Do Corporations Speak In Tongues?

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

—The Book of Acts, 2:4

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”                                                

—Paul the Apostle

I used to attend, quite faithfully, a Pentecostal-Charismatic church in which folks there spoke in tongues. Yes, they did. They stood up, usually during prayer time, and spoke in what sounded like a foreign language, a language many of them considered a heavenly language, such as an angel might speak, if there were angels. Many times after someone would speak to the congregation in tongues, someone else with an “interpretation” of the tongues would share it with the folks, this time in English. It was quite a phenomenon.

Now, I say all that in the context of what two corporations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do in terms of an alleged constitutional controversy involving the Affordable Care Act and religious freedom. Here is how the great SCOTUSblog reported it yesterday:

The Court granted review of a government case (Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores) and a private business case (Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius).  Taking the Conestoga plea brought before the Court the claim that both religious owners of a business and the business itself have religious freedom rights, based on both the First Amendment and RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act].   The Hobby Lobby case was keyed to rights under RFRA.

Noting that these particular cases don’t involve asking the court to “strike down the requirement that employers provide a full range of pregnancy-related health care under their employees’ health insurance plans,” SCOTUSblog says,

This time, the Court will be focusing only on whether the pregnancy-related care coverage can be enforced against profit-making companies — or their individual owners, when that is a very small group — when the coverage contradicts privately held religious beliefs.

It is already clear, of course, that individuals — whether they own businesses or not — do have religious beliefs that the government may not try to regulate.  But it is not yet clear, and these cases will test the issue, whether they have a right — constitutional or based on a 1993 federal law — to rely upon those beliefs in refusing to provide a kind of health care coverage that they say violates the tenets of their faith.

On the other hand, it is not clear that a business that is formed as a corporation, and engages in a strictly commercial kind of activity, can have religious beliefs and can actually base its commercial actions upon such faith principles (separate from the religious beliefs of its owners).  The Court has never ruled on that issue, but that is one of the core issues it has now agreed to consider.

Okay. So, it pretty much boils down to this: Do corporations speak in tongues? Do corporations do the kinds of things that I saw done at my old church? Can corporations stand in the midst of the congregation and speak in the tongues of angels? Or even the tongues of men?

The answer, obviously, is no they can’t. You know why they can’t? Because corporations don’t have real tongues with which they can speak in ethereal tongues. Because corporations, despite what the Supreme Court has previously said, aren’t people. They don’t have tongues to confess or brains to embrace religious beliefs, even if they happen to have human spokesmen who insist the law bend to the corporate owners’ theological dogmatism. And I believe a majority of the Court will see that corporations do not speak in tongues and are not people in that important, if possibly misguided, sense.

But it occurred to me that if the Supreme Court does decide that corporations have religious rights under the Constitution or under the law, then corporations will have truly become full persons entitled to all the benefits people have under our Constitution. Thus, if they are full, constitutionally-protected persons, they cannot therefore be “owned” by any other person, since the Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery. Here is what the text of that amendment says:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

So, the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores and of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation and all the other owners of corporations suing the government over the Affordable Care Act’s pregnancy-related health care mandates, should, upon winning their religious freedom case, set their corporations free.

Then all the corporations in America can say together in the tongues of men or angels: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last!”

“A Murderer Is Less To Fear” Or How Barack Obama Is Driving Right-Wingers Crazy

We’ve all seen it since 2008. They hate this man. They hate the President of the United States. And there is no sign that the hate will abate. In fact, it may be getting worse.

I received today an email from a group called TheTeaParty.net. The subject line shouted:

You are going to WANT to listen to this!

“This” was an interview of Rep. Pete Olson from, where else, Texas. He is lately famous for introducing “articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder for high crimes and misdemeanors,” as his official government website proudly boasts. Texas Pete’s resolution has 22 co-sponsors, including Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. So, you sort of get the idea. These Obama-haters can’t yet impeach President Obama, so they are trying to impeach his pigmented friend at the Justice Department.

I visited the website of TheTeaParty.net, which brags about having “well over 3 million members and a huge national social media presence.” Yeah, well, I don’t know about all that, but I did find this tweet, which was posted just yesterday:

obama the traitor

Sure, we’ve seen this stuff before. Obama is a traitor, blah, blah, blah. But this one seems particularly vicious. “He rots the soul of a nation and works secretly to undermine the pillars of the city…” Really? Just whose soul is rotting here? And just who is working, not so secretly, to undermine the pillars of our civilization? Huh? In any case, you know what is left out of that Cicero quote? This:

A murderer is less to fear.

That’s right. The next line in that Cicero citation is “A murderer is less to fear.” Why did they leave that line out? Is it even too much for these Tea Party folks to say the President of the United States is worse than a murderer? Well, let’s see.

If you go to TheTeaParty.net website, you will find the usual nutjob fare: a “DEFUND Obamacare NOW” petition, a “Demand Full Benghazi Investigation” petition, and, yes, an “Impeach Obama & Remove Him From Office” petition (“President Obama is the most corrupt president in U.S. history”). These things are all designed to entice the haters among us and, more important, to separate the haters from their money. Conveniently you can donate to the cause.

But there was one petition that is more disturbing than the rest, even by the pitifully low standards of Tea Party groups out to make a buck. It’s called:

Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!

Now, again, we’ve all seen this sort of thing before. It’s the everyday kind of stuff on, say, the Rush Limbaugh Show. But this one goes a little deeper. While the Obama-is-a-traitor tweet left out the “A murderer is less to fear” line, this petition begins:

Untouchable. That is what President Obama believes that he is. If you’ve seen the movie “The Untouchables” that chronicles the days of Al Capone in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, then you will totally get this. Capone broke every law in the book, yet still viewed himself as untouchable. After all, he had law enforcement agents, attorneys, even judges bought and paid for. They towed the line and Capone beat the rap over and over again for crime after crime. Until, that is, a certain tax agent named Elliot Ness entered the picture. He was relentless in his pursuit of Capone and, when one of his men was murdered, the killer scrawled the word “Touchable” in blood on the wall.

Forget for a moment the fact that it was not Al Capone who was considered “untouchable.” It was the small group of feds trying to bring him down who were called the Untouchables. How could these Tea Party nuts muck that up? And forget for a moment the irony of having an anti-big-government Tea Party group extol the virtues of “a certain tax agent named Elliot [sic] Ness.” Ness wasn’t just a tax agent, he was first an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition, and if there ever was an intrusive government agency, it was that one. Besides that, the hero of this Tea Party story never did get Al Capone. It was really the IRS that brought him down. And Eliot Ness, according to one source, had a heart attack at age 54 and died “depressed, disillusioned and deeply in debt.” Oh, yeah, Al Capone allegedly found Jesus in prison. Yikes.

Anyway, forget all that. Look at the Tea Party image created so far: President Obama is a gangster who will not only kill his enemies, but taunt them with blood-scrawled writing on the wall. To these Tea Party-crazed people, “a murderer is less to fear” than our president.

Here’s a little detail from the petition:

The self perceived ‘untouchable’ Obama Regime has blood on their hands. They have the blood of the four men, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, on their hands since they sat back and did nothing while the torturous massacre at Benghazi occurred. They have the blood of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the hundreds of Mexican citizens killed by individuals wielding guns from the botched gun running Operation Fast and Furious on their hands. They have the blood of all those who were killed during the shooting initiated by the Muslim serviceman Nidal Malik Hasan who is still not prosecuted under Eric Holder’s Department of (In) Justice. The fact that the Obama Regime refuses to answer questions surrounding these avoidable, tragic situations is an insult to the American people and those victims who died in these incidents…

Add in his thuggish threatening of journalists Bob Woodward, Lanny Davis, and a reporter with the National Journal and we have a presidency ripe for the investigation of a special prosecutor!

You can see now why Attorney General Eric Holder is under attack by at least 23 Republicans in the House and, if the impeachment resolution ever came to a vote, likely many more. If you read the press release introducing the articles of impeachment drawn up by Texas congressman Pete Olson, you will find some of the same references as in the Obama-is-Capone petition:

During his tenure, Mr. Holder refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious and the resulting death of a Border Patrol agent, refused to prosecute IRS officials who unlawfully disclosed private tax records to third party groups, and misled Congress about his involvement in the investigation of a journalist…

At least Rep. Olson had the decency to leave out not only the “A murderer is less to fear” quote, but also the Al Capone reference. I guess these days that’s saying something. But there is no mistaking one thing. These teapartiers are full of hate for this president and most everyone around him. Congressman Olson and his House friends, Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert and the others who co-sponsored that Eric Holder impeachment resolution, may have dressed it up in slightly kinder legislative language, but at its base it is still “Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!”

And do it all in the name of Cicero and, uh, Elliot [sic] Ness.

To My Mom, On This Sad Anniversary

I have been to Dealey Plaza in Dallas three times. Most recently I was there one year ago, and while I was there I saw pro-Palestinian protesters rallying to condemn Israel for violence against the people of Gaza, as well as to express outrage at how American foreign policy supports such violence.Protest on Grassy Knoll in Dallas

Given that the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy was murdered at that place 50 years ago, I can’t help but marvel at how amazing it is that Dealey Plaza is sometimes used to rehearse, peacefully, the disagreements among us, among We The People.

That is one thing I think about when I think about the assassination of John Kennedy.

But I also think about my mom. In the days leading up to this day, this anniversary of a horrific crime, I have found myself thinking about what the Kennedys, particularly John and Jackie, meant to her.

I was only five years old when Lee Harvey Oswald fired those shots. I have no direct memory of the event. But I most certainly have memories, created a few years later, of thumbing through books and magazines on the Kennedys that my mom had purchased to memorialize her hero. She was a Democrat and, as far as I know, she was a life-long Democrat. And to her the Kennedy family was, as they were to so many, an American royal family.

Several of the photographs we have seen on television the past few days were burned into my memory a long time ago. Those Kennedy books and magazines my mom had in our house likely kindled the interest in politics and politicians that burns in me still. mom dad and meI did not understand at the time what Kennedy’s death meant to the country or to history, but I think I understood what his death meant to my mom.

And that is why for me today brings back memories of a little boy flipping through pages filled with mostly black-and-white photographs of a young president and his family and the savage who killed a man my mom had never met or would never meet, but loved so much.

The Exorcists

For political junkies, what happened in the U.S. Senate on Thursday was something that only comes along every generation or so. Most of us don’t get to see many extraordinary and far-reaching changes take place in politics like the big change we saw from filibuster obstructionism to democracy, at least as far as that change relates to judicial and executive branch nominees selected by President Obama.

To paraphrase what Churchill supposedly said but no one can actually document: You can always count on Democrats to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.

And after some number of failed “gentlemen’s agreements,” Democrats finally had the guts to pull the trigger, although it wasn’t exactly a nuclear trigger, since Republicans can continue to pretend democracy is a four-letter word as far as any future Supreme Court nominees and as far as any and all legislation is concerned.

But it is a victory for the good guys. The chickens of Republican obstructionism finally came home to roost. And if he is legacy-smart, President Obama will cook those chickens faster than Colonel Sanders on a Sunday after church. Even if O’s last three-plus years are filled with legislative nothingness, the President’s imprint on the federal judiciary, and his administration’s ability to publish regulations that will get a fair hearing before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will have long-lasting effects. Assuming, that is, he appoints liberalish judges and authorizes people-friendly regulations, actions not quite as certain as I would wish they were.

In any case, the Republican response was predictable, and I admit quite enjoyable. The boyz threaten retaliation should Americans be foolish enough to put them in the Senate majority in 2014 and beyond. Senator Rand Paul, lying, said that the Majority Leader, Harry Reid, “is a bully, dictating to the Senate.” David Vitter, the hooker-loving Christian from Louisiana, tweeted:

This isn’t just a shame for the Senate it’s scary and dictatorial for our country.

Dictatorial? You mean allowing the majority to have its way on most presidential nominations is now a dictatorship? Only with the nurturing of Tea Party logic can such a conclusion hatch in the brain, motivate fear-mongering fingers, and make its way through the Twitterverse without fatally tripping over reality.

How come it is that these Republicans don’t consider Speaker John Boehner’s actions in the House to be dictatorial? He recently shut down the government, is now single-handedly holding up immigration reform, ENDA, and other legislation passed by the Senate, and has done those things without a critical peep or tweet from Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and David Vitter.

This has been a long time coming. Republicans, in their present Tea Party state of mind, wouldn’t have waited so long to make the same move, if they were in the majority in the Senate. They would have before now nailed the nads of a negative mitch getting exorcisedminority of Democrats to the walls of the Senate chamber and invited Fox “News” in for a photo shoot. No one who has been paying attention these last few years doubts that.

But finally 52 priestly Democrats in the Senate have figured out that for democracy to mean anything in an age when an anti-Obama demon has possessed the Republican Party, a demon that cannot be exorcised by chanting mumbo jumbo from the Rituale Romanum, they have to bring back a much more American demon-chasing ritual: majority rule.

Amen.

Limbaugh-Size Hypocrisy, Part 2

“I do believe in faith, forgiveness, and redemption,” said cocaine-consuming congressman Trey Radel on Wednesday night during a press conference. The Florida Tea Party Republican admitted his addiction was a “disease” and that he was “owning up to his actions.” He said he wants to be held “accountable” and “rebuild the trust” of his constituents. He is taking a leave of absence while he seeks treatment. He wants to do all this for his “family and for his wife.” He talked about his “little guy,” his two-year-old son. He talked about his mom who “struggled with alcoholism” and how hard that was.

Until the end, when the congressman exited the news conference stage right, not one reporter in Cape Coral, Florida, ask him about his vote to force food stamp recipients to take drug tests in order to continue receiving help. Finally, as he left the room, someone asked about his vote on drug testing. He was, by then, gone. He disappeared without answering.

trey drug chargeThus, we have a man who wisely admitted he has a sickness, a problem that he can’t deal with on his own. He needs professional help, he said. But I don’t know if addiction professionals can help him admit that as part of his recovery, as part of his rehabilitation and redemption, he needs to emphatically and publicly admit that he was absolutely wrong to vote with his Republican colleagues on legislation that would force those who find themselves in need of government food assistance to submit to government-mandated drug testing in order to prove their fealty to drug laws and to receive benefits.

I wish him all the best in his difficult battle against addiction, but Trey Radel can never claim rehabilitation victory until he admits that he and his fellow Republicans, in their mean-spirited attempt to slander those who need public assistance to help ward off hunger, were wrong in tying food stamps to drug testing.

Let’s hope he comes back a new man in more ways than one.

Limbaugh-Size Hypocrisy

What can you say about such breathtaking, Rush Limbaugh-size hypocrisy?

A Tea Party-supported congressman representing some of the most conservative folks in Florida, born Henry Jude Radel III but known as “Trey,” was, in the words of USA Today,

caught buying drugs as part of a federal investigation into a Washington, D.C., drug ring last month and is being charged with cocaine possession, according to a senior Drug Enforcement Administration official.

Now, presumably because Radel is a white guy holding a once-respected office in our national government, he was not arrested at the time he was caught buying drugs. He was “detained” later at his apartment by FBI agents, who, the USA Today report made clear, “never handcuffed Radel or took him to jail.” Of course not. Why would law enforcement want to treat him like a regular dope-buyer on the streets of D.C.?

In any case, Radel’s biggest sin, one this Catholic congressman may have to explain to the Lord someday, is not the cocaine purchase. No, that’s not his main crime. Just a few months ago this phony bastard voted to force food stamp recipients to piss in cups to prove they’re not lawbreakers like him. Where do you find words to describe such blatant dishonesty?

Not that making hungry people who receive government help prove they’re not drug abusers isn’t a colossally sinful Republican policy in itself, but for that policy to receive the support of some pharisaical Tea Party congressman, who has an affection for nose candy, is a sin that Satan himself would envy.

Last summer, when Republicans were debating their welfare drug-testing policy, Democratic congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts proposed testing phonies like Representative Henry Jude Radel III:

Why don’t we drug test all the members of Congress here? Force everybody to go urinate in a cup or see whether or not anybody is on drugs? Maybe that will explain why some of these amendments are coming up or why some of the votes are turning out the way they are.

Yes, that might explain it. But what explains the hypocrisy?

Radel, a former talk show host like Limbaugh, has admitted he has a problem. Good for him. That’s the first step towards recovery. He said,

I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice.

I hope he sees his “irresponsible choice” as not just buying blow from a dealer working with the feds, but also cruelly voting to drug-test people on food stamps. That would be his second step towards recovery.

Liz Misérables

A lot has been said about the family feud between the Cheney sisters, but few pundits have framed the dynamic involved more conciselythan commentator Joy Reid did on MSNBC yesterday, which I will get to shortly.

The Cheney feud features the ferocious heterosexual Liz, who is trying to get into the U.S. Senate by slandering a fellow conservative in Wyoming, and her non-heterosexual sister Mary. Being a darling of the rabid Tea Party right, and obviously wanting to become a national political figure, Liz finds it necessary to make sure every zealot in the country, especially in the Wyoming electorate, knows that just because her sister Mary is happily married to a woman, ol’ Liz won’t bless the matrimony with her public approval. “I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” she told the Republican Party News Channel, where she often appears as a political commentator.Liz Cheney formed Keep America Safe with William Kristol and Debra Burlingame.

Of course Liz is playing to the zealots here. We all know that. But why? Why would she feel the need to do that, when the country is obviously evolving on the gay marriage issue? That’s where Joy Reid got it right on MSNBC. Her simple remark was that Liz Cheney and other Tea Party Republicans “cannot afford to let go of the religious right because their base is shrinking so quickly.”  That’s it. The base of the party is shrinking, and Republicans believe they have to hold on to the one loyal group who will not abandon them, so long as they remain true to so-called biblical values.

Remember that most (about 90%) of Mitt Romney’s votes came from white folks and that white evangelicals represented about 23% of the 2012 electorate, giving Romney 79% of their vote. And remember that about 40% of the GOP base comprises white evangelicals. Thus, conservative Bible thumpers are the last refuge of Republican candidates.  They feel they have to go there in order to win. They don’t think they can afford to irk them. They believe they have to cozy up, at least rhetorically, to those with Iron Age sensibilities or else they will never again win another national election. (I am ignoring the fact that many, many Republican candidates are genuine Bible-thumpers themselves and mean every word they say in condemnation of homosexuality.)

Consider what Ron Brownstein wrote recently:

In 2012, President Obama lost white voters by a larger margin than any winning presidential candidate in U.S. history. In his reelection, Obama lost ground from 2008 with almost every conceivable segment of the white electorate. With several key groups of whites, he recorded the weakest national performance for any Democratic nominee since the Republican landslides of the 1980s.

In 2012, Obama won a smaller share of white Catholics than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1980; lost groups ranging from white seniors to white women to white married and blue-collar men by the widest margin of any Democrat since Ronald Reagan routed Walter Mondale in 1984; and even lost among Democratic-leaning college-educated women by the widest margin since Michael Dukakis in 1988, according to the latest National Journal analysis of the trends that shape the allegiances of American voters.

Yet, Obama won the election. He got a mere 39% of the white vote and he won. And, as Brownstein put it, he “won fairly comfortably.” We all know, of course, the biggest reason why Obama won. He trounced Romney among minority voters, getting the nod from 93% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians. And we all know that the browning of America, which fills white conservatives with a disturbing angst, is inexorably proceeding—“Census: More minority U.S. births than white now”—and we all know that the Tea Party message has not and will not appeal all that much to non-whites. But there are some conservatives out there, as Brownstein points out, who,

insist that Republicans, by improving both turnout and already-gaping margins among whites, can recapture the White House in 2016 without reformulating their agenda to attract more minority voters…

Yes, believe it or not, serious number-crunchers writing for conservative websites believe that if only more white folks would show up and vote, the Republicans wouldn’t have to change a damn thing! Thus, there are a lot of Republican candidates who believe they cannot afford to turn off a single white evangelical and that is why we have Liz Cheney publicly dissing her gay sister’s marriage.

Now, there is a lot wrong with Liz Cheney (as her appearance on Fox News Sunday demonstrated), but I am sure she loves her sister. She cares about her. And presumably she knows that her sister Mary and her wife are not really sinners condemned by God. But she dare not say so in front of conservative evangelicals, one of the legs that holds up a teetering Republican Party. She dare not say it to people who believe that homosexuality is not only a sin, but a sin that will send you straight to hell without passing go or collecting money from the Koch brothers.

The dilemma for Republicans going forward is that appealing to the sensibilities of Bible extremists turns off a goodly number of voters. And Republicans might want to consider this graphic from Brownstein’s article:

religious whites affiliation trend

Yikes. That’s a pretty big jump. As the Pew Research Center also found out about those unaffiliated voters:

unaffiliated ideology

Yikes, again. The trend is toward more religiously unaffiliated voters and those voters are almost twice as likely to be liberals as conservatives.

Maybe Liz ought to apologize to her sister.

Because Being Poor And Unemployed Is Just One Big Vacation

With all the moaning and groaning over ObamaCare in the mainstream press—including those godawful comparisons to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War—and with all the ridiculous coverage of that crazy, crack-smoking mayor in Canada, many people have forgotten about the unemployed in this country.

But Chad Stone, the Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, isn’t one of those people who have forgotten. Last week U.S. News and World Report published a piece he wrote, “The Unemployment Insurance Cliff.” It begins:

Unless the president and Congress act before the end of the year, more than a million Americans will have the plug pulled on their jobless benefits the week after Christmas, and many others who’ve recently become unemployed or will become unemployed next year will see them sharply curtailed.  That would increase hardship for those workers and their families, and it would be bad for the economy.

What he is talking about is the expiration of a program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which was created when George W. Bush was still president in June of 2008. The program, Stone says, “increased the number of weeks of federal emergency benefits as the Great Recession worsened in late 2008 and 2009.” And although it has been extended “several times” in order “to mount  a strong enough recovery to restore the labor market to normal health,” Republicans “want to kill the program.”

That’s a big surprise, isn’t it? Republicans want to kick folks off unemployment benefits? Who could have guessed that?

In any case, Stone posted this amazing graph:

As you can see, the Great Recession really was the Great Recession. And Stone reminds us that not only was that recession “so much worse” than previous recessions, but if it weren’t for unemployment insurance, the damn thing “would have been deeper and the recovery even slower.” Because, you see, unemployment insurance puts money in the pockets of folks who otherwise wouldn’t have it. And where does that money end up? Yes, it ends up going into the economy, which helps everyone, even rich everyones who own superstores like Walmart.

But Republicans have a theory about what that money really does, especially when it gets extended through programs like EUC. You know what their theory is called? The Great Vacation theory. Yes. That’s what economist Chad Stone calls it:

The “Great Vacation” narrative holds that unemployment insurance (UI) benefits — in particular, the added weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed that Congress has funded in the past few years — have dissuaded millions of unemployed workers from taking a job.  If, then, jobless workers would get off their duff (or if we would give them a good swift kick there), unemployment would plummet.

The Great Vacation Theory of unemployment insurance has a cousin. It’s called the Hammock Theory, as in “the social safety net has become a hammock.” That has always been one of Rush Limbaugh’s favorite little digs at poor people. And perhaps you remember when Republican Paul Ryan, introducing his infamous budget-slashing plan to America in 2011, compared his plan to the so-called successful welfare reforms under Bill Clinton:

This budget extends those successes . . . to ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.

Yep, all those hungry kids that get food and health benefits from the government are living a life of leisure and, by God, Republicans are eager to help make them productive citizens by cutting the help going to their families.

Yep, all those elderly and disabled folks who get government help are endangering the country with their sloth.

Yep, those working poor who get such benefits as Ryan sought to cut don’t know they are lounging around in a hammock of “complacency and dependency” and it is up to Jesus-loving GOP lawmakers to push them out of their comfortable hammock and into…what?

Did you know, according to the Department of Agriculture, that in 2011:

Seventy-six percent of SNAP [the old “food stamp” program] households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person, and these households received 83 percent of all benefits.

Did you know that? And did you know this:

Nearly half (49 percent) of all SNAP households with children had earned income; 40 percent of single-adult households with children and 64 percent of married-head households with children had earned income. Four percent of all households with children had both TANF [the old AFDC program that provides a little cash to poor families with kids] and earned income.

That’s a helluva a hammock those folks are swinging in. I don’t know how they have time for all that “complacency and dependency” when they’re out there earning income, do you?

snap announcementIn any case, the Democrats stimulus plan passed in 2009 (remember the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?) temporarily increased SNAP benefits to those hammock-loving kids and old folks and the disabled. But that temporary increase ended on November 1 and SNAP households have seen their meager benefits cut. And there ain’t no way on God’s GOP-governed earth that SNAP benefits will go up again. As CBPP put it:

Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014. 

That’ll teach those slackers!

And now, according to Chad Stone, we have Republicans wanting to kill emergency unemployment insurance because they believe it “has created a ‘Great Vacation’ in which workers prefer unemployment benefits to a job.”

Meanwhile, most of what you hear on TV news these days is either stories about a crack-crazed Canadian mayor, or how Democrats didn’t adequately foresee every possible problem with making our healthcare system a little more humane for millions upon millions of Americans.

And that, my friends, is how Republicans can do their dirty work and get away with it.

House Republicans, And Some Fraidy Cat Democrats, Vote To Allow Insurance Companies To Keep Selling Crappy Insurance Forever And Ever. Yippee!

From the AP:

The Republican-controlled House has passed legislation letting insurance companies sell individual coverage to all comers, even if it falls short of standards set in “Obamacare.”

Next up for this group of lawmakers: Allowing companies to sell contaminated food to Americans who—because they are Americans, dammit!—might want it.

Sadly, 39 Democrats joined with 222 Republicans to make this reactionary mania somewhat bipartisan. Wow. Fortunately, the bill will never become law, as President Obama has said he will veto it.

Obama, Gog, Magog, And The Curse Of God

The Raw Story published an account of Louie Gohmert’s recent address to that teensy-weensy part of the nation who watches the “General Speeches” in the House of Representatives on C-SPAN. Gohmert, typically an earnest spokesman for GOP Jesus, was talking about the Obama administration’s latest moves in the Middle East when he said:

There are many who have been aware of Scripture, and it has often been a guide in our relations with Israel.

Now, before you are tempted to laugh at that statement, before you smirk at the idea that an Iron Age book is America’s go-to manual for 21st-century international relations, be aware that there is more than a little truth in it. Consider the following, from The Guardian:

Bush, Gog and Magog

Just when you thought it couldn’t get crazier, a well-sourced story claims Bush invaded Iraq because of Bible prophecies

Apparently, George W. Bush (who lately has a Jews for Jesus problem), in order to get support from French President Jacques Chirac for the neo-conservatives’ arbitrary war against Saddam Hussein, told Chirac that “Gog and Magog” were busy doing in the Middle East, well, the things that God and Magog are supposed to be doing. What they were (and now are) supposed to be doing, according to many Bible-believing evangelicals and fundamentalists, has something to do with the End of the World.

When I was an evangelical Christian, I heard a lot about Gog and Magog, even though I didn’t really understand how anyone could derive such fanciful notions about them from a few obscure passages in the Bible. I like the way Wikipedia describes the prophetic duo:

They are sometimes individuals, sometimes peoples, and sometimes geographic regions. 

Hmm. That’s quite an elastic description, no?

In any case, it is more than scary that people in our government, people in high places, have taken such things seriously, but they have. And many, like Louis Gohmert, still do. He wasn’t finished with his C-SPAN speech:

Some of us believe that the Bible is accurate. Certainly, so many prophesies have been fulfilled, and if that is true, this administration, unless they can find a verse that accurately says that those who betray Israel will be blessed, then this country is being dug in a deeper hole by this administration and its betrayals of Israel’s trust and Israel’s friendship.

As a former member of the evangelical community, let me translate that for you:

If Barack Obama doesn’t start paying attention to the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments, then our country will be cursed by God.

Now, what form that curse will take is, like most things in the Bible, open to interpretation. Here are the options I spontaneously see:

†♥ God will send droughts to starve us to death.

†♥ God will send floods to drown us—uh, no, he tried that and promised not to do it again. My bad.

†♥ God will send a horrible plague our way, like the Tea Party.

†♥ God will force us to watch Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have sex—with each other.

Okay, okay. That last one is a little too much. I admit it. But it beats the curses for disobedience you will actually find in Deuteronomy 28, among them:

†♥ The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly…YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. YIKES!

†♥ Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. YIKES!

†♥ Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long…YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head…YIKES!

†♥ You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you…YIKES!

Now, admit it, compared to all the real punishments God says he has in store for the disobedient, being forced to watch Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly do the nasty isn’t all that bad is it?

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