Before The Next Mass Shooting, Missouri Voters Ought To Know Where Their Politicans Stand

As a reminder, and because it continues to bother the hell out of me, and because Missouri voters ought to know where their elected representatives have been morally and legislatively standing—the next time a mentally ill person gets a gun and kills kids or anyone else—here is a story from GovTrack Insider from last week:

The Obama Administration in its closing days instituted a new regulation instituting a novel form of gun control. The rule included those who received Social Security checks for mental illness or for being “unable to handle their own financial affairs” into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases.

The rule was finalized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on December 19, 2016. Approximately 75,000 people would be affected and potentially barred from purchasing a weapon as a result.

Public Law 115–8 was recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump to overturn this rule.

Although the law passed and signed by Tr-mp did have a few Democrats on board, mostly it was done by Republicans. Here in Missouri, my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, was co-sponsor in the House. In the Senate, Roy Blunt was a co-sponsor. That’s the same Roy Blunt who wouldn’t do a damn thing after the murder of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012 because, as he wrote in a piece for USA Today, the real issue was “fixing our broken mental health system.” He wrote:

People with mental health problems are almost never dangerous. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators. At the same time, mental illness has been the common denominator in one act of mass violence after another.

It’s hard to square what Blunt said (all true) with what he did by sponsoring a bill designed, albeit somewhat feebly, to help prevent “one act of mass violence after another.” But a lot of things Republicans do these days are hard to square.

It doesn’t take a Tr-mpian jeenyus to figure out that, even though the determination of who is “unable to handle their own financial affairs” is, like all human decisions, “subjective,” (a complaint often made by Republicans) there has to be some limits on the purchase of firearms by people who competent professionals have deemed a risk. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as a restriction, ever, on anyone owning a firearm. Even the Supreme Court’s disastrous Heller decision okayed restrictions on gun ownership “by felons and the mentally ill.” In both cases, the people who fall into one of those two categories do so by way of subjective determinations.

A person becomes a “felon” either through the decision of a jury, a judge, or by lawyers making plea bargains, all of them subjective players and quite fallible. A “mentally ill” person likewise is so labeled, or should be so labeled, by professionals who are trained to recognize specific behaviors and connect those to a diagnosis. Again, there is the possibility of misdiagnosis and mislabeling. But wouldn’t it be better to slightly err on the side of caution, when it comes to questions of mental illness and gun ownership?

Related imageI recognize the Obama administration’s rule, which wouldn’t have taken effect until December of this year, wouldn’t have come close to solving the problems our society has with gun violence. And I realize that stigmatizing people with mental illness as “dangerous” is a real concern that has to be taken very seriously. But damn, people. If we can’t even agree that folks who receive “Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs” ought to be put in the national background check database, then our biggest problem with gun violence is that there is nothing—nothing—Republicans want to do about it.

Colbert, Comcast, And Corruption, Featuring Roy Blunt And Ozark Billy Long

“I guarantee you there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America who asked for this. No one in America stood up at a town hall and said ‘Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires. Maybe blackmail me one day.’”

—Stephen Colbert

The Verge published a great piece yesterday (“The 265 members of Congress who sold you out to ISPs, and how much it cost to buy them”) on the shameful passage—first by the Senate and then the House—of a resolution overturning a common-sense FCC rule (thank you, Obama!) that would, if it were to take effect this year, require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to explicitly get your permission before sharing data about your browsing history, email content, geographical location, and other forms of sensitive communications. The Joint Resolution (S.J.34) passed the Senate 50-48, with no Democrats supporting it. In the House, it passed 215-205, with, you guessed it, no Democrats supporting it. Tr-mp has indicated he will sign it, since, obviously, he doesn’t have a damned thing to hide from anyone.

As Stephen Colbert said, one can’t imagine there was a public outcry for such a stupid and privacy-damning move by Congress. So, then, why did it happen, and happen so fast? From Verge:

The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.

Routinely. Give. Lots. Of. Money. To. Congress.

Helpfully, The Verge published the amount of money the telecom industry gave to each of those who voted for the resolution. For those of us who live in Missouri, and particularly for those of us who live in southwest Missouri, we can see how much the locals got for selling out our privacy to our ISPs (the amounts are for the most recent election cycle for each member):

Senator Roy Blunt got $185,550. Yep—$185,550. To put that in perspective, only Mitch McConnell ($251,110) and John Thune ($215,000) got more than ol’ Roy.

Rep. Ozark Billy Long got a whopping $57,250. To put that in perspective, of the 215 Republicans who voted for the resolution, Long got more money than all but 16 of them, and some of those who got more than he got were part of House leadership. You can do a lot of eating and drinking and gambling with $57,250, something Long has a passion for, as opposed to, say, holding town halls in his district.

Here is Colbert’s take on it, even though, if you think about it, none of what is happening is really all that funny:

Roy Blunt, Terrorist Fighter

Roy Blunt, a United States Senator from my state, is a part of Republican leadership. He is supposed to be one of those “adults” in the Republican Party who is anchored to reality.

Ha.

Blunt voted, along with most Republicans, to make it possible for terrorists to get killing machines known as assault weapons. As you will see, he is a favorite of the NRA. And he is a walking—and tweeting—example of what is wrong, not only with his party, but with the entire conservative establishment and, if he holds onto his senate seat this November, what is wrong with the state of Missouri.

Look at this tweet his reelection campaign crapped out on Monday:

roy blunt tweet

There are other, similar, disgusting tweets from that account, all designed to persuade voters here in Missouri that our Secretary of State, Democrat Jason Kander, who is running for Blunt’s senate seat, is soft on “radical” Islamic terrorism.

Except, you know what? Jason Kander is a veteran. And he’s not just any old veteran. He’s a veteran of the Afghanistan war. Here is his return tweet:

jason kander tweet

It turns out, as The Kansas City Star reported, that Roy Blunt is a chicken hawk. He had his chance to serve his country with the firearms he so loves, but instead, like a lot of Republican library-soldiers, decided student deferments were the way to go:

In a news story posted online Wednesday morning, The Star reported Blunt received three draft deferments while a college student in the late 1960s.

He didn’t just “receive” them. He asked for them. And three draft deferments? He must have been proud of those, right? Wrong:

Blunt’s office did not disclose the deferments in 2015, when the newspaper specifically asked Blunt’s office about the senator’s draft history.

Well, that’s understandable. He was protecting his future bravery, no doubt. Protecting his abstract—and vote-getting—fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

So, what is the campaign’s explanation for Blunt’s failure to disclose? Simple: old age or bureaucratic red tape or, hell, Alzheimers:

Blunt’s staff said this week that poor memories and difficult-to-obtain draft records may have contributed to the confusion over the senator’s deferments.

Confusion. That’s it! He was confused about not wanting to get his ass shot at in Vietnam. Very understandable. It is painfully obvious how one could forget or get confused about that.

Truth is, I don’t know what to say about someone who attacks his political opponent in such a way as to suggest Jason Kander is squishy about fighting terrorism when Jason Kander actually risked his life to, uh, fight terrorism. Maybe you have words for such an asswipe. Share them.

In any case, back to Blunt’s vote on allowing terrorists here in America access to killing machines. According to a Washington Post analysis,

Sen. Roy Blunt has received more campaign donations from the National Rifle Association than any other current member of Congress…

I don’t know if that’s true. But if it is, that means Blunt is not only in bed with the gun (manufacturer) lobby, but he is on top. If you know what I mean.

Hey, at least humping the NRA and gun manufacturers is safer than dodging bullets in Vietnam. Or Afghanistan. No confusion about that.

The Grand Orange Party

This Thursday Drumpf will meet with some of the GOP bigwigs in Congress, including the Speaker of the House, who hasn’t quite got both feet on the crazy train. Their hopes are that they will either find out Drumpf has just been pretending to be a fool on the campaign trail or that he is someone whom they can mold into a real conservative nutjob, as opposed to just a nutjob.

In any case, it’s hard to tell these days whether some conservatives are afraid Drumpf will lose in November or are afraid that he will win. Famous right-winger Bill Kristol, who has correctly pronounced Drumpf as unfit to be president, was on TV this morning all worried about the latest polling—the meat and potatoes of TV journalism these days—in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida that shows the race is really, really close. Drumpf might win! Who’da thunk it? Kristol is doing his best to get someone like Mittens to run as a third party candidate. Good luck with that, Bill. I’m rooting for ya.

Here’s the deal, though. As Kristol suggests, GOP leaders in Congress, along with governors and other politicians with clout, can “normalize” Drumpf. They can do so in several ways. They can fully embrace him and say good things about him. Or they can half embrace him and say he is a work in progress. Or they can sort of slink away without saying anything. No matter how it happens, if they don’t come out and tell the world that Drumpf is not presidential material, they will legitimate him, put their stamp of approval on him, and thereby signal to voters that it is okay to vote for him. But will they do that? Will they normalize someone so obviously unstable and unfit?

You’re damned right they will. There’s no doubt about it. And when they do, they won’t get a mulligan. No do-overs. They’ll have to live with him and what he says and does for the next six months. And, Allah forbid, if Drumpf does win in November, they will be responsible for the considerable damage he will do to the country, and quite possibly, the world.

As many people have remarked, if Paul Ryan and other Republican big shots in Congress and around the country do, explicitly or implicitly, welcome Drumpf into the comfy confines of the establishment, it will then become Drumpf’s party. The Grand Orange Party. He’ll own it and its leaders, and they all will go down in history either as colossal losers or as dangerous winners.

The truth is, though, that Drumpf isn’t just a Republican problem. Sure, he makes Republicans look bigoted and ridiculous and small. But to some extent he also makes the country look that way. None of us can get through this mess, even if Drumpf ultimately loses, without getting a little Orange Stink on us. That’s the way it is with a guy like Drumpf. You see him on TV, you listen to him talk for a couple of minutes, and you feel like you’ve been slimed with orange ordure. You want to run through a car wash. No, that’s not quite right. You want to slowly walk through the car wash to make sure not one drop of Drumpf has stuck to you.

Last December, Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, said about Drumpf, “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.” Well, it is May now.  Republican voters have made him their choice to represent the party. On Thursday, Republican leaders, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt, will ratify that choice, either with sounds or with silence. Either way they will essentially embrace the race-baiter, the xenophobe, the bigot. They will authenticate an ignorant and ill-informed man, a man who is stuck in a strange adolescence, who is unstable and unpredictable and therefore unacceptably dangerous.

And the orange shitstorm that will follow Drumpf’s blessing will touch us all.

Cotton-Picking Minds

When I first heard Tom Cotton talk, I knew he was a dangerous man. He was not only ambitious—he spent only one term in the House of Representatives before deciding he could defeat Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas’ 2014 U.S. Senate race—but he was a Harvard lawyer and an Army veteran who knew how to politically exploit his military exploits and take warmongering to new heights.

 The 37-year-old senator isn’t shy about his I-ain’t-waitin’ ambition:

Some people say I’m a young man in a hurry. They’re right.

That quote is from a New Republic article published in January in which the author, David Ramsey, offered this description of Cotton given by Ed Kilgore, a progressive writer:

“[H]e manages to be a True Believer in the most important tenets of all the crucial Republican factions. He’s adored by Neocons, the Republican Establishment, the Tea Folk, the Christian Right, and most of all by the Con-Con cognoscenti that draw from both these last two categories.”

If that isn’t bad enough, Ramsey offered more:

Cotton…has been called the “party’s most aggressive next-generation advocate for military action overseas.” For Cotton, the Iraq War was a “just and noble war”; on foreign policy, he has said, “George Bush largely did have it right.” Cotton argues for an aggressive, interventionist military posture abroad, more defense spending, and an executive branch empowered on matters of national security. Pick a topicSyria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snoopingand Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate, demanding a continuation or escalation of the Cheney line more consistently and vociferously than nearly any of his peers.

That was written in January. This same Tom Cotton is now the leader of saboteurs in the U.S. Senate who are trying like hell to get the United States into a real war with Iran. By now you have heard all about Cotton’s “Open roy blunt signature on tom cotton letterLetter,” signed by 47 Republican senators (including Missouri’s Roy Blunt) and addressed to “the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The letter, as far as I can tell, is completely unprecedented in American history. For all of its posturing about educating the Iranians on how our constitutional system works, it was obviously designed to make right-wingers here in the United States aware that Republicans are doing all they can to blow up the negotiations between the Obama administration and the leaders of Iran over how best to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon—without spilling the blood of American soldiers.

President Obama responded to all the reactionary bluster this way:

I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.

The President is wrong, of course. The coalition between American hard-liners and Iranian hard-liners is not “unusual,” especially given the pathological hatred for Obama among conservative Republicans. Nor is it “ironic” for right-wingers to want “to make common cause” with other right-wingers in Iran.

Irony is defined as “a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.” Republican reactionaries, led by a warmonger like Tom Cotton, appealing to Iranian reactionaries in a theocratic state is exactly what I expected.

So, Senator Cotton’s letter and its Roy Blunt-endorsed message is not ironic, Mr. President. It’s par for the very sad and strange course of contemporary Republican politics.

Roy Blunt’s Moocher Talk And What’s Wrong With It

Not only has the Affordable Care Act been attacked by Republicans for being a government takeover of the healthcare system or for creating death panels that will kill your grandparents in their sleep or for busting the federal budget and your own or for limiting your choice of policies and doctors, now the GOP has a new line of attack: ObamaCare is creating more moochers!

Even though that whole moocher thing didn’t work so well in the 2012 presidential election, it is so much a part of the right-wing’s dogma about Democrats and Democratic constituencies that they simply can’t let it go.

Roy Blunt, my own senator, appeared on this week’s Fox “News” Sunday. And, of course, he followed the newest ObamaCare’s-a-moocher-maker script on what Republicans should say in response to the release of the CBO’s analysis of some of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the nation’s labor supply.blunt on fox

Before we get to what Blunt said, let’s look at the question Chris Wallace asked him and the way that question was set up for him and the way the reactionaries want us all to understand the issue. Wallace played a cherry-picked clip of Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf’s testimony before the House Budget Committee last Wednesday. Here’s a transcript of the clip Wallace played:

DOUG ELMENDORF, CBO DIRECTOR: By providing heavily subsidized health insurance to people with very low income and then withdrawing those subsidies as income rises, the act creates a disincentive for people to work, relative to what would have been the case in the absence of that act.

Wallace stopped the clip there. What Fox viewers (and Roy Blunt) didn’t hear was what Elmendorf said next:

Now these subsidies, of course, makes those lower income people better off.

Yes. He said that. Right after he talked about the disincentive to work. He said that these folks would be better off. And he continued to explain:

This is an implicit tax, not the sort of tax we normally think about where if the government raises our taxes, we are worse off and face the disincentive to work more. Providing a subsidy, people are better off but they do have less of an incentive to work and I think they would respond to that by working somewhat less.

As you can see, the whole idea that folks would stop working or reduce the time they spend working is essentially based on what economists “think they would respond to” in terms of being better off because of the ACA. And it turns out that the CBO’s number-crunchers were influenced by the work of a conservative economist, as Jonathan Chait (“How Obamacare Became the New Welfare”) notes:

The Congressional Budget Office’s budget update last week surprisingly adapted an analysis, advocated by conservative economist Casey Mulligan, that Obamacare would induce the equivalent of two million full-time jobs in reduced labor. Now, in addition to its previously recited horrors, Obamacare was taking money from hard-working Americans to finance indolence.

Mr. Mulligan has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act from the start. Last October he criticized it for—sound familiar?—creating “a reduction in the reward for working” and suggested that its full implementation this year might cause “a recessionary double-dip.” So, he’s not a fan of the law, and it is unclear why the CBO embraced some of his thinking as to the effects it will have on the labor supply.

politics 1984 IS HEREBut such thinking is part of the long-time conservative critique of Democrats and their fondness for safety-net programs. On Sunday, Chris Wallace asked former-intellectual-turned-Fox-commentator George Will: “is giving people a cheaper way to get health insurance without working so much — is that a good thing or a bad thing?” As he always does, as he is no doubt required to do to get his big paycheck from Fox, Will took aim at liberals:

People forget Social Security was advocated, Chris, in the 1930s, as a way of getting people to quit working, because they thought we were confined to a permanent scarcity of jobs in this country. Second, it is the point of progressivism to put in front of the American people an increasingly rich menu of temptation to dependency on government. In order to change social norms and eventually national character, the president said, “I want to fundamentally change America,” and these disincentives to work are part of it.

Of course! President Obama and the Democratic Party want people to be dependent on government. They want people to stay in what Paul Ryan called the “poverty trap.” They want all Americans to quit working and become moochers. Makes perfect sense, right? That idea, which Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing radio personalities have aggressively pushed for more than two decades now, is what Republicans want voters to now specifically associate with “ObamaCare.”

But what about that idea? What about that poverty trap? You might be surprised. Jonathan Chait writes:

What’s more, as Jared Bernstein and Edwin Park point out, by lifting the threshold for who gets subsidized insurance, Obamacare actually reduces this poverty trap. Before Obamacare expanded it, Medicaid had extremely low income thresholds. It varies state by state, but the average state cut off Medicaid to people earning just 61 percent of the poverty line, a pitifully low sum. If you’re a single parent in Texas, you lose your Mediciad if you earn more than $3,600 a year. A family of two in Alabama loses its Medicaid once its income, after deductions, hits the lofty sum of $2,832 a year. That’s a severe incentive to keep poor people from obtaining full-time work.

Of course, Texas is boycotting Obamcare’s Medcaid expansion, and is thus keeping in place this strong incentive for its poorest citizens to stay out of the workforce. (If conservatives are worried about fostering a culture of dependency in these Obamacare-boycotting red states, they are keeping their fears very, very quiet.) The states choosing to expand Medicaid are correspondingly increasing the incentive for the very poor to enter the workforce.

As the above-cited economist Jared Bernstein makes clear:

During a hearing today on the latest CBO report, Rep. Paul Ryan declared the health care law to be “a poverty trap.”  He’s way off base.  In fact, he’s got it backwards…

None of this is to deny the CBO’s point that some people with incomes above the poverty level will choose to work less to avoid reductions in their premium subsidy.  But those choices are not the ones faced by the poor who live in states where the ACA is the law of the land.  In those states, the law has thoroughly reversed the poverty trap.  Rep. Ryan should know that and correct the misimpression he’s created.

Of course Paul Ryan, Roy Blunt, or any Republican for that matter, will not correct any of the misimpressions, not to say lies, they have created. And many mainstream journalists will continue to promote a false equivalence by reporting Republican misinformation and Democratic attempts to correct it as if both are morally equal and just part of the game of politics. Thus, if Democratic politicians want to keep their jobs and keep health insurance reform alive, it is up to them to get very aggressive in their defense of the ACA, especially with people like Roy Blunt running around and making mischief on television.

Which leads me finally to Blunt’s appearance on Fox yesterday. Chris Wallace, after playing the partial Elmendorf clip, asked Blunt this question:

WALLACE: Now, Republicans say this proves that ObamaCare is a job killer. Democrats say it means that fewer people will be locked into jobs. Senator Blunt, what is wrong with that, the idea of fewer people locked into jobs?

Now, of course Wallace knows that ObamaCare is not “a job killer.” The CBO report made clear and Elmendorf testified that the law would actually create jobs not kill them. But Wallace chose to set the question up by contrasting a Republican “job-killer” lie with a Democratic truth, to wit: the law allows some people to opt out of jobs they are locked into because of their need for employer-provided health insurance. And Blunt took the bait and further muddied the waters:

SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: Well, I think any law you pass that discourages people from working can’t be a good idea. Why would we want to do that? Why would we think that was a good thing? How does that allow people to prepare for the time when they don’t work?

This number is about three times as big as the number that was on the table when people that voted for the president’s health care bill voted for it in 2009 and ’10 when the estimate was it would cost the equivalent of 800,000 full time jobs. Now, they’re saying 2.3 million, and the best face can you put on that is that means people that don’t want to work don’t have to work. Surely, that’s not what we want to encourage. And that’s what this law does encourage.

Let’s start with his first declaration: “I think any law you pass that discourages people from working can’t be a good idea.” Oh, yeah? The Social Security law discourages people from working. Lots and lots of them. And lots of them are Republicans. Is Social Security a bad idea, Senator Blunt? Is Medicare a bad idea because it also discourages people from working? Apparently, Blunt thinks that making it possible for people who have worked all their lives and simply want to exit the labor force into retirement is a bad thing. No wonder he supported the infamous Paul Ryan Medicare-mutilating budget plan. I guess people should just work until their dead.

But more than that, notice how Blunt, like all Republicans are now doing and will continue to do until election day this November, focuses on those alleged 2.3 million” people who “don’t want to work” or “don’t have to work.” That is essentially the argument that was made more generally during the 2012 election. Paul Ryan said the following at a fundraiser in June of that election year:

Do you want the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net where you can take a risk, start a business, make a difference, succeed and be honored for being successful? Or do we go down the path the president is proposing — a social welfare state, a cradle-to-the-grave society where we have more takers than makers?

The only difference now, in this election year, is that Republicans are targeting a specific effort by Democrats, embodied in the Affordable Care Act, to help low-income folks get affordable health insurance. And they think they have the CBO on their side this time.

elmendorfBut what about that CBO report and Director Elmendorf’s seemingly common-sense claim “that by providing a somewhat smaller incentive to work, somewhat fewer people would work”? Nobody argues that there won’t be some number of people who will do exactly what Elmendorf suggests they will do. As Jonathan Chait makes clear:

It is true that any means-tested government benefit will discourage some class of people from working. If a subsidy is available only for people below a certain income level, then people whose income approaches that income level will lose some incentive to earn more.

By its very nature, the concept of means-testing—which Republicans themselves have always embraced—involves people calculating whether working more actually makes them better off. People do that all the time when, for instance, they reach retirement age. The issue here is how many people will do what Elmendorf suggests. And relative to that issue Suzy Khimm (who used to be with the Washington Post’s Wonkblog) makes an excellent point:

It’s also worth taking the CBO’s findings with a grain of salt. The office had previously forecast that Obamacare would reduce the total hours worked by the equivalent of 800,000 workers, then updated its forecast based on more recent research. But one new study that CBO cited in its report actually “found no significant effect of Medicaid on employment or earnings” when Oregon expanded the program in 2008.

Austin Nichols, a researcher at the Urban Institute, says such evidence makes him skeptical that Obamacare’s effect on the labor market will be as large as the CBO predicts. “I don’t think we’re going to see the kinds of reductions in labor supply that Elmendorf is talking bout today,” says Nichols. “We have also evidence from Massachusetts that doesn’t show a large impact.”

Paul Krugman wrote that the “reduced labor supply” noted by the CBO and exploited by dishonest Republicans does in fact add to “the true cost of health reform.” But he demonstrates, through what he calls “some pretty prosaic economics,” that the effects are fairly modest. He ends:

Should you care how much other people work? Yes, a little – but not so much that it should change anyone’s views about health reform.

The truth is that at this point nobody really knows, with any degree of legitimate certainty, what direct and indirect effects the Affordable Care Act will have not only on the labor supply, but on other areas of the economy. As I have said many times, the ACA is an experiment. Much more time and evidence is needed to figure out whether the law will work as designed, whether it will need significant changes, or whether it should be scrapped altogether. But we have one political party that does not want it to work, will not lift a finger to fix any problems with it, and wants only to kill it before it has had a chance to prove or disprove itself.

Unfortunately for Missourians—especially for those Missourians who could get health insurance were it not for Republicans blocking Medicaid expansion—Roy Blunt is part of that one political party.

No ENDA In Sight, Thanks To The Roy Blunts In Congress

If you were searching for something online on Monday, you no doubt noticed this Google Doodle:

google doodle and Shakuntala Devi

November 4 was the birthday of Shakuntala Devi. She was an arithmetically-gifted child prodigy who could do seemingly impossible calculations in her head. Initially that was her claim to fame. But she was also celebrated later for writing an important book on homosexuality in 1977, The World of Homosexuals, which Wikipedia calls “the first study of homosexuality in India.” Here’s more from the site:

The book, considered “pioneering”, features interviews with two young Indian homosexual men, a male couple in Canada seeking legal marriage, a temple priest who explains his views on homosexuality, and a review of the existing literature on homosexuality. It ends with a call for decriminalising homosexuality, and “full and complete acceptance—not tolerance and not sympathy”.

Long before anyone had ever heard of Shakuntala Devi, there was Sigmund Freud, who also had an interest in homosexuality, albeit in a time when it was poorly understood. The Skeptic’s Dictionary plainly states that Sigmund Freud’s personal invention, known as psychoanalysis, is,

the granddaddy of all pseudoscientific psychotherapies, second only to Scientology as the champion purveyor of false and misleading claims about the mind, mental health, and mental illness.

An example of such nonsense, as the Dictionary points out, is how Freud viewed schizophrenia:

Freud thought he understood the nature of schizophrenia. It is not a brain disorder, but a disturbance in the unconscious caused by unresolved feelings of homosexuality. 

Fortunately, real science has advanced beyond such mumbo jumbo. Schizophrenia is no longer “a disturbance” related to feelings of homosexuality, unresolved or otherwise. But there are folks among us who still have strange views of homosexuality itself, notwithstanding Shakuntala Devi’s call for “full and complete acceptance” of it a generation ago.

And many of those folks are in Congress.

By now you have heard that a so-called gay rights bill in the United States Senate, officially known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has survived a procedural vote by a margin of 61-30. All Democrats (except for Claire McCaskill, who had attended a funeral for former Missouri congressman Ike Skelton in Lexington, Mo., and missed the vote) voted to advance the bill and a mere seven Republicans (minus a likely “yes” vote from an absent Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) voted with them.

The bill, as ABC News reported, “would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The assumption behind the bill, of course, is to apply Shakuntala Devi’s “full and complete acceptance” of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity to the American workplace.

Missouri’s other senator, Roy Blunt, did not vote and I don’t know why or where he was. But I do know that in 2007 a right-wing Christian website called “Americans for Truth About Homosexuality” featured Blunt, who was not my senator but my congressman at the time, specifically because of his opposition to ENDA:

Rep. Roy Blunt: Democratic Majority’s ENDA Bill Takes Dead Aim at Religious Freedom

blunt and ENDAIn a piece published by the reactionary website Human Events and appearing almost six years ago to the day, Blunt explained the basis of his objection to ENDA. You can go there and read it for yourself, but I will here summarize his objections:

1. Ensuring that there is no employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity represents a threat to the practice of Bible- and Quran-believing religion.

2. Employees in Christian or Muslim businesses would be forced to “choose” between their faith and their pocketbooks out of fear of litigation.

3. The whole ENDA exercise is a “whim”—defined by the Free Dictionary as an “arbitrary thought or impulse”—of Congress.

4. Your “freedom to practice religion” could be “greatly impinged” by some judge “sitting on a bench” in a particular state on a given day.

To condense Blunt’s objections into one sentence: Homosexuals have no rights which a conservative Christian (or Muslim) is bound to respect. 

All of this, of course, at least for Blunt and his Bible-believing constituency, stems from the Bible’s rather hostile view of homosexuals. You know, like this from Leviticus:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So, you can see that what Roy Blunt was protecting in 2007 (and presumably today) in terms of his opposition to ENDA, is the Iron Age beliefs of people who thought (and some who still think) that there is something so seriously wrong with homosexuals that executing them, if they practice their “sin,” is necessary.

Where is Sigmund Freud when you need him? His views are quite civilized, at least compared to the view Blunt is defending.

And by the way, Rand Paul, the duel-loving serial plagiarizer and faux-libertarian superstar, a man who in theory is in favor of “more individual freedom,” voted in favor of honoring Iron Age notions of sexuality and the bigotry that goes with them, allowing the Bible- and Quran-thumpers to keep discriminating against homosexuals, or perceived homosexuals, in the workplace. He too, like Roy Blunt, apparently believes that such folks have no rights which religious zealots are bound to respect, especially religious zealots who happen to own businesses.

Below is a video of Roy Blunt arguing against ENDA in 2007 in the House. While it is unlikely that ENDA will ever become law, so long as one side of the Capitol remains under theocratic control, you will, no doubt, hear arguments similar to Blunt’s should this matter ever get debated in the teavangelical-dominated House of Boehner:

Roy Blunt Votes To Shut ‘Er Down!

Let the record show that my United States senator, lobbyist-loving Roy Blunt, just voted to shut down the federal government.

And even though Democrats prevailed on the vote, I’m sure that all the soldier-loving, Social Security-sucking seniors in Missouri who put Blunt in office are as happy as can be that he voted with 43 other Republicans, many with grossly undeserved reputations for “reasonableness,” to show the world that the United States government is just one Republican-friendly election away from Tea Party disaster.

Roy Blunt And Republicans About To Exploit Public Ignorance

MSNBC’s star right-winger Joe Scarborough was all excited this morning about the fact that the chaos and confusion Republicans have been causing in Washington has finally started to pay dividends in the form of low approval ratings for the President:

obama job approval sept 2013

“Things are actually breaking our way for the first time in a couple of years,” Scarborough said of conservatives. Except things are not breaking their way. Bloomberg News, reporting on its own poll a few days ago, said the numbers for both Obama and the Republicans “are the worst ever for both.” So Scarborough was simply out of his mind.

But speaking of delusional thinking, perhaps the weirdest, most disconcerting moment on Morning Joe this morning was when Scarborough highlighted this frightening Bloomberg poll result:

debt ceiling result bloomberg

What was weird and disconcerting about the presentation of this particular poll result on Morning Joe was that no one seemed to be frightened by it. And if this poll result doesn’t frighten you, doesn’t scare the Cruz out of you, then you don’t understand what fooling around with not raising the debt ceiling will mean. (Go here to find out and then get really scared, and pissed, about the dangerous ignorance reflected in that Bloomberg poll.)

This dangerous ignorance on the part of the American people—which is partly the result of journalistic malpractice—would be harmless if it weren’t for the fact that it will undoubtedly encourage unhinged Republicans to exploit such ignorance and really push the United States into default, if they don’t get what they want. Just today Politico reported:

A large number of Senate and House Republicans are raising the threat of a debt default to curtail, delay or defund President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. It’s a major gamble — risking the prospect of a first-ever default on U.S. debt — but it’s one seriously being considered by the same Republicans who have refused to join Cruz’s filibuster attempt of the stopgap spending bill to keep the government running.

Not only that, Politico noted that Speaker Boehner “has compiled a debt hike bill with a bunch of goodies that they think House Republicans will vote for, and red state Senate Democrats won’t want to avoid.”

People may think Ted Cruz is a wild-eyed extremist—and he is—but the only thing that distinguishes him from the rest of the Republican Party in Congress is that he and a few others are wild-eyed anti-establishment extremists. The rest of them are wild-eyed establishment extremists who are willing to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to achieve what they could not achieve in the last election: ideological victory.

After not supporting the weird attempt by Ted Cruz to defund ObamaCare via a continuing resolution on the budget, Missouri’s Roy Blunt told Politico:

The debt ceiling provides more of an opportunity to get something than the [continuing resolution] does.

Got it? Using the threat of debt-default, using the threat of economic chaos here and around the world, dynamiting the full faith and credit of the United States, is an “opportunity to get something” says Roy Blunt.

This is dangerous territory. This is alarming stuff. This is Republican politics.

An Open Letter To Senator Roy Blunt

Dear Senator Blunt,

I recently called you a gun whore and I apologize.

Oh, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t apologize to you, Senator. I apologize to all the street prostitutes in the world who don’t deserve to be compared to a United States Senator of your dubious moral quality. Most of the women who decide to make a living on the streets by selling themselves to the highest bidder do so for reasons beyond their control, reasons like poverty, sexual abuse, or drug addiction. Misfortune in life has often driven them to trading favors for money.

But you, Senator Blunt, have had no such misfortune in life. You, along with most of your Republican colleagues, simply sold yourself to the NRA for political power and for thirty pieces of blood-stained silver. Make no mistake about it, sir, the money you have taken from the NRA—and the money you will no doubt take from the NRA in the future—has blood on it.

That money, every single dollar, has on it blood spattered from bullet-riddled six-year-old faces, kids who spent their last minutes of life on this earth in utter terror, as a madman with a military style killing machine in his hands and armed with multiple 30-round magazines, quickly and methodically hunted them down and murdered all twenty of them, along with the six adults who tried to be their guardian angels on that bloody day.

You, too, Senator Blunt, are a guardian angel of sorts. Through your unfailing support of the NRA, you look after the welfare of gun manufacturers and their profits. You are the dark and dishonest spirit that keeps the NRA in power and keeps America awash in guns, awash in war-time killing machines, awash in blood, even the blood of children.

Your claims to voters and ultimately to the Almighty that you are a Christian and a “social conservative” will one day, if there is any justice in this incomparably large and unfathomably cold universe, be weighed against your actions as the gluttonous guardian angel of people and groups who care for nothing but their own narrow, lucrative interests.

Yes, Senator, I apologize to all the whores in the world for comparing what you do to what they do. They merely trade sexual favors for money. You trade the public good for money and power. You trade the commonweal for currency and clout. You trade our national well-being for your own. And, I confess, you are good at it. You are good at turning tricks and selling yourself to the highest bidder and accumulating power in Washington. In fact, Public Citizen honored your whoring skills with a special report:

Rep. Roy Blunt: Ties to Special Interests Leave Him Unfit to Lead

That report, which examined your record as a legislator in the House, revealed the truth about what it is you do, Senator:

In the end, what emerges is a portrait of a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.

What perverted pride you must have felt at being so honored, Mr. Blunt. What sick satisfaction you must have experienced when a Washington Post profile favorably compared your work in the House to convicted felon Tom DeLay, and noted that,

Here in Washington, Blunt has converted what had been an informal and ad hoc relationship between congressional leaders and the Washington corporate and trade community into a formal, institutionalized alliance.

And now that you are in the Senate, you must feel a strange and devilish joy that your prowess as a corporate prostitute is still recognized, not only for your continued support for the gun industry, but for the agribusiness industry:

Sen. Roy Blunt: Monsanto’s Man in Washington

I have to admit that slipping a Monsanto-friendly provision into a totally unrelated piece of legislation is a skillful maneuver worthy of anything I have ever seen in the Kama Sutra or, frankly, in Deep Throat or Debbie Does Dallas.

But your votes on Wednesday, Senator Blunt, your votes to kill even the mildest and most common-sense efforts to at least make it more difficult for murderers to murder our kids and loved ones with NRA-protected killing machines, those votes, those votes, Senator, are more shameful than anything you have ever done.

The lies you, your colleagues, and the NRA told about the legislation, and your votes that ultimately killed all the relatively modest proposals and amendments, those lies and those votes, if there were a righteous God who has ears to hear and eyes to see what you have done, would move him to, as the Bible says, spew you and your cowardly colleagues out of his mouth on some future judgment day.

But, alas, whether there will be such a future day of everlasting judgment, whether there will be a time when you, Senator Blunt, stand before and receive unappealable justice from the God you claim to worship, whether there will be such a day and time is uncertain. Not one of us knows the truth about that possibility. But we do know, we can be certain of one thing, that the judgment of history, the only judgment we as human beings can make that has any permanence, won’t be kind to you, sir.

If there is a heaven and hell of human construction, it is the heaven and hell of historical judgment. And someday, long after you have passed from this life and have or haven’t met your creator, your descendants will find your legislative legacy in the hell of human history, where it most certainly belongs and where it, if not you, will live forever.

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