Browsed by
Month: February 2012

Rick Santorum Seems to be Missing Something

Rick Santorum Seems to be Missing Something

First off, he seems to be missing an understanding of the Constitution.  The day after I put up the post about how he wanted to throw up after reading fellow Roman Catholic JFK’s 1960  separation-of-church-and-state speech, NPR reported that he was in Kalamazoo, Michigan addressing a crowd in the gymnasium of the Heritage Christian Academy, that included members of the Tea Party, when he said this:

There may be a few Tea Party people here. And I want to thank the Tea Party for resurrecting a document that had been out of fashion and favor for a long time. Oh, this little document called the Constitution of the United States.


Whoo Hooo!  Hooray for the Constitution!  You know, that famous document that is the framework for a secular, democratic form of government that has guided our country for the past 225 years.  Yes, that document where God is mentioned exactly zero times.

Check out Mr. Fish’s caricature of Rick Santorum to see what else he is missing.

Santorum-the-Dickless-150x150 Rick Santorum Seems to be Missing Something

(Click on the thumbnail to go to Mr. Fish’s site and enlarge the cartoon.)

I received an email from the Old Viking telling me that he thinks the missing dick is masquerading as Newt Gingrich.

The Loony Republican Party

The Loony Republican Party

If you think it’s just liberals who think the Republican Party has gone over the edge just check The Washington Post opinion page where Fred Hiatt, the right-of-center editorial page editor, joins the growing ranks of those in the middle of the ideological spectrum ridiculing the increasingly nutty pronouncements coming from the GOP presidential candidates.  

It really is difficult to believe that there is actually anyone out there who would vote for any of these clowns for president. Yet the reality is that their race to prove who can make the stupidest and most outrageous statement about the economy, or Iran, or President Obama, or just about anything else, is driven by a GOP base that is no longer capable of seeing reason – so blinded are they by their ideological prejudices. And it’s not just Mitt, Newt, Rick and Ron.

We’ve all had a fun week watching GOP Governor McDonnell of Virginia backpedaling furiously from his previous pledge to sign a bill enthusiastically passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would mandate an ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion.  The legislation required that certain details regarding the fetus be determined which, in the case of first trimester pregnancies, would necessitate a vaginal probe being inserted. Since most abortions are performed in the first trimester of a pregnancy, that would constitute the majority of women wanting abortions in Virginia.

The legislation passed even though information on the invasive procedure was already circulating as the bill was voted on. In other words, Republicans who rail non-stop about government intrusion and interference in our lives were voting for a bill that would require a vaginal wand be inserted in a woman as a condition of her obtaining an abortion. Oh, and to add insult to injury, she’d have to pay for it!

After a week of being lampooned on Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central and attracting the unwelcome attention of the mainstream media, McDonnell and the bill’s GOP authors backed off to regroup. It didn’t take long for the Virginia House to redraft the bill deleting the probe-in-the-vagina requirement; nice of them. However, what’s left is still noxious. Women in Virginia will still have to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination which they must pay for and then wait 24 hours before going through with the abortion. By any reasonable standard it’s an unconscionable government intrusion into what should be a private matter for any woman.  

Maybe we should give Virginia’s GOP politicians some credit for rethinking dumb ideas, however. They’ve shelved, at least for this session, a bill that would define life as beginning at conception. If that isn’t a can of worms, I don’t know what is – but it says so much about Virginia’s GOP legislators that even the voters of Mississippi, the most conservative state in the country, rejected the notion by a sizeable majority. 

In fact the GOP seems to have adopted an unconventional strategy for winning this year’s election: attack women’s rights. 

In a year when most Americans are concerned primarily with the economy, Republicans have targeted not only abortion rights – almost a given these days – but even guaranteed access to contraception is in the crosshairs, as we saw in the recent clash between the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the Catholic Bishops. The Republicans, who hate the ACA anyway, were only too happy to join the bishops in opposing the inclusion of contraception coverage for all but strictly religious institutions. And we’re not just talking about Brother Santorum here, whose vision for America appears to look like something out of The Handmaiden’s Tale. No, we’re talking about virtually every GOP pol and right-wing pundit who voiced an opinion.

Behind all of this is a Republican base that is so extreme that GOP presidential hopefuls are reduced to vying with each other to make the most outlandish accusation, allegation or characterization levied at President Obama. Even the guy in the field who still seems to have a limited grip on reality, Mitt Romney, has been telling whoppers from the get-go, such as the falsehood that Obama went around the world apologizing for America.

The rest of us, though, can be grateful for one thing. The GOP base is driving their presidential candidates and legislators so far to the right that, with any luck, come November they’ll go over an electoral cliff.

John F. Kennedy’s “Church and State” Speech Makes Rick Santorum want to Puke

John F. Kennedy’s “Church and State” Speech Makes Rick Santorum want to Puke

Article VI, Clause III of The Constitution of the United States of America.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

 On September 12, 1960 John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Protestant clergymen concerned about the influence of his Roman Catholic faith and whether, as president, he could make important decisions independent of his church.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

 Rick Santorum as reported on by The Washington Post:

In remarks last year at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., Santorum had told the crowd of J.F.K.’s famous 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.”

I just read JFK’s speech, and it reflects exactly how the founders intended our elected representatives to act. Yet upon reading Kennedy’s landmark speech, Rick Santorum found the words so abhorrent that he wanted to throw up – presumably on Article VI, Clause III of the Constitution that follows a clause stating that the Constitution, not The Bible, is “the Supreme Law of the Land.”

What I find abhorrent is that Rick Santorum would not make the same pledge that John F. Kennedy did in 1960, and that Mitt Romney made in 2008. Any candidate who claims to be a Christian and has as narrow a mind as Santorum’s on equality, sexuality, and social issues ought to be the one justifying his religion and guaranteeing that he would not try and impose his dogma on the rest of us. If he can’t do that, then he’s unfit to hold the office of the President of the United States of America.

Ten questions for a Romney White House

Ten questions for a Romney White House

Once the White House is Romney’s home, how will official White House procedure mesh with his religious convictions? Besides the obvious – Will the White House include reproductive health coverage in its insurance package? – as an ex-Mormon, I have a few other questions that have popped up in recent months.

1. Would coffee or tea be served to guests and staff? Would the Romneys keep these items in their home? Will there be religious exemptions (PDF^) to common courtesy when he’s in charge? Will they revise the presidential portraits to reflect the time-immemorial No Smoking policy of the White House?

2. Would he appoint czars posthumously? Would they get back pay? If so, will 10% tithing be surrendered to the Church (as they likely have already been posthumously converted).

3. Will we ever watch a televised address without picturing him in his underwear? Also, is the White House cleaners going to be specially outfitted for handling the family’s special undies?

4. In accordance with not only Church doctrine, but also The Ten Commandments, will he take Sundays off? Will the staff? Not that any other politician who waves the Ten Commandments in our faces every election cycle has ever held themselves to the morals they want to enforce upon the rest of us, but it only takes one theocrat to set a precedent!

5. Does he plan to serve breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner on the first Sunday of each month – “Fast Sunday“? This is the day, once a month, where all Mormon children begin to formulate their opposition to their parents’ indoctrination. So I don’t blame the Romneys if this is one of those tenets they overlook when they’re cherry-picking what to wear on their sleeve and what not to.

6. Is Monday going to remain “Family Home Evening?” I actually liked this part, but it was hard even for my single mom to indulge us with once a week. It’s got to be tough for a busy, busy President.

7. To what extent will he live up to his obligations of service to the Church? Will he be given a political exemption by the Church? Maybe he gets work credit as long as he’s doing LDS leadership curriculum-approved work.

8. Will his Bishop have top-secret clearance in order to hear his confessions? To whom will he confess his war crimes?

9. Will the Church allow non-Mormon Secret Service Officers into the Temple, or will they all be required to be members in good standing, with Temple Recommends? Wouldn’t that violate federal hiring guidelines?

10. And finally, having nothing to do with his White House policies, will he be sworn in on a copy of the Book of Mormon? If so, will it be as it was originally revealed by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Or will it be the heavily edited and revised version that Mormons currently call the literal Word of God?

I look forward to finding the answers to these questions and more once our crack journalists and Edward R. Murrow (PDF^) inspired media outlets have  a chance to do their jobs. But now that I think of it, I wouldn’t care about the answers to any of these questions if the media were doing its job.

Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams

Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams

John T. Williams, a seventh-generation woodcarver from the Ditidaht tribe, was murdered by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk on August 30, 2010.

John-T-Williams-201x300 Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams
photo by David Entrikin

Williams was fifty years old, an alcoholic, deaf in one ear, and was walking at Boren and Howell carrying a piece of wood and his three-inch carving blade. Birk observed Williams crossing the street holding the knife, so he got out of his patrol car and commanded him to drop the knife. Williams didn’t drop the knife, so Birk drew his weapon and shot him four times. Williams died at the scene.

An internal investigation concluded that the police shooting was unjustified, but no charges were filed aganst Birk. He did resign from the force.

totem-instructor Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams
Tribe member in yellow shirt gives instructions for raising the pole.


There was a totem pole raised in his honor by his family near the trees on the Broad Street Green at Seattle Center today. The pole was carved by his family and friends and raised into position by dozens of people pulling on five ropes tied around the top of the pole.

totem-chief1 Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams
Tribe member yells as the totem pole is raised into position.


The family says the pole is a symbol of calm and healing.

RIP-JTW Totem Pole Raised in Honor of Slain Woodcarver John T. Williams

Eliot Spitzer and Larry Lessig Say We Should Limit Campaign Contributions

Eliot Spitzer and Larry Lessig Say We Should Limit Campaign Contributions

Percentage of [outside] political ad spending during elections that would have been prohibited before Citizens United72Harper’s Index, March 2012.

Eliot Spitzer had one more thing to say about the effect of  Citizens United after Bill Maher said the ability to make limitless campaign contributions “seems insane.” (see post below)

Spitzer:  Look, we can limit contributions and we should be able to do that. We should mandate absolute disclosure, but as a First Amendment principal, people should be able to say what they want, how they want with their own money. I don’t care if it’s Adelson or somebody with my political views on the left. Let speech breed speech. You never defeat speech by limiting speech.

While watching Real Time with Bill Maher in real time, I was a bit puzzled by Spitzer’s remarks. I get that coporations have a right to free speech, and they should be able to use it to get their message out and sell their products but, beyond that, I don’t think they are at all equivalent to living persons – especially those who can vote – and neither does Mr. Fish:

Worse than granting the right of personhood to corporations, of course, is the omission of the addendum requiring that a conscience also be included, which makes me wonder whether the word person should be removed from the legislative language and replaced with the far more accurate descriptor remote-controlled gargantuan zombie with no soul.

I’m with Mr. Fish on this, but I also think of Spitzer as a pretty good representative of my political beliefs, so I watched the Real Time discussion again and paid close attention to who Spitzer said it was that agreed with his position. I am very familiar with the ACLU, but I wasn’t familiar with Larry Lessig, so I did some searching and found an article that he wrote for the Boston Review. It’s a very long article that gets to the nut of the case with this:

The framers did not intend to make representatives dependent upon contributors. Representatives were to be dependent upon voters, or, more generally, “the People alone.” It is conceivable—assuming many contingencies—that a dependence upon contributors could in effect be the same as a dependence upon voters. For example, to borrow an idea from Yale’s Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres, if elections were funded by what we could call “democracy vouchers,” where citizens could allocate up to $50 to any candidate and candidates could receive money only from citizens in their districts, then a dependency upon voters might well be the same as, or close enough to, a dependency upon contributors. Candidates would have to spend time talking to voters, if only to raise money from them. And because of the small size of the vouchers, the dependence would be relatively equal. In this system, the sort of thing you need to do to make voters happy is the same sort of thing you need to do to make contributors happy.

Under our current system of campaign finance, however, there is no such overlap between the interests of voters and of contributors. There is instead a fundamental gap. That gap has many dimensions, but the simplest to remark is the geographical source of campaign funds. In the most critical cases, the vast majority of contributions are not even from the voters. reports that 67 percent of contributions to John Kerry’s 2008 senate-reelection campaign came from outside Massachusetts. His Republican opponent received 73 percent of his funding from out-of-state donors. reports that since January of 2007 79 percent of contributions to California state legislators have come from out-of-district contributors. This gap between contributors and voters means that responsiveness to one is not necessarily responsiveness to the other. Once more, the sort of thing you need to do to make contributors happy is not the sort of thing you need to do to make voters happy.

That’s the point where I started to understand what Spitzer was getting at that he could not fully explain given the constraints of a round table discussion on Real Time that has real time limits, and other guests with strong compulsions to interrupt.

Lessig addresses the cynicism of the PAC contribution-disclosure rules that were mocked so well by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart in the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary.

There was ample evidence presented in Citizens United that campaigns are aware of the independent expenditures made on their behalf. Indeed, there was plenty of evidence that the expenditures were reported directly to the campaigns. And while only the venally corrupt or the stupid would expressly link those expenditures to some kind of action, there are plenty of ways to coordinate without coordination. To paraphrase Boston political boss Martin Lomasney, Washington is the kind of city where one never writes if one can call, never calls if one can speak, never speaks if one can nod, and never nods if one can wink. Little doubt that in such a rich environment of reciprocity, open deals are rarely essential.

I won’t take any more liberties with quoting the Lessig article that I found essential to understanding Citizens United and how it has effectively destroyed our democracy.  We  citizens weren’t exactly all equal before the Supreme Court’s awful decision but, following the decision, we are more far removed from a truly representative form of government than we’ve ever been.

Bill Maher Bought a Million Dollars worth of Speech for Obama

Bill Maher Bought a Million Dollars worth of Speech for Obama

During last week’s Real Time round table discussion, Bill Maher and Eliot Spitzer discussed the effect of the Citizens United decision on campaign financing:

Eliot Spitzer:  Five justices can do anything. Let the president rewrite the constitution. Now having said that, Bill, we rarely disagree, I am with the ACLU on this one. I think as a First Amendment principal, Citizens United was correct.

Bill Maher:  Really?

Spitzer:  Yes – First Amendment principal. Your show is owned by a corporation and you have a First Amendment right. I don’t know how you distinguish between the New York Times editorial page, Rachel Maddow, George’s show, all owned by corporations. The First Amendment shall make no law abridging the right of speech. It doesn’t say by anybody it says ‘speech.’ I don’t care who’s speech it is. The ACLU agrees with me and Larry Lessig, a great academic on this subject, so this is a more textured issue. It’s done horrific things to politics, but as a First Amendment issue, it’s a more complicated issue.

Stephen Moore:  interrupt, blah blah blah…

Maher:  But If you accept this principal that money is speech, at least in in the past you could only give what is it, $2,300?  But now a million people could give $200 each and they would be drowned out by one person writing one check. That seems insane.

It is insane.  It’s so insane that Bill Maher announced on Thursday that he has contributed $1,000,000 to the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action.  So, using his example, his contribution is equivalent to 5,000 Republicans contributing $200 each to a pro-Romney  or pro-Santorum super PAC. Nice work Bill!

No, really, I mean it. Just like Obama, Bill Maher doesn’t like that Citizens United allows for unlimited contributions, but because Repbublican PAC’s are collecting many millions more than Democratic PAC’s at this time, he’s doing what’s necessary to compete with the Republicans and hopefully keep them out of the White House.  He says:

The difference between a country governed by Obama and one governed by Rick Santorum is worth a million dollars to me. Not just because I think the country would be better, but because I think it would actually better protect the money I have left.

All the liberals were saying it’s in the bag for Obama—I guess because all the Republicans were making such fools of themselves and the economy was turning around, and because, very often, liberals don’t pay that much attention to politics. And I was telling them, no, it’s definitely not in the bag for Obama. He’s being outspent and he’s going to be outspent. 

Obama’s going to need many more Maher-size contributions, so let’s hope that Bill’s message is  heard by those who can afford to write the big checks for Obama.

Nick Cave Receives Honorary Degree from University of Brighton

Nick Cave Receives Honorary Degree from University of Brighton

The University of Brighton bestowed Nicholas Edward Cave with an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree. He received the award last Thursday “in recognition of services to the arts and his patronage of CineCity, the annual Brighton Film Festival.” (link)

Nick-Brighton-Honourary-Degree Nick Cave Receives Honorary Degree from University of Brighton

photo via Nick Cave Fixes

Anne Boddington, dean of the faculty of arts, said: “We are fortunate that Nick Cave is not only resident in the city but has chosen to contribute to its creative life as a performer, musician and singer, as a writer and as a patron of CineCity.”

The 54-year-old was born in Australia but now lives in Hove. He is best known for his releases as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, as well as collaborations with Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey. He has also written two novels, including The Death of Bunny Munro, which is set in and around Brighton. (link)

This is Dr. Nicholas Edward Cave’s third honorary degree. He has also been awarded,  “a Doctor of Laws in 2008 by Monash University, the university he dropped out from in 1977 when he was studying fine arts, and he was also awarded another Doctor of Laws by Dundee University.” (link)

Mitt Romney Says He is Severely Conservative

Mitt Romney Says He is Severely Conservative

“My- my state was a leading indicator of what liberals will be trying to do across the country and are trying to do right now. And I fought against against long odds in a deep blue state, but I was a severely conservative Republican governor.” – Mitt Romney, February 10, 2012 at CPAC. (link)

From the Language Log:

In the Corpus of Contemporary American English, severely precedes a modifier 959 times, and in 939 of these, the following word is something generally regarded as regrettable if not downright bad. In descending order of frequency:

disabled, depressed, ill, limited, injured, retarded, impaired, malnourished, obese, overweight, handicapped, autistic, restricted, divided, disruptive, disturbed, underwieght, allergic, wounded, deformed, overcrowded, brain-damaged, limiting, disappointed, underrepresented, understaffed, critical, abnormal, depleted, flawed, troubled, underfunded, polluted, sprained, disadvantaged, asthmatic, cold, compromised, broken, disoriented, negative, repressed, short, underdeveloped, violent, damaging, debilitating, bruised, disordered, dependent, distressed, dyslexic, eroded, inadequate, infected, demented, degraded, deficient, congested, cropped, anorexic, afflicted, downhill, dysfunctional, embarrassed, fractured, fragmented, hurt, malformed, mutilated, nearsighted, painful, premature, repressive, strained, stricken, undulating, weak, acidic, anxious, bleeding, bipolar, biased, alone, crowded, constricted, dangerous, defective, decayed, delinquent, disciplined, deprived, face-lifted, hearing-impaired

(emphasis added) I wish I could bold “underfunded” but that he is not.

And now we can add conservative to the list. It fits in quite nicely.