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Proven Christians?

Rupert Murdoch (the dark lord of Fox News) tweeted the following:

Obama facing enormous opposition in accepting refugees. Maybe make special exception for proven Christians.

Seriously? Proven Christians?

Of course, the best part is all the responses to his tweet. Here are just a few:

  • ‘proven’ Christians. Lolz. Some sort of bible quiz on the borders, then? That’ll be a hit with Passport Control.
  • a religious test for citizenship says the Sith Lord
  • How to find ‘proven’ Christians? Splash them with holy water? Or maybe some sort of heathen dunking stool? #SimpleDarkAgeFixes #DrunkTweeting
  • isn’t that the logic isis employs when deciding whether to kill someone. Works SO well for them.
  • how about a Saturday night reality show? Live or Let Die with Simon Cowell? Viewers could vote on who looks the most muslimy
  • “Can you prove you’re a Catholic?” “Sure. But how?” “See this 8-year old boy?” “Yes?” “Fuck him.”
  • Refresh my memory, I forget how it works – if they float, they’re a witch, and if they sink they’re a Christian? #buffoon

UPDATE: More Twitter responses to Murdoch:

  • This is about the least Christ like thing i can imagine
  • Is Rupert Murdoch a Christian? If so, prove it.
  • I’m not even sure he’s human!
  • wish we could get rid of proven arseholes like you
  • what’s the test for “proven Christians?” A recent case of stigmata? Able to show documented proof of slave ownership?
  • I would have thought a “proven Christian” would make no distinction between people in dire need
  • Conservatives okay w/ selling AK-47s to people w/o asking if they have criminal or mental issue but refugees must prove they’re Christians.
  • yeah because Christians don’t shoot up schools or do anything else bad !!!

Actually, Murdoch gives me an idea. I think we should only allow people to own or run TV broadcasters, radio stations, and newspaper publishers if they are natural born Americans.


Investigate This!

You really should go read a stunning article in Politico Magazine, which interviewed all living former CIA directors and other intelligence officers to answer the question “Did the Bush administration know that an attack was coming?”. And according to the CIA, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Not only did Dubya and his administration not want to hear about any potential terrorist attacks, they didn’t even want a paper trail to show that they had been warned. Rather than keeping us safe, they were more concerned about covering their collective asses.

George Tenet (the CIA director during the Clinton and Bush administration, including 9/11) says he warned the Bush administration repeatedly, telling them “There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.”

Cofer Black, the then-chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, says they refused to do anything: “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened?”

To me there are only two possibilities. The first is almost too frightening to imagine: that Dubya and his administration knew that 9/11 was going down, and just let it. The more believable possibility was that they were just too stupid and arrogant. As Black puts it, “I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties — they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”

Either way, this totally puts the lie to Jeb Bush’s assertion that his brother “kept us safe”. Between ignoring all the warnings about 9/11, and then afterwards getting us into an unrelated and unnecessary war in Iraq, which certainly encouraged (if not directly created) ISIS/ISIL, he did nothing of the kind. It also explains why Dubya’s dad, who is not only a former president but also one of those former CIA directors, recently tried to blame the mistakes made by his son’s administration on Cheney and Rumsfeld. It is called regret.

How many people died unnecessarily because of the Dubya’s administration? And yet the Republicans spend all their time screaming about Clinton and Benghazi.


Religious Freedom

A woman in Massachusetts won the right to wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license photo:

Lindsay Miller

Lindsay Miller is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Also known as Pastafarians, members are encouraged to wear a colander in official identification photos as a public expression of their belief.

I think this is actually a very serious issue. Religious extremism is a very real problem in this world. People like Kim Davis think that the constitution gives them the right to violate other people’s rights (and the law) because of their “sincerely held beliefs”. But this puts the state in the position of deciding what is a religious belief (and thus what is a religion) and what is not (even though the First Amendment “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion”).

People react in horror at what ISIL is doing in the name of religion, but Christianity had their “crusades“. Shouldn’t Christians practice what they preach: that only people without sin should cast stones?

Where do we get the moral authority to condemn ISIL? Note that I am not defending ISIL – we definitely need authority to condemn ISIL and their atrocities. But that authority can not come from a religious disagreement between Christianity and Islam. If judging a belief as “sincerely held” is the only requirement for violating the law, is there anyone who thinks that ISIL’s beliefs are not sincerely held? They are clearly willing to die for their beliefs.

No, our moral authority can only come from our being a nation of laws that follows the rule of law. I believe (sincerely!) that the Constitution intends that government keep out of the religion business. That means that everybody has to follow the law, regardless of their religion.

Otherwise, I sincerely believe that I should be allowed to deduct 18% of my federal taxes because funding war is against my religion.


Who Says the GOP Doesn’t Believe in Evolution?

Ronald MittDonald

It took me a minute to get this. Say the three names quickly.


Obamacare: Good for Jobs

The GOP is still trying to repeal Obamacare. If that isn’t strange enough, arch-conservative Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee are going to vote against this repeal, saying that it doesn’t go far enough. Ignoring the fact that as usual this is a symbolic gesture (Obama would surely veto any repeal), it just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

Which brings us to the most recent GOP debate. First, reality-challenged Carly Fiorina declared “Obamacare isn’t helping anyone.” What about the 17 million people who have gained health insurance?

Then Marco Rubio doubled down with a more specific claim, “We have a crazy health care law that discourages companies from hiring people.” If companies are being discouraged from hiring, you would think that after the ACA was signed into law that employment would suffer. Well, here’s the reality:

Jobs under Obamacare

The private sector has not lost jobs since Obamacare was created. In fact, the economy has gained jobs for 60 straight months, which (according to Forbes) is a new record.

You may recall that ACA implemented its changes in stages over several years. The first full year when it was implemented was 2014; that year had the best increase in jobs since Clinton was president (and better than every year of Dubya’s presidency). That’s including all private sector jobs. If we look at just the health care sector, things look even better:

The healthcare industry’s employment spree has continued into autumn with an increase of 44,900 jobs in October.

Healthcare has now created almost 407,000 jobs so far in 2015, which almost equals the 410,000 jobs the industry added in 2013 and 2014 combined. Nearly 11% of all U.S. nonfarm jobs are now in healthcare.

The Republicans have been trying to repeal Obamacare for 6 years, but they still haven’t said what they would replace it with. The new GOP is just as much the party of no as the old one.


Merry War on Christmas!

Stephen Colbert weighs in on the outrage directed at Starbucks because their special holiday cup is not Christmasy enough for some Christians:


Dark Money Landslide?

I’ve complained about “dark money” – unlimited money coming from 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors, and who can use that money for political campaigns. Because they don’t have to disclose their donors, their money can come from foreign enemies, even criminal or terrorist organizations.

Well, it is getting worse. According to PolitiFact, the amount of dark money that has been spent so far in the 2016 election (almost a year away) is ten times as much as was spent at the same point in the 2012 election cycle.

In the 2012 election, the total amount of dark money spent was over $308 million. Not surprisingly, 86% of dark money was spent by conservative groups (including groups headed by Karl Rove and by the Koch brothers), and only 11% by liberal groups.

Of the $4.88 million of dark money spent so far on the 2016 election, more than 98% was spent by conservative groups.

Does that mean we will see over $3 billion of dark money (the vast majority of it from conservative groups) spent on this election before it is over? It is both possible and likely. Already in some elections, spending by dark money groups has surpassed all money spent by traditional political action committees, both PACs and “Super PACs”.

That is a very scary thought.


No Limits

Jen Sorensen
© Jen Sorensen

Yes, it is true, Arizona is now the only state that has a one-year lifetime limit on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Which means that next July, about half the people currently receiving benefits will lose them.

What’s ironic about this is that TANF is specifically designed to move people into new employment. Not only are the benefits limited (the time limit varies by state), but in order to receive any benefits from the program a family must have dependent children and the parents must be enrolled in a jobs program. There are other requirements too: the children must be attending school and be immunized. And for all this, the average family on TANF receives $195 a month.

One worry is that families losing support to move them back into jobs will end up homeless and on the street, which will cost us taxpayers even more money when we have to take care of their kids.


Meet Mrs. Fulbright

Some of you may have heard of “Honest” Gil Fulbright, who may be the world’s most honest politician. But the honesty doesn’t stop with him. Here’s an ad with his honest wife. Be sure to watch to the end, where there’s an easter egg.


Debate Format?

Republicans candidates keep whining about their debate format. They seem upset that they were asked mean questions.

Steve Sack


Money Can’t Buy Happiness?

While the Citizens United decision and the rise of big money and Super PACs had a huge effect on the 2010 midterm election, they don’t seem to be having as much of an impact on the current presidential primaries. Don’t get me wrong, there is even more money being spent this time, but it doesn’t seem to be having as much of an effect.

Exhibit A is Jeb Bush, whose Right to Rise Super PAC has aired a stunning $15.5 million in TV ads while his polling numbers sank.

Likewise, candidates who focused completely on raising lots of money through Super PACs, including Scott Walker and Rick Perry, have mostly dropped out of the race. The exception to this is Marco Rubio, but his rising star was largely fueled by two strong debate performances.

There are two, somewhat related reasons why Super PACs aren’t helping as much as they used to. First is because Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate with the campaign directly. So they cannot be used to build ground operations, pay employees, or organize campaign fundraisers. Which leaves them mainly paying for TV ads. Once upon a time, TV ads were the things that broke or made campaigns.

Which brings us to the second reason, which is that TV ads aren’t working as well as they used to. Part of this is because of sheer fatigue – right now, roughly half of all TV ads in Iowa are political. The advertising law of threes says that somebody has to see an ad three times before it has any effect on them, but after they see it three hundred times? But the main part is probably because of media changes. The rise of the internet means that people are watching more video online, rather than on broadcast TV or cable. Super PACs have been slow to adapt to this change. And finally, political campaigns get steep discounts on advertising, which are not available to Super PACs. A Super PAC typically pays four times as much per commercial as a candidate’s campaign does.

So, does this mean we shouldn’t worry about Super PACs? Not at all. Super PACs can still be a huge accessory to the main campaign, they are just not as effective on their own. When they are used as the campaign’s center of gravity (as they were for Walker or Perry) they fail. But they are still good at keeping a candidate alive in the lean times.

However, the main reason we should worry about Super PACs is because of their lack of accountability or transparency. The form of Super PACs called 501c4 do not have to disclose any information about their donors, and is now the second biggest overall TV ad spender. This means that our political candidates could be bought off by our country’s enemies and there is no way we would even know.

Maybe they already have been.


Follow the Money!

Here’s a cute app that helps you follow the money. It is a free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox (sorry IE users!). After you install it, when you are using your browser and it shows the name of a major politician, you can hover your cursor over the name and it will show you their major corporate campaign contributions.

As the creator of this browser app says: some politicians are red, and some are blue, but all of them are green. Find out to whom a politician is beholden.

The data comes from, but this makes it oh so convenient.

Where’s the irony? The creator Nicholas Rubin, was only 16 years old – too young to vote – when he wrote it. But he will be old enough soon – he just turned 17.


Energetic Apathy

Joel Pett
© Joel Pett

Special interests want you to be apathetic. The less you know, and the less you vote, the more power they get.

Everyone is given the right to vote. If you don’t, you’re just throwing your power away.

It takes less time to vote than it does to complain about how corrupt and dysfunctional our government is. And if you don’t vote, you don’t really have the right to complain.


Ratings Bonanza

Meanwhile, the GOP is all over the place trying to come up with a debate format that works for them. Unfortunately, they seem to think that the debate is for the candidates. Silly Republicans, debates are for voters. And here’s the debate format that would really increase the ratings and bring in the money. And isn’t that what it is all about?

Bruce Plante
© Bruce Plante


Late Night Political Humor

“Tonight’s Republican debate took place in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. Which explains why every single question from the audience was, ‘Where am I?'” – Conan O’Brien

“I haven’t been able to watch tonight’s Republican debate yet, but I’m excited to see the face-off between the party’s biggest opponents: Carson and staying awake.” – Stephen Colbert

“Tonight was the World Series and the Republican debate. In other words, two events with completely different attitudes toward Latino immigrants.” – Conan O’Brien

“Meanwhile, the other big competition from Boulder, Colorado, another Republican presidential debate on CNBC. Do we learn anything from these debates? The only thing voters might learn is CNBC is a channel.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Like a lot of New Yorkers, I am a little tired and pissed off this morning. I’m guessing a lot of you flipped over from the third Republican debate. I don’t know what happened yet because we taped this at 5:30, but I am super excited about the brand new Republican front-runner, retired neurosurgeon and current tired person Ben Carson.” – Stephen Colbert

“It’s been a great time for him. This surgeon is surging in the polls, 26 percent, ahead of Donald Trump’s 22 percent. The other 52 percent, of course, is going to the other 52 candidates.” – Stephen Colbert

“The two front-runners: Ben Carson, who doesn’t believe in evolution; and Donald Trump, who kind of proves his point.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Carson’s strongest support comes from evangelical Christians, a group that Donald Trump has had real trouble with, evidently. People who read the Bible just don’t want to follow someone who looks that much like a golden calf.” – Stephen Colbert

“On Monday, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson endorsed Donald Trump. Tyson joins Trump’s biggest group of supporters: ‘People Who Have Been Hit in the Head a Lot’.” – Conan O’Brien

“Earlier this week Donald received the endorsement of one of America’s great political minds. Remember, Mike Tyson once bit a man’s ear off on national television — and endorsing Donald Trump is the craziest thing he has ever done.” – James Corden

“But Tyson isn’t the only celebrity endorsing Trump. He’s also been endorsed by Kirstie Alley, Gary Busey, Dennis Rodman, and Hulk Hogan, which sounds like a season of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’.” – James Corden

“Yesterday, Donald Trump told the crowd in Iowa, ‘I am a great Christian.’ If you have to tell people you’re a great Christian, you might not be a great Christian. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Which is why Donald Trump is now currently working on plans to build an enormous needle.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Donald Trump said yesterday to supporters, ‘If I lose Iowa, I will never speak to you people again.’ He added, ‘But if I win, I will never speak to you people again.'” – Seth Meyers

“Republican candidate Mike Huckabee has earned endorsements from several members of the Duggar family. And that is a smart political move, since nearly 40 percent of Republican voters are actually members of the Duggar family.” – James Corden

“Bernie Sanders has received an endorsement from Justin Long, the actor who famously played a ‘Mac’ in those old Apple commercials. The endorsement meant so much to Bernie, he’s thinking of switching over to a Mac from his current computer, a yellow legal pad.” – James Corden