Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

Yes, it’s that time of year when Republicans try to convince us that everything old, disproved, and thrown out is shiny, patriotic and new again. Angry sky gods, debunked scientific hypotheses, and myth trump rule of law, science, and reason.  Here’s a few things on their most choice delusions.

We’re not only fighting the war for abortion access and rights, we’re fighting for legal access to birth control.  There’s a group of religious radicals in our country that just won’t take a supreme court case at face value. I was appalled by Romney’s insistence in this weekend’s debate that this really wasn’t a problem and wouldn’t be one. Once again, some pharmacists think they are above the law and know more than doctors because some high priest of ignorance said make it so.  Men trying to buy Plan B are having trouble doing so .

Defenders of Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to overrule the FDA’s decison to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age restrictions floated the specter of 11-year-old girls having sex to justify the decision. (Though, of course, the sex has already happened when the Plan B is purchased, so really, people who float this argument are just arguing that it’s better for the 11-year-old in question to be pregnant than not, which seems really cruel.) The reality is that fewer than 1 percent of 11-year-olds are sexually active, so the real people hurt by these restrictions are the 15- and 16-year-olds having sex with age-appropriate partners and those 17 and older who have a legal right to the pill but find that having to ask for a pharmacist to fetch it  is too much of an obstacle, because either the pharmacy counter is closed or because the pharmacy staff won’t hand it over, either out of ignorance or malice.
For those who would scoff at the chance that these are serious concerns, I give you the story of a Jason Melbourne of Mesquite, Texas  went to the Mesquite CVS to buy Plan B for his wife, who had to stay home to look after their two small children. The reward he got for being a good husband who goes to the drugstore to buy lady things for his wife was resistance from the pharmacy staff, who refused to sell him the drug because they claimed to believe that men don’t have a legal right to buy it. Well, the problem is there are no gender restrictions on access to Plan B, something that Melbourne demonstrated to the staff by use of Google on a smartphone. They continued to refuse to sell to him, making outrageous claims about men supplying the drug to rape victims, even though he got his wife on the phone to explain the situation. Melbourne is the second man who has reported being denied Plan B at a CVS to the ACLU. Considering how many people don’t contact the ACLU after having their rights violated—or who would believe the pharmacy staff’s claims—that suggests this could be a widespread problem.

 The Economist is suggesting that Americans are entering an age where they should lock their doors lest the morality police get inside. There are folks like Rick Santorum that want to control our sex acts, our reproductive processes, and our basic civil rights based on personal bigotry and religious hysteria. They warn us that “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.  Who needs to be concerned about creeping sharia law when we’ve got this set actively pushing their equally creepy religious cult practices?

Last September the former senator was one of nine Republican hopefuls participating in a televised debate in Orlando, Florida. A question was posed over video by a soldier in Iraq who said he had hidden the fact that he was gay because he did not want to lose his job. Did any of the candidates intend to repeal the measure Barack Obama signed into law last year that had at last given gay soldiers the right to serve their country openly? Mr Santorum’s unblinking answer was Yes. Allowing gays to serve in the military was giving one group of people “a special privilege”; it was “social policy” that ought to have no place in the armed forces.

This became a notorious exchange, not least because some members of the ultra-conservative audience in Orlando booed the soldier. But the episode hardly does justice to the depth of the former senator’s feelings about the things gays get up to. The propinquity of the wicked plainly has an unsettling impact on the peace of mind of the virtuous Mr Santorum.

Gays should not only be disqualified from serving their country, says Mr Santorum. They should also be prohibited from marrying one another. Even if unmarried, they would be ill-advised to have sex. To Mr Santorum the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional was a bad mistake: this was a slippery slope that would establish a right to bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery—“anything”.

It is not quite clear what Mr Santorum thinks about heterosexuals who have sex for fun—or at least who have it only for fun. The special status of marriage, he told the New York Time, does not exist “because people like to hang out together and have fun”; it is there to provide “a stable environment for the raising of children”. As president, he said more recently, he would at last address “the dangers of contraception in this country”, because contraception is a “licence to do things in a sexual realm that are counter to how things are supposed to be”.
If Mr Santorum has doubts about contraception, he has none about abortion. It is wrong, even in cases of rape or incest, because life is sacred and begins at conception (he does, however, support the death penalty, as it is not the innocent who die). Any doctor who performs an abortion should face criminal charges.

The Economist must feel that we are so confused about the role of religion in the founding of our  country, that they must to show us and the rest of the world that our founding fathers weren’t fundamentalist crusaders. They have a special Religion in America section up about how the founders were trying to avoid having Rick Santorum moments.  Here’s an apt and correct description of the religious philosophy of then Presbyterian Thomas Jefferson.

But Jefferson, like most of the top figures in the American Revolution, was far more of a sceptic in religious matters. He was fascinated by metaphysics but he had no time for the mystical. In contrast with today’s vituperative exchanges, these differences did not stop the two gentlemen maintaining a warm correspondence. But Jefferson’s approach to redacting the Bible involved something more radical than translation. He literally snipped out everything supernatural: miracles, the Virgin birth, the resurrection. The result was his own, non-mystical account of the life of Jesus. He told his old comrade: “I too have made a wee little book from the same materials which I call the ‘Philosophy of Jesus.’ It is a paradigma [sic] of his doctrines, made by cutting the pages out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book…A more beautiful or precious morsel…I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists who call me infidel and themselves Christians.”

If Jefferson was a Christian of any kind, he was an idiosyncratic one. He admired Jesus as a moral teacher but like many of America’s revolutionaries, he had a visceral loathing for priestcraft. Jefferson blamed Saint Paul, the early Church, and even the Gospel writers for distorting the mission of Jesus, which, as he saw it, had been to reverse the decadence of the Jewish religion. Starting from the (correct) proposition that mystical ideas originating from Plato were influential when Christian theology was being developed, he castigated followers of the Greek philosopher for corrupting what he saw as the original Christian message.

Did Jefferson believe in God? Certainly not the Christian idea of a God in three Persons; he saw that notion as incomprehensible and therefore impossible for a rational person to accept. One view is that like many of America’s founders, he was a Deist, believing in a Creator who set the universe and its laws in motion but did not intervene thereafter. (The Deist God has been described as rather like a rich aunt in Australia—benevolent, a long way off, and mostly leaving the world to its own devices.)

Modern fundamentalists are rewriting history in the same way they like rewriting science.  They place dinosaurs and modern people in their garden of Eden panoramas.  Some now argue that the founders didn’t like “Darwinism” which wasn’t even around at that time  Of course, that doesn’t stop Texas putting that kind’ve nonsense in textbooks. This also explains Michelle Bachmann’s odd notion that the founding fathers fought against slavery.

Believers in the idea that America was established as a Christian state scored a hit last year when the Texas school board, a politicised body in which evangelicals control crucial votes, ordered up textbooks laying out this view. Given the size of the Texan market, school-book publishers across the country often follow its lead. The best-known advocate of the “Christian nation” theory is a Texan, an author and evangelist called David Barton, who has been writing on the subject since the 1980s.

Among his recent claims are that the founding fathers rejected Darwinism (although they pre-dated Charles Darwin), and that they broke away from Britain in order to abolish slavery. In fact the southern states only joined the Revolution on the understanding that slavery would not be questioned. Strange as his views may sound to most scholars, Mr Barton’s philosophy is taken seriously in Republican circles. When Rick Perry, the Texas governor and presidential candidate, held a day of prayer for the nation in August, Mr Barton was an acknowledged endorser. One of Mr Barton’s admirers is Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who argues that American history has been distorted by secular historians to play down the role of faith. “I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things,” Mr Gingrich has said.

Here’s another bit of founder philosophy.  This time it’s George Washington.

Virtually absent from Washington’s pronouncements was any reference to Jesus. He did not take communion—for most Christians, the most important rite of their faith—and he did not summon a Christian minister to his death bed. Was Jefferson right, then, to claim that “[Washington] thinks it right to keep up appearances but is an unbeliever”? Washington was certainly a diplomat. Although he remained formally Anglican, as president he wrote friendly letters to many Christian and Jewish communities and attended their services. And when he needed a job done on the estate, he was firm, for his time, about the irrelevance of religion: “If they are good workmen,” he said, “they may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of any sect, or they may be atheists.”

As every American youngster has been taught, one thing that Washington, Jefferson and all the founders did believe in was religious freedom. They were appalled by the fusion of religious and political power, epitomised by the divine right of kings.

Another example of reheated nonsense popping up in the current Republican primaries is Ron Paul’s obsession This is a completely debunked set of economic philosophies and musings roughly associated with Fredich Hayek who had a few good ideas about the pricing mechanisms of the market that were completely contorted by some fascists.  If you ever hear any one say anything about Mises, cover your ears.  It’s basically akin to learning  astrophysics from a flat earther who denies the theory of gravity.  No amount of historical data deters these people.  This description is from Matt Yglesias.

But “Austrians” in Paul’s sense refers to something narrower, specifically the thought of Ludwig Von Mises and his student Murray Rothbard. It is a form of capitalism that is even more libertarian and anarchic than that espoused by many libertarians. Rothbard‘s followers, most prominently longtime Paul associate and founder of the Mises Institute Lew Rockwell, have been waging a decades-long war against the Koch brothers and the more mainstream form of libertarianism the Kochs represent.

“Austrian economics,” in this sense, goes beyond standard-issue free market thinking in a number of ways. Most notably, it seeks to build a strong ethical case for strict libertarianism without admitting that this would lead to any practical problems whatsoever. Therefore, along with rejecting the legitimacy of any intervention to protect the poor or regulate anything (a position much more extreme than even the Hayek of Road to Serfdom), Austrians reject the idea that there is anything at all the government can do to stabilize macroeconomic fluctuations. This, to be clear, is different from the mainstream Republican view that the stimulus bill enacted by Congress in 2009 and signed into law by President Obama was wasteful or ineffective. Austrians also believe that cutting taxes to boost economic activity doesn’t work either. And they disagree with Milton Friedman that appropriate monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve could have prevented the Great Depression. Indeed, they disagree with even the least controversial of all stabilization measures, the ordinary tweaking of short-term interest rates that all modern central banks use to try to prevent either inflation or deflation. In the view of the Austrians, practically every economic policy pursued by the federal government and Federal Reserve is a mistake that distorts markets. Rather than curing recessions, claim Austrians, stimulative policies cause them by producing unsustainable bubbles.

Not only did the analysis of the Great Depression thoroughly debunk this school of thought’s ridiculous hypotheses, the only places in the later part of the century that tried to implement the weirdness were countries like  Pinochet’s Chile.  Most of the Austrian Schools founders admired Mussolini so this as really not as big a leap as one would think for these guys.  I know I always associate liberty with fascist dictators and authoritarian regimes, don’t you?  It worked so well that the entire financial system there collapsed in 1982.   In fact, when Pinochet disappeared, one of his cabinet members showed up at the Cato Institute and even helped Dubya Bush with his efforts to privatize social security  His name is José Piñera .  I guess just crashing the economy and safety nets of the Chilean people just wasn’t enough.

You may wonder why I associate Ron Paul with the idea of a neoconfederacy.  Believe me, I’m not stretching on this either.

When it comes to American history, libertarians tend retrospectively to side with the Confederacy against the Union. Yes, yes, the South had slavery — but it also had low tariffs, while Abraham Lincoln’s free labor North was protectionist. Surely the tariff was a greater evil than slavery.

The posthumous induction of Jefferson Davis into the libertarian hall of fame was too much for David Boaz, a vice president of Cato. In a 2010 essay in Reason magazine titled “Up From Slavery: There’s No Such Thing as a Golden Age of Lost Liberty,” Boaz observed that even whites in the antebellum North “did not actually live in a free society … Liberalism seeks not just to liberate this or that person, but to create a rule of law exemplifying equal freedom. By that standard, even the plantation owners did not live in a free society, nor even did people in the free states.”

Boaz asked his fellow libertarians, “If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?” It says something that in 2009 this question stirred up a controversy on the libertarian right.

Libertarians and conservatives, to be sure, can point to many examples of naive liberals in the last century who embarrassed themselves by praising this or that squalid, tyrannical communist regime, from the Soviet Union and communist China to petty police states like North Korea, communist Vietnam and Castro’s Cuba. But the apologists for tyranny on the left were always opposed by anti-communist liberals and anti-communist democratic socialists. Where were the anti-authoritarian libertarians, denouncing libertarian fellow travelers of Pinochet like von Hayek and Milton Friedman?

For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion — issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.

So, I’ve obviously gone a bit over my usual acceptable word count, but believe me, in all my years of education, I would never believe that so much debunked tripe would form the central arguments of so many people running for president.  They will not be happy until everything is returned to the days of Dixie or pyramid building.   I’m having a hard time figuring out how far back in time they would throw us. It’s enough to make me run for the hills.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

33 Comments on “Monday Morning Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Would I be considered a “domestic terrorist” if I said there would be nothing more satisfying than reaching out and slapping that stupid smirk off Romney’s chiseled face?

    They had no answer for the question regarding shutting off heating subsidies in regions like the NE, just another “hat tip” to states rights which we all know and recognize as code for an agenda that would strip the government of any economic equality.

    Nothing further spells the breakdown of a nation where each state is allowed to formulate its own laws regarding education, equal rights, and any other responsibility that has been spelled out in the Constitution.

    The costs would be prohibitive for many states, mine included, unless the needed revenues are taxed on the backs of the average voter of each state to manage.

    These idiots are so focused on money that their “plans” fail to take into account that the government must be disbanded to make room for their privatization.


    • bostonboomer says:

      Go ahead and slap him silly, Pat, if you can get close enough. I’ll go your bail!

  2. mjames says:

    Santorum’s “special privileges” for gays is precisely what the U.S. Supreme Court struck down when it found Colorado’s Amendment 2 to its state constitution unconstitutional. The amendment disallowed “special rights” to gays. You know, special rights like housing and employment. That embodiment of liberal humanism, the high court, found that the amendment violated equal protection.

    The stupidity is mind-boggling.

    Also, his obsession with sex is really shrinker-worthy, whether it’s where the penis is supposed to go or the fact that women are not supposed to get pleasure from sex. I do not think he would score in a “normal” range on a psych eval.

    But, really, it’s all just a sideshow. I am more convinced than ever that the CIA is calling all the shots (like the drones and targeting citizens wherever). Santorum and those other idiots are merely a diversion.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    Having worked in Human Resources we were trained to pick up on the subtlties of applicants during an interview that may “trigger” doubts about their abilities to “play nice with others”.

    These candidates blatantly express their discrimination and take pride in it. Most of them would be “out the door” following an interview that uncovered their hatred toward gays and women for starters while calling for a “Christian nation” as another example.

    These debates are nothing more than a “job interview” and from where I sit they have failed miserably.

    Send them all packing back to the unemployment office as they would never qualify for a job in the average workplace that calls for more than an arena to practice your “religious beliefs” and narrow minded value systems.


  4. peggysue22 says:

    Dak, I don’t think you can remind people enough of what these revisionists would have the American public believe. Yes, the likes of a Glenn Beck, for instance, push total fabricators [Dave Barton] to convince the electorate of an alternate history: The Founding Founders were dedicated Christians, the Robber Barons never existed, the Progressive Movement of the late 19th and early 20th century was dedicated to evil. Going forward, FDR was an enemy of the State, McCarthy was really a good guy, given a bum rap, even though he and his Commie squad ruined hundreds of lives and led a virtual witch hunt in the US. Pinochet? He was necessary to usher in an era of true economic liberty [the fact that thousands of innocent citizens were ‘disappeared’ is hush-hushed]. In any other Universe, Pinochet would be a war criminal.

    This is the danger of extreme ideology. Everything bows to it: even reason and common decency.

    We’re living in dangerous times.

  5. ralphb says:

    Frankly, if there is anyone left who thinks that Obama is a republican of this insane party then they haven’t been paying attention. The 2% less evil meme is well and truly destroyed now.

    • ralphb says:

      Another great post Dak. Keep it up!

      • dakinikat says:

        thx. I’m just surprised at how little coverage there is of the fringe type of things these guys support. Santorum’s Catholicism is fringe. Ron Paul is fringe in just about everything. Newt and Mitt have moved to fringe land. It’s bizarre. Also, look at how the foreign press feels they have to explain how whacked we are any more … wtf?

  6. ralphb says:

    Another corporate personhood issue.

    “Corporations Are Not People” in Ninth Circuit Ruling

    An en banc ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals contends that corporations are actually not people, when the case in question considers an individual writing “death threats” to corporations.
    Obviously this is a strange case to determine the nature of whether corporations are people, and the interpretation could be viewed here as quite narrow. But it does show the difficulty with playing out that argument. It may fit in terms of free speech – at least for the Supreme Court – but it doesn’t for a wide majority of other cases. Is there such a thing as a corporate death penalty? Can a corporation be held for perjury? And so on.

    If we start splitting the baby between “persons” and “natural persons” we’re just going to twist statutes to the point of being unrecognizable. This could bolster the case down the road for striking corporate personhood.

    • peggysue22 says:

      It’s incredible that we need a court ruling on whether ‘corporations are people’ in a death threat question.

      Just another piece of evidence that we’ve lost our minds.

  7. peggysue22 says:

    Interesting piece up at Naked Capitalism, a followup by and of Matt Stoller’s piece on how Ron Paul’s campaign is provoking over-the-top criticism and attacks by progressives because [according to the thesis] Paul’s ideas showcase the failure of liberalism.

    Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about Ron Paul and his ideas, many of which I find repulsive. Wish there was as much time talking about Anderson, Roemer and Stein by so-called liberals. Is that asking too much? But, of course, that would require looking at Obama for what he is–a Republican dressed in Democratic fleece.

    The whole country has gone bonkers!

    • ralphb says:

      Please. Take a look at those GOP candidates. Can you honestly tell me Obama is part of that crowd? I think not.

      If Obama is a Republican, he’s one of a style which is long past perhaps the Rockefeller brand. I hate defending Obama but it’s necessary some times.

      • dakinikat says:

        He is probably just right of Nixon.

      • peggysue22 says:

        ralph, when I look at all the policies Obama has maintained from the Bush years, it makes me cringe. My take? Both parties have and continue to converge. The illusion is that they’re separate entities, offering differences to the electorate when, in fact, they’re serving the same corporate/banking masters.

        That billion dollars Obama is raising for 2012 is ‘not’ coming from small donors. Not this time and not the last time out. We’re being snookered, again.

      • ralphb says:

        Until the tea party congressmen came in and these clowns starting running for president, I could have bought that but not now. It’s a satisfying thing to say there is no difference but there really is, though it may be at the margins. It’s a big margin.

      • quixote says:

        If you think there’s noticeable difference between Obama and Repubs, you’ve been listening to speeches and forgetting events. Detention without trial, torture, Guantanamo, putting Medicare and Social Security on the table, a “health care” act that traded reproductive care (for women, of course) for nothing from the right wingers, and on and on and on and on. And then there’s Keystone XL pipeline, and more on and on.

        Seriously. I’m not sure 2% less evil is accurate. 1% maybe. Keep your eye on what they do. Romney was Obama-lite in Massachusetts. Gingrich was a loon in Congress. Santorum was a failure as a one-term Senator. Huntsman seems fairly competent. Chris Christie instituted some economically bad policies in New Jersey. Etc.

        We keep getting taken for rides by speechmakers because people stare at the talk instead of these scheisters’ hands.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I wouldn’t characterize Romney as “Obama-lite” in MA. I do think he’s much worse than Obama. He would go along with all the unitary executive/taking away liberties stuff and his domestic policies would be far far worse.

        Romney instated a flat income tax of 5% in MA. And his record on jobs was a lot worse than even Obama’s has been. That doesn’t mean I’ll vote for Obama, but to say they’re the same is not true.

      • ralphb says:

        quixote, Thanks for the great example of a purely emotional response. It’s quite evident you don’t pay attention to the details of what’s happening. You have a nice list which is frequently mentioned on liberal blogs but it’s hardly encompassing.

        By the way, I have never supported Obama and don’t listen to his speeches. Stuff it!

    • ralphb says:

      By the way, Matt Stoller was a rather huge Obot in 2008. That the deluded children who chose Obama then would get a crush on Ron Paul now is no surprise.

      Matt, and those of his ilk, usually forget when they talk about failure that they are part of that failure, big time.

      • dakinikat says:

        Stoller has a weak grasp of economics. I’ve gotten into it with him before. His ego outsizes his brain many times over. I don’t think he is as progressive as people think he is.

      • peggysue22 says:

        Good point, ralph. And I suspect the ‘war’ going on is really between the disillusioned Obamacrats and the still dedicated ones. Although Stoller and Greenwald both insist they are not banging the drum for Paul, merely pointing out how decrepit liberalism [basically dismantled] has become and how a reexamination is in order.

        It’s creating quite a stir and a lot of angry posts. Apparently the Kos kids are screeching, which always seemed their basic reaction to anyone stepping out of the lines. I don’t know first hand. I don’t frequent the DK board. 2007-2008 had me vow off forever.

      • I confess that I never paid Stoller much notice before. That stops now. I just read his piece in which he blames the Civil War on Lincoln and WWII on FDR.

        Yet this clown gets published in The Nation!

        I lambaste Stoller in my latest. That’s just an opening salvo. I’m keeping an eye on this guy from now on.

      • dakinikat says:

        Stoller is a stealth libertarian.

  8. peggysue22 says:

    Btw, as an antidote to all things Ron Paul and Obama-mania, pro and con, here’s a link to the Justice Party:

  9. The Rock says:

    Very nice post Dak! Your word count is unlimited 🙂 Just wanted to see how that who;e ‘Change you can believe in’ crap is working out…


    Hillary 2012

  10. The Rock says:

    And in breaking news that we already knew was going to happen…..

    Hillary 2012

  11. ralphb says:

    And now for something completely different …

    Snapped bungee plunges tourist into African river

    An Australian tourist bungee jumping in Africa plunged 365 feet (111 meters) into a river when her cord snapped, but she managed to swim to safety with a broken collarbone and her legs tied together.

    Holy moly! There’s video of the accident. Amazing that she survived with few injuries.

  12. K, this is just a beautifully, beautifully written post. No thinking person could fail to be infuriated by your examples of right-wing historical revisionism. But readers should not let fury blind them to elegance of style.

    Write a damned book, willya?

    • dakinikat says:

      LOL. Well, I actually have a ton of publications coming out but none on this! All of them are primary research on the ASEAN region. I may have to switch my attention to something infinitely more interesting, eventually. Thx!!