I’m a two-partier

Gotta love a Flight of the Conchords reference. Image is available on a tshirt from snorgtees.com

Today, I posted a link to my Facebook, encouraging friends to check out the New York Times‘ story on the Tea Party (I’m using great restraint here to type Tea Party instead of my preferred Teabagger) Movement.  In linking to the piece, I wrote, “An interesting piece. I’m still hoping that these people won’t destroy the Republican party (I think we need two functional parties for democracy to function) or the country.” A friend (whom I respect! and like!) left this comment: “I’ve got to disagree with you. I’m with Evan Bayh: the 2 party partisan system is killing America. Most people don’t adhere 100% to one side or another. There is definitely room for a Centrist movement.”  Which is when I took to my blog to explain why I think a two-party system is crucial to the American way of government, and life. (I am leaving aside the part about how I think Evan Bayh is a hypocrite, a dirty rotten traitor, a selfish slimebag, and utterly in the pocket of big companies like Wellpoint.)

I got my college degree in both English and Political Science.  As such, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take comparative government.  It was in this class that I learned that our Founders (look at me! talking about the Founders like a Tea Partier! let me fetch my tricorn hat!) very deliberately chose a two-party system.  More than anything, the Founders feared tyranny, and they believed that factionalism (we might say extremism) was the major cause of tyranny.  In crafting a two party system in which the majority rules, our Founders created a system that would tend toward centrism.  Each party would have to play toward the middle in order to secure the majority they needed to govern.  In trying to secure a majority of voters, each party would have to tend toward moderation.

In contrast, look at governments that have more than two parties.  I seem to remember my professor (himself a conservatve/libertarian, and yet my favorite in college) pointing at Italy as a particularly grievous example of the problem of more-than-two-party systems.  In these systems, any party that can secure a bare minimum of votes is rewarded with seats in the legislature.  This means that each party plays to its own small audience, and their specific needs and beliefs, in order to win their votes.  If they don’t, those voters can simply choose from among a plethora of possible parties.  In turn, with each party that can secure a bare minimum of votes being rewarded with seats, multiple parties have to form coalitions in order to govern– a coalition will elect the leader of the legislature and decide on committee heads, for example.  While these coalitions might sound great in theory, they have a tendency to fall apart regularly, with each party holding the whole process hostage to get what they want, or leaving the coalition and forcing new elections if they don’t.  Multi-party systems lead to every party playing toward the fringes, NOT centrism.

So this is why I believe a two-party system is the only way to centrism and moderation.  I may not always personally LIKE the slow, incremental, glacial pace of change that results from a two party system, but it’s nothing compared to the gridlock that results in systems with more parties.  The only reason I’d vote third-party is to teach my own party a lesson.  And here’s where I break faith with the folks waving tea bags: I think that the current Democratic party is pretty darn centrist.  Most of the proposals of the dreaded health care reform package, for example, are things Republicans were proposing back in the Clinton years.  If anything, I find the Democratic party too moderate, and might consider voting Green Party in order to teach them a lesson about abandoning their Progressive base.

(I feel like I just took a test in one of Dr. Gitz’s classes. Give me an A!)

Brown’s got me down, let them eat cake

Image via the Washington Post.

So a Republican won Teddy Kennedy’s seat in the Senate last night.  This kills the Democrats’ 60 seat super majority, though it’s worth reminding people that they still have a majority, and only 51 votes are needed to pass legislation– I saw a few people claiming on Twitter last night that the Republicans now “control” the Senate, which is completely untrue.  They’re just now able to filibuster more easily, meaning it will be easier for them to waste everyone’s time keeping the Senate from voting on things.  I’d like to remind the 59 remaining Democrats that Bush got more done with less of a majority than they have now, so I expect them to get shit done anyway, even without Coakley.  Of course, knowing what spineless wretches the Democrats, particularly the Blue Dogs, are, I don’t have a whole lot of hope.  Which brings me to a wonderful post by Ezra Klein on what Teddy Kennedy would say to the Democrats.  Ezra writes:

For now, it’s worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind? If they’re not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.

Exactly. Continue reading “Brown’s got me down, let them eat cake”

Dear Jim DeMint

I just read that one of my senators was the only one to oppose legislation to extend unemployment benefits.  I wrote him a letter immediately.  Here’s what I said:

Sen. DeMint,

I am deeply disappointed to read that you were the only Senator to vote against extending unemployment benefits. I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of being laid off from my job in the real estate industry. Though I was only out of work for three months, I count myself among the blessed and lucky few who were able to obtain a new job so quickly. Many South Carolinians are not so lucky. In my time in the unemployment office, I saw people from all walks of life who were out of work and desperate. Unemployment is still very high, and if you are really working for South Carolinians, you would support our unemployment benefits, especially when our state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

I can assure you, the benefits are not so cushy as to keep anyone from seeking a job. It was a fraction of what I made when I was employed, and I would not have been able to survive had I not had a spouse who was still employed. My unemployment wouldn’t have even covered COBRA for my health insurance which I lost when I lost my job.

I’m deeply disappointed and can’t help but feel that you took this terrible stand to get attention. Please don’t seek attention at the expense of out-of-work people in our state. Please be an advocate for the people who need you, particularly the unemployed who have been hit so hard by this economic downturn, especially as the holidays approach.

Here’s hoping he actually reads it, but at least I feel better knowing I tried to tell my representative how I feel.

common ground on abortion?

President Obama has drawn both praise and criticism for meeting with groups on both sides of the abortion issue and attempting to find “common ground.”  One of the things I like about Obama, that I think many people like about him, is that he seems the type to listen to people with whom he both agrees and disagrees, and then try to come to a thoughtful conclusion.

The one problem with all this common ground on abortion stuff?

People who think that making abortion illegal will end or even put a dent in the number of abortions performed annually are wrong.

Yep. A new report from the Guttmacher (I always see this word and think gut-muncher for some reason) Institute found that

While the incidence of abortion is closely related to that of unintended pregnancy, it does not correlate with abortion’s legal status. Indeed, abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is broadly legal and in regions where it is highly restricted.

Making abortion illegal does not change the number of abortions. Period. We should look at people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade about the same way as we look at people who supported Prohibition. Continue reading “common ground on abortion?”

You go, Claire McCaskill!

So the town hall “let’s go get yelled at by crazies” gauntlet continues for members of congress.  Sen. Claire McCaskill had one yesterday, and this is her take: Picture 1 Really, Sen. McCaskill?  Because I think you sounded juuuuussst right:

When a crowd is acting like a bunch of unruly elementary schoolers, the correct approach is to talk to them like they’re one count-to-three away from losing recess.  I remember in elementary school, they had a system for dealing with us when we got too loud in the cafeteria.  They had the letters R-A-M-S (our mascot) hanging on the wall.  If we got too loud, one of the monitors would go remove a letter.  If we lost all the letters in one lunch period, we weren’t allowed to talk the rest of the lunch period.  This happened VERY rarely.  But then again, maybe we elementary schoolers were better behaved than the teabagging health care reform opponents who only want to shut down debate, because they have no actual ideas to contribute to the discussion.

Anyway, don’t feel bad, Sen. McCaskill.   You struck exactly the right tone.  You go on with your bad self.

don’t let the door hitcha on your way out

So, almost a month after her crazy pre-Fourth-of-July “Declaration of Independence,” Sarah Palin is no longer governor of Alaska, having handed over power to the Lt. Gov. who was sworn in yesterday after Palin, apparently wearing the hide of a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater that she hunted aerially, gave a pouty and trademarkedly random farewell speech that many pundits have compared to a poorly given high school commencement address.

Despite the fact that Palin thinks it’s OBVIOUS why she resigned, we still don’t really know why.  My best impression given what she’s said?  The press is mean and she can’t take it.  And she wouldn’t be able to do anything in her second half of a term, anyway, even without the mean mean press, because she’s under the impression that “lame ducks” can’t accomplish anything at all, ever.

Now, people who know me, and they know how much I love this state, some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state. And it should be so obvious to you. (indicating heckler) It is because I love Alaska this much, sir (at heckler) that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one’s last year in office. How does that benefit you? No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.

I’m reminded again of Dahlia Lithwick’s Slate piece about Palin’s communication style. She appears to REALLY think that she’s made herself perfectly clear and anyone who doesn’t understand why she does what she does is just being dense on purpose. Lithwick wrote:

If you think of Palin as someone who never felt herself to be fully heard or understood, not truly politically realized in the eyes of the American public, her rage toward the country, the media, and those of us who fail to love and understand her is easier to comprehend. Think of an American visiting France who believes that if he just speaks louder, he will be speaking French. Palin has done everything in her power to explain herself to us, and still we fail to appreciate what she is all about. I’d be frustrated, too, if I thought I was offering up straight talk and nobody was getting the message. Especially if I held a degree in communications…because she believes she has been crystal clear all along, she’s come to resent us, too. The enduring political lesson of Sarah Palin may simply be that for most of her political career she’s been lost in translation, without fully appreciating that only in translation was she ever, briefly found.

So, no one really knows why Sarah Palin quit being governor, and no one, apparently not even Palin herself, knows what she is going to do next.  Given the fact she has reiterated multiple times now that she “doesn’t need a title” to effect change, I’m thinking maybe she’s done with elected office?  Not that she could WIN elected office anyway.

Though Palin has a small but very enthusiastic fan base, she (and those who see her as the future of the GOP) seems to misunderstand that in order to win a GOP nomination, she cannot rely solely on white evangelicals.  The Wall Street wing of the party basically hates her, perhaps because they’ve always stood for smarts and economics, two things that Palin can’t count on as strong suits.  At least one GOP strategist has called her “another Huckabee,” but in reality, she’s LESS than a Huckabee, as in a recent Washington Post poll, Huckabee outstrips Palin in support from white evangelicals, 2-1.  Imagine if Huckabee and Palin were both in the running for the nomination.  Together they’d split the social conservative wing, and a third person would likely win the nomination, probably someone like Mitt Romney.

So, if you ask me, Palin may very well continue to be a player in terms of the sheer attention that she gets.  She’ll definitely have a book, and maybe her own TV talk show, just like Huckabee.  She’ll probably raise money for the party and support candiates with similar views.  But I doubt she’ll ever win a nomination for national office, and even if she did, there’s no way she’d actually win that office.  Statistically, the more America gets to know about her, the more Palin’s favorability wanes, as was the case in Alaska as well.

So, while I love to make fun of her, particularly because I think she’s a not-particularly-intelligent whiner, you probably won’t be hearing from me as much on the subject of Sarah Palin.  All she really is, when it comes down to it, is an attention whore.  And when people like me write about her, and better yet, give her someone to point to as part of the evil evil liberal, elitist media, we are giving her exactly what she wants.  So, farewell Sarah Palin.  Don’t let the door hitcha on your way out. *wink*

STAT

slow? or STAT?
slow? or STAT?

I just finished doing my favorite new lunch break activity– shutting the office door and watching the previous night’s Rachel Maddow Show via iTunes, and after wanting to write about health care for a while now, I finally know what I want to write about.

Rachel showed clips of several Republican leaders clearly using what has been an agreed-upon talking point.  Each expressed concern that Democrats are trying to “rush” health care reform, and what we really need to do is slow down.  Quotes taken from the transcript:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is too important to be rushed. We need to take our time and do it right.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: It is urgent and it is indisputable, but the problem I have with it is the rush that is underway here.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This doesn’t take effect for four years, Matt. We don’t need to pass it in two weeks.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: But I wish he’d say three things. I wish he’d say, first of all, we’re going to slow down.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: It is pretty clear that they’re going to rush ahead.

Of course, as Rachel pointed out, with video, we’ve actually been trying to achieve health reform for SIXTY ONE YEARS.  Yep.  She had a clip of Harry Truman asking Congress to pass a health plan.  So, this isn’t a “rush.”

But even if it were, it SHOULD be.  Every day that we delay on health reform, the deeper our nation sinks into debt, the more people lose jobs, health insurance, and homes, the more people get sick and even die for lack of health coverage.  We need health reform and we need it STAT.

Here are some reasons:

  • “Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, the latest government data available.” And with unemployment rising so precipitously in the past 2 years, we can assume the total is much much higher, both because of people losing the jobs that provided their insurance or because they lost the job that allowed them to pay for their private insurance.  (NCHC)
  • “The number of uninsured children in 2007 was 8.1 million – or 10.7 percent of all children in the U.S.” (NCHC)
  • “Lack of insurance compromises the health of the uninsured because they receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates than insured individuals.” (NCHC)
  • “About 20 percent of the uninsured (vs. three percent of those with coverage) say their usual source of care is the emergency room.” (NCHC) This drives up costs for the rest of us because EDs are NOT money makers for hospitals.  In order to remain profitable, hospitals must collect what they lose in the ED by increasing prices on all other services. Also from the NCHC: “Hospitals provide about $34 billion worth of uncompensated care a year.”
  • “The increasing reliance of the uninsured on the emergency department has serious economic implications, since the cost of treating patients is higher in the emergency department than in other outpatient clinics and medical practices.” (NCHC)
  • According to Elizabeth Edwards on last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, “Sixty-two percent of bankruptcy is being caused by medical costs; 50 percent of home foreclosures.”  And if you don’t think home foreclosures affect YOU, think again.  If the house next to yours is foreclosed, or a house in your neighborhood, it hurts YOUR property values.
  • Health care costs are rising faster than we can even begin to keep up: “In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.” (NCHC)
  • “Although nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.” (NCHC)
  • The rising costs are HURTING our businesses and our economy: “Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Unless something changes dramatically, health insurance costs will overtake profits by the end of 2008.” (NCHC) How many companies could be expanding and creating jobs, but can’t, because of the burden of health care?
  • And because this list is already long enough, I’ll just point out that the QUALITY of our healthcare is nowhere near what it should be for the amount we spend.  You can read more here.  I know that fear mongerers love to point out cases of people “dying in Canada” or wherever because of evil socialized health care, but there are people and babies dying right here in the USA thanks to our system.

Hopefully you can now see why this situation is so urgent.  We can’t listen to Republicans telling us to slow down, when really, they are just hoping to kill health reform altogether.  So get educated.  Read about the major provisions of the proposed reform in the House bill.

It seems the biggest point of contention is the public health option, similar to the health insurance provided to federal employees.  Did you read that last part?  It’s a government-run health insurance program.  Anyone who tells you that this is “socialized medicine” is flat out lying.  It’s absolutely the KEY piece of the puzzle in the reform process.  Why?  Because health insurance only works by creating large pools of people to spread risk around and share costs.  The bigger the pool, the lower the premiums, because the risk is spread across many people paying in to the system.  It is very hard for new insurance companies to get into the health insurance business, because they can’t get enough people together to form a large enough pool to make a profit.  Thus, though there is a “free market” the tendency is toward mergers and monopolies, not conducive to the kind of competition that really governs a free market.  Via Talking Points Memo I learned of a report

released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), [which] uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

In other words, people who claim to be concerned about public-private competition will drive private insurers out of business should know that in most places, there’s no such thing as health insurance competition, and competition is necessary to keep costs and premiums down. If you have private insurance now, you can keep it! But the mere existence of the public plan may help drive YOUR costs down.  The only entity big enough to create a pool large enough to inject real competition into the health are industry is the government, period.

Also, the government plan would have to adhere to stricter rules, helping to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and to prevent people with serious illnesses from being kicked off their coverage due to costs.  In order to compete, private insurers would also have to adopt these standards, which would truly be a victory for everyone.

Finally, the government plan would be large enough to enact real changes in terms of compensation structures to health care providers, helping to encourage preventative care to keep everyone healthier, and to ddrive down costs.  Hopefully doctors and groups like the AMA which represent them will grab a seat at the table to help make sure these changes are equitable and in patients’ and providers’ best interests.

So. I finally wrote a health care post.  It’s by no means comprehensive, and I am by no means an expert.  I’m just the daughter of an ER doc an APN and an RN, and I’m married to a pediatrician.  I’m someone with a healthy interest in health care and a lot of time to read and get informed.  I urge you to read and get informed too, and to get involved in the process.

Image via Flickr user Hermes, under a Creative Commons license.

bufflo roams back home

a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.
a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.

So, I’m back from a week spent in Colorado with family, and I’m catching up on all the things I’ve missed out on during what was probably a much needed break from the internets and news.  Seriously, my Google Reader had “1000+” items in it when I got on for the first time this morning since Tuesday (besides a little BlackBerry powered browsing while sitting in airports).  And since I’m motoring through it, I figured I’d put a few of the hits right here.  Sorta like a less-timely Bufflo Tips.  I will probably be blogging more about my trip later, but for now, enjoy some linkylinkys.

First up: I love Jenny Lewis’ video for her song See Fernando.  She’s definitely a girl crush of mine.  If someone would PLEASE teach me how to embed non-YouTube videos on WordPress, it would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, you have to watch this 60’s spy-thriller music video here.

Next, check out the trailer for No Impact Man (and Family)’s documentary!  I’ve loved following their journey on the blog and look forward to seeing the film.

  • We have been out of town for a week.  Duh.  We were staying with family who probably had every toiletry that I could possibly need and thus could have preventing me from needing to pack any.  We didn’t check any bags.  We were gone less than a week.  I overpacked.  It’s chronic.  I should have read this post, from one of my fave bloggers, Decorno.
  • Journalism great Walter Cronkite died this week, and Glenn Greenwald points out that most of the journalists marking his passing and running retrospectives are nowhere NEAR the journalist Cronkite was, and are opposed to doing the kind of reporting he did.  Greenwald writes:

    Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

  • I used to respect John McCain, even if I didn’t always agree with him, until he ran such a despicable campaign for the presidency and chose an idiot to be his running mate.  Now, he’s losing even more points from me because he’s blocking nominees to the Department of the Interior because he wants a copper mine to be allowed in a national forest.
  • Via Jezebel, I never thought Charlie Brown could be creepy.  Turns out he can.
  • Nate Silver notes that Sarah Palin really *isn’t* all that much of a fundraiser.
  • Meanwhile, in my absence, Palin decided to try to string a few coherent sentences together (a huge undertaking from the Queen of Fragments, though I’m guessing this piece was heavily edited by someone with at least a bare-bones knowledge of basic grammar) in opposition to cap and trade in the Washington Post.  Alex Koppelman of Salon’s War Room blog summarized the op ed thusly:

    While the piece is certainly more coherent than her resignation announcement or some of her past interviews, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims and reads like a greatest hits list of Republican talking points on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill currently working its way through Congress.

    The entire piece refuting Palin’s points is worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet. I like this part: “She does not rely on any scientific evidence to back up any of the bold statements she makes in the piece.” BECUZ SARAH PALIN DON’T NEED UR FANCY BOOK LERNIN’.  ALSO, SY-ENCE IS FUR ATHEEISTS.  Another good reaction to the Palin op ed can be found at The Daily Beast, written by Edward Markey, of Waxman-Markey fame.  I think I’ll trust the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee over a less-than-one-term governor with a degree in communications that apparently failed to give her a basic grasp of Standard English any day.

  • Ezra Klein says Palin probably didn’t write it.  She signed her name to it.  He’s probably right.  He also writes:

    The term “global warming” is absent. So is “climate change.” It’s a bit like an op-ed that attacks firefighters for pointing pressurized water cannons at everything but never mentions fires, or a column that condemns surgeons for sticking sharp things into people but never mentions illness.

  • Conor Clark at The Daily Dish says “Palin’s op-ed displays an ignorance for the subject so profound it’s almost gutsy. Almost.”
  • Obama nominated a Surgeon General who isn’t Sanjay Gupta and who seems to be an all-around awesome lady.  Apparently some haters think she’s too fat to be Surgeon General, 4rlz.  Frances Kissling of Salon’s Broadsheet addresses those haters.
  • Meanwhile Ezra Klein has a sensical piece about why we as a society should worry about obesity.
  • So, a bunch of “Blue Dogs” are threatening to derail health reform.  Nate Silver points out that this could hurt them in the end, as their districts have higher rates of uninsurance than most.  He writes:

    Mike Ross of the Arkansas 4th, where almost 22 percent of the population is uninsured? This is a bill designed to help districts like his. And the same goes for most of the other Blue Dogs. A lot of the time, these guys are stuck in a tough spot between their party and their constituents. Here, those interests are mostly aligned.

  • Yay for good news when it comes to SAVING THE ANTIBIOTICS.
  • And finally, check out this piece on How Outlet Malls Rip Us Off, and maybe next time you head to the outlets, take a smart phone so you can check reference prices online and find out what retail price REALLY is.

More Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

I wasn’t intending to do any blogging today or this week, but I like to watch the video from the most recent Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break, and when I saw that she was covering The Family again, I knew I had to do a post.  You can see my previous post on the subject here.  You can watch the video clip I’m discussing here (I would embed it but MSNBC isn’t playing nice with WordPress).  All quotes from The Rachel Maddow Show taken from this transcript.

In the wake of the Sanford and Ensign sex scandals, the C Street house/Bible Study/group looms large, as does The Family, the organization behind it.

One of the more interesting bits was clips of sermons from the leader of The Family from original reporting by Andrea Mitchell.  In one of the clips, the leader of The Family, Douglas Coe, says:

DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY” LEADER: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
COE: One of the things [Jesus] said is “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can‘t be a disciple.” So I don‘t care what other qualifications you have, if you don‘t do that, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.

So basically this guy sees a lot of parallels between following Jesus and being a member of the Red Guard or Nazi Party? I’m already terrified.

During the show, Rachel also interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine, who infiltrated The Family and lived at C Street before writing a book on The Family.  Here’s one of the things Sharlet said about The Family:

They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.

“Biblical Capitalism? Wonder how they’d square that with this vision of the early church, from the Book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:45-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Nevermind their downright unbiblical fetishization of capitalism, according to Sharlet, the group has been involved in shady dealings with brutal dictators:

SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.

It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.

The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.

Finally, Maddow asks Sharlet, if, since religion is a private matter in this country (ha! Yeah, the Values Voters and people who are convinced Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, as if that disqualified him from office, really believe in religion as a private matter.), if he believes the members of Congress who are affiliated with C Street and the Family should disclose their involvement in the group. Sharlet responds:

I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”

I bolded the parts above because, based on everything I know of Jesus, I feel quite confident in saying that the theology of this group is NOT “Christian.” It is extremist, it is unorthodox, and true Christians should point out groups like this and say, THEY DO NOT REPRESENT US, OUR GOSPEL, OR OUR GOD.

Personally, I do think these men, Sens. Ensign and Coburn and Gov. Sanford, should be asked some really hard questions about their involvement with this group, and whether or not they feel its views conform to biblical orthodoxy and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

taking Palin at face value doesn’t help her cause

So, Sarah Palin resigned almost a week ago in a rambling, babbling speech punctuated with the honking of waterfowl in front of a hastily gathered group of mostly local news reporters.  In the week that followed, pundits and bloggers have been going nuts analyzing Palin’s resignation and trying to figure out WHY.  Palin doesn’t understand why anyone would be wondering about underlying reasons or scandals.  Wearing her waders, she told ABC News “You know why they’re confused? I guess they cannot take something nowadays at face value”.

OK.  So, here’s what she said (emphasis mine):

Political operatives descended on Alaska last August, digging for dirt. The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice. Over the past nine months I’ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics violations….

“The state has wasted thousands of hours of your time and shelled out some two million of your dollars to respond to ‘opposition research’ — that’s money not going to fund teachers or troopers or safer roads…. Todd and I are looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop draining public resources — spending other peoples’ money in their game.

“It’s pretty insane — my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with this instead of progressing our state now.”

Let’s take this apart one point at a time, shall we?

  • Palin seems to suggest that most of the ethics complaints are filed against her by “political operatives” and enemies.  I’ll let Salon’s Joan Walsh take this one (emphasis mine):

    All but one of them were filed by her constituents in Alaska. That one exception was a complaint by a DC watchdog group about her $150,000 clothing gift from RNC. It was ultimately dismissed, but it dealt with an unclear area of campaign-finance law…Four of the complaints were filed by a Republican former ally of Palin’s, Andree McLeod, who turned on her because she felt Palin was cutting ethical corners, hiring cronies and using a private email account to conduct public business outside the realm of public records. Many of the complaints predated her vice presidential nomination. And at least one of the complaints was clearly justified; Palin had to pay back about $8,000 in travel expenses for her children. Another is still pending: A seemingly reasonable complaint about Palin charging the state per diem when she’s living in her own house in Wasilla rather than the governor’s mansion.

    If you’d like to read a complete listing of the ethics investigations, the Anchorage Daily News has compiled a list.  As you can see, only one complaint was filed by a political operative, and many were quite serious, the opposite of “frivolous.”  Even in some of the cases in which Palin was found to have done nothing wrong, other actions were taken.  The list mentions one member of her administration who was ordered to undergo ethics training because of “troubling emails.”

  • Now about those hours wasted and dollars spent.  Where does Palin get this “millions of dollars” total?  David Murrow, a Palin spokesperson, acknowledged to a Plum Line reporter

    that this total was arrived at by adding up attorney hours spent on fending off complaints — based on the fixed salaries of lawyers in the governor’s office and the Department of Law. The money would have gone to the lawyers no matter what they were doing.

    Greg Sargeant continued:

    The ethics complaints have apparently not had the real world impact Palin has claimed, and didn’t drain money away from cops, teachers, roads and other things.

    So once again we return to the total cost of the ethics investigation, as tallied by the Anchorage Daily News: $296,000. And where do the bulk of these charges come from? Again from the Anchorage Daily News:

    The bulk of the expenses — $187,797 — appear to stem from Troopergate, the messy case involving Palin’s former brother-in-law, a state trooper, who got on the wrong side with Palin and her family. Palin herself initiated at least a part of the ethics case to counter a legislative investigation into the same matter.

    And when they report that Palin initiated part of the case “to counter a legislative investigation” what they mean is, she tried to have the investigation moved to the jurisdiction of people she had the power to fire if they returned a verdict she wasn’t happy with. Palin, as Talking Points Memo notes, “has the power to fire the personnel board’s members, the independence of its judgments is hardly beyond reproach.”

  • And now for Palin’s argument that the burden of these investigations is so crippling that she and her staff can do little else.  As Talking Points Memo reported, at the time of her announcement, there were only 3 ethics investigations still pending against Palin, hardly an overwhelming number.  And none of those three is as serious as the Troopergate investigation, which she managed to weather while remaining governor AND campaigning for the Vice Presidency.  I just don’t buy that she can’t keep doing her job in the face of the remaining cases.  If they really are as frivolous as she claims, they’ll be dismissed as quickly as the others have been.

So.  Palin is wrong about who is bringing the ethics complaints against her, she is wrong about their level of seriousness, she is wrong about how much they are costing the state, and she is most likely wrong about how crippling they are of her ability to do her job as governor, the job she promised to do for at least one full term.  Moreover, she is using the very ethics reform she champions as one of her crowning achievements as an excuse for being a quitter.  Steve Benen points out that there is more than a little irony in this, and that perhaps instead of quitting, Palin could use her immediate knowledge both of what it takes to pass ethics reform and of the flaws in the current ethics law, to improve the law:

To hear Palin tell it, her opponents are now using her own achievement against her — exploiting the law to waste taxpayer money, bankrupt the state’s governor, and paralyze state government. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with the new ethics laws? If the measures were written in such a way as to make it easy and cost-free for anyone to cripple the state’s political process, then don’t the reform laws need reforming? Indeed, even putting Palin aside, won’t all future Alaskan governors have to deal with the same problem? It sounds like Palin has firsthand experience in identifying the flaws in her own law. If she weren’t quitting, and letting her own flawed ethics rules force her from office, maybe she could work on improving the system and helping the state.

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