You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live In Kansas, But It Helps

I spent my first 30 years living in Kansas. When I left there in 1988, I left there as a right-wing dittohead. It would take another dozen years or so to get the Kansas out of me, to get the ditto out of my head, and to get right with reality. And though I am glad I escaped, I feel sorry for those I left behind, those who still live there, who have to live under Sam Brownback, a Christian extremist and governor whose “experiment”—his word—with supply-side economics has caused real harm to real people.

I’ve gone over the details before on this blog, so no need to do that again. Suffice it to say that yet another round of budget cuts are necessary because the Brownback experiment, which failed years ago, is an experiment that won’t stop giving because the governor won’t stop the experiment. The other day he again nixed the idea of raising taxes on the rich, taxes that he cut in order to make Kansas a thriving place that lots of job-creators would want to come to and create lots of jobs that would bring in lots of revenue and everyone would see how wonderful Republican governance was. It seems like a cruel joke now. But it ain’t a joke.

The practice of giving rich people large tax cuts and then believing that such generosity will increase the state’s revenue is faith-based economics. It really is voodoo, as a critic of Ronald Reagan’s economics, George H. W. Bush, once called it before he became a convert to it out of political necessity. In Brownback’s case, his faith in his economic program is a lot like his right-wing Christian faith: zealous and doctrinaire and unbending in a gale of contrary evidence.

As I said, the governor isn’t interested in debating the tax issue but he does have yet another plan: “Instead, we will focus our support and attention on controlling government spending more efficiently.” When the working class and the poor hear that in Kansas, they know they are about to take another beating. And, as the old saying goes, the beatings will continue into morale improves.

There was some good news coming out of the state, though, believe it or not:

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.

As Ars Technica pointed out,

This case, COPE v. Kansas Board of Education, is a notable victory for science—and a blow to the creationist crowd and its progeny.

Now, if only someone could deliver a similar blow to a similar group of zealots—those who are ruining the state via supply-side superstition—maybe, just maybe, the long and crazy and nightmarish economic experiment in Kansas would finally come to an end.

[Brownback photo: Gage Skidmore]

Worst Than The Willie Horton Ad, Or Why You Should Vote Against Sam Brownback, Even If You Like His Reactionary Politics

It’s no secret that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is a reactionary who is hell-bent on taking the state backwards in time. And it is no secret that many Kansans, including many Republican Kansans, don’t want to go back in time as far as Brownback wants to take them. Thus, his reelection is in some doubt, even in such a conservative state.

And that is why this weekend, as I watched local TV here in Joplin, Missouri (just a few miles from the state line), I finally saw Willie Horton come to Kansas.

As essential background for understanding the point of this post, a little history is in order. Willie Horton and two of his criminal friends robbed and brutally murdered a 17-year-old service station attendant in northeastern Massachusetts in 1974. The young man was stabbed 19 times and bled to death in a trash barrel where his body had been stuffed. Horton, who had previously served time in South Carolina for assault with intent to murder, was eventually convicted of actually committing murder in Massachusetts and sentenced to life without parole.

Except that as part of a weekend furlough program, which was designed to help rehabilitate criminals other than first-degree murderers (the state’s highest court eventually decided the program should also apply to those criminals too), Willie Horton was released in June of 1986 for a weekend of unsupervised freedom. It was his tenth such weekend out, and it was at that time he decided he wasn’t going back to prison. He fled instead.

The next year, still a free man, Horton went to a home in Maryland one evening, in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and pointed a gun at the man who came to the door. For seven hours, Horton tormented the 28-year-old by punching and kicking him and whipping him with his gun. He also sliced his torso multiple times with a knife. Horton bound and gagged the man, who then listened as his fiancée unfortunately came home during this horrific episode. Horton similarly abused her for four hours, but added to her torments by raping her. Twice.

Horton was eventually captured, after a police chase and shootout. He is still in prison today in Maryland, a judge there refusing to send him back to Massachusetts for fear officials would let him out again on another furlough.

It was in 1988 that Willie Horton was introduced to the nation via the following infamous—and effective—ad produced by a man who used to work for Roger Ailes and put out by supporters of the George H. W. Bush campaign that year:

After that ad was taken down, the official Bush campaign ran another one, which did not use Willie Horton’s image or mention his name. But the message was already out there. A vote for Dukakis was essentially a vote for Willie Horton’s freedom.

Now, the original ad makes two claims about Michael Dukakis, who was governor of Massachusetts from 1975-1979 and from 1983-1991. One, that Dukakis “opposes the death penalty,” and, two, that he “allowed murderers to have weekend passes.” Famously, Dukakis did (and presumably still does) oppose the death penalty, having hurt himself in the 1988 campaign by too-soberly answering a question related to the hypothetical rape and murder of his wife. But did he also allow murderers, murderers like Willie Horton, to have weekend passes?

Well, sort of. Like other states at the time and still today, Massachusetts had a furlough program in place when Horton killed that young service station attendant. And that program was signed into law by a Republican governor in 1972, although it was understood that the program would not be open to killers like Willie Horton who were serving life terms without the possibility of parole. No state had such a furlough program, all of them sensibly denying the benefit to first-degree killers.

As I mentioned, though, the state’s highest court ruled that the language of the law that established the program did not specifically prohibit first-degree murderers from benefiting from it. Soon after that ruling, the legislature passed a bill in 1976 that would have unequivocally prohibited Willie Horton-type criminals from getting weekend passes. But Michael Dukakis vetoed that bill and therefore the court’s interpretation of the law stood, resulting in Willie Horton’s tenth state-sanctioned weekend of freedom in June of 1986.

So, as far as raw electoral advertising goes, it was plausibly true that, as that ad claimed, Dukakis “allowed murderers to have weekend passes.” In politics, it is close enough to the truth to say he did, considering that if he had not vetoed that bill, it is quite unlikely that Willie Horton would ever have been out in 1987 to commit those awful crimes in Maryland. (By the way, Dukakis eventually gave into pressure and in 1988, the same year he was running for president, the questionable furlough program was abolished.)

But the point of that ad was, as Republican political strategist and “Southern strategy” proponent Lee Atwater said later, to make Willie Horton “Dukakis’ running mate.” The ad would not have been nearly as effective, in terms of appealing to the fear and angst of white people, if Willie Horton had been as white as they were. It is incontrovertible that Willie Horton’s likeness, more than the crimes he committed or the situation in which he was able to commit them, was the main reason that ad was conceived. The ad, after all, was initially limited to running on cable channels and ended up in the mainstream because of press attention to its overtones.

Having said all that, let’s look at the latest ad from Sam Brownback in Kansas, attacking his Democratic opponent Paul Davis with a Willie Horton-style ad:

Is there any doubt that the following image is really what this ad is all about:

carr brothers

No, there is no doubt. It is more their complexions than their crimes, as brutal and as awful as they were, that make them perfect stars of a Republican political campaign ad in mostly rural and mostly lily-white Kansas. And make no mistake about it, their crimes were bad, as The Wichita Eagle described them:

The brothers were convicted of murdering five people, including a brutal execution-style quadruple murder, during a weeklong crime spree of killing, rape and robbery in Wichita in December 2000.

But here is the reason why I went to all the trouble of explaining the context of that original Willie Horton ad. There is absolutely no connection between what the Carr brothers did and Paul Davis. Unlike what Michael Dukakis did, which was veto a bill that would likely have kept Willie Horton in prison forever, Paul Davis had nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with the Carr brothers. As the Wichita paper reported, here is Brownback’s defense of the ad:

Brownback said during and after a debate Tuesday that he thinks it’s justified to link Davis to the Supreme Court decision because Davis would appoint judges who are more liberal than those Brownback would pick.

You see? Davis can be married to the Carr brothers in a political ad not for something he did as an elected official or as a lawyer, but because of something he might do as governor of Kansas. But of course that is not the real reason Brownback is using that ad. He is in a tough campaign. He needs every white vote. And as the Willie Horton ad proved so long ago, there isn’t a better way for a white candidate in a challenging campaign to get those extra white votes than by featuring images of psychopathic black killers in the same 30-seconds of air time in which your Democratic opponent also appears. It has become a classic sign of desperation.

If this ad doesn’t disgust even white Republicans in Kansas simply as a cynical attack on their intelligence, not to mention as a cynical appeal to their implied fear of black people, then all hope is lost in my old, fast-declining home state. The Brownbacks will have their way.

Finally, I must note that the former district attorney who prosecuted the Carr brothers, Nola Foulston, said this about Brownback’s ad:

It is beyond disgraceful that Sam Brownback would exploit this tragedy and make the victims’ families relive that horrific crime every time they turn on their television just for the sake of getting re-elected.

And I must note that the Carr brothers are not out roaming the streets of Kansas. They will spend the rest of their miserable lives in prison. The state supreme court, despite finding flaws in their sentencing, upheld a count of capital murder for each of them.

What’s The Matter With Kansas? Nothing That An Election Can’t Fix

Way back in February of this year there were signs. Public Policy Polling began a piece on a survey conducted in Kansas, my old home state, this way:

Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 37% of Kansas voters approve of him to 52% who disapprove. He meets with near universal disapproval from independents (22/66) and Democrats (14/81), but what really drives his numbers down is that even among Republicans just 55% approve of him to 30% who disapprove. 

Now, for those of us who have been witnessing the race to the bottom in Kansas—engineered by Tea Party fanatics in the state—that poll in February was good news. But the news is even better now because Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate who is turning heads in the Sunflower State. A poll conducted by SurveyUSA found:

Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term…Today, the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking edges the Republican ticket of Brownback and Jeff Colyer, 43% to 39%.

Can Paul Davis actually win? Should Democrats even dare to dream that big? Well, the SurveyUSA pollsters also found that Brownback’s approval rating is a meager 34%. If it remains that low, maybe the dream can come true.

Another poll (“Kansas Speaks 2013”) conducted by Fort Hayes State University found that only 33.9% of people who voted in 2012 are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with Governor Brownback’s performance, while a whopping 45.5% are either “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

And satisfaction with the Tea Party-controlled Kansas legislature is worse. Of those who voted in 2012, only 27.3% are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with their lawmakers, while 44.4% are “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

Until the 2012 election, there were moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate who would occasionally work with Democrats to keep the Tea Party zealots, who dominate the House, from burning the government down. However, the Koch brother-funded zealots knocked off enough moderates—and that is a relative term; they were pretty damned conservative—in 2012 to take control of the entire state government, with Brownback as the Chief Zealot.

Perhaps the major reason there has been a turnaround in public opinion is due to education funding in the state. Here is a recent headline from The Topeka Capital-Journal:

kansas education cuts

Public school funding has become a major issue in Kansas. A district court in the state ruled in January that the way the Tea Party extremists, led by Brownback, went about cutting income taxes and shortchanging public schools last year was unconstitutional, a decision that has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader who is currently leading Governor Brownback in the polls, has made the Tea Party’s stingy education funding a big part of his gubernatorial campaign. As the Topeka paper point out, Davis,

has said the district court appropriately acknowledged the governor’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations directly conflict with our constitutional obligation to fund public schools.”

Davis’ message may be resonating. Here is a graph from the “Kansas Speaks” survey:

education funding in kansas

As you can see, even 50% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing education funding for K-12. That’s a big bleeping deal. (And almost 40% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing funding for higher education.)

I know—I know—it is way too early to get excited about all this. I know we can’t be the least bit confident that a majority of Kansans will next year decide to reject Tea Party governance. But, dammit, at least we have some hope.

For those of us here in Missouri, we have our own zealots to worry about. Earlier this month, Rex Singquefield, who is Missouri’s version of a gazillionaire Koch brother, wrote a glowing article on the alleged success of Kansas’ cut-taxes-on-the-wealthy-and-they-will-come experiment. The Forbes piece (“How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri On Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow”) has Singquefield saying:

Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership. Lower income tax rates have in fact stimulated the economy by reducing the price both of work and conducting business in the state, not to mention that lower rates have predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business environment.

Singquefield’s “close look” at the data is so close that no one with normal vision can see it, unless, of course, they want to see it even if it ain’t there. I think that’s called hallucinating, or something akin to it. Whatever it’s called, Steve Rose, writing for the Kansas City Star, isn’t buying it:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Rose admits that it is “way too early” to know if the tax-cutting “experiment” in Kansas will eventually do what the zealots claim, but he says:

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

As I said, at this point we can only hope he’s right.

Remarks And Asides

Much is being made of New Hampshire’s Union Leader endorsing serial-divorcer and family values man Newt Gingrich for president.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hoping against hope that the über-conservative paper’s endorsement means something, as my dark side would like to see Newt get the nomination—if nothing else, he and Obama could debate the President’s “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior” these past three years.

Man, I’d like to see Obama squirm when Newt waived Dinesh D’Souza’s book at him. I bet the President would finally reveal his famous rage.

But I’m afraid if the Union Leader’s endorsement meant that much, then Pete du Pont (1988), Pat Buchanan (1992, 1996), and Steve Forbes (2000) would have been president.

So, let’s face it: Mitt Romney will win New Hampshire and my sinister desire to see Newt eat his way to the White’s House will be frustrated.

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Speaking of the Union Leader, its editorial page editor appeared on CNN on Sunday to defend the paper’s choice of Gingrich and slammed Mitt Romney saying he would be the “perfect” candidate in the “late 19th century.”  The editor did not explain how Newt’s calling child labor laws “truly stupid” was 21st-century enlightenment.

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And speaking of Newt Gingrich, the Washington Post tells us:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich transfigured himself from a political flameout into a thriving business conglomerate.

From iWatch News:

The three pillars of what’s often dubbed Newt Inc. — two for-profit groups and one defunct political committee — raked in more than $105 million in revenue and donations from 2001 through 2010 while Newt Gingrich was eyeing a political comeback.

And you thought Sarah Palin was the first one to do that. Nope, Newt’s a pioneer.

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A headline on HuffPo:

Occupy Wall Street And Homelessness: Millions Spent To Evict Camps, While Cutting Shelter Funds

From the story:

The cities have spent millions of dollars to police and evict the protesters, but they’ve been shutting down shelters and enacting laws to prohibit homeless from sleeping overnight in public.

The reactionaries are now controlling our cities, my friends. Get out while you still can!

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Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its raison d’être, , Matt Taibbi wrote:

Not to belabor the point, but the person who commits fraud to obtain food stamps goes to jail, while the banker who commits fraud for a million-dollar bonus does not. Or if you accept aid in the form of Section-8 housing, the state may insist on its right to conduct warrantless “compliance check” searches of your home at any time – but if you take billions in bailout aid, you do not even have to open your books to the taxpayer who is the de facto owner of your company.

As for those banks, Bloomberg reported on Sunday:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

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Closer to home: Next door in Kansas, a Fairway teenager, Emma Sullivan, is in trouble for daring to criticize (via, of course, Twitter) her governor, Republican Sam Brownback.

During Brownback’s speech at a Youth in Government meeting (how ironic) held in Topeka the Shawnee Mission East High School senior tweeted that Brownback “sucked.”

Her principal apparently demanded that she apologize for the tweet, which Sullivan refuses to do, with the full support of her mother, who says she raised her kids “to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers.” Not in Kansas, lady.

Interestingly, most of us would have never heard of Sullivan’s tweet (she had only 65 friends at the time), if it weren’t for peeping Republicans:

Brownback’s office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor’s name, saw Sullivan’s post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Emma Sullivan meet Big Brother, Kansas style.

Tea Party Governance In Kansas Means Regulating Abortion Clinics Out Of Business

Whenever you hear Republicans waxing nasty about all the government regulation that hinders businesses and therefore hurts the economy, most of the time you can be confident they are lying through their gold teeth.

Such is the case in neighboring Kansas, where the legislature, completely controlled by Republicans, and the governor, a right-wing Christian Republican fanatic, have conspired to close down the state’s three—three!—remaining abortion clinics by using, what else,  so-called safety regulations, thirty-six pages of which are designed only to put the abortion clinics out of business.

As The Kansas City Star editorialized:

The latest political attack on abortion providers in Kansas is misguided, arrogant and dishonest, and opens up a state struggling to pay for schools to a long list of clearly indefensible lawsuits.

This attack came in the form of what is known as a TRAP law, a “targeted regulation of abortion providers.”

Under the guise of ensuring the safety of patients, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature this year created a new regulation category for abortion providers, and gave the Kansas Department of Health and Environment broad authority to write the rules.

Officials gave the details to abortion providers in mid-June, noting that clinics had until July 1 to be in compliance or lose their license to operate.

The intent was to close down clinics and end the legal practice of abortion in Kansas.

The proof, as the Star offered, is that of the 241 ambulatory surgical clinics, “only the state’s three abortion clinics are subject to these regulations.”  And, “Many regulations have nothing to do with patient safety, and many are impossible to meet within two weeks.”

The editorial makes it clear that those who proposed these regulations aren’t really hiding their motivation: they want to make Kansas “the first abortion-free state.”

Religious zealots and anti-choice fanatics hitched a ride on the Tea Party train as it pulled out of Big Government Station just after President Obama assumed office in 2009, and after the train reached its November 2010 election stop, the zealots and fanatics got off and went to work attacking abortion rights.

The Star:

The attack on legal abortion is a cheap legislative trick to get around the law of the land. Legitimate safety regulations would be phased in, giving clinics time to get up to code. But these regulations were never meant to be legitimate.

Of course not.  And neither were the claims of many in the Tea Party movement who held signs at rallies around the country protesting the size and reach of government and making the outrageous claim that Obama and the Democrats were after our liberties.

What legitimacy there was in the Tea Party movement was soon undermined by Republican political operatives who moved in to take partisan political advantage of the Obama-induced angst on the Right by pretending to run “grassroots” operations.

And worse than that, Christian moralists and quasi-theocrats used the small-government, love-the-Constitution movement to gain power in order to enact their extremist anti-choice agenda, an agenda which includes using state governments to effectively eliminate in America the constitutional right to abortion.

Big government? You betcha.

Theocracy Or Bust

From the bend-over-here-it-comes department:

TOPEKA, Kan. — Although fixing the economy is the top priority, Republicans who won greater control of state governments in this month’s election are considering how to pursue action on a range of social issues, including abortion, gun rights and even divorce laws.

John Hanna at HuffPo points out that our neighbors, Kansas and Oklahoma, are far more conservative after the November elections:

The tension is particularly visible in Kansas, where the victory by Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage, has created strong expectations among evangelical supporters.

A similar scenario is taking shape in strongly conservative Oklahoma, where a Republican governor will replace a Democrat, and to a lesser extent in Michigan, Wisconsin and several other states.

All of this means, of course, that evangelical Christians will have a good chance of turning those states into quasi-theocracies.  And they won’t wait too long, as this quote exemplifies:

“We’re not going to spend the next 18 months doing nothing but economic issues,” said Wisconsin Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman, an advocate of tougher abortion restrictions.

Hanna points out that Republicans won all statewide races on the ballot in Kansas and have a 92-33 advantage in the House. Couple that with the election of Sam Brownback, a Christian fanatic, as governor, and the question, “What would Jesus do?” will finally have an answer in Kansas politics.  About the only thing that has stopped religious zealots from turning Kansas (my home state) into an evangelical Vatican has been the presence of Democratic governors.

Brownback, at one time a resident at the now-famous C Street Center, owned by a group of Christian extremists called The Family, was a co-sponsor of the Constitution Restoration Act, which, of course, doesn’t restore the Constitution at all.  But here’s what it does do, according to Wikipedia:

…the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity’s, officer’s, or agent’s acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government. In other words, the bill would limit the power of the federal judiciary specifically in religious liberty cases. The bill also states that judges or other court officials that listen to cases that meet said criteria are to be impeached and convicted.

The Constitution Restoration Act is considered by some to be part of a movement of so-called Christian dominionists*, who in the extreme version believe biblical law should exclusively govern society and in a slightly milder form believe, according to sociologist Sara Diamond,

that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

Wikipedia continues:

Diamond declared that this concept “has become the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right” (p. 138, emphasis in original). In 1995, she called it “prevalent on the Christian Right”. Journalist Chip Berlet added in 1998 that, although they represent different theological and political ideas, dominionists assert a Christian duty to take “control of a sinful secular society.”

None of this should come as a surprise, especially in Oklahoma, which has already been the nation’s leader in terms of Talibanic governance.  This time Oklahoma voters exorcised even more Democratic legislator-demons and will have a Republican governor to oversee the transition to a brand of politics that Tulsa’s Oral Roberts would be proud of.

Oh, for a while the evangelicals will tolerate some backsliders among their new politicians.  Hanna quotes Shawnee, Kansas, Republican Owen Donohoe as delicately saying Sam Brownback’s legislative agenda “may not be as conservative as we wish.”  But such grace won’t last forever.  I know evangelicals and they won’t tolerate a failure to enact their holy agenda for too long.  After all, the fate of America as a Christian nation is at stake.

Abortion rights (what’s left of them) and gay rights will definitely be the target of the Christian Taliban as evangelicals and fundamentalists attempt to take their country back and turn it into a theocracy, one state at a time.

And Kansas and Oklahoma represent the low-hanging fruit of that Crusade.

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*For more on Sam Brownback’s connection to the dominionist movement and controversial pastor Lou Engle, see here and here.  The short of it is that Brownback apparently lived with Lou Engle for a time and attended “several events” with him, according to Right Wing Watch, which then writes:

So let’s ask Brownback again just which of Engle’s views concern him the most:  Is it his Dominionism? or his view that homosexuality should be criminalized? or his fear that President Obama is unleashing demons upon this nation? or that universities are conditioning students to accept the Mark of the Beast? or maybe that Satan has gained control over the US government?

You get the idea.

A Heart Doctor With A Heart

Dr. John M. Cox, a cardiologist at Freeman Hospital, has written yet again on the subject of health care reform.  This time, he has commented on last month’s “prayercast,” which was an attempt by righteous Republicans to bring divine intervention into the health care reform process.

The prayercast event* featured a prayer by Tony Perkins, who, according to Frank Schaeffer, is the “well known paranoid and delusional moralist leader of the Family Research Council.”

The prayer included the following:

Life and death hinges on the Senate health care bill.

Now, a rational person might conclude that the succeeding invocation of the Almighty would include a petition that He might convince recalcitrant and gainsaying Republicans to get on board and make sure that the 45,000 folks who die each year because of a lack of insurance might have a “right to human life.”

Nope. The prayer continued:

We face significant threats to the God-given right to human life through government funding of abortions, our health from rationing, our family finances from higher taxes, and our general freedoms posed by the government plan to take over health care.

So, invoking the God of Tea Party Heaven, was actually a ploy to derail health care reform. 

That’s where Dr. Cox comes in:

I wonder if God is “for” insurance companies denying coverage to those with pre-existing illnesses. I wonder if God is “for” canceling insurance policies whenever individuals get sick. I wonder if God is “for” continuing to allow 35 million Americans to have no health insurance coverage. I wonder if God is “for” allowing many more people than died on 9/11 to die monthly because they cannot afford to get health care.

Apparently, Dr. Cox sings from a different hymnal than our Tea Party Holy Rollers:

In certain parts of this country, political theater is wrapped in Christianity. Politicians continue to cynically use the conservative Christian movement for their purposes. This is not about making people healthier. This is not about making insurance companies do the right thing morally. This is about scoring political points by a party who is, at present, out of power. The use of prayer vigils for this purpose sickens me.

Finally, Dr. Cox, the heart doctor with a heart, concluded with this flurry:

The proposed bills are not perfect. However, as I have stated before in previous communications, the status quo will quickly drive us off a cliff. All this anti-government rhetoric is just that. We all drive on government-built roads. Many of us already have government-funded insurance. Our skies are safer as a result of government air traffic controllers. Our country is a reasonably safe place in which to visit and travel because of government police and firefighters. When private industry chews people up and spits them out, it is the rightful place of government to try to make that right. Health insurance companies have not been our friends. I, for one, will applaud when something is finally done legislatively.

And I suspect so will the Almighty, notwithstanding the prayers of his “followers.”

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*For those interested, here is a list of some prayercast attendees, either in person or via video:

James Dobson: “I just pray that you will frustrate the plans of the Evil One.”

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who reportedly said the Pilgrims believed “that the Bible was a blueprint for all of mankind… to tell us about economics, to tell us about education, to tell us about government.” Obviously, the Pilgrims didn’t have the foresight to include health care.

Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Sam Brownback, who apparently believed that the valiant effort by the Senate’s 40 Republicans—to frustrate Democrats and confuse the public—needed supernatural tweaking.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who in a moment of personal clarity that she kindly expanded to include all of us, prayed:

“And we say oh Lord we deserve your wrath. But would you yet give our nation mercy? We ask for your mercy. We cry out to you oh God this is our moment and this is our time Lord. We are at the end of ourselves and now we need you. We need you Lord.”

Lord, have mercy, indeed.

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