahoos like Todd Akin.

[Photograph of Akin by Orlin Wagner/AP .]

The Measles, Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, And Your Republican Party

Surprise, surprise. There are a few Republican presidential hopefuls out there this year (here and here) who question whether the government should require people to get vaccinated for measles because, dammit, it may lead to “profound mental disorders” and is a transgression against our freedom. Yet there are people in the Republican Party who have no problem putting some women through mental anguish by making it difficult, nearly impossible in some places, for them to exercise their reproductive freedom, and there are some zealots on the right who have no problem subjecting women to government-mandated vaginal snooping. You tell me which is a greater assault on personal freedom.

___________________________

All of this vaccination talk reminded me of former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, in 2011, attacking poor Governor Oops! for forcing Texas school girls to get a vaccine against human papilloma virus. Dr. Bachmann, apparently an expert on the subject, famously and falsely suggested the vaccine might cause “mental retardation.”

__________________________

Speaking of intellectual disabilities, televangelist (and also a former GOP presidential candidate) Pat Robertson has given his blessing to the idea that the government ought not force parents to vaccinate their kids because “natural immunity is a pretty good thing” and “we should be very careful not to force people to do stuff that they earnestly feel they shouldn’t do.” Yes, again, this same man, a Christofascist, believes women should not be able to control their own bodies because God says that “abortion is murder.”

__________________________

Speaking of even more strange GOP presidential candidates, you gotta love this recent CNN headline:

Huckabee compares being gay to drinking, swearing

Yes. It makes sense. A girl-loving guy goes out and gets drunk and the next thing you know, he has a boyfriend who cusses up a shitstorm.

___________________________

But Mike Huckabee didn’t just pass on the old lie that homosexuality is a choice people make like, say, preferring Bud Light over Bud. He said the whole matter was “a biblical issue” and the Bible did not give him permission to “evolve” and that Christian businesses ought to have the right to discriminate against the deviants:

It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli. We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard. We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for 2,000 years.

That’s interesting. Besides comparing gay people to bacon-wrapped shrimp and adulterated dogs, Huckabee says that convictions from the Iron Age ought to be honored in the law today. That would include the conviction that the bacon-wrapped shrimp and impure dogs should be executed because, as Leviticus 18:22 says,

The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have brought it upon themselves.

Oh, but you may say: Christians no longer believe in executing bacon-wrapped shrimp and adulterated dogs for sinning against nature. Except that, remember, Huck said:

This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And as a biblical issue — unless I get a new version of the scriptures, it’s really not my place to say, OK, I’m just going to evolve.

So, without a new Bible, Huck can’t really evolve on the issue because it is a biblical issue and it says in the old Bible that you should kill the bacon-wrapped shrimp and the adulterated dogs. And if you don’t kill the deviant shrimp (or is it the bacon that is the deviant, or both?) and the adulterated dogs, then you are guilty of evolving, and I am quite sure the penalty for evolving is either death or losing the 2016 Iowa caucuses, whichever hurts the Huckster the most.

_________________________

Speaking of the Iowa caucuses, if you think all this talk about crazy Christofascist Republican candidates is just for the fun of it, the Real Clear Politics polling average for the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus shows the Huckster leading the field by over 3 points. But if you happen to believe, like I do, that Huckabee has exactly zero chance of becoming the Republican nominee, let alone president, there is still good reason to fear some version of Christofascism will be a part of the 2016 general election campaign on the Republican side: Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker is “surging” in the latest Iowa polls.

Despite his growing and misleading reputation as a “moderate” in the party, Walker is, like the Huckster, an evangelical Christian who says his “policy decisions” are, “without a doubt, driven by my faith.” Walker not only sought the endorsement of an anti-gay group in Wisconsin last year, but the Koch-blessed, union-hating governor also believes, like Reverend Pat Robertson, that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including when a woman is impregnated by a rapist.

I don’t know if Walker thinks gay people are like “bacon-wrapped shrimp” to a Jewish deli owner, or like dogs to a faithful Muslim, but I do know he has at least some 2,000-year-old Christian convictions that ought to worry all of us.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register published a piece yesterday (“Walker tells Iowans he’s one of the ‘fresh faces’ Romney had in mind”) that discussed the death threats that Walker says he received after all the “reforms” he brought to Wisconsin. Walker is quoted as saying:

Part of me looks back and thinks that maybe God put me and my family through all this for a purpose – and it wasn’t just to get things done in Wisconsin, and it wasn’t just to win all those elections in a state that normally doesn’t go Republican. Maybe it was to set us to … help get our country on the right track.

Like Pat Robertson in 1988, like a lot of other Republicans since, Scott Walker apparently believes his candidacy is somehow tied to the Creator of the Universe. And I can’t think of anything more dangerous than that.

“I Would Have The Best Chance Of Beating The Eventual Democrat,” Says Mittens. Then He Quits.

It’s now official. Mittens ain’t gonna do it.

Vladimir Putin must be thanking his lucky zvezdy. Mittens would have no doubt done something terrible to him, had the loser of the 2012 election decided to become president. ISIL leaders are today giving thanks to Allah for this rare bit of good news. They can now safely take over the world.

And all those poor out there in America, who Mittens, as President Obama said, was “suddenly” and “deeply concerned” about helping from the White’s House, are obviously depressed today, having been consigned to a Romney-less future. There will be no Cayman Islands hero coming to their rescue.

It appears that, after today, Rand Paul will be right: Mittens is “yesterday’s news.”

But he couldn’t depart the presidential stage without one more falsehood. In his remarks today, he reportedly said:

I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination.

No one, no one in his right mind, would actually quit, if he were really “convinced” he could win the nomination. But he wasn’t done lying to himself:

I also believe with the message of making the world safer, providing opportunity to every American regardless of the neighborhood they live in, and working to break the grip of poverty, I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee…

Again, if he really believed all that stuff, deep down in his Bain-stained heart, he wouldn’t give up before the thing even started. He qualified his statement by offering the opinion that his confidence in winning comes “before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters.” Then he took a shot at Jebby the Bush:

I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

Take that Jebby!

So, all of this leaves us with Bush, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker to fight over who can best represent millionaires and billionaires in the 2016 election. The rest of the potential Republican field, which ranges from Rand Paul to Marco Rubio to Lindsey Graham, with every variety of wingnut in between, will only imagine themselves as being worthy of big-donor dough, the kind of money it takes these days to win the voting allegiance of a tiny sliver of the electorate.

As for Mittens, he did leave the door slightly open for the future, should things get really, really messy in the Republican primary process next year and the party comes running to him for a convention bailout:

I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind. That seems unlikely.

That does seem unlikely. But there could be such a brutal fight break out in 2016 between the party’s heavyweights that one of the nuts could emerge with enough delegates to throw the whole thing into a tizzy. And Romney, the Master Predator, could be asked to takeover the party and do what he has always done best: enrich himself at the expense of others.

______________________________

[Image: Wisconsin Jobs Now]

“We Want War!” Say Republicans And, Sadly, A Few Democrats

It’s a strange world in which two Fox “News” hosts are more critical of Speaker John Boehner’s unseemly invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu than is President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Last week, the Speaker, against protocol and against decency and against our national interests, invited the Israeli Prime Minister to soon address Congress about what both Boehner and Netanyahu see as a misguided attempt to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The Speaker never told the White House in advance, and Netanyahu, up for reelection at home, didn’t bother to notify the State Department that he would accept the invitation. Boehner and Netanyahu are essentially undermining the efforts of the Obama administration to keep us out of another war. For most Republicans, Israeli interests appear to be more important than our own.

Worse than that, a few Democrats are also trying to get us into an honest-to-goodness war. Last week, after Obama’s State of the Union address, in which the President clearly stated that he would veto any legislation designed to interfere with his delicate negotiations with Iran (Republicans and some Democrats want to pile on additional sanctions), Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said,

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.

I want to remind you: that wasn’t said by a creepy, crazy-eyed Fox “News” host. It was uttered by a Democrat. In the U.S. Senate.

It isn’t clear to me exactly why that reckless statement would exit the lips of a Democrat, while President Obama and John Kerry are trying to bring a peaceful end to a crisis involving Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons. But it is a foolish and dangerous statement that is made more foolish and dangerous by the fact that Republicans, who most certainly trust Netanyahu more than the President of the United States, are in charge of Congress and won’t hesitate to do all they can to get us involved in a hot war with Iran, all on the advice of the Israeli Prime Minister.

And speaking of war and misguided Democrats, on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday Diane Feinstein essentially joined warmonger John McCain in calling for more “special operations” troops on the ground in, uh, Yemen. Yes, Yemen. She thinks we need “more than just advisers” there. That’s called panic, folks. Feinstein also hinted that more troops may be needed in other hot spots:

BOB SCHIEFFER: And then, to go back to the Middle East just quickly, do you envision we might have to put more ground troops — or have to put ground troops back into the Middle East?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is one thing that I have tried to follow carefully, particularly with respect to Syria.

And I don’t see what we’re doing making a difference. So, I think we need to relook at this. And if we are going to tolerate Assad, as McCain said — and I tend to agree — looks like is the case, that’s a problem.

Let me remind you what “McCain said” just before Feinstein appeared on the program. He began by saying that President Obama and his Chief of Staff Denis McDonough “have lost touch with reality.” Then he got to the point of his gazillionth appearance on Sunday television:

MCCAIN: I agree with the director of British intelligence, MI5, who gave a speech last week saying that these young people mainly from other countries that are now in Iraq and Syria will — are a direct threat to the United States of America and Great Britain.

So there is no strategy. It is delusional for them to think that what they’re doing is succeeding. And we need more boots on the ground. I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.

And for them to say we expect them to do it on their own, they’re not doing it on their own. And they are losing.

In case you missed his point, he later reiterated:

In the Middle East, we have got to have boots on the ground.

Whenever you hear someone say that, you are hearing the tempered version of, “Let’s get this war party started!”

While we all should be concerned about what is happening in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and while we all should acknowledge that Israel has reason to worry about an existential threat from Iran, we have to keep our wits about us and not panic and jump, boots first, into two more bleeping wars. Our air attacks on ISIL fighters are helping to keep them in check, whether right-wingers in Congress or war-hungry pundits blabbing on TV want to admit it. And it is unclear what will happen in Yemen, since the Shiite rebels—who apparently don’t want to take over the country—aren’t exactly al Qaeda supporters. In fact, we just killed three more al Qaeda terrorists with drone strikes in Yemen today. Yes. I said today, after all the panic on Sunday’s talk shows.

As a much more sober Fareed Zakaria pointed out on Sunday, we have to keep all of this in perspective. He showed this graphic, based on data from the Global Terrorism Database:

Fareed Zacharia and CNN graphic

Now, if that isn’t enough, look at this graphic, which I pulled from the Global Terrorism Database website:

global terrorism database

Those colored beams represent the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 and the relative deaths associated with them. Look at us and look at other places around the world. We should keep all of this in mind, even as we understand that we are not isolated from what is going on elsewhere. We do have to pay attention to what is happening around the world and do what we can to fight terrorism, Islamist or otherwise. But boots-on-the-ground warfare should be the last resort, not the first.

Thankfully, John McCain lost the election in 2008. Thankfully, Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein are in the Senate and not the White House. Thankfully, Republicans only control Congress and can only throw rhetorical rocks at President Obama. And, thankfully, we have a man at the helm who doesn’t tend to panic and get nervous and want to start putting American troops on the ground everywhere, when things start to look a little scary.

And, more important, President Obama understands that there is a big difference between American foreign policy and the foreign policy of a right-wing prime minister of Israel, who seems hell-bent on getting the United States involved in a war with Iran, before all the attempts at diplomacy have played out.

If You Want To Know What’s Wrong With The Country, Look No Further than “Ballghazi”

♦ King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia just died. Because he was relatively friendly toward the United States, he was often a big help to us. And he was one of the most influential figures in Middle East politics, including the politics surrounding the global oil market.

♦ The president of Yemen, one of this country’s most important partners in trying to curb Islamist terrorism, just resigned, along with his cabinet, as Iranian-backed Shiite rebels took over the capital, including the presidential palace, and are setting the stage for a civil war.

♦ John Boehner, giving the finger to the President of the United States, secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Benejamin Netanyahu to address Congress so that Netanyahu, who is facing an election at home, can also give the President the finger over Obama’s wise attempts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, rather than go to war.

♦ The deadline has passed for the payment of ransom money to ISIL, who has threatened to kill two more hostages, this time Japanese hostages.

♦ The U.S. and Iraq are making plans to retake Mosul this summer, in an effort to push back ISIL forces, who now control the second largest city in Iraq.

Those and other important stories are, if you look hard enough, in the news today. But if you watch TV news, both broadcast and cable, mostly what you have seen the last few days is incompetent, irresponsible coverage of one of the stupidest stories in the history of journalism, something that is now being called “Ballghazi,” the flap over how much air was in a football in an NFL playoff game last Sunday.

It has been a sad week for journalism, and not just the kind of irresponsible journalism that is often found in sports reporting. The disease has spread to the mainstream news outlets, who aren’t supposed to be accusing people of lying without any evidence or wasting valuable time reporting on stories that are more properly fit for cheap gossip magazines or websites. It’s as if Jerry Springer, using some kind of mind control, took over the brains of all the news executives and producers on all the television networks and cable shows. I guess covering Middle East politics, reporting on terrorism and our fight against it, following around a creepy John Boehner and a creepier Benjamin Netanyahu, is just not as much fun as covering a great drama like whether a famous football team, a famous coach, and a famous athlete are all petty cheaters.

All of what I have seen makes me wonder just how many other things, much more important things, reputable journalists are getting wrong each and every day.

On Wednesday night, I almost fell out of my hammock when a very smart Chris Hayes, of MSNBC, started his evening program with the story of whether the New England Patriots cheated the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 rout by deliberately not having enough air in the ball that Tom Brady was throwing. Hayes obviously thought Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, did probably cheat. But what does cheat even mean in this context? Nobody seems to know. But we do know now that one of the league’s greatest quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, actually prefers overinflated balls, and that other NFL quarterbacks doctor the balls to their own particular specifications.

On Thursday night, after press conferences by Belichick and Brady in which they denied knowing anything about what may have happened to the balls after the game started, the network news shows put Ballghazi at the top of their newscasts. (AP)Also that night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, on a show supposedly featuring “hardball” politics, started off his program with the underinflated ball story, repeating the falsehood, spread by other media outlets, that Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was the first guy who brought the allegedly deflated ball—a ball he had intercepted when Brady threw a bad pass—to the attention of the officials. Except that Jackson said he did no such thing. He said he had planned on keeping the ball for a souvenir and had no idea it was underinflated, if in fact it was. “I wouldn’t know how that could even be an advantage or a disadvantage,” the linebacker said. “I definitely wouldn’t be able to tell if one ball had less pressure than another.”

From Sean Hannity to Chris Matthews, from Good Morning America to NBC Nightly News, from ESPN to local sportscasts, everyone on TV and radio has been talking about the issue, most of them not having the slightest idea what they are talking about. Yet almost all of them are sure that the Patriots cheated, that Bill Belichick is lying when he says he wasn’t involved in deflating the balls, and that Tom Brady is also lying because, well, just because. I have yet to see presented any evidence that Brady or anybody cheated, nor have I seen much of an indication that journalists covering this farce know what actually constitutes evidence or that they know that there are such things as standards of proof. But I have seen flimsy charges made, followed by even flimsier convictions.

This week I have seen on TV all kinds of people holding footballs, talking about footballs, and throwing footballs. I have seen some of those same people also hurling accusations—again, none of them based on the slightest evidence—that Belichick and Brady are liars and cheaters and should be suspended from next week’s Super Bowl. Some hysterical folks, like ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, are even suggesting the entire Patriots team, if proof of guilt finally materializes, should be booted from the game, replaced by the defeated Colts.

I have seen so much dumb and incompetent reporting (no, Belichick did not “throw Brady under the bus” during his press conference), so much wild speculation about NFL-engineered conspiracies (to hype the Super Bowl game or protect Patriots ownership), so much ignorance of the physics of the whole thing (for instance, measuring the air pressure of the ball inside a warm room, then measuring it later outside when it is colder, will produce a different result, dropping the PSI by a relatively significant amount), that I worry for the future of the country, at least as far as television reporting and commentary will affect it.

Because if the kind of broadcast journalism that I have seen this week gets any worse, then there will be no reason to believe much of anything that comes from the mouths of anyone who puts on a suit or dress and starts talking in front of a camera. In fact, there will be good reason not to believe it.

It’s really been that bad.

The Rich Will Get What They Paid For

Many of the headlines, and most of the chatter, about last night’s well-crafted, well-delivered, not to mention inspiring, State of the Union address had to do Displaying 20150120_231217.jpgwith how feisty President Obama seemed to be:

The New York Times: Obama Defiantly Pushes His Agenda

The Kansas City Star: In State of the Union speech, President Obama pushes an aggressive agenda

Pushes. Agenda. Hmm. I wonder what Republicans thought about the uppity agenda-pusher and his defiant, aggressive agenda? Let’s look:

Republicans dismiss president’s proposals from State of the Union address

The New York Times: G.O.P. Response to Obama’s Sweeping Proposals: ‘No’

Why, of course! After all, we are talking about Republicans. Obviously they don’t like the following proposals Obama made on behalf of working folks and their families:

Raise the minimum wage
Require employers to provide paid sick leave for the 43 million now without it
Increase child tax credits
Make community college free
Give other college students a tax credit
Expand the earned income tax credit

Let me be clear: Republicans don’t hate these proposals because they hate working people. Nope, not at all. Even though sometimes it seems like they do hate working folks, they really don’t. I mean it. They really don’t. They actually appreciate working folks. You know why? Because working class people just keep right on working, harder and harder every day, no matter their pay or their benefits or the cost of raising their kids or getting them through college. They just keep at it. Because they have to. And that’s one thing Republicans appreciate about them.

But they really appreciate the working class when, after having been savaged by the GOP’s voodoo economics, a significant number of politically depressed workers will stay home and not vote for Democrats on election day. And Republicans really, really appreciate those workers who, despite being cursed by the right’s voodoo priests, will run to the nearest polling place and vote for more voodoo.

So, no, it’s not that the GOP doesn’t like the working class. It’s just that in order to do the things President Obama and the Democrats want to do to help them, things would have to change a little bit for some folks and businesses that Republicans really, really love: the wealthy and the big banks. Taxes and fees would have to go up on those two groups in order to pay for the new programs and expansion of old programs that Obama mentioned in his speech.

Thus, we have this rather easy and quite realistic analysis by Nicole Hart, director of trusts and estates at Sontag Advisory, a wealth management firm in New York:

My initial reaction is that nothing is going to happen in a Republican-controlled Congress. Our advice to clients is that we’re not worried this is getting passed.

Not to worry, rich people! Your investments in the GOP have paid off! Republicans are in control! Now the rest of you stiffs out there better get your asses back to work!

“It’s A War Nonetheless”

Have you ever wondered who came up with the arrogant and offensive and inaccurate term “moral majority”? Or have you wondered who brought us the Heritage Foundation, that infamous right-wing group-think tank? Or, worse, who first thunk up the pro-business, anti-worker, culturally reactionary group we all know as ALEC?

coors crossThe culprit was Paul Weyrich. In 1979, the God-bedeviled theocrat co-founded, along with the god-awful telepreacher Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, a political action group that first married conservative Christianity to the Republican Party, a gift from hell that just keeps giving. Weyrich also talked Joseph Coors out of some beer money and helped start the Heritage Foundation, an organization that, from Ronald Reagan’s presidency to the present, has done much damage to the country.

But perhaps the most damage done by a group Weyrich co-founded has been done by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is, essentially, how corporations have been able to get Republican state legislators to toss corporation-written legislation into the hopper and eventually make it state law. Here’s how People for the American Way describes the organization:

ALEC’s agenda includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on polluters, infringing on workers’ rights, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters. 

As you can see, we can thank Paul Weyrich for a lot of what is wrong with 21st-century America. After his death in 2008, the Los Angeles Times noted that Weyrich’s role,

was not just political; it was acutely cultural, concerned with such matters as whether children are taught evolution or creationism in school, or whether homosexuality is portrayed as natural or profane.

“It may not be with bullets and . . . rockets and missiles, but it’s a war nonetheless,” he once said, describing the struggles that began to dominate public discourse in the late 1970s. “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.”

Bang, bang, in the name of Jesus! Here is a 40-second sample of Weyrich saying something that is quite relevant today:

 

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. And may he rest in peace for his honesty, if nothing else.

But Weyrich was onto something when he said to conservatives, “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” He was on to something because he knew his political and cultural conservatism wasn’t really part of a “majority,” moral or otherwise. He knew his efforts to shape the country into a quasi-theocratic state would fail if enough people went to the polls. Thus, the idea, then and now, is to keep as many people from voting as possible, specifically targeting those who are tempted to vote for devilish Democrats.

Which brings us to Missouri. Stacey Newman, a Democrat who represents the people of the 87th district (just west of St. Louis) in the Missouri House, posted the following a few days ago:

We were informed that Voter ID bills (HB30 and HJR1) will be heard in a special Elections hearing at 2pm Wednesday, January 21st.

As Rep. Newman points out,

This will be the 10th straight year that the Missouri GOP leadership has focused on making it harder for current longtime voters to vote, even though the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled voter ID proposals unconstitutional.

Ten years and counting. Remember what Weyrich said: “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.” That’s what it’s all about for these people. We best understand that, all of us who are on the other side of this war. These folks are serious. They won’t give up. Neither should we.

HB 30 is, by the way, co-sponsored by Joplin’s own Bill White. Now, I live here in Joplin and there is no problem, not the slightest hint of a problem, with the locals going to the polls and voting illegally. So, there must be some other reason why Bill White is in favor of voter ID laws, right? Could it be that he is worried about all the voters in other places in Missouri? Places like St. Louis and Kansas City, where a lot of the voters there don’t look like Bill, uh, White?

Paul Weyrich told us all we need to know about the motives of the ID-obsessed reactionaries here in Joplin, here in Missouri, and across the country: “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

As I said, may he rest in peace for his honesty.

________________________

State representative Newman ended her post with this call to activism (emphasis is hers):

What can you do?  We NEED people to testify, fill the hearing room in the Capitol, and express their outrage to the Speaker.  Contact Speaker Diehl – john.diehl@house.mo.gov and let him know what you think about voter suppression.

Voting rights is not a game.  We cannot afford to remain silent.

Their Father Taught Them Well

Some of us wonder what makes people, appearing to be drunk on religious faith, to kill others in the name of their religion. We wonder how someone starts out their day thinking, “This is the day the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad and in it—and kill infidels.”

It’s easy for Western Christians, particularly Christian Right blowhards here in the United States, to point to Muslims, at least those who terrorize others in the name of Islam, and say there is something inherently wrong with that religious tradition, that its unique Quranic theology endorses, indeed, encourages, violence against both non-Muslims and against those Muslims who deviate from a certain fundamentalist form of Islam. Even decidedly non-Christians like Bill Maher, commenting on the terrorist attacks in Paris, says of Islam:

When there are that many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.

Yes. There is something wrong. There is something wrong with the orchard of Islam. And what is wrong is in the soil.

But the ground from which the Islamic orchard blossomed also produced Judaism, with its murderous excesses chronicled in the Old Testament. And it also produced Christianity, with its murderous excesses recorded in secular history books. The soil in which the roots of these three monotheistic religious orchards have thrived—remember: Islam embraces the Bible, too, calling the Quran “a confirmation of” and “a fuller explanation of the Book”—has been poisoned by the same toxic idea, an idea found first in the Book of Genesis:

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

Every warrior for Yahweh, every soldier for Christ, every jihadist for Allah, could point to the idea found in that passage and, with a certain state of mind, find a justification for killing the wicked, the faithless, and the infidel in the name of God.

Or they could turn to another episode in Genesis where God destroyed two populated cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their imputed sin and wickedness.

The Massacre of the Innocents - Nicolas PoussinOr they could turn to the Book of Exodus and learn how God punished the Egyptians for the sins of their leader. Their punishment, among other things, was the killing of innocents, the firstborn sons of all Egyptians, of their slaves, even of their cattle.

Or they could turn to the Book of Numbers and learn of the slaughter of the Midianites, whose alleged sins amounted to their women having sex with the men of Israel, which then caused those men to worship the “false God” of the Midianites, which then meant the men were disloyal to the One True God. Moses ordered the death of every Midianite—man, woman, and child—and confiscated their wealth.

After that orgy of inspired violence and murder and plunder—there is plenty more, of course—it is rather easy for a zealous and disturbed mind to find a book-based justification for killing in the name of God, or Allah. All that is required is to determine just who are the wicked, the faithless, and the infidels.

Unfortunately for the world today, there are a few groups of armed extremists who have so determined, and thus are endeavoring to carry on a tradition recorded on the pages of an ancient book, the same book that conservative American Christians proudly tote to church with them every Sunday, a book that both Christians and Muslims believe is the Word of God.

Keeping Up With The Republicans

Here’s a headline from USA Today this morning:

Obama to propose paid sick leave for American workers

Now try to imagine this headline:

Romney to propose paid sick leave for American workers

I know, I know. You can’t imagine such a thing. There is no way Republicans would put workers on their agenda, except to attack workers’ rights to organize or sustain a union. But Republicans are up to something, right? They’re not just sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back, are they?

Nope. They’ve been busy. But besides saying President Obama is worse than Hitler, and besides saying he should start a religious war against Islam, what is the GOP doing these days? Oh, you know:

♥ The family values party has told Hispanic families to go straight to hell.

♥ And speaking of family values, God’s man in the upcoming GOP presidential field, former Arkansas governor and always a preacher Mike Huckabee, recently criticized the Obama’s for their parenting skills.

It seems Huck doesn’t like Beyoncé or her husband Jay-Z and thinks it is God-awful for the Obama daughters to be exposed to them.  As many have pointed out, though, the Huckster is a friend of Ted Nugent, who wrote a song about raping a 13-year-old girl, which apparently satisfies Huckabee’s lofty standards of moral decency.

huckabee and nugentOh, not only is Huckabee a friend of the draft-dodging Nugent—a man so vile and full of hate that calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” is one of the nicer things he has said about him—Huck also had Nugent on his Fox television show, where he played bass for the aging rocker on a nice rendition of “Cat Scratch Fever,” a song Ted wrote about getting laid when he was “just ten years old.” The song, performed before a mostly lily-white audience of like-minded evangelicals, also features this paean to godliness:

Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand
They know they gettin’ it from me
They know just where to go when they need their lovin’ man
They know I’m doin’ it for free

Amen. Thank God for Republican family values!

♥ Sen. Rand Paul, who also wants your vote for president, naturally thinks the way to demonstrate his qualifications for the office is by attacking disabled folks. That is in sync with the Tea Party-controlled House of Representatives, which on its first day in session this year passed a new parliamentary rule that will, essentially, hold hostage Social Security disability benefits, as GOP New Deal-haters figure out how much to cut from the program. Because, as we all know, there are tons of people—parasites, all—out there defrauding the system. Except there aren’t. Like most of these things, it is a Republican fantasy that people are lazy and don’t want to work, a fantasy that Rand Paul believes he can exploit for political gain, just like President Romney did.

♥ Speaking of Rand Paul, the man who is now directing RANDPAC, Paul’s political action committee, is John Yob. Who is John Yob? He’s the same man who helped get Dave Agema elected to a position on the Republican National Committee. So what? you might say. Who the hell is Dave Agema? Allow the National Journal to introduce him to you:

In a New Year’s Eve Facebook post, Michigan RNC Committeeman Dave Agema republished an essay from American Renaissance, a white-supremacist newsletter. The article, which Agema said he found “very enlightening,” argued that “blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”

That ain’t all:

Agema has a well-documented history of making inflammatory statements. He argued that President Obama is really a Muslim. He praised Vladimir Putin for Russia’s brutal stance on homosexuality. He blamed Satan for dividing the Republican Party. He even shared what he called an “eye opening” essay on Facebook that posed the question: “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”

Yep. He sits on the Republican National Committee, even though, finally, the GOP is “censuring” him.

♥ A man the GOP won’t censure, however, is that great American patriot, Louie Gohmert of Texas. Gohmert wishes “our top leaders in this country” had “the courage” of the military dictator—I said dictator—running Egypt. But the Tea Party genius didn’t stop there. He crapped on the efforts of the U.S. military, which has been at war, fighting terrorists, since 2002:

If the story is properly written about Egypt, and one day it will be, they will see that in the last six years, that besides Israel, the country that has been most fearless in standing up for freedom and against radical Islamic terrorism, unfortunately, has not been the United States because of our leadership. It has been the nation of Egypt.

I am sure the families of all those Americans killed, as well as all those Americans who have been wounded fighting “radical Islamic terrorism” for the last six years, appreciate the fact that a Republican congressman has their backs—at least long enough to stick an Obama-hating knife in them.

♥ On a happier note, one of the Tea Party nuts who voters, wisely, tossed out of Congress in 2012 is Joe Walsh from Illinois. Here is a headline about him that appeared on Talking Points Memo yesterday:

Ex-GOP Congressman Hopes ‘Cowards At CNN, MSNBC’ Are Beheaded

I remind you that this crazy man, despite losing to Tammy Duckworth in 2012, still got 45% of the vote.

♥ Oh, Mittens is back and this time he promises he will—really, truly, honest-to-Kolob—worry about the poor. And we know that, just like in the case of Joe Walsh, at least 45% of the electorate will believe him.

____________________

[AP photo: “A bugler plays during burial services for Army Staff Sgt. Scott W. Brunkhorst, Tuesday, April 13, 2010, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.” Staff Sgt. Brunkhorst, who was 25 years old, died “in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.”]

Jesus Hebdo

If you were to spend any time visiting Planet Hate, also known as the conservative media complex, you would find these days a lot of pundits and commenters using the following quote from President Obama, which they think makes him sound like he is firmly on the side of the extremist Muslims of the world:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

The President said that to the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. But, of course, he said a lot of other things and the quote above is just one among other “the future must not belong to” items he listed, like “The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt.” When have you seen a conservative use that quote?

In any case, I will supply what followed that seemingly Islam-embracing sentence in Obama’s UN speech that conservatives are tossing around like it proves our president is, if not a terrorist sympathizer, at least a Muhammad-loving, Jesus-hating appeaser:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.

So, you can see that really the President was lecturing Muslims about the sins of hypocrisy. Or more strongly, he was saying: If you don’t want your prophet dishonored, then stop hating on Christians and Jews. Obviously, he was not rhetorically siding with one group or another, but was expressing his concept of civility. That was, in essence, what his speech was about—even though I think the President was off-key in some of his remarks.

It all depends on what he meant by “slander” in “slander the prophet of Islam.” If he meant “making false statements” about Muhammad, that is one thing. The president is right about that. People should speak the truth, as they see it, about the prophet of Islam, or anyone else for that matter.

But if President Obama meant any criticism, including harsh criticism, of Muhammad or Islam is out-of-bounds, then he was quite wrong. That is what the entire Charlie Hebdo incident is about. Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or any religious leader today including the Pope, is fair game for criticism, even fair game for satire, even biting and sometimes offensive satire.

Whatever the President meant when he gave that speech in 2012, we know he is not on the side of those who killed innocents last week in Paris, even though some delusional right-wingers, those who comment on certain articles (like this one), tell themselves that he is (“Sounds like the shooting represents a “mission accomplished” for imam Barry,” says someone using the name “Libslayer”). These are sick people, and the depth of their hatred for Obama, a man they don’t know or understand, is otherwise inexplicable.

Leaving aside the clearly mentally disturbed people who call Obama a “miserable Muslim snake” and “the most evil man in America,” there are some more sober-minded Christian right-wingers who use Obama’s “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” quote as evidence that his heart isn’t in the fight against terrorism, as Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist suggests. She writes:

The fact is that, when it comes to Islamist radicalism, the Obama administration works to downplay threats. And probably for reasons related to that approach, the administration isn’t going to be the strongest defenders of art that is considered a capital offense of blasphemy by Islamist radicals.

Her reference to “art” is to Charlie Hebdo. All of a sudden, Christian conservatives are in love with Charlie—and they are mad at the “liberal” media because some news organizations are not publishing most of the satirical cartoons or are pixelating the naughty parts of some they do publish. These conservative Christians love Charlie right now because the magazine is unafraid to toss cartoon grenades into Islamic foxholes.

But I want to remind everyone that Charlie Hebdo doesn’t much like fundamentalist or conservative Christianity either. And if there’s one thing we know about right-wing Christians, it is that as much as many of them are now celebrating the lampooning of Muhammad and radical forms of Islam, they can get quite upset when Jesus is the butt of jokes or when Christianity is mocked or when their leaders are attacked (or they can just make up stuff, like the War on Christmas, and get all delirious over that).

I also want to remind everyone that Jesus wasn’t exactly a sheep-toting fan of the dominant religious leaders of his time, nor was he respectful of all the traditions of his faith. In fact, while most of the Jewish zealots in Jesus’ day were focused on ridding the land of Roman infidels, Jesus had a different enemy: Jewish leaders themselves.

He mocked them. He called them bad names. He condemned them. He was relentless in his criticism. If there were a Charlie Hebdo around in first century Palestine, Jesus could have been a cartoonist using sarcasm and satire to make his point about the absurdities of the leaders of Judaism and some of the ridiculous traditions they had established and some of their creative, self-serving interpretations of Jewish law.

I will leave you with a rather lengthy passage from the The Gospel of Matthew that I hope you will read in its entirety. And when you read it, think about all that we have seen and heard over the past week regarding Charlie Hebdo. And then wonder how the Jesus below fits in with it all. How does he and his words relate to the debate over civility, over criticism of religion, and over harsh language directed at powerful religious figures, some of whom, as Jesus himself discovered, are eager to see the execution of someone who has offended them:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.  And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

“But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

“Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.

Sikkos [sic]

Talking about the terrorist attacks in Paris, Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from Warmonger, South Carolina, said on Fox on Sunday:

I have no idea why the President of the United States won’t call this a religious war.

The Christian Soldier then, quite unbelievably, proceeded to blame Obama for the rise of radical Islam.

Byron York, a reactionary columnist writing for a reactionary news outlet called the Washington Examiner, wrote a piece that was celebrated by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on Tuesday. York, among other things, said that President Obama didn’t make a mistake by not attending the big rally in Paris last Saturday. It was all just part of the plan:

The administration no-shows were not a failure of optics, or a diplomatic misstep, but were instead the logical result of the president’s years-long effort to downgrade the threat of terrorism and move on to other things…

So when the president chose not to attend the Paris march, nor to send the Vice President or Secretary of State, the problem wasn’t a tin-ear sense of public relations. It was Obama’s actual attitude toward the terror threat facing not only Europe but the United States. We’ve dealt with the big stuff, Obama has declared, now let’s move on.

Apparently Mr. York’s head has been holed up in Mr. York’s colon for the last six years. Barack Obama, far from moving on from the “terror threat,” has been daily—heck, hourly—dropping bombs on or shooting missiles at terrorists somewhere in the world. For God’s sake, he’s even put troops back in Iraq, where there weren’t any terrorists until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney decided to invade the country.

All that is bad enough, but then there is congressman Randy Weber, who succeeded the nutty Ron Paul in the 14th congressional district in Texas (so you know he’s got his shit together, right?). Weber has previously referred to President Obama in a tweet as “Kommandant-In-Chef”—yes, he said “chef”—and “the Socialist dictator who’s been feeding US a line or is it “A-Lying”—at least he didn’t spell it “dick tater.”

Now Weber has once again not only shown his penchant for avoiding spell check, but his penchant for public displays of stupidity:

randy weber tweet

I get it! Barack Obama is worse than “Adolph” Hitler! How funny! No wonder that’s been Favorited over 500 times.

These people are sick, you know. Nearly every last one of them. And until the Scary Negro leaves the White’s House, I’m afraid they’re just going to get sicker.

 

Muhammad Wept?

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

—Gospel of John

Today’s issue of the “irresponsible newspaper,” featuring the caption, “All is forgiven”:charlie cover

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