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Don’t go Akin my Heart: Todd Akin Earns the Ire of Mitt

Irony Personified

When one can’t think of anything else to do a political candidate should be like the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas played by Charles Durning. One should dance around subjects and not say really stupid things, especially about things as sensitive topic as rape, which according to law and morality is a violent crime.  However there is no law against political stupidity. Good politicians know how to “Dance a little side step.” Stupid ones don’t know when to shut up.

Dance a Little Sidestep 

Todd Akin, until this morning a Tea Party favorite U.S. Congressman running for Senate in Missouri is obviously the kind of man who doesn’t know when to shut up or when not to try to play medical expert. While defending his anti-abortion position which gives no exemptions for rape he made one of the most bone-headed comments I have ever heard from a politician since Republican Texas candidate for Governor Clayton Williams did in 1990. Williams said that since rape is inevitable like bad weather that rape victims should “just relax and enjoy it.” Williams’ little off the cuff gaffe cost him the election as he was leading Democrat candidate Ann Richards with just a few weeks prior to the election by a hefty margin. I was a Republican in Texas at that time and was so disgusted that I couldn’t vote for the man.

Yesterday while being interviewed by a local news station Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

I wasn’t watching much news yesterday and had been taking most of the day away from the computer spending time with Judy on her visit to the Island Hermitage. So when I head about late in the evening when making a quick check of headlines I was rather dumbfounded. I really thought that I had to be misreading it so I went to bed after finishing an episode of Boston Legal season four on my DVD. Then listening to The Morning Joe on my Sirius radio on the way to work I was really taken aback. I couldn’t believe that he actually said what he said.

I have dealt with a lot of rape victims in my time as a military chaplain as well as a civilian hospital chaplain. To quote the President who said the same thing that that  thought when I heard the comment: “Rape is rape.” So what is the difference between “legitimate rape” and “rape?” Is there such a thing as “illegitimate rape?”

Akin’s comments have drawn the fire of many of his backers including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan who co-sponsored legislation basically saying the same thing as did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Romney called the comments “insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong.” Karl Rove’s Super-PAC Crossroads GPS which had spent $5 million in Missouri, withdrew it’s funding from the state. Radio talk-show host Sean Hannity and pundit Ann Coulter have all called on Akin to withdraw from the race, Coulter saying “for the good of the country.” He has been asked not to attend next week’s GOP convention in Tampa and the National Chairman of the GOP pretty much told him to withdraw from the race. Even major anti-abortion groups condemned the remarks. The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a long term anti-abortion activist and head of the Christian Defense Coalition called the remarks “offensive, repugnant and troubling.” But Akin, at least as of tonight is rebuffing their calls and claiming that he is staying in the race. Republicans are running from Akin like vampires from the sun despite having for the past number of years endorsed similar ideas.

I find the whole thing politically inept. I am not going into the politics of abortion on either side of the line. I am just commenting on the political ineptness of a candidate that has dropped a bomb on his party and his soon-to-be Presidential nominee the week before the nominating convention. It is not like that Romney himself has been great on the campaign trail routinely blowing himself up with unbelievable gaffes. It is also true that Romney is not liked by much of his own party, the only thing that many of his supporters find endearing is he is not Obama, who in the words of Hank Williams Jr. “they hate.”

Akin’s comments yesterday and actions today have taken the wind out of Mitt Romney’s campaign.   Romney now has to take his message off of the economy and defend a view that while popular among the conservative-Christian base is at odds with the majority of the electorate, even among those that support some restrictions on abortion. I fall into that category. In a close election which will be decided by a narrow minority of swing voters, especially women this could doom Romney’s campaign despite many people’s unhappiness with the Obama presidency and the continuing problems of the economy.

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion the political fact is that Akin has blown himself away and hurt his party’s nominee who has named an ideological clone of Akin as his running mate. It was a politically inept and stupid move by Akin. If the Republicans are smart they find a way to get him out of the race before he can cause more damage to their national campaign. Democrats of course are praying that Akin digs in and gives them a wedge issue that could give President Obama a slight edge and lessen support for Romney. Even Mahoney, who certainly has “street cred” among pro-life activists commented that if Akin stayed in the race “these comments will follow the Congressman throughout the entire campaign.”

He also may have driven a wedge into his own party as his supporters at the Family Research Council and American Family Association are digging in to support Akin, even making veiled threats at the campaigns of Akin’s Republican detractors such as Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Akin is breakin’ their hearts. We’ll see how long this goes. I think he will be gone from the race by Tuesday night but I do believe that the damage is done. He has given the Obama campaign and the re-election campaign of Senator Claire McCaskill a gift.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Update as of 2100 hours 21 August: I was wrong. Akin is digging in and the panic is only beginning. Even Rush Limbaugh is against him but he tweeted that the “liberal media” was out to get him. From my viewpoint I think that they want him to remain in the race while his conservative friends want him gone yesterday.

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Stand up to Government Officials that Attempt to Silence Political Dissent and Criticism: Emma Sullivan Stands up for Freedom of Speech

The test of democracy is freedom of criticism. ~David Ben-Gurion

I have written about the Freedom of Religion and religious speech a number of times and in doing so have often touched on the broader aspects of the right of Freedom of Speech.  I find that tolerance for opposing views from both sides of the political aisle to be a disappearing commodity and nowhere was this more evident last week then deep in our nation’s heartland, the fair an flat State of Kansas where an 18 year old high school student named Emma Sullivan found herself the target of Governor Sam Brownback’s communications director.

And what did did the audacious and dastardly Ms Sullivan do? She “tweeted” that Governor Brownback “sucked.” If she was Ann Coulter, Keith Olberman or Rush Limbaugh she would have been paid good money and cheered to say that about a politician.

Who would think that a “tweet” from a teenager to her 65 Twitter followers was a threat to the good name and reputation of a governor or for that matter any elected official at any level of government. Such tweets take place millions of times a day around the the nation and for the most part they go in one ear and out the other. They are in a sense the new form of schoolyard chatter that back in my day took place between class periods or at lunch.  One kid tells another “hey I think that girl is hot” or “that guy sucks” and their friends agree, disagree or laugh.  It is part of the human experience, it is high school, heck I can remember some of that even today and if Twitter was around back then would have probably “tweeted” about the Jimmy Carter Playboy interview and probably the centerfold a Ms Patti McGuire. But now the advent of Twitter, Facebook and other social media have transformed how all of us communicate, especially young people who are far quicker to adopt and maximize new communication tools, oh too be young again.

However the advent of this new media scares people in power. The thoughts posted on these sites don’t get edited by the media elites and packaged to maintain market share.  They are media from below so to speak. In the Middle East the “Arab Spring” and the unsupported “Green Revolution” in Iran and “Jasmine revolution” in China were and are driven by young people using social media.  Yes there are other powers at work, business, government, finance, military and political/religious movements in all of these countries.  However, the key in making these revolts grow has been the ability of young people to use social networks to criticize their governments and organize themselves in ways that were never before possible.

This is why people in power fear the media of any kind. Napoleon Bonaparte commented that “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” But even more feared by some governments and individuals within government is the thought that springs up outside the institutional press, the kind of ideas that prior to our revolution were talked about in the pubs and ale houses of Boston and Philadelphia as well as in churches around the colonies.  They were the ideas of individuals that could not be shuttered and made their way into print because printing presses were not the sole property of a media elite.

At the same time many people legitimately fear excessive government intrusion on the internet, especially by agents of the government, police, or intelligence agencies.  It is bad enough that businesses can track us via tasty “cookies” planted on our computers for marketing sake and use our personal information for almost anything that they desire, but for all their power businesses do not have the police power of government at their immediate disposal. They can go to court to silence critics or mount advertising campaigns but they do not have the government’s power through the police, judiciary, legislative and executive powers invested in it to silence their critics through force.  They may brutally use the courts and their own economic power to silence opponents but they are limited in what they can do. If a high school student says “Pepsi sucks” the Pepsi-Cola corporation cannot impose penalties on the student. But government officials, especially unscrupulous, thin skinned and petty ones who fear dissent do have power and seem to be willing to use that power in was that would frighten those that founded this nation.

This was very much in evidence last week when Emma Sullivan “tweeted” what she thought was was funny to her twitter followers, her high school friends. She had been to the Kansas State Capitol with the Youth in Government program. She joked that she had told Governor Sam Brownback “just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” In fact people say to say worse about politicians of all parties, especially the President, key Congressional leaders and other major Presidential Candidates and do to tens of millions of listeners, readers or viewers every day and they make big money doing it, in some cases millions of dollars a year.  Most of us actually listen to at least the ones that we agree with or that say what we like to hear about people that we don’t like and don’t have the platform to say it ourselves. Sometimes these pundits cross the line and their employers tell them to tone it down or on rare occasions end their employment, but rude and crude they are free to speak as they want so long as their employers get enough advertising revenue from listeners to make money.

But woe betide the teenager that tweets to friends that the the governor of her state “sucks.” What she did is over the line and has to be crushed before it can damage the good name and reputation of the governor.  What happened to this teen after she sent her “tweet” out to her friends was one of the most Orwellian displays of the brute use of government power by an unelected public official that I have seen.  Governor Brownback’s communications director Sherriene Jones-Sonntag who is in charge of monitoring negative comments and criticism of the less than popular governor spotted the tweet and declared war.

Ms Jones-Sonntag contacted the organizers of the Youth in Government program and expressed her and presumably Governor Brownback’s outrage and indignation at the tweet. The organizers of the Youth in Government program instead of telling Jones-Sontag to pound sand and remember the First Ammendment contacted the Principal of Sullivan’s school.  The principal in turn scolded Sullivan for over an hour demanding a written apology to the governor by Monday morning.  Thankfully Sullivan did not oblige.  She refused and her cause became to use the language of the internet “viral.” This brought about an apology from Brownback who said “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize.” Be assured there would have been no apology from the governor had Emma Sullivan bowed to her principal’s demands and the story gained national traction.

I find that the use of public tax dollars to pay public employees to peruse blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media in search of negative comments and then use their position to threaten critics as a mark of totalitarianism.  Unfortunately this is not just as Kansas thing because local, state and Federal government agencies, especially political appointees of both major parties routinely use their position to search out and work to counter or silence criticism but are usually much more nuanced in the way they do it in order not to be caught blatantly doing it. Most politicians have learned the lessons of Richard Nixon and are much more careful using surrogates, Political Action Committees, think tanks or political pundits that are not public employees to do their dirty work.  Almost every “talking head” on Cable TV news stations or the radio fits in category but they are not on the public payroll and not directly working for any particular government agency.

Ms Jones-Sonntag on the other hand is a paid public employee. Tax dollars paid by the citizens of Kansas pay her salary.  She is not only influential in the information management of the Governor’s Office but a key part of the executive branch of the state government in particular the Governor.  A call from her to a school principal’s office is enough to for a spineless educational bureaucrat to attempt to force force a student to apologize for crude but still protected political free speech. That is something that should send a chill down every American of every political point of view’s spine.  The capricious and dictatorial method employed by Jones-Sonntag against Emma Sullivan is something that every American that values their own freedom of speech, religion and association should rally against. In doing so we send a message to others like her that we will not tolerate a public employee of the executive branch no matter what their political party or ideology would use their government office to silence dissent, criticism or opposition.

Emma Sullivan stood up for her beliefs.  Whether one agrees with her or not it takes much more courage to stand up for those beliefs even when the result is further bullying from those that support the right of the government to suppress criticism.  Her criticism of the Governor Brownback was rather crude and juvenile but it is protected by the Constitution.

To his credit Governor Brownback apologized but that does not remove the threat posed by people like Ms Jones-Sonntag who prowl the internet on behalf of those in power to silence dissent.  If elected officials feel so emboldened that they can employ people for the purpose of not only spinning stories but actively trolling for dissent in order to crush it we are not far from Orwell’s  vision of 1984.  The sad thing is that had Ms. Jones-Sonntag and the Principal of Emma Smith’s school ignored this it would have never become an issue at all.  But those prone to love political power seldom pass the opportunity to go after people that they think will simply roll over. It happens all the time I’m sure if she had said the same thing about the President or a Democratic party Governor and had a White House aide or Democratic governor’s communication’s director try to silence her she would be cheered and defended by many of those that curse her now.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Sex Sells the News: The Cain Scandal and what is says about Us


 

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will in time produce a people as base as itself.” Joseph Pulitzer

“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” William Randolph Hearst

Well let’s see what’s going on in the world, seems such a boring day for news don’t you think?

In world news somewhere across the sea close to 100,000 American servicemen and women are still battling the Taliban or hunting down Al Qaeda terrorists.  Old news, only interests people with relatives and friends in the military.

Wait, stop the presses there are reports that the Israelis might be getting ready to whack the Iranians.  Forget that until the missiles start flying its just foreplay.

But then there is the Arab spring which seems to be continuing to churn along, Gaddafi’s dead? Old news, forget it.

The Euro is about to be fried inGreeceas the Greeks seem to have re-discovered democracy at the expense of the great financial houses ofEuropeand neither the French nor Germans seem very happy about it. Boring….

In this country we are still dealing with record long term unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are causing us to lurch along while the so called “Super Committee,” Congress and the Administration dither along figuring out ways to blame each other for the problems rather than working together to fix them….yawn….

But these are kind of old news or just boring; despite how important they are they lack the one important thing to make them interesting, a political sex scandal.

Let’s face it, sex sells advertising and the media no matter what side of the political spectrum and that is why all this other news that in one way or another will effect all of us is on the back burner until something really hits the fan.  I suppose if German Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught in a tryst with the Greek Prime Minister that might get the top spot in the day’s headlines but what we seem too really like in theUnited Statesare the good old fashioned political sex scandals.

Fortunately it seems that we may have one, I’m sure that they media would have rather had it involve President Obama, Speaker Boehner or Representative Pelosi or Cantor but we can be choosy can we? After all does it really matter who it involves so long as it involves political scandal and sex? Not to the media because they, especially the Cable news types at Fox, CNN and MSNBC have to find a way to fill 24 hours or programming and what would you rather watch cerebral analysis of complicated issues, tragedies involving blimps and kittens or the visceral hatred engendered by partisan political sex scandals?

Yes it is the latter and the mainstream and the alternative media both have their Jockey’s in a wad about a possible sexual harassment scandal regarding Herman Cain.  The sharks of the political media complex are circling and Cain is fighting back even getting a bit testy in the process. It’s great, if somewhat nauseating theater.  It has all the tawdry elements that we love and right now the cool thing is that they are all speculation based on accusations that we don’t know any details about.

What do know is that the Politico dropped a bombshell on the Cain campaign that seems to have caught both the candidate and his campaign flat footed. We know that in east one case that the National Restaurant Association made some kind of financial settlement that involved a confidentiality agreement. The campaign’s responses to the yet only speculated charges seem confused or evasive and seem to me to be rather amateurish.

We also know that the flying fickle fingers of blame are pointing at a number of different suspects. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are blaming the Liberal media and now the accusations are flying that this was a political hit job put on by Cain’s GOP opponents.  Cain’s campaign Chief of Staff has blamed the Perry Campaign which in turn has blamed the Romney campaign and the Romney campaign hasn’t figured out who to blame yet.  Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann are tossing in their two cents to pile on Cain.  Others in the GOP and even a conservative talk radio host inIowaare stirring the pot as well just to make it fun.

The sad thing is that for all the chumming of the water which is feeding this frenzy none of us as of tonight really knows anything. We have not heard any details and maybe we shouldn’t.  I know that I really don’t want to hear them but unless I decide to move to theCongoI probably will hear more than I want. Already there are people in the conservative media attempting to smear the accusers even without knowing who they are or what they charged.  To me the whole thing seems to be a ready made diversion from the things that are really bad.

Now as far as the Cain campaign and the charges leveled against him I would rather that things were handled maturely by all involved.  I hope that whatever the truth is that it will be shown and people can then make up their minds as to whether they want to support Cain or not based on the strength of his ideas and character.  If the allegations are true and his denials are lies shame on him.  If they are not then shame on those that have whipped this up and a pox on them. Regardless of how much importance our partisans on both sides of the aisle ascribe to it, the story will play out in due course and Cain’s candidacy will survive and grow stronger or come crashing down with the result that another Republican candidate will gather up at least some of Cain’s support.

We deserve better from those that aspire to lead us and those that have the duty to inform us.  They should know better and we should too.  Maybe it is also shame on us for indulging in the tawdry and dishonorable spectacle that passes for news and our tacit approval of those decide what stories get told regardless of their ideology or political spin on the events that we call news.  But then sex sells the news even better than blood.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Loathe is Never Having to say You’re Sorry: Pundits and Politicians Point Fingers and Deny Responsibility for the Fruit of anything that they Say or the Climate that they create

Being a political hack means never having to say that you are sorry. Two days after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of 6 others including Federal Judge John Roll and the wounding of 13 others we are subjected to the incessant finger pointing and denial of responsibility by politicians but even more so by political pundits and talk show hosts. Partisans on both sides are pointing fingers at the other and attempting to place blame on others for the acts of a mentally disturbed individual who seems to have a rather eclectic set of influences.

Liberals have blamed the Tea Party and conservative talk show hosts without a clear connection between them and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Conservatives immediately, like on Saturday jumped on a singular statement of a person that knew Loughner in high school who had not seen or talked to him since 2007 to label him a “dope smoking liberal” and even a “Democrat.”

Of course we know very little about Loughner other than to know that he is obviously quite disturbed with a diversity of political influences from the Communist Manifesto to Mein Kampf.  Loughner ranted almost incoherently vague references to the Constitution and unconstitutional Federal and State laws, the Gold Standard, illiteracy, distrust of the current government and government controlled currency as well as alleged government mind control.  In other words this angry and disturbed young man who also seems to come from a pretty strange family I might add does not fit your traditional liberal or conservative archetype.  In spite of this pundits and politicians of all stripes have made haven’t missed a beat in placing the blame on their political enemies. I don’t say their political opponents because they actually do hate each other and are intent on destroying each other and the country as we know it I might add.

I thought it unwise for Democrats to try to pin this on the Tea Party without evidence and I thought it was absurd and incendiary for those on the right to make hay of a singular statement by someone that hasn’t seen Loughner in 4 years that Loughner is a liberal Democrat.  For crying out loud both of these charges without conclusive evidence were blatant attempts to gain political leverage out of a tragedy by throwing out innuendo as if it were fact and then ignoring any repercussions.

There was a brief moment when many hoped that the vicious rhetoric would be toned down after the terrible evil perpetuated by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson.   That is not the case and I said it would not be so. Like I have said before it seems that the extremists on both sides are willing to destroy the country in order to save it to borrow and slightly modify the phrase from the Vietnam War. It doesn’t matter if it is Keith Olberman or some Democrat Congressman on the left or Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neil Boortz, Michael Savage or Ann Coulter on the right there is simply no regard for truth. It is all about destroying the other side, demonizing them and finding some way to gain a political advantage from tragedy.

The political Left is guilty of some pretty crass and opportunistic behavior in many cases but the loudest and most heard voices are on the right particularly the “conservative” talk radio hosts. This is a fact as all of them proudly proclaim.  By their own proclamation they are the ones making the impact and who people are listening to and ratings show it.  For goodness sakes the Left has so little clout in this country it is not even funny despite claims of “media bias” so loudly chanted by the Right. Which is the most popular Cable News Channel? Fox News I think. Who gets the biggest radio rating? Limbaugh followed by Hannity, Savage and Boortz I think. Which are the most popular political websites? I think that internet traffic points to Worldnetdaily.com, Newsmax.com and Townhall.com.  For conservatives to complain about media bias is ludicrous now. They own the airwaves. Thanks to people like Dan Rather much of the “mainstream” media is discredited in the eyes of the American people.  Yet almost to a man those on the right keep crying about anyone who claims that they might be responsible on the intellectual level of people, both the sane and the insane who commit heinous acts which correspond with things that they preach.

In particular in the case of Congresswoman Giffords who protested outside her office? I think that it was the Tea Party. When was her office door shot out? I think that it was after she voted for the Health Care bill if I am correct. Who opposed the Health Care bill? I think it was conservatives. Who dropped a handgun at one of her rallies? Maybe it was a liberal supporter of the congresswoman? Not hardly. Which former Vice Presidential candidates PAC put a gun sight target over her district and left it up after the election? I think that was Sarah Palin. Whose Republican opponent urged his supports to come out with their M-16’s to support him? I think that it was Mike Kelly who ran against her in 2010. Need I say more?

Yes Jared Lee Loughner is a paranoid nutcase and probably will be ruled insane at some point. But people like him roam the streets easily influenced by extremists and radicals that stoke the fires of hatred. I don’t want to sound pessimistic but we are jumping headlong into the abyss and those of us moderates who want to see us back away from it are derided and in the case of Gabrielle Gifford shot in the head after repeated violent threats. I know what it is like to be threatened by violent deranged Neo Nazis on this website. It is frightening as hell to have people say that they will find you and harm you, hell I felt safer in Iraq than I do in this country. It is appalling yet the extremists don’t give a damn. They will destroy us all, even people that agree with them on some points.

I know something about the spirit of conservative talk radio. I was an avid listener from the mid-1990s until I returned from Iraq. I listened to Rush, Hannity, Boortz and Savage as often as I could and I can tell you that they are experts at manipulating facts and words to stir up the raw emotion of hatred of the left.  They all ask for hours of peoples time with good reason. When someone listens to the same message for hours on end eventually that is what they believe to be the truth.  When that is multiplied for 3, 6 or even 10-12 hours a day there is no other truth to believe.  From personal experience I can say that their tactics work well. They work their listeners into a rage against their political opponents creating anxiety and a sense of being victimized by the left wing media and political alliance.  I know I listened for years and my wife can attest to how angry I was.  When I came back from Iraq with a changed perspective I realized what had happened to me in those years. I have also listened to the left wing equivalents and with the exception of the invective of Keith Olberman they are little match for these guys. They command the airwaves and their internet presence is amazing and with a Republican-Tea Party controlled House they will not be silenced even if the left calls for the reinstatement of the so called fairness doctrine.

One of the last Chancellors of the Weimar Republic was General Kurt Von Schleicher. Von Schleicher who saw the dire threat posed by the extremes on the left represented by the Communists and the right by Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted to piece together a coalition of moderate parties which fell apart. Schleicher was then betrayed by conservative Franz Von Papen who then arranged for President Paul Von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. After he took power Hitler swiftly eliminated opposition parties and during his purge of his own radical SA Brownshirts exacted his revenge of previous political opponents including Von Schleicher who was killed at his home along with his wife. So much for moderation, what good is it anyway?

The night before she was shot Gabrielle Giffords wrote this e-mail to her friend Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, after he was named Director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics:  “After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation, I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

Von Schleicher was killed, Giffords grievously wounded. Unfortunately that is the fate of moderates in any country where extremists battle for power. That is history and the verbal bloodlust being perpetrated by the extremes but in particular the right which has been much more militant of late than the left which will destroy our Republic. Mark my words. If I’m wrong I will admit it and plead forgiveness, but I know from history where we are going and it will not be kind. God help us all.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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