Thursday, July 29, 2010

On cap-and-trade

Just sent in this letter.

Dear Senator Nelson,

In response to your decision to harm Nebraska's agriculture and citizens by voting against the free market principles of cap-and-trade, all I can say is, enjoy your coming retirement. You have no base, so I hope you're not planning to run again.

Oh, and also this:


(Please picture me with my thumbs in my ears and fingers waggling in the air at your hatred for science and for Nebraska while my tongue makes that noise.)

Nathan Empsall

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Glenn Beck continues his attacks on people of faith

Cross-posted from MyDD.

Something I’ve noticed about Glenn Beck is that most of his attacks are motivated not by ideology or patriotism, but by revenge and personal petulance. First, it was Van Jones, President Obama’s green jobs czar. Beck began his successful smear campaign against Jones about the same time a group co-founded by Jones called for advertisers to boycott Beck for calling the President racist. Then in March, Beck began his screeds against the Bible’s call for social justice, comparing the Catholic Church and others who call for justice to Nazis and Communists. When evangelical leader Jim Wallis politely disagreed with Beck on his blog and called for a public debate between the two, Beck turned his ire on Wallis.

Beck’s latest target is another liberal faith-based group, Faithful America. They are an ecumenical progressive organization focused on such issues as violence in the public discourse, distortion of Scripture, torture, health care, and climate change. (I have often cited their Faith in Public Life news round-up here at MyDD.) However, Beck's anger seems to come not from his belief that only the right-wing is allowed to think about religion but from his recurring desire for revenge. The group recently launched a radio ad to counter Beck’s distortion of the Bible, quoting Scripture and encouraging “a spirit of love and truth” when disagreeing with one another. They also printed and offered free bumper stickers declaring “Driven by Faith, Not by Fear.” (Mine arrived last week.)

Beck, in typical fashion, was outraged that anyone would suggest the Bible is about love, and tore into Faithful America on his radio show last Friday. As usual, he tried to debunk the group mostly by mocking them, not by being serious. His only substantive critiques were that it partners with other people he dislikes, deletes vulgar comments from its webpage, and doesn’t include the word “Jesus” on its homepage and thus isn’t religious. Because of course, the only proof that someone is religious is their use of the word Jesus – we all know there’s not a single religious Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or Hindu in the entire world. But seriously, as the name suggests, Faithful America is ecumenical, not Christian. And while Beck is right about their homepage's use of the word “Jesus,” they do in fact have over two dozen mentions of the word “faith” (not even counting their name), as well as seven mentions of “Christian” and numerous links to explicitly Christian organizations (among others).

Faithful America’s response? The same as Wallis’s: they’re asking Beck to participate in an open public debate. They’re not stooping to his level of distortion and dishonesty, but if his reaction to Wallis is any indication, he won’t rise to their level of equality and civil discourse either.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Democrats won't win by running against Bush

Cross-posted from

Even though he wasn’t on the ballot, Democrats ran against George W. Bush in 2008 and won. This isn’t 2008, and that strategy won’t work again. It’s a historical lesson: we can’t fight the current war with the strategy and technology of the last one. I pound my head against the wall every time I see something like this:

Watching yesterday's forum on "Meet the Press" -- which featuring NRCC Chair Pete Sessions, NRSC Chair John Cornyn, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen and DSCC Chair Bob Menendez -- it appeared to be a Bush vs. Obama debate by proxy… Van Hollen: "During the whole eight years of the Bush administration, we actually lost over 600,000 private sector jobs." And Menendez: "It's not just talking about President Bush; it's the policies that they espouse that are in essence Bush's policies. Those led us to a 72% percent increase in the debt from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion when Bush left."

I’m reminded of a discussion between two pundits I heard on public radio last week, though unfortunately I don’t remember which show so there's no link or transcript. One pundit mentioned that Obama has been president for 2 ½ years. A couple minutes later, the other said basically "Wait a minute; you said two and a half when it’s actually one and a half. I don’t blame you for the slip because neither I nor the interviewer caught it, which speaks to the fact that Obama is now an entrenched reality in voters’ minds and that he owns all the problems he faces."

Politicians have to find a way to play to the voters’ mindset rather than patronizing them by trying to change it, and this year it is, “Talk to me about today’s problems, not yesterday’s. You’re in charge now so I will blame you.” It doesn’t matter if there are too many problems to solve in just two years, and it doesn’t matter when the problems started or why. Many voters feel too busy living their lives to educate themselves about the details, or feel that “common sense” means the problem is what it looks like at first blush and don’t tell me otherwise. Hence the new Pew poll that finds most voters think Obama started the bailouts, and hence Republican Senator Bob Bennett’s comment that voters “confused TARP and the stimulus plan. They confused TARP and the omnibus bill. They confused TARP and the president’s budget.”

Unfortunately, Democrats aren’t going to get the chance to correct voters about the Bush policies. A candidate gets just 30 seconds to be quoted in a news story and 30 seconds to shoot an ad, and just three points voters will remember from a fair booth or local speech. Don’t give them a ten minute economic lecture or timeline – find something concise that shares their focus on the now. They won’t even listen if you start with a focus on the yesterday. They’ll walk away muttering, “Typical politician, pointing fingers and making excuses.”

So unless your opponent was a prominent member of Bush’s economic team, a better campaign line than blaming Bush would be, “Thanks to Democratic policies, the private sector has created jobs for six straight months after losing them for every month since 2007. Tea party opponents, however, want to get rid of those policies, as well as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act.” You could add “We could have done even more if the Senate opposition was focused on policy rather than politics,” but that’s starting to get into the procedural weeds about which non-junkies don’t want to spend time learning. When it's time to talk about your opponent, talk about the current opponents - John Boehner's pro-BP and pro-Wall Street comments, the aforementioned Rand Paul and Sharron Angle - not about the past.

The moment you say the magic word Bush, voters will think you’re shirking responsibility and ducking blame. It doesn’t matter if it is indeed Bush’s fault and it doesn’t matter if you’re not to blame – we’re talking about perception and about November, not about policy or truth. So again, Democrats have to share the voters’ focus on today, not waste time trying to get them to think about yesterday. Don’t rerun the 2008 campaign when it’s not 2008.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ben Nelson and Judd Gregg ignore their constituents

Cross-posted from MyDD.

Ben Nelson doesn’t understand climate change, and is going to harm the very industries he seeks to protect. But at least he’s not Judd Gregg, who refuses to think for himself - and that should drive even tea partiers nuts. From Politico:

“A carbon tax or trade piece would significantly increase the utility rates in Nebraska for businesses, agriculture and individuals,” the Nebraska Democrat told POLITICO. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to go. And while I’d usually vote for a motion to proceed, this is so extraordinary, that I just can’t bring myself to do that.”

Either Nelson’s quote is bogus and he has nothing but contempt for Nebraska agriculture, or he doesn’t understand a thing about climate change. Yes, Nebraska does have incredibly cheap electricity from Wyoming coal and that will probably change at least somewhat under if carbon is priced, but if carbon isn’t priced, there won’t BE much Nebraska agriculture left to care!

A panel of ecologists, biologists and professors told an audience of 50 on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's East Campus that as the world grows warmer in the next 50 years, so will Nebraska.

It wasn't a comforting message.

Declines in Rocky Mountain snowpack could devastate flows in the Platte River.

More precipitation could fall, but the chances of catastrophic flooding will increase.

Nebraska will get a longer growing season, but it also will get weeds and insect pests that have never been able to survive the region's harsh winters.

Add to that a Nature Conservancy report that shows Nebraska will see one of the two or three sharpest increases in temperature of any state under any scenario.

New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg is even worse. The same Politico article quotes him saying, “I’ll wait to see what the leadership position is before I make a decision on what I’d do” regarding a possible filibuster.

What’s that, Judd? Can’t think for yourself about these things? Listen, you weren’t elected to represent the citizens of leadership’s Arizona and Kentucky, you were elected to represent the citizens of New Hampshire – and a new UNH poll out just this week shows that they understand that climate change is real and that it is caused by humans. So do the right thing, not the Mitch McConnell puppet thing.

Gregg's retiring this year. Let's replace him with someone who will actually try, and help Paul Hodes get to the Senate.

For the record, both men voted for cloture on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill. So Nelson's just plain flip-flopping, and Gregg doesn't want us to know yet if he's a decent guy or not.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Idaho Republicans hate the word “fiesta,” demand repeal of the 17th Amendment, and require loyalty oath

Cross-posted from MyDD.

Even when ID-01 is in Democratic hands, Repubs still know how to steal the show. Two inane stories the past couple weeks. First, at their state convention, the party voted to enshrine repealing the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) into their party platform, as well as demand that all Repub candidates sign a party loyalty oath. Second, the Bonner County Republican Party is outraged, OUTRAGED! that their county’s fair has chosen “Fiesta” as this year’s theme. This is America and we speak American, gulldarnit!

Let’s think about that party platform for a second: signing a loyalty oath to support repeal of the 17th Amendment. That means that if you’re pro-life, think Obama is a socialist, want to get rid of social security and the income tax, and can’t wait to drill baby drill but also think that people should have their right to elect their own representatives, then you are not right-wing enough for the Idaho Repub Party. By the way, that 17th Amendment? It was originally co-sponsored and introduced by an Idaho Republican in 1911, Senator William Borah.

From the Idaho Democratic Party:

It is now clear that the "new" Idaho Republican Party is interested not in governing but in ruling our state and its people...

Some of these extremist proposals included disbanding all Idaho public schools, creating a state militia, forbidding closure of poorly run publicly-funded charter schools that are drowning in red ink, and rejecting school-based vaccination clinics (vaccinations were called "unnecessary drugging of our children").

"The Idaho Democratic Party welcomes all well-intentioned voters to join us in finding solutions to the problems this state now faces. We embrace a wide range of views and voters. At the same time, the Idaho Republican Party is quickly moving to the extreme right, far away from its traditional, moderate center," stated [Democratic Chairman Keith] Roark.

To Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)’s credit, he refuses to sign the loyalty oath.

But that’s not even half as crazy as one of the county parties. Just north of my home in Kootenai County, Repubs are furious that a Spanish word - "fiesta" - was chosen (way back in January) as the theme for this year’s Bonner County Fair. In protest, they have declared that the theme of their booth will be "celebrate," and they have written to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to ask if she has any Arizona license plates she could spare for them to decorate their booth.

The Twin Falls Times-News titled their responding editorial, “A bigot is a bigot, in any language” and said that Repubs should “avoid insulting 10 percent of your political constituency.” But my favorite line from this whole affair comes from Fair Board Chairman Tim Cary, who asked of the food court, "Are we supposed to change the name of a burrito to something in English?"

Small wonder that CQ just upgraded ID-01, once the national Repubs’ top target, from "toss-up" to 'leans Dem."

Per Boise Weekly, the Bonner County Democrats have responded to the fiesta flap. Chairwoman Laura Bry says they will have donkey piñatas at their booth.

I should also point out that Sarah Palin was born in Bonner County.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Angle joins long list of BP-defending Republicans

Cross-posted from MyDD.

Nevada Repub Senate nominee Sharron Angle agreed with Joe Barton on a call-in radio show yesterday, echoing his claim that its escrow fund for spill victims is a government “slush fund.”

A caller said that Obama had "basically extorted $20 billion from a private company," and asked Angle what she thought of "the $20 billion slush fund."

"Government shouldn't be doing that to a private company," Angle replied. "And I think you named it clearly: It's a slush fund… They're actually using this crisis if you will, because they never waste one -- Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals -- they are using this crisis now to get in cap and trade, and every crime and penalty, and slush fund.”

Angle tried to clarify herself today, claiming that her actual position on the issue is the complete opposite of yesterday’s remarks. She’s been doing a lot of that lately. She just doesn’t get that voters can sense authenticity. A candidate who makes a gaffe can pull a 30 or even a 45, but they can’t pull a 180. This flap isn’t going to end well for Angle.

And yet boy does she ever have friends. Let’s review which Republicans have claimed either that BP shouldn’t have to set up a fund for its victims or shouldn’t pay for the Gulf clean-up:

Yup. This is definitely turning into a party philosophy and mindset.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

And Also With You

Got this joke in my inbox today, from my daily joke service:

In our Anglican church, each service begins with a greeting. The officiating clergyman says, "The Lord be with you." The congregation used to respond by saying, "And with thy spirit."

But, with the modernizing of the liturgy, the minister now says, "The Lord be with you," and everyone responds with, "And also with you."

One Sunday a visiting bishop went to a church where the sound system was known to be old and unreliable. As he approached the microphone, he tapped it several times and
finally said, "There's something wrong with this!"

Without hesitation, the whole congregation answered faithfully, "And also with you."

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Churches and Flags

Thought I'd share this timely piece with you for the Fourth from Fr. Lane Denson III in Tennessee, about the proper Biblical relationship between the church and the state. As my own rector reminded us this morning here in Idaho, the liberty of our politics and Founding Fathers is a great one, and the liberty of Christ is a great one, but don't ever confuse or combine the two.
Any flag is a symbol, and symbols communicate.

When a flag flies at full staff the announcement is peace, victory, rule or whatever adjective you might speak in the situation at that time.

When a flag flies upside down, the message is distress.

When a flag flies at half mast, the message is sorrow or death

When a flag is placed on the right hand side of a seat of responsibility, as at the President's desk in the oval office, the message is allegiance.

When a flag is torn, stepped on or burned, the message is
rejection or rebellion, as at the Boston Tea Party.

Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures record two problems as always having plagued the People of God. (1) Syncretism, becoming conformed to the cultural ways instead of bringing the culture into the ways of God. (2) Nationalism, allowing the rule of God to be replaced by the rule of the State or King.

The first Commandment says no other God, and that includes kings, states, and constitutions. The prophetic movement came to the fore in earnest when David decided he was above the law of God. Nathan spoke with clarity. Henry II tried to make Thomas à Becket bow to the will of the throne, and blood was shed in Canterbury Cathedral. And on, and on, over and over, the conflict between Church and State.

In the early 1900s a subtle thing occurred in this country. The Stars and Stripes were placed on the right hand side of the altar in the churches. The message, perhaps unintended, was that the Church owes allegiance to the State. To place the Nation's flag in such a position is like placing the Church's flag to the right of the President's desk in the Oval Office. Such a message proclaimed in the church is contrary to the covenants. It is also an act of idolatry.

Yet, flags do have a place in the Church -- the Alms Bason. On National Days, such as the 4th of July, to place a properly folded National Flag in the Alms Bason is to offer to God what we have done as his stewards of the land and society of a country. The People of God are inhabitants of every nation on this earth, but we owe primary obedience to none of them.

Let us consider well what our flags communicate. Maybe the time has come to remove all National Flags from the Nave. Let them be placed in the Alms Bason on National Days.

At Winston Churchill's funeral, the casket was placed before the High Altar with five pillows on the altar step. Each pillow bore a symbol of his life in the service of God. One pillow bore the Union Jack.

What better example might we have?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Musical Monday on a Thursday: The Firefly Song

One of my favorite Alan Jackson tunes. More bluegrassy than country - go figure; the wonderful Alison Krauss produced.

Rebutting Phyllis Schlafly on Elena Kagan

A friend posted this article from Phyllis Schlafly about Elena Kagan on my Facebook page. It's such an atrocious article that I didn't want my rebuttal to remain a Facebook comment, so here it is in blog form.

I do, as do all living retired Republican soliticors general.. Phyllis Schlafly is one of the nuttiest, most uncredible writers in the country. I'd like to see the transcript of that 2001 interview she quotes, to make sure she didn't distort it or take it out of context.

It's silly to attack Kagan for having the chief justice of Israel's Supreme ... See MoreCourt speak. Schlafly quotes that judge at length, but doesn't tell us what exactly Kagan said about him other than that she invited him. Don't quote the judge; quote Kagan! What's wrong with hearing diverse views, including ones we ourselves may not hold? And let's remember that Israel's is one of the closest judicial system in the world to our own, so it's judicial leaders are worth bringing to our own law schools, regardless of their views left or right. That's a silly point for Schlafly to spend the first half of her article on.

Also, Constitution Day isn't a big deal at academic institutions. Maybe it should be, but it isn't, so that's not much of an attack on Kagan either. And why does Schlafly call that transnationalist Kagan's "hero"? Just because he was one of dozens and dozens of speakers Kagan invited, he's automatically her hero? C'mon, what a cheap shot, what a partisan attack aimed not at the truth but at advancing an agenda.

It's also silly to call a lawyer an "extremist" because she opposed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. I do support that ban and would have voted for it if in Congress, but there are Constitutional questions surrounding it. Remember, a conservative Court struck it down once before it was rewritten and upheld.

And finally, I can cite three polls that have different results than Rasmussen. Rasmussen, as is often the case, is an outlier here.

This article makes some of the thinnest arguments I have ever seen. Even if I opposed Kagan, I'd be embarrassed to have this article on my side.