Remarks And Asides

In today’s Globe, Thomas Sowell’s column, which is a long advertisement for his newest book, contained the same old conservative argument: Banks were forced by bleeding heart types to loan money to undeserving poor people, who naturally couldn’t pay it back, which caused the economic crisis.

This ridiculous argument, echoed by locals like Konrad Heid, Allen Shirley, and Richard La Near, is used to attack those who believe that as many people as possible should share in the hassle dream of home ownership.

Conservatives constantly cite the Community Reinvestment Act as the culprit in the current crisis. Here are just a few facts that contradict their argument:

1. The CRA does not require banks to make bad loans. The law states that CRA lending must be done according to “safe and sound banking practices.” In fact, Konrad Heid has even admitted that the bank he previously managed did not engage in unsafe lending practices, thus it remained solid. Well, if Mr. Heid’s bank did not have to make bad loans, why did any bank?

2. CRA lenders—even when the subprime market was thriving—made a lower proportion of subprime loans than non-regulated lenders. The vast majority of the top subprime lenders had no CRA obligations at all.

3. The Federal Reserve conducted its own study and found that the CRA is not to blame for the subprime crisis and the fall of the housing market.

4. Some studies suggest that the CRA helped minimize the impact of the subprime crisis. One study concluded:

CRA Banks were less likely to make a high cost loan, charged less for the high cost loans that were made, and were substantially more likely to eschew the secondary market and hold high cost and other loans in portfolio.

So, despite the fact that conservatives continue to argue themselves into permanent obscurity and irrelevance, the poor—and the government’s efforts to help them through the Community Reinvestment Act—are not responsible for our present troubles.
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Speaking of ridiculous conservative arguments, Limbaugh, Hannity, and company have argued for some time that newspapers were going out of business because of their “liberal” bias. They have argued that people are abandoning them because they simply can’t trust them to report the news fairly.

Without mentioning the conservative attack on newspapers, in this morning’s Globe William B. Ketter does a nice job of setting the record straight on the health of the newspaper business. He cites these stats:

There are about 1,400 daily and 8,000 non-daily newspapers and newspaper Web sites in America. Overall, they’re read by 100 million adults in the country, according to Scarborough Research. That’s more people than bought a lotto ticket in the past month.

He also makes the point that there is a correlation between newspaper readership and an increase in education, which may explain why some conservatives dislike newspapers.

In any case, he assures us that “newspapers remain profitable,” and I hope he is right. But there can be no doubt that the newspaper-haters, led by people, who sane conservative columnist Kathleen Parker calls “the food-fighters on TV or the grenade throwers on radio,” are having some effect on readership.

Ms. Parker writes :

Unfortunately, the chorus of media bashing from certain quarters has succeeded in convincing many Americans that they don’t need newspapers. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press recently found that fewer than half of Americans — 43 percent — say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot.” Only 33 percent say they would miss the local paper if it were no longer available.

What those 33% would miss, as Ms. Parker accurately points out, is an institution that is “responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic.

Despite their incessant attacks, television and radio conservatives rely heavily on newspapers and newspaper reporting and editing to provide them with source material for their various shows, which, of course, they proceed to distort to the best of their abilities.

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Speaking of those who distort the news, here is the last part of an email I received on Wednesday from Sean Hannity, who, by the way, is a Great American:

What this country needs is another Ronald Regan. It was Regan’s success as a conservative that energized the entire country. Regan’s same philosophy, if articulated by a dynamic, charismatic conservative, will win back Republican power.

I looked on the internet for a photo of Ronald Regan, but was unable to find one. This other guy, Ronald Reagan, I think it was, kept popping up.

What is it with conservatives and their spell-checkers? You would think that since our 40th president is one of Sean’s heroes, that he would at least know how to spell his name. It’s a good thing George W. Busch wasn’t required to spell the name of his hero, Jesus Krist.
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COMMENTS:

From: Anson
Friday, May 1, 2009, 10:32 AM
Duane,

The first question I have is did the CRA “contribute to” (not “cause”) the current economic crisis?

Second, why do “they” (Congress, the media, etc) call them Sub Prime mortgages? I always thought that the lowest interest rates (Prime or Prime + a small number) went to borrowers with the best credit. Big interest rates and restrictive terms (call it Way Above Prime) went to higher risk borrowers.

Whoever or whatever institution made such (Prime PLUS, PLUS) loans did so for many reasons. Is political pressure in whatever form one of those reasons? Did such risky loans contribute to, but not cause, exclusively, the current economic crisis.

A recent commenter to my latest Voices letter said “if people can get credit, they will”. Do you agree with him/her? Is that inclination of “people”, maybe a lot of “people”, a contributor to the current economic mess?

Anson

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From: Anson
Friday, May 1, 2009, 10:40 AM
Sorry, I have another two thoughts.

Your wrote above “This ridiculous argument, echoed by locals like Konrad Heid, Allen Shirley, and Richard La Near, is used to attack those who believe that as many people as possible should share in the hassle dream of home ownership. “

Please explain what you mean by the word “possible”?

Also, I am impressed that you received an email from Sean Haggerty, or Handkerchief, or Hannity-Reagan, or Grand Inquisitor (the guy in the big hood) or whatever. I can’t even get McCaskill or Blunt to respond to my political platform for “middlers” recently posted. And they work for me!!

Anson

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From: Duane

Friday, May 1, 2009, 02:07 PM

Anson,

To answer some of your questions:

1. The term subprime simply refers (as I understand it) to those loans that are made when certain conditions (poor credit rating, inadequate collateral, etc.) would normally necessitate not making the loan without increasing the interest rate for payback of the loan. Think in terms of quality (prime) and below quality (subprime) loans. I’m not sure where the term originated, but I don’t believe it has anything to do with interest rates.

2. I can’t find anything from non-partisan sources that conclusively proves that the CRA lenders contributed to the crisis. I have found studies that show that the CRA was NOT responsible, including one done by the Federal Reserve, which is not a liberal institution. But I am sure there will be more and better studies done in time. CRA lending appears to constitute a much smaller percentage of the subprime market than I was initially led to believe by conservatives, but even if it weren’t, their claims that it caused the crisis (yes, they initially claimed it did) would still be logically invalid.

3. You question about political pressure is related to the CRA. As I said, the CRA, as far as I can tell, was not a major factor in the crisis, and I don’t know where else the political pressure would come from. If you dig deep enough, you will find that the subprime lending culture had little to do with the government, including the fact that it was largely unregulated. It appears that a majority of subprime loans were not made to low-income folks. And it appears that the troubles in the mortgage market were turned into a “crisis” because of Wall Street gambling. The best example was AIG, which insured such gambling to the extent that its tentacles were everywhere and no one wanted to risk a total collapse by letting it fail.

4. As far as whether people, seeking credit they shouldn’t (sometimes enticed by lenders), contributed to the crisis, I would say that, of course, the crisis had to have a beginning point. That point appears to be the failure of a percentage of borrowers (again, most were not CRA related) to continue paying their mortgages. But the way I see it, mortgage defaulters were necessary, but not sufficient to cause the crisis. I believe that if all there was to the crisis was a relatively small but significant number of defaulters, then we could have addressed that situation much more cheaply than what we have had to do up to this point. As I said, the crisis was exponentially exacerbated by gamblers wearing fancy suits and ties, and it is unfair to blame the poor and the CRA for the hundreds of billions of “bailout” money to date. That is my only point about all of this, and the only one I care to argue about passionately.

5. You asked what I meant by the word “possible,” as it relates to the number of people who the “we” (the government is “we”) should help achieve home ownership. What I mean is those, who in compliance with the CRA guidelines of “safe and sound banking practices,” would otherwise not qualify for “prime” loans, but who may qualify for loans with higher rates attached, if they can demonstrate a practicable plan to pay back the loan. This would not include lending to those who had no ability to pay back the loans, as some non-CRA lenders did (many to middle class borrowers). As a reminder, I quoted one study in which it was demonstrated that CRA banks were not as onerous on subprime borrowers as other subprime lenders and were “more likely” not to sell their loans on the secondary market; such selling to the secondary market was the efficient cause of the problems, according to Ben Bernanke.

6. Don’t be too impressed that Hannity has me on his email list. I get automated emails from all of the right wingers, just to keep abreast of the width and depth of conservative insanity. And I suggest that if you want to get in touch with Blunt, you make a rather large donation to his senatorial campaign. His ears will really perk up if you flash the cash.

RDG

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KZRG Is Out To Get Me

 
Awakened Monday morning by the clock radio, the alarm mistakenly set for 2:45am, I was entertained by a program on Mark Kinsley’s beloved KZRG called, “Coast To Coast AM with George Noory,” apparently broadcast each night from Midnight to 5:00am.

Part of the program involved a host, who was quite serious, taking calls from people with various accounts of strange powers or strange experiences. Like Julie in Oshkosh, who reported that the ringing in her ears correlated with various earthquakes around the world. Or Jacqueline, who described her abduction, in which she was taken into the sky, and her belief that the government was tracking her via microchips placed strategically in credit cards she receives in the mail. The host, helpfully, reminded her that they could just as easily be planted in her body, and he also advised her to get a body scan. “Maybe, I will get one next week,” she said.

And there was Linda in Chicago, who speculated that the latest swine flu virus may have been engineered by the government, as a weapon. The host, in a rare moment of rationality, assured her that, as of yet, there wasn’t enough evidence to believe the government was involved.

Another part of the program featured a couple, Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips, whose story is, well, miraculous. It seems Ms. O’Brien, an alleged victim of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA research program, was “covertly rescued from her mind control enslavement by Intelligence insider Mark Phillips.” While it would take too long to go into the intricate details, here is a summary of the things the couple have alleged happened to Ms. O’Brien, some mentioned on the show on Monday:

O’Brien alleges that she was abducted by the CIA as a child and forced to participate in a mind control program named Project Monarch, which is said to be a subsection of MKULTRA and Project ARTICHOKE.

O’Brien claims that, as part of Monarch, she was forced to serve as “a top-level intelligence agent and White House sex slave” for (among others) Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter with West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd working as her handler for the latter part of her time in the program. She states that she remained in the program until 1988 when she was rescued by Mark Phillips, who she claims is a former CIA operative.

O’Brien alleges that her daughter Kelly (born 1980), currently a ward of the state of Tennessee, is also a victim of Monarch.

Of O’Brien, religion scholar Matthias Gardell writes:

O’Brien claims to have been abused since she was a toddler. Forced to partake in satanic sadomasochistic child pornography movies produced for Gerald Ford, she was eventually sold to the CIA, which was looking for traumatized children for their mind-control program … U.S. Presidents Ford, [and many other world leaders] all sexually brutalized her. She recounts in graphic detail how the elder George Bush raped her thirteen year old daughter and how she was forced to have oral sex with Illuminati witch Hillary Clinton … While being sodomized, whipped, bound and raped, O’Brien overheard the globalist elite planning a military coup in the United States and conspiring to usher in the satanic New World Order.

On websites, O’Brien claims she was rescued in 1988, which suggests that her daughter Kelly was no more than eight years old when last abused. Phillips stated in a Granada Forum lecture in 1996 that Kelly was in fact institutionalized when she was eight and has been raised in a mental institution.

Now, while I thought it strange and perplexing that any radio station that calls itself “News Talk, Radio You Can Depend On” would resort to such tacky overnight programming, I soon figured it all out.

On the “Links of Interest” page on the KZRG website, there are, understandably, links to local Republican representatives, who, after all, dominate our politics. But there is a link to the Missouri Republican Party and no such link to the Missouri Democratic Party. Further, the last time I checked, we had a Democratic Governor, whose website might perhaps qualify as a “link of interest.” But Gov. Nixon enjoys no such connection to the Joplin conspiracy-believing public.

So, I surmised that only Republicans—currently bewildered by their lack of political power—would be interested in conspiracies in order to understand and explain their electoral crisis. And to offer such paranoid Republicans some spiritual support, KZRG offers on Sundays from 8am to 11am a talk show hosted by perhaps the most famous Republican of all, Jesus Christ.

And then I realized the KZRG’s attempt to cater to the conspiracist crowd wasn’t just limited to overnight programming. I remembered that the story of the CIA-controlled, White House sex-slave, Cathy O’Brien, was told and presented as truth on the same station that carries Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Voila! Of course! It wasn’t so strange that KZRG would carry wee-hour programs such as Coast to Coast, with its appeal to paranoics, because much of the daytime programming at KZRG is also about fear and paranoia, about Obama plots and Democratic schemes, about, well, government conspiracies.

Some of these daytime hosts entertain callers who also phone in with wild tales, most as nutty as Jacqueline’s account of being whisked skyward by her secret abductor. On the same day that Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips were guests on Coast to Coast, Rush Limbaugh took a call from Christine in Westchester :

CALLER: Thank goodness for you and the Heritage Foundation, otherwise I don’t know what we would do. The reason I’m calling you today is I’m commenting on your comment regarding Saul Alinsky and Barack Obama’s being a great student of his, and I think as a more contemporary person I would focus on George Soros. I mean, it just seems to me that the little bit that I know about him, it’s not just about the money, it’s just… If you look at everything that Obama is doing, it’s George Soros.RUSH: Well, we can argue about, you know, who is the man behind the curtain, but why do you think there is one?CALLER: (laughs)RUSH: Really, no, I’m serious.

CALLER: Okay.

RUSH: This is not a trick question. Why do you think there’s somebody, whoever it is, behind Obama?

CALLER: Because I don’t think he’s good enough to have done all of this all on his own.

RUSH: You mean at age 47 and as a community organizer, you’re not really prepped to be president?

CALLER: You betcha. Yes, I do.

RUSH: And after a hundred days working in the Senate, you’re not qualified enough to be president?

CALLER: No absolutely not.

RUSH: So you think that somebody picked Obama because they knew that the combination of things Obama is — his race, his eloquence, his ability to read the teleprompter — would sort of make him immune from any criticism, that nobody will have the guts to be critical of Obama?

CALLER: I think so. I think he’s been primed for a lot longer than most of us ever even imagine. Now, I may sound a little crazy, and maybe I’m a little bit of a conspiracy kook.

RUSH: Okay, so why do you… Well, this is what happened. She’s reacting, by the way, folks, to a comment I made a little over an hour ago. I had a bunch of houseguests in for the week, 15 people here from Wednesday night through Saturday night (they all left on Sunday) and at dinner every night, all these topics were discussed. One of the things that was discussed is it turned out everybody had a theory explaining Obama, much like yours, Christine. They just don’t think this guy could have risen himself from his own background, had to have a sponsor, had to have somebody orchestrating, directing it, so forth and so on. So everybody started talking about names, who might it be, and of course Soros is a popular one because his hatred of America is well known. His hatred of Republicans is well known. His pocketbook size is also well known.

One of the guests suggesting that it was even somebody like the king of Saudi Arabia after Obama’s bow, because Obama is eager to paralyze our ability to defend ourselves, which is what our enemies want. One person, just to show you how much fun we have when we get together — Christine, you’ll probably love this — one guy in the group said, “Everybody’s waiting on a second terror attack. There’s not going to be a second terror attack. There isn’t going to be one! The terrorists, they’re entertainers. They know performance requirements. They know theatrics. They know if they do a second terror attack. They’re going to have to make it much bigger than 9/11. Your second act has to be bigger than the first act.” He said, “Besides, they don’t need a second act. Obama is the second terrorist act!” I mean, I had opinions in my house going all over the ballpark. It was fascinating. And these are all, in their own right, involved, intelligent people.

But somebody actually thought Obama is terrorist attack number two. Obama is the follow-up to 9/11. So I find it interesting that among those who oppose Obama a lot of people think he couldn’t be doing this on his own. There’s gotta be somebody behind him, somebody writing the speeches. We know that’s Axelrod. Somebody putting words in the teleprompter. We know that that’s Axelrod. Somebody who may have chosen him, prepped him, groomed him, what have you, some man behind the curtain. So she thinks it’s Soros. In the discussion in the last hour, I mentioned, “It’s Alinsky! It’s Saul Alinsky. It’s Rules for Radicals. It’s the book.”

After hearing Limbaugh discuss his and his guests’ conspiratorial delusions, I concluded that the people on Coast to Coast, those who believe that they are routinely abducted by aliens or the CIA, didn’t seem so crazy after all. And at least those people are sequestered on nighttime radio, on programs with anemic ratings and inconsequential hosts, where their peculiar and paranoia-soaked theories do not enjoy much legitimacy.

But rightwing talk radio in the daytime is much different. In some markets it is quite popular, but that’s not the main reason it is so hazardous to our collective health. The fact that Republican politicians—among them future party leaders—refuse to criticize such programs and their hosts is the real danger in the proliferation of paranoia facilitated by stations like KZRG. There is apparently nothing that Rush Limbaugh can say or do that would cause a single Republican politician of consequence to criticize him, without later repenting in a fit of sycophantic prostration.

Sadly, Limbaugh is free from censure from the very people who might be able to rescue the Republican Party from its troubles. And as long as potential Republican leaders stand in his shadow, they will serve a party that is itself only a bit player in our national politics. And as long as they remain silent about comments like the following, made on Monday, they will give legitimacy to them:

LIMBAUGH: The reason that the swine flu and the torture garbage is out there is to cover up the mess that is the United States of America right now.

Is it any wonder that Linda in Chicago can believe that the government might be in the business of creating flu viruses?
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COMMENTS: 

From: Anson Burlingame
Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 12:57 PM
 
Duane,

Paul Belaga called Tea Party attendees “whinning, something, weasels”. Not hard to find dopes on both sides.

A young, charismatic, smart, but extraordinarily inexperienced senator (forget the race) gives a great speech 5 years ago at the Democrat Convention and now is the President.

A young, charismatic, smart (maybe) but extraordinarily inexperienced governor (forget the gender) receives the Vice Presidential nomination.

No doubt Obama received strong support from the left wing, anti-war segment of the Democrats. No doubt Sara Palin received strong support from the right wing, religious segment of the Republicans.

Nothing wrong with either getting such support. But it sure would be interesting to know the details of the powers behind the throne in each case and how much control they continue to exert today.

Anson

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From: Duane

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 01:59 PM
 
Anson,

I can only respond to you by pointing out the following:

1. Paul Begala doesn’t have a cult following.

2. Paul Begala doesn’t believe he is a leading voice for any kind of “movement.”

3. The fact that you imply that Limbaugh is a “dope” is exactly what the Republican leadership does not do, and is exactly what is wrong with the party.

4. Barack Obama’s support for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his refusal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq (which is what the “left wing” demanded) contradicts your implication that the left wing exerts any “control” whatsoever on him.

Duane

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From: jonas

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 02:07 PM
 

Anson,

Just by reading the Belaga quote that begins your response, it appears you’re missing the point.

This is made especially obvious by the ridiculous parallel you attempt to draw between Obama and Palin.

It’s disappointing that you, of all people, would try and perpetuate the very fear and paranoia that Graham is criticizing in his blog with such a conspiracy-inciting comment as, “But it sure would be interesting to know the details of the power behind the throne in each case and how much control they continue to exert today.”

Dear Anson

In my last entry, I asserted that there was an analogy between the Reagan defense buildup in the 1980s, which was funded by deficit spending, and the Bush/Obama response to our current economic troubles, also funded by deficit spending.
Anson Burlingame, fellow blogger, responded to my assertion (see comments to last entry) by apparently disagreeing with the analogy. As I understand him, he thinks that the nature of the Soviet threat, which was the de facto justification for the huge defense-spending increases under Reagan, was understood and accepted as “fact,” and therefore the deficit spending wasn’t as controversial. Anson is skeptical that the current massive stimulus spending is necessary, and wonders whether we can afford President Obama’s efforts to achieve some of his domestic goals. Anson’s concerns are legitimate and are no doubt shared by many sensible people—except, of course, most babble heads on conservative radio.
So, I wanted to respond to Anson here, hopefully to make the parallel a little clearer and the rationale for supporting Obama more transparent to those who may not understand why anyone would defend the enormous amount of spending that is currently going on.

Anson,

Your assumption that people in the 1980s shared your understanding of the obvious nature of the Soviet threat—which required massive government spending to confront—is, I think, mistaken.

Just as a quick example, in 1987, when he was a Republican presidential candidate, General Alexander Haig (remember him?) criticized Reagan this way, according to the Washington Post:

Haig told Washington Post editors and reporters that Reagan’s tax cuts and spending policies, particularly his defense buildup, are responsible for the enormous federal budget and foreign trade deficits and said that the defense buildup in the first years of the Reagan administration was wasteful and possibly counterproductive.

And that was the opinion of a Republican.

Another example involves NATO’s deployment in Western Europe of the American-made Pershing II nuclear missiles, which was highly controversial at the time. The fight over the deployment, as I remember it, was very divisive, showing that there was not a consensus on our approach to countering the Soviet menace. In fact, the Soviets were using ongoing discussions over the reduction of Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) as a tool to undermine Western support for the Pershing II deployment.

As Time magazine reported then:

…it is clear that the Soviets’ skillful propaganda—stressing their peaceful intentions, their willingness to reduce their numbers of missiles aimed at Western Europe and their flexibility at the bargaining table—has convinced many Europeans that the Soviet disarmament goals are genuine.

So, I think it is incorrect to suggest that the facts were much clearer about the threat posed by the Soviet Union than they are about the current economic crisis. To me, the two are strikingly similar. The need now to spend mountains of money may not be as apparent to you, Anson, as it is to others, just like the need in the early 1980s to spend mountains of money to counter the Soviets was not as apparent to some as it was to others.

There was doubt about what to do about the Soviet threat, and there was doubt about what to do about the economic crisis. To adequately address both perceived threats (real or not), required much deficit spending, and good people can differ about the wisdom of spending money we don’t have; but they should do so without–as many conservatives now do–calling Obama a Socialist, Communist, Marxist, foreigner, or any other epithet du jour.

Finally, your speculation that Obama’s efforts regarding health care, green energy, and education may fail to “produce the desired results” is quite possibly the way it will turn out. But even you believe those efforts are legitimate, though you are dubious about whether those efforts should be funded by deficit spending. I reluctantly share your skepticism about the results, largely because our political system is by design a cumbersome instrument by which to achieve clean outcomes. What is proposed initially quite likely will look very different at the end, and who knows whether it will work.

I also share your concern about the amount of money we have spent and are spending, and there is, as I said, a legitimate debate on whether it was and is necessary. But if Obama’s efforts are successful—if they meet even our mildest, not to mention our wildest, expectations—the legacy we will hand our children and grandchildren will be worth the deficit spending, just like the end of the Cold War (if it was in fact hastened by Reagan’s big budgets) was worth the money we spent but didn’t yet have in the 1980s.

I want to direct you to something written in 2004 by Brian Riedl, a member of the Church of Ronald Reagan of Latter Day Conservatives, also known as the Heritage Foundation:

Not all debt is bad. Mortgage debt and student loan debt are worthy investments. No one criticizes President Franklin Roosevelt for the massive debt that financed World War II. Yet the commentators criticizing President Reagan for the $2.1 trillion in added debt (all numbers are in today’s dollars) ignore how that debt won the Cold War, lowered the tax burden, and ignited the largest economic boom in American history.

… President Reagan spent $3 trillion on defense, well above the $2.2 trillion baseline. What did that extra $800 billion buy? The end of the Cold War — saving,  perhaps, a billion lives from nuclear extinction.

While that bit of hyperbole may be as overblown as talk last year that our financial system risked extinction, and while we may be apprehensive about the accumulating and massive debt, there are some of us, like those who accepted Reagan’s massive defense spending almost 30 years ago, who are willing to give Obama a chance to—and are offering him our hopes that he will—succeed, rather than hoping he fails, like so many on the Right now do.

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COMMENTS: 

From: Anson

Sunday, April 26, 2009, 12:12 PM 

Duane,

As you acknowledged in a subsequent email, you did not mention by point about the constitutional mandate for “raising and army and navy” and the lack of such a mandate in the constitution for universal health care, et al. For those interested please read both of my comments to Duane’s Limbaughnitics blog.

Make no mistake, if we can pay for it over time, I fully support President Obams’s vision.

The accumulation of debt for investment in the future is a wonderful part of America. Borrow for a house or education makes all the sense in the world, IF, you have a rational plan to ultimately pay off the debt and in your own lifetime. That is what I consider “living within your means”. No will should contain a mortgage payment or credit card payment for the beneficiaries.

Debt amortization must be a part of any budget. It is an expense over the long run just like groceries are a short term expense. But whoa befall the household that buys a $500,000 house when only a $100,000 house matches the budget. And whoa befall the lender as well.

The vision for the investment and the debt amortization for the expense must run hand in hand. I only see one so far under this President and that worries me, a lot.

Anson

Limbaughnics, 101

Usually, it is easy to tell when local contributors to the Globe are dittoheads. Besides the strange things they write, the particular language they use is a dead giveaway. For instance, because I have a PhD in Limbaughnics, I detected immediately that Allen Shirley and Richard La Near were dittoheads, simply by the various words or phrases they would use when sharing their conservative wisdom with Globe readers.

A perfect example of Limbaughnics appeared in yesterday’s paper, when Joseph Anthony Yantis, of Pittsburg, wrote in and used the name “Barry” in reference to President Obama. Now, it doesn’t bother me when a contributor to the Globe‘s opinion page refers to Obama by the nickname he has long since abandoned, because it gives me valuable insight into the mind of the writer. It screams: THIS PERSON IS A FLAMING DITTOHEAD.

You see, the only people I have ever heard use the name “Barry” to refer to the president is Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and a few of their inferior imitators. I’m not sure why they use the name, but they seem to think it is rather clever, which, of course, it isn’t, but the bar of wit is not all that hard to surmount in the world of rightwing radio.

But besides the revealing language dittoheads use, there are those strange things they say, like in the case of Mr. Yantis:

The tea parties last week, with an estimated national turnout of 669,000, were a great start and were an educational learning tool…

Dittoheads really believe that it is possible to nail down–at all of the Tea Parties across America–a fairly exact number like 669, 000. But in fact, I happen to know there were only 668,999 people who attended. One gentleman at the Joplin Tea Party, fearful my camera was an FBI surveillance tool, fled the premises after the Official Tea Party Counter logged him in, but before the festivities began. So, I don’t think it is fair to count him, and hopefully Mr. Yantis will write in and correct this outrageous inflation of Tea Party attendance.

Another strange example:

Now it’s time for the American Idol and Jerry Springer generations to get involved and realize that tax increases on the so-called wealthy will also affect you through layoffs and price increases.

Isn’t it amazing that dittohead writers have a tendency to defend the rich? Could it be that all of the propaganda they imbibe comes from wealthy conservatives? And I wasn’t aware of an economic class called “so-called wealthy.” This term is obviously an allusion to Rush’s oft-repeated claim that Democrats think anyone who makes more than minimum wage is “rich.”

Here’s more evidence that Mr.Yantis is a dittohead:

Reagan left us a model of how you get out of a recession by cutting taxes after Carter’s mess; meanwhile Barack Obama wants to do the exact opposite by spending his (our) way out.

While a regular dittohead may not remember too much about Ronald Reagan, since he left office more than 20 years ago, most are familiar with the revisionist history of Reagan through their radio sources. In short, Reagan was God, if you discount the fact that he developed Alzheimer’s and eventually died. And if it weren’t for those two myth-busting facts, conservatives would long ago have erected temples in which to gather and worship this economic genius. Some say the Heritage Foundation is very close to achieving temple status, lacking only an agreement on the proper vestments to wear during services to honor their hero.

In any case, belief in the magic of Reaganomics is required, if you are to remain a faithful adherent of modern conservative orthodoxy, because Reaganomics has become the political equivalent of the Theory of Atonement: Whosoever cutteth taxes on the wealthy, shalt be saved from economic hell.

Mr. Yantis’ accusation that Obama is “spending his (our) way out” of the recession is odd coming from a Reagan devotee. While Reagan, taking office in 1981, did cut income tax rates, he also increased spending substantially. In 1981, the budget deficit was 2.7% of GDP; two years later, after Reagan’s policies had been implemented, the budget deficit was 6.3% of GDP. During the period 1981 through 1989, the national debt rose from 27% to 42% of GDP. And despite the predictions of supply-side economists, the personal savings rate during the 1980s not only did not rise, it fell from 8% to 6.5%, a trend that continued until recently.

And although Reagan’s marginal tax rate cuts are legendary, what is less well known is that payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) under his administration were raised so that the combined share of income taxes and payroll taxes for middle-income families with children actually increased under Reagan. So much for the legend.

The federal budget, a source of concern now that Obama is president, was almost 70% higher when Reagan left office than when he began, which represented a 22% increase in real terms. Stingy on domestic spending, which increased only 5.8%, Reagan spent real money on defense, doubling the Pentagon’s budget during his tenure.

Now, I happen to agree with those who say that Reagan’s defense spending, to the extent it contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, was worth going into debt for, which meant passing on the costs to future generations. But those future generations should be grateful that the Cold War is over and the fact that we may have had to borrow money to help end it is just an example of how future generations not only inherit our deficits, but sometimes they also inherit the good things those deficits bought us.

In the present case, all of the best evidence indicates that we were very close to a financial meltdown, and extraordinary measures, including massive government spending, were needed. While none of us mere mortals know whether the crisis was as bad as reported, those in charge, beginning with George W. Bush, believed it was, and Obama still does. Just like the case of the defense buildup in the 1980s, no one can know for sure if the present stimulus spending and expansive budget will prove to be wise investments, through which our children will benefit, or they are just an overreaction to an overblown crisis.

Who wanted to take the chance in the 1980s that the Soviet threat was mostly exaggerated and not spend money we didn’t have to build up our defenses? Mostly liberals.

And who wants to take a chance now that the policymakers are all wrong and gamble with our economic futures by not adequately addressing our situation? Mostly conservatives.

The point is that ideology should not trump prudence, and no one can make an intelligent case that Obama’s stimulus policies are based on anything other than avoiding a perceived–real or not–collapse of our financial system.

Anyway, the final bit of evidence that Mr. Yantis is a dittohead, was this rather lengthy rant:

Now we have the new Department of Homeland Security report, which basically claims that anyone opposing most liberal views might be a potential terrorist and encompasses more than half of us, including our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The same department formed to protect Americans from Islamic extremists is now being used to prosecute us instead.

An alarming pattern is emerging of nationalizing businesses, Barry’s AmeriCorps, the DHS report, along with a media not reporting anymore. Add in the next battles of amnesty for illegal aliens, the right to bear arms along with free-speech restrictions through the reinstituting of the Fairness Doctrine and this should concern any common-sense American. If you think the tea events were big, just wait until Barry tries to ram these items down our throats and you will see millions voicing their objections.

A regular dittohead is simply not capable of weaving jots and tittles of truth (for instance, there is a Department of Homeland Security and “Barry” was Obama’s nickname) into such an elaborately distorted paranoid fantasy without substantial help from his friends on the radio.

And being an expert on Limbaughnics, I am just the man to point it out.
__________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:

Anson writes:
Friday, April 24, 2009, 01:10 PM

Duane,

Well Done. Your critique of the mystic of Reagan based on the observable facts of historical budgets is well put and accurate.

It however, brings up other issues in counter argument. It was a fact that the Soviets had 7000+ nuclear warheads point at us. It was a fact that the Red Army, undeterred by nuclear deterrence could have overtaken Western Europe in a matter of weeks with an army many times the size and strength of NATO. It is a fact that communist ideology advocated the overthrown of democracy. I could go on. And of course the great unknown is would they have used those facts to dominate. Who knows?

I am not nearly as convinced today that without bailouts by either party that the economy would have collapsed. I am not convinced that individual or collective efforts in the fields of health care, green energy or education will produce the desired results. Few can argue the legitimacy of such domestic goals. Many can argue how to pay for it.

While I am not certain, if you add up all the cost associated with Obams’s social agenda and match it in real dollars against Reagan’s military buildup, I am pretty sure the Obama costs would far exceed anything envisioned by Reagan to end the cold war.

And even if the President spent all the money he wants, I am not sure that the benefits to the US would be equal to ending the Cold War. That of course is a question or opinion, not a fact.

__________________________________________________________

Anson writes: 
Friday, April 24, 2009, 02:42 PM
One other point.

The constitution mandates that congress “raise an army and navy”. National defense is clearly a federal government responsibility, constitutionally.

It would take a constitutional lawyer with far greater skills than me to contrive a constitutional mandate to provide health care for all, create green energy, maybe even education. Not at all sure about the last one, but pretty firm that the first two are not covered.

That of course is not to argue that non-constitutionally mandated programs are not worthwhile or even absolutely necessary. But when we stack up our wish list of programs, maybe the constitution is a good place to help us prioritize the list, at least for starters.

Anson, again

The “S” Word

Thinking that Abraham Lincoln had pretty much put the kibosh on the idea that states had the right to divorce themselves from Western civilization, I was unaware that a significant number among us believe the right of secession exists.

Last year, Zogby found that 22% of American adults “believe that any state or region has the right to peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.” A slightly smaller number (18%) would support secessionist efforts in their states.

Now, I have to admit that until last summer, when I was getting acquainted with Sarah Palin, I hadn’t given much thought to the idea. Gov. Palin, it turns out, was palling around with secessionists, and may actually have been sleeping with one, what with Todd’s membership in the Alaskan Independence Party, which has been historically hospitable to dissolution.

Anyway, I just assumed that the Palins were part of that peculiar northern culture, the sort of people who in comparison would make even McDonald County folks worthy of a feature in Martha Stewart Living. It was inconceivable to me that conservatives, those tireless defenders of law and order, would snuggle up to anyone who, with even the slightest scholastic subtlety, hinted that secession was a viable alternative to our cozy constitutional republic. Real conservatives just wouldn’t countenance such seditious silliness.

Of course, I knew that Rush Limbaugh reserved the right to secede from each of his three wives, but even I believed he and other radioactive conservatives would draw the line at another bloody civil war. After all, isn’t 620,000 dead Americans enough price to pay for dragging Southerners into the civilized world?

Then came the governor of Texas and former Texas A&M cheerleader, Rick Perry, embracing the idea that Texas maintains the right to secede. Conservatives scrambled to defend the governor, never missing an opportunity to turn any conservative crackpot idea into a referendum on Obama and the Democrats.

Limbaugh’s rambling comments on April 16:

Now, this is not insignificant. When the governor of Texas talks about, “We could secede, I don’t think it’s going to happen, I hope it doesn’t, but we could.” When the governor of Texas starts talking about this because of the abuse of government on his citizens and on his state, and forcing his state to take federal money when he doesn’t want it — and I also think, I run into them, there’s still some conservatives who, the Drive-By Media is gospel to them. I say they’re conservatives. They’re not active. They’re not liberals. I’m wondering at some point how much of the excesses of the media are gonna finally start causing other people to have lights go on in their heads, hey, something’s not quite right here when you have the governor of Texas start talking about the possibility of getting out of all this because of the abuse of government. This guy is not a fringe kook. This guy is nowhere near a kook in any way, shape, manner, or form.

But yesterday, Gov. Perry appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show, now eager to clear the air. He by no means meant to suggest that anyone should take the idea of Texas secession seriously, despite the fact that he had done just that. He and Sean characteristically blamed his predicament on the “liberal” media who “misconstrued” his intentions.

Despite the fact that some conservatives may now want to back away from any talk of Texas secession, I cannot find anything obviously negative about the idea, except that any future Chiefs-Cowboys matchup would necessarily be reduced to an international exhibition game.

And the NFL exhibition season is too long as it is.

_________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:

Anson
Thursday, April 23, 2009, 11:19 AM
Duane,
Perhaps now you understand my concerns about the fabric of our society expressed in a recent blog. Yes, Perry is a Texan and a Republican, but he is also an elected governor. Hard to put him in the kook category.

He is expressing a deep sentiment of concern about spending that probably reflects that of many, not just the kooks. To raise it to the issue of slavery and seccession is extreme, perhaps. But it is a legitimate concern or should be by any thining individual. How do we pay for a vision that many endorse is the issue, not necessarily the vision itself.

I think the President is making a big mistake by pushing the whole domestic agenda at once. Yes, he currently has a mandate and a congress behind him. But other than political strength, he must show the good financial strength to make it happen. In my view he has not come close to making that argument, yet.

Ray Gun

Here is a brief summary of Ray Downen’s letter to the Globe on Tuesday:

1. Obama supporters believe the Constitution doesn’t matter.

2. Obama is a foreigner.

3. Obama should not share the presidency with John McCain on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, like the Erstwhile Conservative suggested, if Obama is truly a foreigner.

4. Obama should spend the rest of his life in the penitentiary.

5. Obama is an imposter, therefore Joe Biden can’t be president.

6. Obama ‘s election was purchased for an unspecified amount by unidentified rich people, who continue to pay unspecified amounts to other unidentified people to keep the foreigner in office.

7. Obama is running up “trillions” of dollars in “bills” and no one knows where the money has gone or if it will ever come back or if it does come back what it will be worth when it’s all over, which will be when Bonanza, starring Lorne Greene, is cancelled.

Now, Ray didn’t mention it, but there is a rumor that Obama is about to order the National Guard to go into all Wal-Marts in the United States and confiscate the Reynolds Wrap, so that suspicious citizens cannot arm themselves against the CIA’s new prefrontal cortex disintegrator gun.

The impounded aluminum foil will be shipped, via a flotilla of Somali pirate ships, to all Muslim countries so that Obama’s kinfolk can protect their turban-wrapped heads from the intense radiation, which would otherwise render them unable to express coherent thoughts.

The beauty of the CIA’s new prefrontal cortex disintegrator gun, which President Obama developed in collaboration with Bill Ayers, is that its victims do not suspect that their prefrontal cortex has been nebulized and they continue to write letters to local newspapers expressing irrational ideas that only serve to prove that Obama’s critics are crazed conspiracists.

Meanwhile the foreigner continues to reign like he is the legitimate President of the United States.

Okie Biology, Texas Theology

I would be derelict in my blogging duties to not at least mention the silliness of Oklahoma state congressman Todd Thomsen last month.

Mr. Thomsen, who was first elected to the Oklahoma House in 2006 by a total of two votes, introduced legislation in the Oklahoma legislature opposing the “one-sided” teaching of evolution and the appearance at the University of Oklahoma of noted evolutionist, Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins’ real crime, of course, is that he doesn’t believe in God, which, apparently, is an offense worthy of legislative censure in Oklahoma, according to Mr. Thomsen. While he has every right to believe fantastic tales about our origins, Mr. Thomsen should exercise a little discipline over his unruly need to impose his beliefs on other, less gullible, Oklahomans, who may want to avoid the intellectual isolation of fundamentalist Christians.

Summing up this controversy in particular and the creationist movement in general, Dawkins said:

They’ve lost in the courts of law; they’ve long ago lost in the halls of science; and they continue to lose with every new piece of evidence in support of evolution. Taking offense is all they’ve got left. And the one thing you can be sure of is that they don’t actually know anything about what it is that they reject.

In another example of creationist dogma intersecting with state government, the Texas state board of education last month adopted what scientists are calling “flawed state science standards.” While apparently creationists on the board didn’t get everything they wanted, they did manage to amend the standards in such a way that they would “encourage” presentation of creationist claims that the complexity of the cell, the incompleteness of the fossil record, and uncertainties about the age of the universe are all reasons to doubt the theory of evolution.

A refreshing twist of electoral fate gives us this response from Obama’s official science advisor, John Holdren:

I think we need to be giving our kids a modern education in biology, and the underpinning of modern biology is evolution. And countervailing views that are not really science, if they are taught at all, should be taught in some other part of the curriculum.

Of course, Mr. Holdren only holds a PhD in plasma physics, a fact that probably disqualifies him from speaking authoritatively on biblical science, but I, at least, am encouraged that our new president will not be getting his science advice from James Dobson or Pat Robertson.

The Blunt Truth

If there had been an Environmental Protection Agency around 100 years ago, it is possible that the cleanup of the Jasper County Superfund Site would not now be necessary and Roy Blunt’s latest display of hypocrisy would not have materialized.

But there wasn’t and it did.

In today’s Globe, Rep. Blunt, a staunch opponent of Obama’s stimulus plan, was on hand to take gratuitous credit for the EPA’s latest efforts–enhanced by Obama’s plan–to reclaim land contaminated by private industry many years ago.

Blunt’s comments:

“It’s very seldom you get to solve a problem that has been there for a hundred years,” he told EPA officials and excavators Friday. “It’s pretty difficult to find a more dramatic change than what you guys have created here.

He didn’t mention that if it weren’t for the Federal government’s efforts, supported by tax dollars all good tea baggers hate to pay, the hundreds of acres would remain a “mine-scarred wasteland” of “rock piles and tainted soil” unsuitable for development . Now, thanks to the Feds, a chain of commerce will someday ensue, when some enterprising developer will hire a builder, who will hire workers, who will pay taxes…You get the idea.

Anyway, our distinguished and duplicitous representative told reporters, at least one of which was performing a public service that only reporters can perform by asking about the obvious political discrepancy, that he remained “totally opposed” to Obama’s stimulus package.

Now, how you can remain “totally opposed” to something while simultaneously glow-basking in one of its results is a question only a conservative Republican from the 7th congressional district can answer, as reported by the Globe:

“That doesn’t mean that some good things will not come out” of the package, he said, although those would be outweighed by the long-term debt that taxpayers will have to pay in the future. He also said the only “big winner” of the current stimulus plan would be for the growth of the federal government, he said.

Fortunately, Republicans have not always believed that protecting the environment was not worth spending money on.

Although burning rivers and huge oil spills in the 1960s whetted the public appetite for stricter environmental regulation , we do have a Republican to thank for the EPA (even if it may have been only to out-maneuver the Democrats by preempting one of their salient issues at the time).

In 1970 Richard Nixon picked William Ruckelshaus (later of Saturday Night Massacre fame) to create and serve as the Administrator of the new agency. Ruckelshaus was popular among environmentalists, but Republican responsibility for the environment would soon dissipate during the Age of Reagan, and conservative indifference to the environment continued throughout the last Bush administration.

Ronald Reagan’s appointment in 1981 of Anne Gorsuch (later Burford) as his EPA Administrator demonstrated that the “conserve” in conservative was unrelated to the preservation of our collective living quarters.

Plagued by a scandal (involving the Superfund program), Ms. Burford’s term was characterized this way by the Washington Post:

Her 22-month tenure was one of the most controversial of the early Reagan administration. A firm believer that the federal government, and specifically the EPA, was too big, too wasteful and too restrictive of business, Ms. Burford cut her agency’s budget by 22 percent. She boasted that she reduced the thickness of the book of clean water regulations from six inches to a half-inch.

Republicans and Democrats alike accused Ms. Burford of dismantling her agency rather than directing it to aggressively protect the environment. They pointed to budgets cuts for research and enforcement, to steep declines in the number of cases filed against polluters, to efforts to relax portions of the Clean Air Act, to an acceleration of federal approvals for the spraying of restricted pesticides and more. Her agency tried to set aside a 30-by-40-mile rectangle of ocean due east of the Delaware-Maryland coast where incinerator ships would burn toxic wastes at 1,200 degrees centigrade.

Interestingly, Ms. Burford later accused Ronaldus Magnus, her political hero, of, well, behavior unbecoming of a conservative icon:

When congressional criticism about the EPA began to touch the presidency, Mr. Reagan solved his problem by jettisoning me and my people, people whose only ‘crime’ was loyal service, following orders. I was not the first to receive his special brand of benevolent neglect, a form of conveniently looking the other way, while his staff continues to do some very dirty work.

Under George W. Bush, the EPA was first headed by Christine Todd Whitman, famed RINO, who quickly discovered that the environment was not on W’s very small radar, despite campaign promises to the contrary.

Ms. Whitman commissioned a scientific report on the environment which originally included evidence about rising global temperatures and man-made causation. Of course, the Bush administration censored it and removed that evidence from the report.

She later admitted that she finally resigned as EPA administrator because Dick Cheney insisted on excusing refurbished power plants and oil refineries from installing modern pollution controls.

Holding such disdain for even modest environmental regulations is an unfortunate attribute of many conservatives, hating as they do any government regulation this side of our bedrooms. And they have always had a problem with the EPA, even though in many ways the agency only weakly implements and enforces environmental laws.

Conservatives, like Roy Blunt, prefer private industry to regulate itself, much as it did 100 years ago here in the Tri-State Mining District, where such self-regulation has left us an enduring toxic legacy, requiring President Obama–over the objections of our own representative–to send stimulus funds our way to help clean up the mess.

Talk about leaving a burden on our children and grandchildren. How about a Tea Party for the environment?
__________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:

Geoff Caldwell writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 07:02 AM
Well put Anson, well put. I would only point out though that after the EPA’s announcement Friday making CO2 a “pollutant” I don’t think you’ll have to worry about any future Tea Parties for the environment. The economy will be so depressed from the increased energy costs and taxes from the coming regulations and cap and trade schemes there will be plenty of time for nature to heal herself.
___________________________________________________________

Geoff Caldwell writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 07:16 AM
Sorry Duane, had been reading Anson’s column right before and considering the time of morning and little coffee intake I feel into that age old plague of conservative typing before thinking.
Still agree with your “moderate regulation” but scard to hell for the upcoming CO2 stuff.
___________________________________________________________

Anson Burlingame writes:

Sunday, April 19, 2009, 11:19 AM
Duane,
You are now in an area that I have some signifigant experience. From 1990 to 1997 I worked in the field of environmental restoration at multiple DOE former nuclear weapons sites. I “ran” Rocky Flats in Colorado for two of those years.

Cleaning up the legacy of toxic waste and preventing future insults to the environment is extraordinarly comlex. From my experience three fundamental questions must be addressed:
1. How safe is safe?
2. How clean is clean?
3. Where do you put the waste?

I could write volumns about each of those topics. Briefly however:

1. Safety as I define it in this instance is worker safety doing the project. Take a defunct nuclear weapons facility that accumulated nuclear and toxic wastes, in many cases all mixed together, then establish work rules and procedures under a union contract to clean it up. Trillions are at stake nationwide.
2. How clean is a public safety long term issue. Do you dig down to virgin earth until nothing is left? What happens when we invent a new meter that finds “something” where we used to think “nothing” was there?
3. Waste disposal moves bad stuff somewhere else. It rarely treats it to where “nothing” is left.

Try taking on that issue for just one facility in a public forum to reach a concensus on the first two. Then try to get a federal budget to address the cost and the new location to move bad stuff.

If you or anyone else can answer those three questions for say, Tar Creek, a lot easier than Rocky Flats, the rest becomes only a matter of priority in time and money. Until you answer those questions we waste Trillions nationwide.

Anson

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Duane writes:
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 03:02 PM
Anson,

While I don’t doubt the value of your life experience as related to restoring the environment, the point of the piece was to:

1. Point out the hypocrisy of Blunt for condemning the stimulus plan and embracing one of its benefits.

2. Briefly critique the conservative record on environmental regulations.

3. Note that the conservative reliance on self-regulation is faulty, using the Jasper County Superfund Site as an example.

Your three “fundamental questions” are all addressed in the EPA’s assessments for cleaning up some of the damage in the Tri-State Mining District, even though you or I may not agree with all of them. The documents can be found at:

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/fiveyear/f02-07007.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/rods/fulltext/r0704656.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/fiveyear/f2007070001829.pdf

You will find in various places that the EPA addresses the worker safety issue, the extent of the cleansing remedies, and the disposal of the waste (in the case at hand, much of the contaminated chat has been sold and used in paving, and I believe the remaining chat was “safely” covered up as part of the completion of Highway 249).

You will also find, as part of the documents, the EPA’s inclusion of public comments, many of which ultimately influenced the EPA’s remedy.

As far as the budget available to address environmental concerns, that is a political argument. Will Republicans and Democrats embrace a proactive approach to the environment and put a reasonable amount of money behind that commitment?

So, given all of the above, I am afraid I can’t agree with your insinuation that “trillions” are wasted. If so, I’m afraid Blunt, as well as the mayor of Webb City, are also deluded about the benefits.

RDG

The Age Of Reason

Just a few comments about the Joplin Tea Party:

First, John Putnam, who was introduced as an “organizer” of the event, shared with the crowd approximately 50,000 principles (actually, I think it was 10) he believed the Founding Fathers would want us to follow to maintain our freedom. One of those principles happened to have something to do with Obama’s birth certificate. A prescient bunch, those founders.

In any case, the crowd cheered loudly when Putnam bravely broached the birth certificate “issue.” He explained again that, “as a Fee Agent for the Carthage License Office,” (just how did he get the job and how long will he keep it ?) he was well positioned to understand that if the rabble had to show a birth certificate to get a driver’s license, it wasn’t too much to ask a presidential candidate to show one to prove he wasn’t beamed here from Tralfamadore. Well, he didn’t use the Vonnegut reference, probably because Kurt is not on his approved reading list, but his point was the same. That, he said, is why he asked Sen. McCaskill about it because as a member of Congress she might have some authority to get to the bottom of it.

Notwithstanding the nuttiness of Putnam’s mentioning this nonsense as some kind of oblique threat to our liberty, it is more than disingenuous to assert that he only asked Sen. McCaskill the question so she could somehow try to resolve the issue. He knew what her position would be. She was one of Obama’s first and most ardent supporters in the Congress. I suspect the real point of bringing it up the night she was here, and at the Tea Party, was to arouse suspicion in those who were only vaguely familiar with it, and to stoke the hostility among those who knew it inordinately well, all of which serves to keep the phony issue alive to undermine the president’s policies, if not the president himself.

In an attempt to sound “fair and balanced,” Putnam tried to qualify his remarks about the birth certificate with this:

I don’t say that to disparage Barack Obama. He might be a fine man, I’m not sure.

Now, that bit of dancing around the puddle he made simply isn’t enough to excuse his public infatuation with Obama’s alleged illegitimacy as president. After the 2000 election, when extremists on the left were upset with the Bush victory via the Supreme Court, I recall conservatives hammering those extremists for their lack of respect for the “courts” and the “process.” If Putnam really isn’t trying to disparage Barack Obama, he should do what conservatives told liberals to do in 2000: Get over it and move on. You lost.

_______________________

The second curious thing about the Tea Party was the use of children as props for reinforcing political points. Some of these children were holding signs saying things like, “USA not USSR.” Given the ages of many of these children, it is highly unlikely they knew much if anything about the Soviet Union, not to mention the implication that what is going on in our country somehow resembles that former totalitarian giant.

Sadly, these children were deemed useful props because one of the themes of the rally was that we are passing on a tremendous debt to our children and grandchildren. Well, we may be, if the debt is never repaid; that is, we may be, if future Republicans–who want to spend, spend, spend and simultaneously cut the taxes of the wealthy– get another opportunity to squander the surplus handed to them by future Democrats.

__________________________

Which leads me to another “theme” of the party. A populist rally that essentially and aggressively promotes lower taxes for our wealthiest citizens is a very strange populist rally. Having previously doubted the liberal critique of the whole Tea Party idea as simply rich conservatives manipulating gullible citizens, I now have to wonder. There were many loyal bubbabots in the audience who actually cheered when someone from the podium protested the high tax rate on the wealthy. Now, that is a fine piece of elitist workmanship that would have William Jennings Bryan rolling in his Fundamentalist grave.

__________________________

Finally, many of the speeches were liberally peppered with quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Now, I suspect many, if not all, of those who spoke are committed Christians. And to quote Jefferson and Paine like they were Jesus and Paul is a little disconcerting.

I have in my library a copy of the Jefferson Bible, a handy little volume because it doesn’t take up much shelf space, since the Founding Father cut out the parts of the New Testament that didn’t suit his fancy. I also have a copy of The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine’s commentary on the Bible, which contains many reasons for not believing the Good Book, useful for those after-church picnic discussions or Wednesday-night Bible studies.

So, I was a little offended that the pious defenders of our contemporary liberty have resorted to quoting deists and atheists (I thought I heard a Ben Franklin reference during the proceedings).

Anyway, given the revolutionary implications of the Tea Party, I thought I would pass on a friendly Biblical reminder to those whose thoughts might be turning, Texas-like, toward an insurrection:

For rebellion as is the sin of witchcraft.” 1 Samuel, 15:23

_________________________________________________________

COMMENTS:

Anson Burlingame writes:
Thursday, April 16, 2009, 01:48 PM

Duane,

I did not attend the Joplin Tea Party. If it was dominated by issues that you mention above I would write in opposition. I did watch the media coverage on Fox. I ignore Hannity as I said in my blog. But the message I heard promoting the Fair Tax and “live within our means” struck a chord with me.

I saw (maybe because I wanted it to be there) a middle class American protest over issues that I care about such as too much debt, pushing multiple programs too far and too fast with little or no debate, etc. Where is our thoughtfulness and deliberation?

I heard loud roars of protest throughout the Bush administration. It was in no way muted or respectful. I hear the same now in the Obama administration. Both administrations were and are now polarizing. The extent of polarization is of concern to me, great concern. And neither of the two administrations has gotten it right or come even close, in my view.

Joplin Tea Party Pix

The man on the right is famous local radio personality Mark Kinsley. The man on the left is Thomas Jefferson imitating John Putnam.

 

Obviously, spell-check was unavailable at the placard painting parties.

 

Thankfully, this was a “non-partisan” event.

Understandably, some people wanted to remain anonymous.

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