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Sore Loser

My neighbor across the street thinks somebody died last night.

Let us pity Republican Straight White men. Their world is coming to an end. Some of them are in mourning. They feel it like a death in the family; Grandpa died last night.

Sometimes I wonder where we get these drama queens.

A week ago my neighbor’s yard sprouted half a dozen GOP yard signs – not pointed to drivers and pedestrians passing by, but aimed across at me. A person had to stand in front of his house to read them – Mike Pence for Indiana governor, Richard Mourdock (conception after rape is “God’s will”) for U.S. Senate, some guy for Congress now that we’ve been redistricted from the Democratic 1st to the Republican 4th. I even voted for one of his recommendations, a candidate for county commissioner. But all of them aimed at me, like I’m the enemy.

Late Monday night, after dark, I retrieved my Obama ’08 sign from the garage and pushed it into the front yard for the sake of passersby. I didn’t have a need to taunt that neighbor; the house next to his sprouted an Obama-Biden sign Monday morning, where there wasn’t one four years ago.

You can tell Indiana wasn’t a swing state this year; my old yard sign.

This morning, the day after the election, my right-wing neighbor took down all his signs but one. Then he lowered his flag to half staff.

I’ve chuckled about it ever since. He’s defiant in his defeat. He’s proud of his beliefs and he seems to want to make sure I know it.

I feel a little bit sad for him. I can empathize up to a point; if President Obama had been beaten last night, I’d definitely be depressed today. So I can understand my neighbor’s angst. I wouldn’t be happy either if I thought my country had made a disastrous choice. If Mitt Romney had won I’d have been just as convinced as my neighbor is that the USA was headed for doom.

The difference is that Romney represented plutocracy, rule by the rich, as opposed to democracy, where everybody gets to decide. If he had won, our country wouldn’t have changed that much; our TVs would be filled with corporate propaganda under Mittworld, just as they are in Obamaworld.

My poor neighbor seems to think we’ve now sold out to the Commies, which is the End of Life as We Know It.

But turn on your TV, pal; doesn’t the screen look just like yesterday, without the political ads? Same Microsoft, same car commercials, same Olive Garden.

What can ya do? Same shit, different day.

I enjoyed the era when Straight White men ruled the world – until I was 13 and saw Black kids water-cannoned on TV just for trying to go to school; and old Black women beaten over the head for trying to vote. I’m not nostalgic for those days anymore. The only people they were good for was Straight White men.

Today I’ve got another neighbor across the alley and down two doors; he’s Mexican. I don’t know whether he’s here legally or not. And I don’t care, except that by choosing to live here and buying his house, he contributes to the economy of my little village. Yes, he plays music I can’t understand when he’s working in his garage, but whoever said I’m supposed to get into his music? I doubt he’d get into mine, but that’s good; let there be many kinds of music.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, voters just elected our first Lesbian Senator, Tammy Baldwin. Should we lower our flags over that?

(Associated Press)

Marriage equality won in Maine, in Maryland, in Minnesota, in Washington State; voters decided, for the first time, Gay marriage is cool. Is the nation supposed to mourn that? We don’t!

Daniel Noble, an Assistant U.S. Prosecutor in New York, married Ryan Fleenor last weekend; he’s an assistant priest at St. James’s, Madison Avenue. First they had a civil ceremony and then they went to church.

As Republican strategist Matthew Dowd put it last night, the GOP tried to sell us “Mad Men” in a “Modern Family” world. Should we all sing dirges now?

I’m not; I’m thrilled. But I acknowledge my neighbor’s sadness, even as I’m glad it’s him and not me.++

Romney Disqualified to Be President

The Romney scowl. (Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)

Presidential Debate #1: Mitt Romney looks presidential while running roughshod over sleepy Barack Obama. Debate #2: The President wakes up and punches him out.

Result: Obama retook the momentum, but Romney gained more the first time than Obama gained back last night.

The election, just three weeks from now, will be close – a lot closer than it needed to be, because at the time of the first debate, the President was pulling away in all the swing states and Romney was fading into irrelevance, just like John McCain did in 2008.

Obama allowed Romney to roll him like a drunk in the gutter. I count that as an epic moral failure, because as Obama well knows, this election isn’t about him, it’s about us.

With America still recovering from a terrible recession, our future depends on who wins this election. If Romney wins, rule by the rich will replace rule by the people. If Obama wins, we still have a chance to create our own destiny, as individuals and as a nation. And as we go, so goes the world.

It’s a world in which the Taliban shoots a girl in the face for advocating female education.

May God forgive Barack Obama for that first debate. Jesus is our Savior, but the Lord depends on us today to get his message out about Love Thy Neighbor.

Obama let Jesus down, and billions of us mortals. He let down Malala, now in the hospital in London trying to recover from her wounds.

Romney of course is no friend of the Taliban – but he’s also no friend of Malala.

He’s “qualified” to be president as a former governor and businessman, but his positions (to the extent anyone can say what they are), his values and his personality disqualify him. Two weeks ago Obama was well on his way to proving that.

Romney believes in patriarchy. Why would he not, being a Mormon? Patriarchy is the basis of his religion.

He’s a nice guy; I’ve never met a Mormon who wasn’t. But the foundation of the “latter-day saints” is one man, lots of wives, lots of kids, and eventually the man will end up as a god on a distant star.

It’s unbelievable in every way. Mormons think sex is the way to salvation – heterosexual sex, that is. It’s why they give millions to defeat same-sex marriage.

As Romney said last night, he’s got “binders full of women.” That’s a Mormon man’s goal. (Plus getting rich.)

I don’t believe in a religious test for public office, and Mormons who are Democrats are free to run with me. Maybe I’ll vote for a Mormon someday – but I won’t vote for Romney, whose Catholic running-mate wants to ban all abortions, no matter what, and whose Republican platform declares that a fertilized egg is a human being with 14th Amendment rights to life, liberty and, as Chris Matthews loves to point out, property. (What, they’re doing real estate deals in the womb now?)

Romney says he supports exceptions to the abortion ban in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. How many abortions do these exceptions account for, 5%?

What happens to the other 95% of women who feel they need an abortion?

I oppose abortion in principle, as an undesirable thing. But I completely believe in a woman’s right to choose. If she needs an abortion, I want her to be able to get one safely.

A lot of times, ethics and morality do not depend on good vs. evil, but on figuring out which is the lesser of two evils. Safe, legal abortion is the lesser of the two, because God didn’t put women on earth to be baby machines, for Mitt Romney or anyone else.

The Pope and the LDS church love to cite “natural law,” which states that women’s purpose is motherhood. But we’ve learned an awful lot of laws of nature since Aquinas popularized his notions of Plato’s philosophy in the 13th century.

We’ve learned what women can do, that they’re full human beings entitled to the same freedom as the penis-proud.

Abortion would be a lot less necessary is everyone had access to contraception. Yet Romney’s first order of business is de-funding Planned Parenthood.

To me that disqualifies him from being president. He’s a sexist pig, and these are the United States of America. We don’t do prejudice here, or take political contributions from bigots.

Romney takes them every day and says Thank You.

He politicized the death last month of the American ambassador to Libya – before his death was even confirmed. That disqualifies Mitt Romney.

I loved how Obama put him in his place about it last night. I’ve never seen a political staredown quite like that before.

This is the moment when Romney was certain he’d nailed Obama to the wall over the terrorist attack on Benghazi. Obama told him he had said the words “act of terror” the next day, and Romney wanted to get him “on the record” for what the governor thought was an outlandish claim. He stared at the President, then raised his eyebrows, like “Did I really catch you saying that?” When moderator Candy Crowley shot him down, Romney was left sputtering in disbelief. He clearly never bothered to learn the facts – after politicizing the assassination of a U.S. ambassador. (screen capture via MSNBC)

Romney wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer – and lies about it. That disqualifies him.

He says 47% of Americans “regard themselves as victims and refuse to take responsibility and care for their lives.” His running mate calls 30% of Americans “takers.” That disqualifies them both.

They’re anti-Gay bigots too, both of them. Maybe that’s why Romney won’t release his tax returns, afraid we’d see how much he gave to pass Proposition 8 in California. You know he didn’t sit on the sidelines; he gave money. He raised money for it from all his Mormon businessman friends. He’s a former bishop; they’re all such conformists they can’t say no to anything that will turn them into gods on a star.

(I must say I’m proud that Democrats have not raised the Mormon issue against the man. Let there be no religious test for public office. I only comment about it because it seems relevant in understanding Mitt Romney; Harry Reed is also a Mormon, and he favors same-sex marriage.)

Romney’s tax “plan” involves cutting Medicaid and shifting it to the states, which we all know will underfund it, thus harming the poor, disabled and elderly. It’s immoral; he disqualifies himself. He isn’t fit to be president.

He should try reading the actual Bible, not the Mormon counterfeit version. Jesus said, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” The entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrews demands justice for the poor – but Romney wants to make the poor poorer and then blame them for it.

He will run up the deficit and the national debt, after portraying himself as a savior who will cut the deficit and debt. Republicans always do this – while running up the national debt!

He’s a good salesman; he’s got nearly half the country believing him. But why on earth would we elect a financier, four short years after getting screwed by financiers?

Not only are they screwed, they smile about it. (Paul Fell/Artizans)

Romney enjoys threatening war with Iran. But no Romney has ever gone to war; his sons and grandsons won’t either. Going to war is something the “little people” do to indulge the fantasies and greed of the rich.

Romney wants more coal mining, and arranges photo-ops with miners ordered by their bosses to appear without pay. We’ve seen a remarkable increase in employer intimidation this election, but Romney has no problem whatever in cozying up to the dirtiest industry on earth. If it will get him elected, he favors lopping the tops off every mountain in Appalachia.

I guess he figures that when global warming renders God’s green earth uninhabitable, he’ll already be a god himself on a star somewhere.

Pollution is immoral, Mitt; you’ve disqualified yourself.

You’re a liar. God doesn’t think much of that either. Your campaign “isn’t going to be dictated to by fact-checkers.”

Steven Colbert predicted that truth will be replaced by “truthiness,” which George W. Bush was fond of too, and if you win, no one will ever be sure what the truth is again.

America’s existence depends on voting for what is moral, based on what is true. If you replace truth and morality with lies and immorality, we’ll never be the same.

That was the risk Obama – and his strategists – ran when he slept through the first debate. Thank God he woke up in time for the one last night.

We need America to be better than it is today, not worse, and that’s ultimately not a function of the employment rate; instead it’s a result of moral decisions by our leaders and our citizens.

Romney chooses immorality, and is disqualified.++

Mitt Pulls a Boner

There’s no need to stick a fork in him, since there never was any blood in him in the first place.

It’s been four days now since Mother Jones magazine published Mitt Romney’s comments at that $50,000-a-plate fundraiser last May in Boca Raton, Florida, in which he asserted that 47% of all Americans are freeloaders who consider themselves “victims,” take no responsibility for their lives and expect the government to give them “free health care, free housing, free food, you name it.”

Poor little rich boy, with his 12% tax rate (in 2010; no one knows about the past) and $77,000 deduction for his wife’s dancing horse. He resents every police officer, firefighter, military veteran and active duty soldier, teacher, social worker, waitress, desk clerk, retail employee and factory worker, as well as every retiree, orphan and disabled person scraping by on Social Security, because they “pay no income taxes.” The horror of it all!

I’ve got news for you, pal. Everyone who works for a paycheck and gets Federal taxes deducted is paying income tax – along with FICA and Medicare.

While the media bleats about “payroll taxes,” those are income taxes. You make some income, you pay some tax. That’s how it works. Those are income taxes.

Every worker in this country pays income taxes.

True, they may get some of it back at the end of the year, but they’re paying income taxes. Believe me, the Federal government appreciates the float.

I’ve never gotten all of mine back, nor do I know anyone who has. Most people are glad to get a little refund on April 15, on what they paid in income tax.

Romney insulted half of America in front of his rich friends.

Meanwhile, I’m really disappointed in Howard Fineman (Huffington Post) and the rest of the pundits on MSNBC. They’ve been all over Romney for his idiotic remarks, but they won’t come out and tell the truth, which is that he’s just lost the election. It’s over. He’s done.

Fineman’s just covering his ass.

There’s nothing fine about Howard Fineman. The man needs a haircut in more ways than one.

“Oh,” the pundits say, “there’s a lot of time left, the debates are coming up, we could have a foreign crisis, this is way too soon to make a call.”

They won’t, but I will: President Obama will be re-elected this November.

Does anyone expect Mitt Romney to have a strong debate performance? He can’t even run a respectable campaign. He thinks the rich are supporting the middle class, when it’s the other way around!

Republican pundits know this election is over; but the Democrats profess to worry. And while some of this is strategic perhaps – people do still have to vote, after all, and that’s 50 days away – they end up not telling the truth, when the only reason they’re on TV is to tell the truth.

As a former reporter I understand the impulse to hem and haw. No one likes making a public mistake and having to eat crow. It’s a lesson reporters only learn by making public mistakes, and doing it often enough that by the time they’re Fineman’s age, you couldn’t drag them out on a limb. But they end up looking foolish anyway.

By pronouncing the presidential race over early, they could talk about the U.S. Senate instead. I think the Democrats will pick up a few seats, which will strengthen Obama’s hand in his second term. I think Maine will flip, that Angus King, the independent former governor, will win and caucus with the Democrats. I think Missouri’s going for Claire McCaskill. I think Tammy Baldwin could win in Wisconsin. Elizabeth Warren has pulled out to a lead in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sinking millions into trying to defeat former Gov. Angus King, but Mainers are an independent bunch.

Romney’s bonehead remarks will drag down Republicans in the House, too, maybe not enough to yield control to the Democrats, but the Tea Party is running out of tea. Republicans won’t be partying come November.

Here’s what’s happened. Romney isn’t ready for prime time and everyone knows it. He’ll still get millions of votes and carry some states, but he has proved himself incapable of governing the country, since he can’t even run a campaign. He isn’t ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Obama will win the military vote; he’ll win veterans.

Between now and Election Day attention will shift to the down-ballot races, those governors, senators and House races, and Republicans will find their candidates are too conservative. They have the Tea Party to thank for that, and after the election there will be a bloodletting.

I’ll be curious to see if Richard Mourdock wins in Indiana. He’s the Toilet Paper guy who beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary, but now Mourdock’s in trouble. His opponent is a conservative Democrat, Joe Donnelly; he may have a shot. He isn’t very talented and he doesn’t stand for much, but at least he’s mainstream; Mourdock is not. Hoosiers are used to splitting their tickets. I’ll also be interested to see if John Gregg can pull an upset in the governor’s race; he’s folksy, a smalltown guy, and he’s likable. He needs a lot to break his way in the next two months, but as a former Speaker of the state House, he knows what he’s doing. It would be very important to LGBTs in Indiana if Gregg can come from behind over Rep. Mike Pence, who’s already announced his anti-Gay, “pro-family” witchhunt if he gets elected. Indiana Democrats are going to need a lot of money, but Romney and the Tea Party are certainly a cause for hope now.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) compared the decision to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: Romney’s going to depress turnout. That gives Democrats a chance to win.

Pay no attention to Fineman, he’s more worried about covering his hiney than covering the news. Obama’s got this one, and America will be safe for four more years.++

Even older Republicans have come to trust this man with foreign policy and the military. He killed off Osama bin Laden, and Mitt Romney did not.

Fundamentalist Chickens Come Home to Roost

A lawyer lays out photos of a child who died at day care, as his father looks on. (Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star)

Here is a sad story, worth telling because one family’s tragedy is directly traceable to America’s so-called culture wars – which have nothing to do with whether you prefer Mozart, Gaughin or Woody Allen. Two parents in Indianapolis took their little boy to day care, just like millions of other parents do every day. Except this time the little boy didn’t come home.

Juan Carlos Cardenas, age 1, wandered off during lunch, but none of the adults noticed. When they finally went looking for him, they found him face down in the baptismal pool. He drowned.

Why was there a baptismal pool at the day care center? Because it was held at a church; specifically the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God.

The newspapers never have said, to my knowledge, how far away the baptismal pool was from the main day care area; or whether the pool was covered with a lid when not in use; or whether he had to climb up to get to the pool; or whether it was sunken into the floor, so that anyone could trip and fall into it; or how long Juan Carlos was gone before the adults noticed and went looking. The Indianapolis Star, whose story this is, has always been vague about the details – except for a very salient fact: day cares aren’t licensed in Indiana if they’re run by churches.

In Indiana church day cares are “registered,” not licensed. They are exempt from all the safety and staffing requirements state government imposes on commercial day cares and secular non-profit versions. The state legislature decided, after pressure from churches, that they didn’t have to comply with the legal requirements. The church-run centers have lower costs that way; the state doesn’t interfere with their “exercise of religion.” Juan Carlos sadly exercised himself all the way to the room with the baptismal pool.

How many staff were on duty that day? The Star doesn’t say, never has. I guess that’s up to the judge to find out, because a lawsuit’s coming – against the Indiana state government.

Thank you, legislators, so much.

By “registering” church day cares instead of licensing them, the state knows that they exist and takes a role in advising churches how a day care should be run. The state can even do inspections – but it can’t force compliance, because that would interfere with “religious freedom” – to run a day care that kills a kid.

But wait, there’s more: it turns out the state legislature decided, faced with the obvious need for more day care facilities, that it would give out vouchers to qualifying families to send their kids to day care – without requiring them to go to a licensed facility. The Cardenas family enrolled their son at the Praise Fellowship.

Thus the state is deeply implicated here, and probably liable to some extent, though a judge will eventually decide. The church itself has already settled with the family – and shut down the day care center by refusing to accept the vouchers anymore. The state didn’t order the shutdown, they left that to the church.

Indiana sent an inspector to examine the facility back in November, four months before little Juan Carlos was drowned. The inspector cited the facility for 18 violations. However, the church was exempt from complying. See how this works?

After the child’s death, the state sent another inspection team, but by then it was too late, and besides, the state couldn’t close what it never licensed to open.

All this so the Assembly of God, and every other congregation like them, could practice its religion.

No doubt they were well-meaning, but that didn’t keep the child safe. He wandered off and nobody noticed, probably because there wasn’t enough staff.

The Star has never said whether the baptismal pool was considered a violation. Pity the poor inspector whose hands were tied by the legislature. She was busy counting the number of marked exits and making sure the applesauce was refrigerated and not expired, but never got trained in what to do about a baptismal pool. Clearly baptism is a religious matter.

A rational state – New York comes to mind – would handle this differently, I suspect. There, if a church wanted to open a day care center, the state would have welcomed them with open arms – and then told them that religion notwithstanding, they had to be licensed. If they got licensed, they would be eligible for the state to send children there and pay for them.

Not in Indiana.

I hope the state pays through the nose for the parents’ loss. I wish, though it will never happen, that the settlement funds had to come out of the salaries of state legislators. They’re the ones who failed the kid by not requiring oversight.

Why did they do it? Because the churches wanted them to, and had a thousand reasons why they couldn’t comply with the regulations. These aren’t just day care centers, but “ministries,” and everyone knows you don’t mess with a ministry, no matter how wacky it is. Indeed, politicians are eager to do everything they can to help out churches – including giving them money to take in kids like Juan Carlos.

The stupidity of all this need barely be mentioned. A child is dead and politicians killed him. They didn’t mean to, the kid just wandered off.

Surely however we can see many connections between religion, politics and the nation’s problems. Are you worried about the budget deficit? Try paying for your wars next time. Whose wars? George W. Bush’s, the Lord’s Anointed. That’s what the Fundamentalists said; by invading Iraq, Bush was going to remake the Middle East, guarantee Israel’s safety and thereby usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

I’m still waiting.

We could make long lists of the failed promises and lies of Fundamentalist preachers and politicians, but instead let’s ask another question: why and how did mainline Protestants let these goons take over in the first place?

Or: how are Episcopalians responsible for the wholesale theft of the Christian religion?

Fundamentalism is a 20th century movement, and its roots go back to developments in the 19th century, a period of great scholarly ferment among theologians. New methods of Biblical “criticism” arose, and many reactionary Christian leaders became alarmed. They launched a movement to stress the “fundamentals,” no matter what discoveries scholars made about the texts.

They decided to take over Protestant Christianity – and they did it, because Episcopalians didn’t want to dirty themselves fighting back.

They decided to write papers instead, and become even more scholarly. To the triumphant Fundamentalists, it meant God slew all the Amalekites. Piece of cake, really.

Now a hundred years later we are living with the results – when we’re not dying from them, like Juan Carlos Cardenas.

Does anyone realize how many state legislatures, like Indiana’s, Fundamentalist Christians now control?

Here’s a map of the 2004 presidential election results, which I submit as a proxy to answer the question. St. George the Bush won, of course.

It’s a vast swath of the United States.

But maybe you’d rather look at it by population; we’ve got a map for that too. This map is called a cartogram.

2004 presidential results, weighted by population.

 

That looks a little better perhaps and helps reveal the closeness of the popular vote and Electoral College. But it doesn’t do Juan Carlos or his parents one bit of good in little red Indiana, or a pregnant rape victim any good in Todd Akin’s Missouri.

God help you if you’re a Muslim in Murfreesboro, Tennessee or a Gay kid in Casper, Wyoming.

The unwillingness to fight of Episcopalians and others these past hundred years has real consequences. If the questions were only theological they wouldn’t matter so much. But Fundamentalist Christians want to make themselves the Established Church in the United States, and every other country they can get.

Christian Fundamentalists act just like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the “ultra-orthodox” in Israel. They want to control everything and everybody, and they’ll happily use war to get it.

It’s that last part that freaked out the Episcopalians so much and paralyzed them. “These people are warlike!”

Well, d-uh. Memo to theologians and bishops: there’s no sense arguing when your enemy’s got a gun in his hand.

So they surrendered. They won’t admit that’s what they did, but the evidence is all around us.

Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who’s “no abortion, no exceptions,” would have told my grandmother, “We don’t care if this pregnancy will kill you. Your maybe-baby is more important than you are.”

(My grandmother did die in childbirth. If she’d had a safe, legal abortion, I wouldn’t be here – and I still think she should have had a choice.)

As I consider my own Church, and how willfully useless it’s been in fighting for an accurate, balanced, faithful and intellectually respectable Christianity, I think back to the great heroes and heroines of the faith, who were never afraid to fight back. Our calendar of saints is filled with intrepid fighters, who didn’t shed blood but gave their lives combating heresy and preaching what the Church calls “pure doctrine.” We celebrate these people every day and every year. What made us so wimpy when challenged in our own time?

We’ll never fully know, and can’t turn back the clock, but here’s the good news: Fundamentalism can still be defeated, if we’ll take up the tools at hand and fight for the full, entire faith – including its nuances, doubts and contradictions too. I give credit to the 20th century bishops and theologians, they preserved and enhanced the faith for those of us inside the walls. That’s no small achievement. But it doesn’t bring back that little boy, either.

Fundamentalists don’t like the truth, and are afraid of it, so they rely on lies. This is a position of great weakness, because the truth can beat them every time, and the keyboard is mightier than the sword. Mine isn’t, but ours are; Leonardo Ricardo has pointed out the similarity between the Arab Spring and America’s future choices if the Fundamentalist-Tea Party-Republicans succeed this fall. We are not powerless, no matter how many billionaires line up for Romney. If the Assembly of God takes over the government, Americans won’t like it one bit. (In many places, when Fundamentalists have taken over the school board in one election, they’re thrown out the next. Even Kansas finally got rid of its militant anti-abortion attorney general once they saw what he was like.)

No side will ever win a complete victory. But we have power if only we’ll use it.

My hope for the Episcopal Church is that the next time we elect a Presiding Bishop, we’ll pick one who isn’t afraid to fight for the truth. Jesus doesn’t care if two men or two women get married, but he cares very much about how we treat women – children – the poor – the elderly – the sick – the homeless – the oppressed. Since Fundamentalists are intent on marginalizing powerless people, we can count on having his power on our side.++

Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618: Take That, Goldman Sachs!