It’s Cheap To Be Rich

Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight blog posted a piece by Ben Casselman this morning with the title,

Inflation May Hit the Poor Hardest

Yeah, well, Mr. Casselman, everything hits the poor hardest. A bad economy. A good economy. Everything. You know why? Because they’re bleeping poor, that’s why. But to be fair to the author, he was making a point about the fact that not everyone experiences the same rate of inflation. He begins his piece with this:

It’s getting more expensive to be poor.

He says that “families earning less than $20,000,” because they spend a disproportionate amount of their money on things like rent and utilities,

are experiencing a higher rate of inflation than the public at large even as their wages have stagnated…

The poor experience a double whammy: stagnating wages and a higher rate of inflation that eats away a disproportionate share of their purchasing power. And it is even worse than that. Just watch last night’s 60 Minutes segment on the working poor in Virginia’s part of Appalachia. Those folks are not only victims of a faltering local economy, but they are victims of the Republican Party in Virginia, a party that refuses to allow those poor working people to get the health insurance they are entitled to under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision.

So, you’re damned right it is expensive to be poor in America.

But it is damned cheap to be rich.

Sheldon Adelson, from whom God sometimes has to borrow money till payday, is looking to buy himself a Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 race. Last time he spent almost $100 million in a losing effort. But don’t feel sorry for him. He made almost that much in two special hours last week. In any case, he told Forbes that this time he will “spend whatever it takes” to win. And whatever it takes will still be cheap for him.Republican Billionaire Sheldon Adelson

Unfortunately there are plenty of Republicans who want to be bought by Sheldon Adelson, including presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and the groveling Chris Christie, who if Adelson buys him will be getting a bargain, somewhere around $250,000 a pound—and that’s if Adelson only gives another paltry $100 million. Very cheap for a commander-in-chief who could blow up your enemies.

The Supreme Court, staffed by five conservative Republicans who believe that rich people should have a megaphone that matches their money, have now made it easier for Adelson and other moneyed folks to buy up what is left of American democracy. And although there ain’t much left to buy, thanks to Citizens United, what is left won’t cost those wealthy folks all that much. Last year Sheldon Adelson made about $22,000 a minute. In eleven short minutes he made enough to buy a pound of Chris Christie or a half-pound of Jeb! No problem! Cheap, cheap, cheap.

In the mean time, it remains very expensive to be poor, especially in western Virginia where, because of Republicans, folks have to rely on the occasional visits of two saintly nurses driving a raggedy 13-year-old Winnebago-turned-“Health Wagon” in order to stay alive.

health wagon2

Legal Darkness

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

—Jesus

f you think national campaign finance rules are screwed up, Missouri’s are worse.

Today I received in the mail campaign literature from an outfit known as Missourians for Conservative Values PAC.  Here is a shot of one page:

I wondered who this group was and, more important, where it got its dough to finance such a slick and nasty ad. I found it also had a video out:

Now that’s pretty rough stuff and you all know I don’t care at all about Peter Kinder’s political career, except to see it end as soon as possible at the hands of a Democrat. But this ad was not, obviously, financed by any Democratic group. The point here is that whoever is behind the ad ought to have a face.

So, who is behind the financing? Beats me and good luck finding out in this state. From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Editorial: Trail of dirty money continues to pull Missouri into the mud

This is what democracy looks like in Missouri:

Last Friday, Denise Young of High Ridge formed a nonprofit corporation, Better Government for Missouri.

Later that day, Better Government for Missouri gave $100,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values, a St. Joseph-based political action committee.

On Tuesday, Missourians for Conservative Values posted a political video on YouTube recounting Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s dalliances with a former East St. Louis stripper. It’s the sort of negative and nasty ad that builds on the arguments made by state Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah, Mr. Kinder’s opponent in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Lager’s campaign, of course, said it had nothing — nothing — to do with the ad. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say, but politicians generally want plausible deniability when their friends and allies throw mud on their behalf.

Here’s the rub: There is no way of knowing who spent the $100,000 to slime Mr. Kinder.

The “sleaziness,” as the Post points out,

is not a result of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling. It’s purely a Missouri problem.

In 2005, when Missouri politicians, Republicans and Democrats, started pushing to get rid of campaign donation limits in the Show-Me State, their main argument was that it would bring transparency to campaign finance in the state.

If donors could give whatever they wanted, the logic went, there would be no incentive to launder money through multiple committees, as long had been the practice. The flaw in the argument was clear: There would be no transparency if lawmakers didn’t also pass measures to ban committee-to-committee transfers, like the example above.

Now we have limited transparency and unlimited money. It’s a dangerous combination.

The editorial notes that failure at the federal level to enforce rules that were designed to limit groups like Better Government for America from “active involvement in electoral politics” is also partly to blame for the problem. Such negligence allows “dirty tricksters” to pretty much “operate in the dark” here in Missouri.

It turns out that in addition to the initial $100,000 which went to the sliming of Peter Kinder, there was more, according to Randy Turner:

Five days after Better Government for Missouri was formed, it gave another $200,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values for a direct mailing against Kinder, according to the eight-days-before-election report filed with the Ethics Commission.

Prior to the formation of Better Government for Missouri, the St. Joseph PAC only had $5,140.01 in the bank. After spending the $300,000 and an additional $115 for expenses, the PAC is left with $5,025.01, according to the report.

Where’s the money coming from? Who is behind it? Apparently, here in Missouri the public’s right to know is strictly limited to those who need to know, which doesn’t include you and me.

Not only is all this an affront to Missouri democracy, such secrecy, which is also going on at the national level, undermines our cultural confidence  in the realization of Lincoln’s majestic prayer for our form of government:

that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

What a shame that should American democracy perish, it just might be at the hands of wealthy Americans who can do their nastiness in a very creepy—and legal— darkness.

“His Poor Father Must Be So Embarrassed About His Son”

 

The headline at HuffPo said it all:

Harry Reid: Bain Investor Told Me That Mitt Romney ‘Didn’t Pay Any Taxes For 10 Years’

Now, that kind of speculation about what Romney is hiding is inevitable and will only get worse, despite the fact that Mittens is standing strong against transparency.  The HuffPo story relates:

“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said, in reference to George Romney’s standard-setting decision to turn over 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in the late 1960s.

Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?

How it looks now is increasingly becoming a problem for Romney, who is still running strong on the idea that he was a “sterling” bidnessman—his latest ad quotes Bill Clinton as saying so—but refuses to let the light shine on the whole of his business career and how he benefited from it and from America’s skewed tax system.

In any case, Harry Reid, who at times is frustratingly kind to his Republican colleagues, also said some other stunning things about money and politics. Although he said he is optimistic about the Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate, he accurately summed up what’s wrong:

We feel comfortable in the Senate. Where the problem is, is this: Because of the Citizens United decision, Karl Rove and the Republicans are looking forward to a breakfast the day after the election. They are going to assemble 17 angry old white men for breakfast, some of them will slobber in their food, some will have scrambled eggs, some will have oatmeal, their teeth are gone. But these 17 angry old white men will say, ‘Hey, we just bought America. Wasn’t so bad. We still have a whole lot of money left.’

Give ’em hell, Harry!

 

Angry White Males With Money To Burn

Today Senate Republicans are set to kill the DISCLOSE Act, which is summarized this way:

To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.

In other words, the proposal wouldn’t do much to change the Citizens United money now flowing freely into our electoral system, but it would attach a name and a face to it. But such transparency—outside groups like Super PACS would have to disclose who their donors are—would be fatal to the success of Republican politics these days, as rich right-wingers seek, well, I’ll just let Harry Reid say it:

If this flood of outside money continues, the day after the election, 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they’ve just bought the country. That’s a sad commentary. About 60 percent or more of these outside groups’ dollars are coming from these 17 people. These donors have something in common with their nominee. Like Mitt Romney, they believe they play by their own set of rules.

The State Of Scalia’s Mind Tells The Score

Even as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer attempted to paint a rosy picture of the Supreme Court’s decision to negate most of SB 1070—she clumsily argued that the Court upheld (possibly only temporarily) the “heart” of the law (the “papers please” provision)—pundits were debating just who came out ahead politically, the President or his adversaries.

Well, there are two good ways, in matters like this, to figure out who won. One way is to listen to the President:

I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law.

And the other way is to listen to President Obama’s most prominent adversary on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia. The conservative justice does not like judicial activism, except when he uses it himself, and in his dissent today he certainly took note of Mr. Obama’s executive activism via Homeland Security’s recently announced program to exempt some folks from immigration law enforcement:

The President said at a news conference that the new program is “the right thing to do” in light of Congress’s failure to pass the Administra­tion’s proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the  Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law [sic] by enforc­ing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.

Now, whenever Justice Scalia has his mind boggled, that is a win for the good guys, I don’t care what Jan Brewer says.  And when Scalia writes stuff in dissent like the following, the good guys have reason to celebrate:

…the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the  Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test…

Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State. I dissent.

The reason these words from Scalia are so sweet, and filled with irony, is because of another decision today by the Court, one that hasn’t received that much attention:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a plea to revisit its 2-year-old campaign finance decision in the Citizens United case and instead struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.

In case you don’t remember, this case centered on whether the state of Montana could keep enforcing a 1912 law that placed political campaign spending limits on corporations. One would think that a purist-jurist like Scalia, who fretted so much over “state sovereignty” in the Arizona SB 1070 case, would give the benefit of the doubt to Montana.

Nope. And that is part of the reason why Scalia’s pissed-off prose over Arizona’s plight is so damned telling.

The Road To Oligarchy

Oligarchy…is a form of social organization in which political power is primarily held by a wealthy elite, who comprise a small minority of the population, and who use this power primarily to serve their own class interests.”

Wikipedia

Wanna know why the Supreme Court, controlled now by Republican conservatives, ruled the way it did in Citizens United?  Looky:

And that doesn’t even count the $38 million that Super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry raised.

How about this headline from The New York Times:

Of course Romney received millions from folks in the financial industry— those are his peeps. But he also got $300,000 from a “Texas construction magnate”; he got $1 million from yet another Koch bro, William; he got more than $200,000 from members of the Walmart/Walton clan; he got $500,000 from “a wealthy home builder.”

That’s a pretty good cross section of America, don’t you think?

No? Oh. Okay. Let’s tell the truth then: The oligarchs are winning. They are trying to purchase our democracy, and, really, if they stick together, it won’t cost them all that much.

Especially considering the payoff at the end.

And don’t believe the bulldooky about how union donations offset the advantage. Even if they did, which they don’t, that money comes from thousands upon thousands of working folks who know about hedge apples and hedgerows but not a damn thing about hedge funds or hiding money in tropical locations or in Swiss banks.

The golden road to oligarchy is paved by people who need people like Mitt Romney, who undoubtedly understands the very different world these folks live in, and who can represent their very special interests.

Romney’s win in Florida demonstrates the essence of his campaign. The big win was bought and paid for my moneyed interests who can rain down cash when and where it is needed most.

I heard Rep. Connie Mack, who wants to be Senator Connie Mack, speaking for Mitt Romney this morning on MSNBC. Incredibly, he said this:

We want a candidate who knows how jobs are created, who knows how this economy works, who has been in the real world, who has had successes, that’s who we’re looking for and people in the state of Florida spoke loudly tonight that that is the message they reacted to.

We all know that the people reacted mostly to all of the negative, anti-Gingrich ads that Romney’s wealthy donors funded through a Super PAC. That’s what we know. But that’s not all we know. We know that to say that Romney “has been in the real world” is to redefine the world that most of us live in.

Romney’s real world is not the world where a person gets up in the morning, goes to work, works hard all day, comes home and tries to forget that he or she is only a pink slip away from disaster, that pink slip sometimes generated by “vulture capitalists” like Romney who work hard to profit from dismantling companies not building them.

This morning Joe Scarborough was critical of what he called “those crazy Newt Gingrich Bain Capital attacks brought to you by Michael Moore.” Evangelical extremist Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (a tentacle of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family), agreed with Scarborough and added:

Why are we beating people up over things we support?

Now, I have been an evangelical and I think I understand the evangelical mind a bit, but for a leading evangelical to enthusiastically support the kinds of things Bain Capital did is to promote a gospel with which I am not familiar.

It seems to me that if Bain Capital and Mitt Romney had had a table in the “den of thieves” that was the courtyard of the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, the Savior would have given them the left foot of fellowship.  After all, by cleansing the temple Jesus was essentially condemning those who were exploiting the less fortunate.

But in our day, a prominent evangelical is on television defending predatory capitalism. That simple fact tells us how far we have come down the road to oligarchy.

Yep, the oligarchs are winning. And now they would have us believe Jesus is on their payroll.

Fat Cats And Super PACS

It’s hard to overestimate the damage the Citizens United decision has done, is doing, to our democracy.  A report released by the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzes political advertising, began with this:

The overall number of GOP presidential ads on the airwaves this election year is comparable with 2008, but who is paying for them so far has changed significantly.  The influence of SuperPACs in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination is clear, with a more than 1600 percent increase in interest-group sponsored ads aired as compared to 2008.

Get that? Comparing the same period of the last two presidential GOP primary seasons, the number of super PAC ads has gone up 1626.7% this year, with the actual spending increase amounting to 1281.8%. That is largely because corporations, which have become full-fledged folks under a weird interpretation of the Constitution, can now give unlimited amounts of cash:

In the first presidential election cycle following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC, interest group involvement in the presidential air war has skyrocketed from 3 percent of all ads aired in the 2008 Republican nomination race to nearly half (44 percent) of all airings.

As for the candidates themselves, they aired almost 41% fewer ads and spent almost 72% less money over the comparable periods. The candidates are essentially hiding behind the super PACS that support them.

(By the way, the donors to those candidate-oriented PACS will be disclosed today, while those advocacy groups organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporations—like Karl Rove-supported Crossroads GPS—are allowed to keep their donor list of fat cats a secret.)

And while President Obama’s campaign has aired ads in important swing states to the tune of $1.4 million since January 1 of last year, over the same period we also know what outside groups supporting right-wing interests in the general election have spent (estimated):

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY (Think: KOCH BROTHERS): $5,753,280

CROSSROADS GPS (Think: KARL ROVE): $3,013,340

AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE (Think: BIG OIL): $1,673,760

Keep in mind that the general election hasn’t even started and won’t for some time, depending on how much ga$ is poured into Newt Gingrich’s tank.

No matter the outcome of the 2012 election, these and other similar groups will not go away. They will be back again, even stronger and more committed (the Koch brothers play a long-term game).

Please, join Get Money Out or at least visit the site and check out the Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments, if you haven’t already.

How To Save Our Political System

The Supreme Court of the United States, dominated now by conservatives, has equated money with speech.  Thus, the more money one has—whether man, woman, or corporation—the more speech one has.

There’s something fundamentally un-democratic, and thus un-American, about that.

Anyone who has watched Dylan Ratigan’s show on MSNBC knows he is serious about his efforts to reform the way federal campaigns are conducted, particularly the way they are funded.  He has proposed amending the Constitution and has commissioned a draft of the Amendment “for public debate this fall“:

“No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office.”

Whether one agrees with the exact wording of this or any such amendment, if you—Democrat or Republican or everything in between or outside the lines—are interested in a movement to rid ourselves of the idea that money can and should purchase politicians; if you are interested in pulling out the feeding tubes keeping our dysfunctional politics alive; if you are truly disgusted by what you have seen Washington do—or, really, not do—since the 2008 economic crisis began; you can go to the Ratigan’s “GET MONEY OUT” website and sign a petition that will help force the issue, as Ratigan says, “to the center of the 2012 elections.”

However, if you think our politics is just fine, or if you think it is just fine for our politicians to spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about and going about raising money, or if you are just plain lazy, then don’t sign Ratigan’s petition. 

But if you don’t want to join the effort—and by no means do I endorse everything Dylan Ratigan has said about the issue—then don’t bother complaining to me about how bad things are in our country.  If you do complain, I will simply direct you to GET MONEY OUT to sign the petition.

Since I started writing this, almost 1,500 people have done so.

George Will Proves Himself Wrong About The Constitution

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

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

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

Here is another selection from later in the program:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE WILL: You don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Antonin Scalia Have Alzheimer’s?

Whatever Glenn Beck has been smoking the past few years, he must have passed the pipe to Antonin Scalia.

Or maybe it’s just an early sign of Alzheimer’s.  In both cases.

Whatever it is, Scalia has managed to make himself look like a Tea Party nut, which really isn’t that hard for a Republican to do these days.

When asked whether “we’ve gone off in error” by applying the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to both sex discrimination and sexual orientation, the judicial fundamentalist said:

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that…

I’m not going to bother quoting the rest of his statement, but I will bother to quote the relevant language in the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You may wonder how anyone can misunderstand the words “nor deny any person…the equal protection of the laws.” You may wonder, but not a man who fashions himself an “originalist,” which is just another way of saying he is the Jerry Falwell (Devil rest his soul) of constitutional interpretation.

You see, the Bible says God created the world in six days, science be damned. And the Constitution says women and gays (and by logical extension, Latinos, Jews and female Blacks) don’t have equal protection because those who wrote and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t particularly have women or gays or Latinos or Jews or female Blacks in mind when they did so.

So, under Scalia’s Falwellian judicial philosophy, if women, and others not originally and explicitly envisioned as deserving equal protection of the law, want that equal protection, they will have to get the legislature to guarantee it. “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law,” Scalia says.

Never mind that conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger—and all of his colleagues—ruled in 1971 that women were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. And never mind that here in 21st century America it is just plain silly to construe the Constitution in such a way that eliminates equal protection of the law for more than half of the population.

And never mind that Scalia’s originalist interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment turned to goo when it was politically convenient. As Adam Cohen pointed out:

Justice Scalia doesn’t even have consistency on his side. After all, he has been happy to interpret the equal-protection clause broadly when it fits his purposes. In Bush v. Gore, he joined the majority that stopped the vote recount in Florida in 2000 — because they said equal protection required it. Is there really any reason to believe that the drafters — who, after all, were trying to help black people achieve equality — intended to protect President Bush’s right to have the same procedures for a vote recount in Broward County as he had in Miami-Dade? (If Justice Scalia had been an equal-protection originalist in that case, he would have focused on the many black Floridians whose votes were not counted — not on the white President who wanted to stop counting votes.)

I think this is an appropriate time to remind everyone that Antonin Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a remarkably close vote: 98 to 0.

Can anyone today imagine a judicial nominee who is as far to the left as Scalia is to the right getting a seat on the court with a 98-0 vote?  Heck, such a nominee wouldn’t even get all the Democratic votes.

In any case, Scalia was chosen by Reagan for two reasons: he was very young and he didn’t have too many of those tell-tale opinions floating around that would clue us in to his Falwellian fundamentalism.

It’s sort of like if the Falwellian Jerry Falwell wanted to infiltrate the Unitarian Universalist Church, he would have to do so before they discovered he was a uber-Baptist who believed that Unitarians were headed straight for hell.

But for all his talents (his opinions are fun to read), we can now regard Antonin Scalia as, in the best case but still sadly, Glenn Beck with a law degree.  Is Goldline a sponsor of today’s conservatie Supreme Court?

Or, in the worst case, we are observing the first ravages of dementia, as Alzheimer’s sinks its teeth into the brain of a man whose faulty fealty to literalism seemingly knows no bounds.

I say “seemingly” because maybe we are merely observing the behavior of a man who is nothing but a hack for the Republican Party. Here is Adam Cohen again on the Citizens United decision, in which Scalia and is conservative colleagues anthropomorphized corporations:

It is a strange view of the Constitution to say that when it says every “person” must have “equal protection,” it does not protect women, but that freedom of “speech” — something only humans were capable of in 1787 and today — guarantees corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

A strange view, indeed.  But not if you are a Republican.

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