I once had this idea for a play about God, a comedy, in which the audience would be introduced to a series of casuists and charlatans and braggarts and bloviators, and they’d be carrying on, lecturing away on topics large and small with serene self-confidence. There’d be the sound of thunder and perhaps a puff of smoke, and from the wings, God would appear. He or She would, over the course of the three acts, take on numerous corporeal forms—white man, black woman, Asian man, Arab woman, et cetera—but in each guise would admonish the speaker: “No, asshole. You’re totally wrong. How do I know? Because I’m God, and you’re wrong.”
The idea came to me, of course, because of life’s endless pageant of moments when one wishes life really worked that way. But I don’t know if I’ve ever wished it more than I did two days ago, when Jim DeMint, the ex-senator and Heritage Foundation head who defines the words casuist and charlatan and braggart and bloviator and about 262 others that are worse, said that the federal government of the United States did nothing to end slavery. The salient words:
Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately, there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.
Please, I beg of you, don’t do DeMint the honor of thinking him merely stupid. He’s probably that, in some way. Certainly those sentences add up to a mountain of stupid, a Himalayan range of it. Yet at the same time, a statement this insane can’t be propelled merely by stupidity. A denial of reality this whole, this pure, requires, I think, some thought, some premeditation. Dwell with me on this for the moment.
Today’s radical conservatives like DeMint want to destroy government. This means in the first instance discrediting everything government does in the present. That, we’re all plenty familiar with. It’s a lot of what we fight about all the time.
But the project also includes history—proving that nothing good that ever happened in history was done by the government. Oh, they might grant you a war here or there, these wingers. They’re OK with war (when we win them—when we’ve lost them, that was of course the liberals’ fault). But nothing else.
Often, this is easy enough. Example: The great post-war prosperity boom and middle-class expansion. We on my side say: unionization, massive public investments, a tax rate that kept the coffers full, a few other things. DeMint and his type can’t have that, so they say: American ingenuity, a free-market system that encouraged initiative, no big bloated welfare state yet, etc. That’s a simple one. Left and right offer competing narratives, and to most people, parts of each probably sound plausible.
But then you get to trickier matters. How, as a radical conservative today, and especially a Southern one, and especially one from the state (South Carolina) that started the Civil War (first to advance nullification, first to secede, first shots fired), are you supposed to explain that war? And how are you supposed to explain slavery? Tough ones. If you ever visit any of those crackpot websites I look at sometimes, you’ve seen, for example, the commonly advanced idea that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, it was about states’ rights and economics and so on. I guarantee you that notion will show up pretty quickly in this very comment thread.
But that explains only the war’s beginning, not its end. I had not heard, until DeMint’s comments here, their theory on the war’s end, and more deliciously on slavery’s. So it was “the conscience of the American people” that ended it. And the Constitution, which “kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights.’” And William Wilberforce. But whatever it was, it wasn’t “big government.”
Interesting interpretation, eh? DeMint’s “conscience of the American people” x’s out of history the Emancipation Proclamation, which strikes me as an act of the federal government (a presidential order); also the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery and, as an amendment to the Constitution, was surely an action of the government. It also x’s out the war itself, fought to the end, no matter what today’s Confederate revisionists say, to wipe out slavery once and for all.
As for the Constitution, well, there’s the fact that the words DeMint quotes appear not in the Constitution but the Declaration of Independence, but there are bigger problems here than that. If Jim DeMint had been alive in 1860, it’s reasonable to assume that he’d have gone with the flow in his state, correct? So he’d have supported secession. And, big cheese that he is, he’d have likely played some role in creating the Confederate States of America. And in turn he’d likely have signed the Confederate Constitution, thus pledging his loyalty to a document that explicitly prohibited the Confederate government or its several states from interfering in slave ownership in any way, including a specific provision stating that any territories the CSA gained via war or any other means would become slaveholding states. That would have been Jim DeMint’s Constitution, not the one you and I heed.
Finally, this Wilberforce business. They love Wilberforce, today’s rad-cons. He was a devout Christian, you see, and a conservative; and yet at the same time a stern abolitionist. What a useful combination! Invoking Wilberforce allows conservatives like DeMint to pretend that he, not Calhoun, is their moral lodestar and inspiration. It’s somewhat problematic for them that while Wilberforce did indeed fight slavery, he did so in England, where he actually lived, not in America. And only up until 1833, when he died. Besides which the fiery abolitionists in America, William Lloyd Garrison and so forth, were quite religious too, but on the political left.
There is such a thing as having a legitimate difference of opinion on a question of history. Was Napoleon the embodiment or the corruption of the French Revolution, to take an obvious example—historians will argue that one till the end of time. But DeMint doesn’t have a legitimate difference of opinion. He has a wholly ideological one, designed not to spur historical debate but to justify his miserly posture toward contemporary politics.
And so every sentence that came out of his mouth was just utter nonsense. But not just that–premeditated, pernicious, and malicious nonsense, spun to serve contemporary ends like fighting the delivery of health coverage to millions. Physicians have boards to answer to, lawyers the local bar; but in politics and media, there’s no panel that can police this drivel and declare DeMint unfit for participation in public discourse. And so he gets to say these utterly insane things but still get quoted in the papers as if he were a serious person. And the rest of us just have to endure him. God, if you’re there, now would be a good time to show up.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 11, 2014
“Fetal Personhood Ploy”: Anti-Choice Lawmakers In South Carolina Want Pregnant Women To Arm Themselves To “Protect The Unborn”
A state Senate panel in South Carolina advanced legislation Thursday that states a pregnant person has a right to use deadly force to protect the “unborn … from conception until birth.” The measure is called the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” and it is model legislation written and disseminated by Americans United for Life.
As usual, the words “pregnancy” and “protection” are red herrings.
First, South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law already allows for the use of deadly force anywhere a person claims to fear for their lives or the life of someone around them. (It is a terrible and dangerous law.) So opponents of the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” have rightly pointed out that this measure is entirely redundant.
But the bill does serve a serious purpose for anti-choice policymakers and activists working to endow fertilized eggs with personhood status and legal rights, a move that would suppress the rights of pregnant people and likely ban abortion and most forms of contraception. The measure tries to accomplish this — or at least open the door to these possibilities — by defining life as beginning at conception.
Here’s the language from the bill:
(1) ‘Pregnant’ means the female reproductive condition of having an unborn child in the female’s body.
(2) ‘Unborn child’ means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.
The measure also pays considerable lip service to the very real threat of violence faced by women and pregnant people, but does nothing to strengthen existing anti-violence laws, create additional funding for domestic violence service providers or increase actual resources to aid people in violent situations.
None of this was lost on the opponents of the measure. “No one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state and few would deny the need for swift action to stop any instances of further violence,” Emma Davidson, spokeswoman for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, told the Aiken Standard. “But it is hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims.”
And for those looking for further proof that the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is just a fetal personhood ploy, the committee also debated a fetal personhood measure during the same session.
The “Personhood Act” would outlaw abortion outright by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs and fetuses.
By defining life as starting at conception, Davidson explained, the measure could also outlaw birth control and emergency contraception. And as University of South Carolina family law professor Marcia Zug told the Aiken Standard, the bill could ban abortions without exception. “A fetal personhood bill which would outlaw abortions in even the most life-threatening of circumstances has never been an option with the Supreme Court. It is clearly unconstitutional,” Zug said.
And if lawmakers are really interested in reducing rates of domestic violence in the state, they may instead want to focus their efforts on funding domestic violence service providers who have had to reduce services in the face of budget cuts. According to a nationwide survey on domestic violence service providers, in a single day in South Carolina, 16 requests from domestic violence victims were turned down because programs did not have the resources to provide them emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare or legal representation
More women are killed by men in South Carolina than any other state in the nation; the rate of women killed by men in South Carolina is more than double the national average.
By: Katie McDonough, Salon, April 11, 2014
Is South Carolina America’s next O.K. Corral?
If that sounds like an exaggeration, then take a look at the radical, pro-gun proposal just endorsed by Governor Nikki Haley, the Tea Party favorite who is running for reelection this year, after a tumultuous first term. Crafted by state Senator Lee Bright of Spartanburg, one of Lindsay Graham’s opponents in the GOP Senate primary, the “Constitutional Carry Act” would eliminate the state’s permit and training requirements for citizens who want to carry guns.
That’s right: If you were a resident of South Carolina and wanted to carry a weapon—concealed or otherwise—then under this law you could. No classes, no tests, no background checks, no questions. I have no problem with guns—I grew up in a gun-owning household, and I’ve used firearms myself—but this is insane.
Sen. Bright, explaining the proposal, told The State newspaper that the Second Amendment “gives Americans the right to carry firearms without any government restrictions.” Permits, in other words, are unnecessary. And Governor Haley, offering her take, told reporters that “criminals are dangerous,” and that she thinks “that every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals.”
Because this bill lowers the barrier to owning a firearm in South Carolina, there’s a good chance it would spark a measurable increase in gun ownership, as well as guns owned per person. And while someone, somewhere, might stop a crime with their firearm, it’s far more likely—in the absence of any kind of safety training or background checks—that this law would exacerbate accidents and violence involving guns, to say nothing of boosting the export of firearms to other states, where South Carolina is a national leader—the state has the sixth highest rate of “gun exports,” i.e., guns sold legally in South Carolina that are later used in crimes in other states.
Yes, Vermont has a similar law on the books, but it doesn’t have South Carolina’s terrible reputation for gun violence. Haley’s state is the seventh-deadliest for gun crime, with 5 gun murders for every 100,000 people in 2010, compared to the national average of 3.6 per 100,000. Overall, from 2001 through 2010 there were 5,991 people killed by guns in South Carolina. Law enforcement officers are especially vulnerable—between 2002 and 2011, sixteen law enforcement agents were killed by guns, the fourth worse rate in the nation.
Worse, South Carolina is the fourth worst state in the country on the rate of women murdered by guns—64 percent above the national average—and it ranks second-worst on the rate of women murdered by men in domestic violence incidents. In half of those crimes, guns were used.
When you also consider that South Carolina has a “Stand Your Ground” law that—like Florida’s—is a boon to the trigger happy, then—if this bill becomes law—you have a recipe for even more gun violence in the name of “stopping criminals.”
Now, if you see the Second Amendment as inviolable—a sanctification of our supposedly God-given right to firearms—then I doubt this weighs on you. Senseless death is just the price of freedom. For the rest of us, however, the prospect of a fully armed state—where guns flow freely and the law is biased toward shooters—is terrifying.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, February 13, 2014
“Purposeful Republican Misrepresentation”: Read This Before You Believe The Obamacare Premium Spike Hysteria
While some states are reporting lower than expected health care premiums in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, a growing number of Republican-controlled states — like South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Georgia — are garnering screaming headlines about huge premium spikes under the law.
Calculating premium rates is a complicated and tedious task that will vary greatly among states and is open to interpretation and manipulation by both supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care law. Generalities are particularly hard to draw, as the law will impact Americans differently: the new regulations will lead some younger people to may pay more than they’re contributing now, but will save older and sicker people hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month.
Still, since Republicans are politically motivated to portray the proposed premium increases in a negative light and the media is far more interested in sensational claims about Obamacare failing, coverage of the new rates often leads readers with the mistaken perception that the law is coming off the tracks. Below is a short guide that will help you identify if someone is misrepresenting how much premiums will increase under Obamacare:
1. Do the premiums account for subsidies?
Most articles about premiums for health insurance in the exchanges relegate information about the Affordable Care Act’s tax credit subsidies to the lower two thirds of the piece, thus presenting the top rates as the actual amount families and individuals will be required to pay.
In reality, the number of applicants who are eligible for sliding-scale tax credits will vary — the credits are available to people making less than four times the poverty line — but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that out of the 7 million Americans expected to enroll in coverage in 2014, 6 million will be eligible for subsidies. Those with incomes up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) will also see reduced the out-of-pocket limits.
Maryland officials, for instance, project that three-fourths of enrollees will receive assistance. In 2014, the average subsidy will be $5,510 and will increase in the years ahead.
2. What is the state comparing the new premiums to and does it break down the increases by the available levels of coverage?
While states like New York or California have already enacted strict regulations that mirror many of the new rules in the Affordable Care Act, others (like Indiana or South Carolina) allow insurers to sell skimpy bare-bones high deductible plans that provide little actual coverage.
Comparing the comprehensive plans that will be available in the exchanges (and the individual market) to the existing coverage is like likening a Lexus to a bicycle — yes, the car is more expensive, but it is in a whole different category of transportation. Under the law, all new insurance plans have to offer essential health benefits like prescription drug and mental health services.
3. Are cheaper coverage options mentioned?
Last month, state officials in Indiana announced that premiums for individual policies would be 72 percent higher than the premiums people currently play. But a closer look at the data revealed that the state wasn’t issuing actual premiums, but calculations for “allowed cost” or “the cost of insurance before calculating how much individuals would pay out-of-pocket, because of co-payments and deductibles.” The actual premiums turned out to be much lower.
What’s more, the numbers were averages of all plans in the exchange — from bronze plans that cover 60 percent of health care costs to platinum plans, which pay for 90 percent — and were not representations of the prices actual families will pay. Past experience in Massachusetts shows that consumers are very price conscious and will gravitate towards the cheaper bronze or silver plans. (In Massachusetts, 84 percent enrolled in bronze or silver policies.)
A catastrophic plan will also be available to those up to age 30 in the individual market. In Nevada, this coverage will be available for less than $100.
4. Has the state done all it could to reduce premiums?
Approximately two dozen states allow the state insurance department or commission “the legal power of prior approval, or disapproval, of certain types of rate changes” and under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered grant funding “to help with rate review activities.” States like Maryland — which has some of the strongest rate-setting laws in the country — claims to have used its authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Oregon regulators also slashed carriers’ rate requests by as much as 35 percent.
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, August 5, 2013
Best I can tell, the furor over Jack Hunter, a long-time South Carolina-based neo-Confederate who co-authored a book with Rand Paul and then joined his Senate staff, is more or less “blowing over.” But Hunter himself may be keeping it alive by protesting his innocence and trying to cover his tracks. Even Will Folks, the famously provocative South Carolina conservative blogger (and Paulite fellow traveler) who regards the original Washington Free Beacon piece about Hunter as a neocon “hit job” on his boss, thinks he’s jumped the shark:
“The role of a radio host is different from that of a political operative,” Hunter said in a statement responding to the story. “In radio, sometimes you’re encouraged to be provocative and inflammatory. I’ve been guilty of both, and am embarrassed by some of the comments I made precisely because they do not represent me today. I was embarrassed by some of them even then.”
That certainly seems to be at odds with what Hunter said eight years ago when The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier filed a report on his controversial commentary. Back then he was totally unapologetic about his racially tinged comments – saying he “stood by every word.”
An even stronger pushback to the Hunter apologia came from his one-time editor at the Charleston City Paper, Chris Haire:
Long before last’s week Washington Free Beacon story kicked up a two-day media storm, Jack Hunter knew that the Republican establishment was working to out him as a neo-Confederate and a racist, a move he believed could hurt the one-time City Paper columnist’s boss, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He’d even sent me an e-mail asking me to remove dozens of posts, ones that he said no longer reflected his current worldview.
While I told him that I would have removed one or two posts — it’s not uncommon for writers to hastily pen a column they later regret — I found the breadth of the request to be excessive, and to be honest, quite cowardly. Doing so, I told Jack, was a repudiation of the very persona he had created as a writer and radio personality. It was a denial of the very views that had made him a local media celebrity and a rising star in the so-called liberty movement, and as such, a slap in the face to all those who had ever supported him. It was best, I said, that if those points of views no longer applied to him, Jack should pen a column detailing how he had changed his mind, but he declined. And frankly, that told me all I needed to know about Jack’s conversion. It was solely for appearances only.
After reading Jack’s statement about last Wednesday’s controversy du jour — the one that let the rest of the U.S. know that a neo-Confederate secessionist was part of Sen. Paul’s inner circle — I still haven’t changed my mind. In his statement, Jack — much like Rand himself — tends to treat the damaging information as something akin to a youthful indiscretion, a one-time accident, or as something that was nothing more than an over-the-top personality that he had created while he was a member of the 96 Wave crew and had long-since abandoned. Rubbish. The Jack Hunter of the Charleston City Paper years was every bit as radical as the Jack Hunter of [local radio] 96 Wave.
Then Haire kinda gets mad:
Over the course of editing Jack for years, it was clear to me that when he spoke of Southerners, Southern values, and the Southern way of life, it was as if the South to him was solely populated by white people, and everyone else was an intruder or at best a historical inconvenience. Jack Hunter may have never railed against miscegenation, championed segregation, uttered a racial slur, or participated in a lynching, but it was my opinion then and it is my opinion now that Jack is the most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one. In fact, like many on the right — from Pat Buchanan to Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Rush Limbaugh — Jack traffics in race-baiting rhetoric and repeatedly aligns himself with racists but then refuses to own up to the meaning and purpose of his actions….
And the same applies to Rand Paul.
This is why if Jack Hunter really cares about Rand Paul he’ll quit his staff and find himself a new career. The more he talks and the more his very recent history is discussed, the more it raises questions about Paul–not just for associating with the likes of Hunter, but for the parallels between Hunter’s views and his own, if not on race, then on many elements of public policy and history that touches on race.
As for Paul, he should probably spend less time lecturing African-Americans on why they should be conservatives and a lot more time convincing conservatives to listen to his arguments about the invidious racial effects of the War on Drugs. Then we’d have a lot less reason to suspect that Rand Paul is a friend of Southern Avengers everywhere.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 19, 2013