Wednesday, December 30, 2015
One of the questions vexing the mediocre punditry of American discourse is how Donald Trump—a former star of the tabloids with a track record of scandal and little history of religious affiliation—is polling so well with evangelical Christians.But Trump and America’s religious right are not as different as one would think. If any corner of American Christianity encourages narcissism, it’s conservative evangelical Christianity.One of the oddest traits of many deeply religious people is their self-professed humility even as they claim to understand the plan of the creator of the universe as well as their own special role in its development. The late Christopher Hitchens perfectly summarized the brand of arrogance that wears the mask of modesty: “Don’t mind me—I’m only on an errand for God.”Despite the attempt religious believers often make to monopolize morality, it turns out that teaching children they are the center of the universe is not healthy. A recently published in Current Biology, found that the more religious the child, the less likely they are to behave altruistically with peers. In fact, religion in children correlates strongly with selfishness and mean-spiritedness.[T]he Christian right in America has a long history of encouraging narcissistic, intolerant ideology.Trump, meanwhile, is the rock bottom of Republican decline from a political party with a coherent policy agenda to a loosely connected network of nativists and extremists. The party’s loss of credibility is the predictable outcome of its transformation into a vehicle for the self-promotion and theocratic advocacy of white evangelical Christians. In order to appeal to evangelical voters, candidates like Carson and Cruz have to project narcissism and selfishness. They do it very well, but Donald Trump is the demagogic master of it.Having perfected his personality through years of reality television performance, Trump is able to successfully sway evangelicals to his side, despite his lack of Christian credentials, because narcissists take comfort in each other. His meanspirited attacks on minorities, disabled reporters and women who disagree with him do not subtract his support: quite the opposite. It actually makes him more appealing to those who, like the children in the study, believe they are special and that those who are different are inferior.Evangelical Christians believe they are a persecuted minority because anything less than total ownership is unsatisfactory. God blesses America, and God has selected them to carry out his will. “Making America great again” will require the execution of God’s plan through the exclusion of those who do not share the religious vision of America as a white Christian paradise.Barry Goldwater telegraphed the entire decline of the Republican Party in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan first began welcoming evangelicals into the room. The senator warned that, “If and when these preachers get control of the Republican Party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know. I’ve tried to deal with them.”Arthur Miller once remarked that Christian conservatives don’t want a president. Instead, they “ache for an Ayatollah.” Right now, they have Trump.
As noted in other posts, a majority of Americans believe that the nation's marijuana laws need to be changed. As they exist currently, Virginia's marijuana laws produce thousands of citizens each year permanently marked by a criminal record - even for possessing small amounts of the substance. All of this despite the fact that no research exists that has demonstrated that marijuana use has any where near the health issues of tobacco - which can still be legally purchased - which costs the nation billions of dollars in otherwise avoidable health care costs and lives ended prematurely. Talk about having your priorities backwards. A column in the Washington Post looks at these misplaced priorities. Here are highlights:
In January , the surgeon general announced that scientists had found conclusive evidence linking smoking to cancer and thus launched our highly successful 50-year public- health fight against tobacco. In August, the North Vietnamese fired on a U.S. naval ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the public phase of the Vietnam War. Alongside an accelerating deployment of conventional troops would come their widespread use of marijuana and heroin.By 1971, cigarette ads had been banned from radio and television, the surgeon general had called for regulation of tobacco, and cigarette smoking had begun its long decline. T he impact of drug use among troops and returning veterans provoked President Richard M. Nixon to declare a war on drugs. This was followed, of course, by the 1973 passage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York. These set the model for criminalization and increasing penalties for the country as a whole, especially regarding drugs.In the contrast between what has happened since 1964 with tobacco, on the one hand, and marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other banned substances, on the other, we have an instructive lesson in the comparative effects of choosing a public-health or a criminalization paradigm for dealing with addictive substances.The approach to tobacco has worked. Between 1964 and 2014, smoking rates declined by half; . . . . The progress against smoking has been steady and impressive. It’s an altogether different tale with banned substances. While levels of illegal drug use have risen and fallen since 1971, current levels are equivalent to those we had in the mid-1970s.There is an even starker contrast in how perceptions of the risks of smoking and of illegal drugs have changed. In 1975, 51.3 percent of 12th-graders thought that smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day posed great risk; by 1991 that number was 69.4 percent, by 2014 it was 78 percent. With illegal drugs, arrows move the opposite direction or stay essentially flat.In other words, for all the money spent and lives ruined through violence and criminalization, we have made zero headway against illegal drugs.So what did we do about smoking? Tobacco control has focused on prevention and cessation.Beginning in 1964, public- health campaigns worked toward the “denormalization” of smoking, in the words of the 2014 Report of the Surgeon GeneralWhat we have done with marijuana and the other illegal drugs is, of course, invest heavily in criminal justice.According to a 2011 Justice Department report, addressing illegal drugs cost the nation $193 billion in 2007. . . . . this criminalization means a massive overload on the judicial system.Rather than using the FBI to bust up fancy tunnel networks, we should legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs, and then tax and sue drug producers to generate revenue to support public health campaigns against their products, agencies to regulate them and treatment for those who suffer from addiction. Legalizing and decriminalizing drugs doesn’t mean giving up on the fight against them, and we have the lesson about what works right in front of our eyes.
Add to the ass backward approach taken on marijuana the unequal arrest rates for young black males and what we have is a disaster. Conservatives are anti-drug yet whine and bitch about blacks not working when the failed war on drugs has made many nearly unemployable. The cynic in me at times wonders if this hasn't worked more to hold back blacks than the foul Jim Crow laws. The drug laws need to change now.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
It has been a super long day today. The husband and I were up at 2:30AM to get ready for our 5:15AM flight to Ft. Lauderdale Florida, via Charlotte on American Airlines. As seems to be the norm, American Airlines was a disappointment, but we eventually got here albeit late. We are staying at the Coral Reef Guesthouse (the pool is shown above) and will be seeing numerous friends who have second homes down here. The husband's brother is staying at the house and watching the dogs. We lazed by the pool when I wasn't dealing with client phone calls and e-mails - I NEVER really escape - and plan on a low key dinner before visiting some clubs in Wilton Manor later this evening. Normal posting will resume tomorrow. Dinner tomorrow evening at the Lauderdale Yacht Club compliments of our reciprocal privileges through the Hampton Yacht Club.
Monday, December 28, 2015
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If one believes that a decline in religion in America is a good thing as I do, a new Gallup survey contains good news: those identifying as Christian is at a new low and the numbers of those claiming no religious affiliation is at a new high and translates to some 64 million Americans. Is the GOP noting any of this? Of course not! The GOP continues to focus on prostituting itself to the most extreme and ugly elements of the Christofascists. Here are highlights from some of the findings:
[A] review of over 174,000 interviews conducted in 2015 shows that three-quarters of American adults identify with a Christian religion, little changed from 2014, but down from 80% eight years ago. About 5% of Americans identify with a non-Christian religion, while 20% have no formal religious identification, which is up five percentage points since 2008.
The general trends in the data over this eight-year period are clear: As the percentage of Americans identifying with a Christian religion has decreased, the percentage with no formal religious identification has increased. The small percentage of Americans who identify with a non-Christian religion has been essentially constant over this time period.
The percentage of Christians is highest among older Americans and decreases with each progressively younger age group. This trend reflects the high number of "nones" -- those without a formal religious identity -- in the younger generations, as well as a higher proportion of non-Christians among them.
One key to the future of Christian representation in the U.S. population will be shifts in the religious identification of today's youngest cohorts. Traditionally, Americans have become more likely to identify with a religion as they age through their 30s and 40s and get married and have children. If this pattern does not occur in the same way it has in the past, the percentage of Christians nationwide will likely continue to shrink.
Of the Millennials that I know who now have children, few have returned to identifying with any religious affiliation.
Much of the Republican Party base is adverse to accepting objective reality (especially the Christofascist element of the base), but the problem extends all the way to the top of the party leadership and the 2016 clown car occupants. On economic policy, all of the presidential contenders seek to reinstate all of the policies of Bush/Cheney that failed miserably and fueled both growing wealth disparities and helped to the Great Recession. A column in the New York Times looks at this frightening pattern. Here are highlights:
2015 was, of course, the year of Donald Trump, whose rise has inspired horror among establishment Republicans and, let’s face it, glee — call it Trumpenfreude — among many Democrats. But Trumpism has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago.After all, you might have expected the debacle of George W. Bush’s presidency — a debacle not just for the nation, but for the Republican Party, which saw Democrats both take the White House and achieve some major parts of their agenda — to inspire some reconsideration of W-type policies. What we’ve seen instead is a doubling down, a determination to take whatever didn’t work from 2001 to 2008 and do it again, in a more extreme form.Start with the example that’s easiest to quantify, tax cuts. Big tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy were the Bush administration’s signature domestic policy. They were sold at the time as fiscally responsible, a matter of giving back part of the budget surplus America was running when W took office. . . . . it’s harder than ever to claim that tax cuts are the key to prosperity.You might think, then, that Bush-style tax cuts would be out of favor. In fact, however, establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are proposing much bigger tax cuts than W ever did. And independent analysis of Jeb’s proposal shows that it’s even more tilted toward the wealthy than anything his brother did.What about other economic policies? The Bush administration’s determination to dismantle any restraints on banks — at one staged event, a top official used a chain saw on stacks of regulations — looks remarkably bad in retrospect. But conservatives have bought into the thoroughly debunked narrative that government somehow caused the Great Recession, and all of the Republican candidates have declared their determination to repeal Dodd-Frank, the fairly modest set of regulations imposed after the financial crisis.The only real move away from W-era economic ideology has been on monetary policy, and it has been a move toward right-wing fantasyland. . . . . these days hostility toward the Fed’s efforts to help the economy is G.O.P. orthodoxy, even though the right’s warnings about imminent inflation have been wrong again and again.Last but not least, there’s foreign policy. You might have imagined that the story of the Iraq war, where we were not, in fact, welcomed as liberators, where a vast expenditure of blood and treasure left the Middle East less stable than before, would inspire some caution about military force as the policy of first resort. Yet swagger-and-bomb posturing is more or less universal among the leading candidates.The point is that while the mainstream contenders may have better manners than Mr. Trump or the widely loathed Mr. Cruz, when you get to substance it becomes clear that all of them are frighteningly radical, and that none of them seem to have learned anything from past disasters.The truth is that there are no moderates in the Republican primary, and being reasonable appears to be a disqualifying characteristic for anyone seeking the party’s nod.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
A lengthy piece in The Atlantic looks at the war raging within the Republican Party. Part of the warfare stems from the shortsighted welcoming of the Christofascists into the GOP. But another major cause of the battle for the party's soul is the fact that the so-called GOP establishment has based its policies on benefiting Wall Street and the wealthy to the detriment of working class Americans. Yes, appeals to racism, religious extremism, and anti-immigrant hatred for a long time have duped the GOP base to vote against its own financial and economic best interests. Now, those tools of distracting the base may be losing their power. The result is that the GOP establishment's preferred candidates - Jeb Bush being the starkest example - are failing even as the Trump insurgency goes on undiminished. The article ends with options confronting the GOP elite. Here are article excerpts:
The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.
You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.
White Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, “That’s my guy.”
They often don’t think in ideological terms at all. But they do strongly feel that life in this country used to be better for people like them—and they want that older country back. . . . . they lean Republican because they fear the Democrats want to take from them and redistribute to Americans who are newer, poorer, and in their view less deserving—to “spread the wealth around,” in candidate Barack Obama’s words to “Joe the Plumber” back in 2008. Yet they have come to fear more and more strongly that their party does not have their best interests at heart.
A majority of Republicans worry that corporations and the wealthy exert too much power. Their party leaders work to ensure that these same groups can exert even more. Mainstream Republicans were quite at ease with tax increases on households earning more than $250,000 in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the subsequent stimulus. Their congressional representatives had the opposite priorities.
Their rebellion against the power of organized money has upended American politics in ways that may reverberate for a long time. To understand what may come next, we must first review the recent past.
Political identity has become so central because it has come to overlap with so many other aspects of identity: race, religion, lifestyle. In 1960, I wouldn’t have learned much about your politics if you told me that you hunted. Today, that hobby strongly suggests Republican loyalty. Unmarried? In 1960, that indicated little. Today, it predicts that you’re a Democrat, especially if you’re also a woman.
Meanwhile, the dividing line that used to be the most crucial of them all—class—has increasingly become a division within the parties, not between them. Since 1984, nearly every Democratic presidential-primary race has ended as a contest between a “wine track” candidate who appealed to professionals . . . . and a “beer track” candidate who mobilized the remains of the old industrial working class . . . . . The Republicans have their equivalent in the battles between “Wall Street” and “Main Street” candidates. Until this decade, however, both parties—and especially the historically more cohesive Republicans—managed to keep sufficient class peace to preserve party unity.
Not anymore, at least not for the Republicans. The Great Recession ended in the summer of 2009. Since then, the U.S. economy has been growing, but most incomes have not grown comparably. In 2014, real median household income remained almost $4,000 below the pre-recession level, and well below the level in 1999. The country has recovered from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Most of its people have not.
It was these pessimistic Republicans who powered the Tea Party movement of 2009 and 2010. They were not, as a rule, libertarians looking for an ultraminimal government. The closest study we have of the beliefs of Tea Party supporters, led by Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist, found that “Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients. The distinction between ‘workers’ and ‘people who don’t work’ is fundamental to Tea Party ideology.”
Yet even as the Republican Main Street protested Obamacare, it rejected the hardening ideological orthodoxy of Republican donors and elected officials. A substantial minority of Republicans—almost 30 percent—said they would welcome “heavy” taxes on the wealthy, according to Gallup.
As a class, big Republican donors could not see any of this, or would not. So neither did the politicians who depend upon them. Against all evidence, both groups interpreted the Tea Party as a mass movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. One of the more dangerous pleasures of great wealth is that you never have to hear anyone tell you that you are completely wrong.
The rank and file did not like it. But they could not stop it. The base kept elevating “not Romneys” into first place, and each rapidly failed or fizzled; Romney, supported by a cumulative total of $139 million in primary funds by March 2012, trundled on.
Romney ultimately lost the presidential election, of course, to the surprise and dismay of a party elite confident of victory until the very end. One might have expected this shock to force a rethink. The Republicans had now lost four out of the past six presidential elections. . . . . And yet, within hours of Romney’s defeat, Republican donors, talkers, and officials converged on the maximally self-exculpating explanation. The problem had not been the plan to phase out Medicare for people younger than 55. Or the lack of ideas about how to raise wages. Or the commitment to ending health-insurance coverage for millions of working-age Americans. Or the anthems to wealth creation and entrepreneurship in a country increasingly skeptical of both.
Instead of holding on to their base and adding Hispanics, Republicans alienated their base in return for no gains at all. By mid-2015, a majority of self-identified Republicans disapproved of their party’s congressional leadership—an intensity of disapproval never seen by the Republican majority of the 1990s nor by Democrats during their time in the majority after the 2006 midterm elections.
In fact, disapproval had flared into an outright revolt of the Republican base in the summer of 2014.
[W]ithin five weeks of his formal declaration of candidacy on June 15, Bush’s campaign had been brutally rejected by the GOP rank and file. From Jupiter Island, Florida, to Greenwich, Connecticut; from Dallas’s Highland Park to Sea Island, Georgia; from Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to California’s Newport Beach, the baffled question resounded: What went wrong?
The mutiny of the 2016 election cycle has been different. . . . . What was new and astonishing was the Trump boom.
Half of Trump’s supporters within the GOP had stopped their education at or before high-school graduation, according to the polling firm YouGov. Only 19 percent had a college or postcollege degree. Thirty-eight percent earned less than $50,000. Only 11 percent earned more than $100,000.
Trump Republicans were not ideologically militant. Just 13 percent said they were very conservative; 19 percent described themselves as moderate. Nor were they highly religious by Republican standards.
What set them apart from other Republicans was their economic insecurity and the intensity of their economic nationalism. Sixty-three percent of Trump supporters wished to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil—a dozen points higher than the norm for all Republicans.
The GOP donor elite planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war.
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As the book, "The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies," the end product of over ten years of historical research, makes clear, it was European Christian missionaries that exported homophobia and repressive sexual mores worldwide. Now, nominal membership of Christian denominations remains widespread across Europe and North America, Christianity is becoming a Southern Hemisphere religion with the highest concentration of churchgoing being in sub-Sahara Africa. In Europe, Poland alone remains an anomaly with high church attendance. A piece in The Economist looks at the shift in the center of Christianity. Here are highlights:
Personally, I find little surprise in these findings. To flourish, Christianity - especially the fundamentalist varieties - requires an ignorant, uneducated populace. Africa is the region with the most growth of Christian denominations offers in general the most uneducated populations. Here in America studies have shown that membership in fundamentalist and evangelical tracts directly with lower levels of education.Christmas feels as popular as ever. But what of Christianity itself?There are 2.4 billion people across the globe who identify as Christian, according to data from the World Christian Database. But in practice, how many of them go to church on a regular basis? To answer that question, analysed survey data from the European Social Survey and World Values Survey, which together asked 140,000 people across 89 countries about their religious affiliation, attendance and other socio-economic questions. Using this data we then predicted values for the rest of the world based on their similarity to other countries.Church attendance tends to be low and has been falling across the much of the rich world. Just 70m of Western Europe’s 375m adults attend church at least once a month. Meanwhile, in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, the church appears as strong as ever. There are 277m adherent Christians in sub-Saharan Africa and 250m in Latin America. As Christianity has shifted southwards, that has moved the centre of Christianity to Niamey, the capital of Niger (calculated by taking the Christian-adherence weighted-average latitude and longitude of countries' capital cities). As the crow flies that is 2,433 miles from Bethlehem.
|Mark Herring - let's enforce existing gun laws|
Here in Virginia, the Republican Party of Virginia wants to regulate every aspect of a woman's reproductive system yet when it comes to guns, they want little or no restrictions and, if given the opportunity, would ignore existing gun laws on the books. So last week when Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that concealed carry permits from 25 states would not be honored in Virginia - for the simple reason that they had less exacting requirements - the knuckle draggers of the Virginia GOP's base and their whore like sycophants with in the General Assembly went into spittle flecked rants. Never mind that Virginia's concealed carry law had been approved by the GOP controlled House of Delegates. The Virginian Pilot has unloaded on these disingenuous Republicans in a main editorial. Here are excerpts:
Attorney General Mark Herring inspired the usual fury last week with a decision that will effectively bar residents of some other states from carrying concealed weapons in Virginia. The commonwealth’s 2nd Amendment absolutists, including those in the General Assembly, accused him of political toadying, repaying a debt or overreaching. Usually all three.
“The House of Delegates will immediately begin a careful review of the Attorney General’s findings,” said Speaker William J. Howell.
While lawmakers — like Howell — divine motives and bow deeply to Virginia’s gun-rights fundamentalists, they should also specify which other laws Virginia should ignore.
Herring’s decision was inspired by the simple fact that the guidelines for a concealed carry permit in several other states are weaker than Virginia’s.
The commonwealth has a long list of standards for obtaining a concealed-carry permit, including mental fitness. People who are here illegally, or have been subject to a restraining order or been convicted of certain domestic crimes are similarly barred in Virginia, as are felons or those with drug convictions and people dishonorably discharged from the military.
But the standards in 25 other states aren’t up to similar snuff, according to Herring’s analysis: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Because of reciprocity agreements among the states that offer concealed carry permits, that created a problem: Someone from another state who doesn’t meet Virginia’s standards could carry a weapon concealed in the commonwealth.
That’s the kind of state’s rights loophole that Virginia lawmakers would ordinarily clamor to close. Except when it comes to guns, which inspire the kind of legislative and logical gymnastics that would make any Olympian proud.
“Strong, consistent enforcement of Virginia’s laws and safety standards can prevent disqualified people who may be dangerous or irresponsible from utilizing a concealed handgun permit, and it’s what the law requires,” Herring said.
Stripped away of the political theater, Herring’s move simply enforces laws already on the books, a constant refrain from gun-rights advocates — right up until the moment somebody actually tries to do so.
A solution to the divergent state laws on concealed carry permits would be either consistent model legislation that each state could adopt, or a federal standard to provide an umbrella. But such a sensible solution doesn’t allow much room for politicians to stomp red-faced about the stage.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
While the Roman Catholic Church and a host of fraudulent "ministries" run by anti-gay religious affiliated organizations continue to peddle the myth that gays can "change," after losing a consumer fraud case this past summer, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing ("JONAH") will be closing its doors permanently. Would that similar lawsuits would be brought against similar charlatan run organizations. One irony is that the founder of JONAH is a former felon who did prison time for securities fraud. He went from one form of fraud to another, having discovered that money could be made by preying on religiously conflicted gays and their desperate families. Mother Jones looks at the demise of this foul operation. Here are article highlights:
A so-called "gay conversion therapy" group in New Jersey has agreed to permanently close its doors after losing a landmark court battle this summer.
As Mother Jones reported, a jury determined in June that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, had violated state consumer fraud law by claiming it could help change clients' sexual orientations from gay to straight. It was the first case in the nation to challenge conversion therapy as consumer fraud.
Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. granted a permanent injunction after both sides reached a settlement requiring JONAH to cease operations, permanently dissolve as a corporate entity, and liquidate all its assets.
"The end of JONAH signals that conversion therapy, however packaged, is fraudulent—plain and simple," David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. The center filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Michael Ferguson, one of the plaintiffs, added, "Gay conversion therapy stole years from my life, and nearly stole my life. My hope is that others can be spared the unneeded harm that comes from the lies the defendants and those like them spread."
Conversion therapy has been rejected by major health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, which in 1973 removed homosexuality from the list of disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Last year, a transgender teen committed suicide in Ohio after participating in conversion therapy, inspiring a campaign for a federal ban on the practice. New Jersey, California, and Washington, DC, have laws banning licensed conversion therapists from working with minors.
In a pretrial decision in February, Judge Bariso wrote, "The theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel—but like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it—instead is outdated and refuted."
|Embattled homphobic Oklahoma Gov. Fallin|
As noted in a number of posts on this blog, Kansas, where Republicans were going to implement their dream of slashing taxes - especially for the wealthy and businesses - turned out to be a fiscal disaster and but for pounding the anti-gay marriage drum and prostituting himself even more thoroughly to the Christofascists in the GOP base, Sam Bownback might have lost his re-election bid. Brownback's neighbor to the south, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is similarly facing a fiscal debacle. Added to Fallin's dilemma is the rapidly rising number of earthquakes hitting the state due to unfettered fracking and secondary and tertiary practices of the oil industry. Even her strident anti-gay animus may not be enough to save her political capital. A piece in Politico looks at another red state where things are going very wrong. Here are excerpts:
A few days after Thanksgiving, Oklahoma City residents huddled in their homes watching a thick layer of ice snap power lines and split stubby trees. Only a few days later, as the ice started to thaw and power was restored in most neighborhoods, a 4.7-magnitude earthquake shook the state a couple hours before dawn.
The epicenter was 100 miles north, in a region where oil and gas have for decades driven the state economy. Scientists suspect the practice of injecting deep into the earth the salty wastewater from the drilling process may be causing the earthquakes, or at least increasing the frequency.Prior to 2009, the state had just two quakes per year. Now on average, quakes shake the state twice a day, more than anywhere in the lower 48 states, a fact that is stoking outrage among residents who are growing tired of worrying about the foundations of their homes and whether to buy earthquake insurance. The quakes are an unwelcome byproduct of the oil and gas industry, but they are also a powerful metaphor for a looming fiscal crisis driven by falling fuel prices.When the Legislature convenes at the beginning of February, it will face a projected budget shortfall of at least $900 million. . . . . The state already absorbed a $611 million budget shortfall last year, so the shock waves from coming cuts will likely be felt even in corners of the state the floor-shaking tremors don’t reach. Some school systems are considering four-day weeks to save money. Prisons may have to cut half their guards. The state’s health care authority may have to continue to reduce payments to Medicare providers.None of this is welcome news for Gov. Mary Fallin, who was elected to her second term with 56 percent of the vote in November 2014 and has been flirting with a larger national profile.Oil has dropped 70 percent since 2008 and natural gas prices are at 14-year lows. . . . “Oklahoma has done a great job of diversifying its economy, but energy is still one of its top industries. Unfortunately, President Obama’s anti-oil and -gas policies have caused financial distress across all states with abundant energy resources,” Fallin said.But if Obama is unpopular in this deeply red state, Fallin’s stock is not much better. She currently ranks last in favorability among Oklahoma’s current and most well-known statewide elected officials, according to recent survey by Sooner Poll, an independent nonpartisan polling firm in the state. “In a state with a crisis like this, and the executive and legislative branches doing nothing to address it, it’s really not a case to put her on the ticket,” Gaddie said.Though Oklahoma’s deep reliance on its energy economy may have delayed acceptance of the science linking injection wells and earthquakes, “only a hardcore conservative in denial could argue there’s no link,” Gaddie explained. “It’s a scientific issue that’s also politicized, but now the science has pretty much prevailed over the politics.”The question is what to do about the problem. Pressure is mounting to shut down the wastewater wells, or at least limit the volume pumped into them. But the oil and gas industry fears that will only hurt their already bruised bottom line.To add to the state’s woes, a report this month by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Oklahoma posted the worst performance among all states over the past quarter. That’s scarier than any earthquake and raises a question for Republican lawmakers: Will Oklahoma have to follow in the footsteps of Kansas and reluctantly raise taxes?Critics say the problem is Oklahoma’s tax cuts are not triggered by an increase in actual revenue -- just projections. So in 2016, the state’s top income tax rate will fall from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, in spite of Oklahoma’s revenue shortfall.State officials can’t claim they weren’t warned. Treasurer Ken Miller has been trying to raise the fiscal alarm since taking office in 2011.A bigger problem, he said, is that lawmakers never learned to how to live with less. More than $1 billion in non-recurring revenue has been used to fill budget holes during the past five years. Using such large amounts of alternative revenues to prop up the state budget is an admission by policymakers that they don’t have enough money to spend as they please, Miller said.
What is frightening is that Oklahoma has practiced the voodoo economics lauded by every member of the GOP 2016 presidential nominee clown car. Thirty five years of experience has shown that the GOP economic model does not work long term Yet no one in the party is willing to face this reality.