Mother Emanuel

Faith, Juxtaposed

The front entrance of the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer in Augusta, Ga. that was vandalized overnight is seen Tuesday morning July 21, 2015. The Church's pastor, Rick Sosbe, and his fiancee, Michael Rhen, recently became the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Augusta-Richmond County following the recent decision by the US Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. (Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle)

“To me, it seems so interesting that they’re saying on there that you’ll burn―in other words saying ‘You’ll burn in hell,’ I’m sure―and quoting scripture. Is that what Christianity―right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity―has come to?”

Pastor Rick Sosbe

‘Tis a fair question. And even the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer must pause to check his tongue; quite clearly this is not what Christianity itself has come to. Still, though, Pastor Rick asks a fair question.

And here is another question: Many on the American political right wing rushed in the wake of the Mother Emanuel massacre to dismiss white supremacism and characterize the killings as an attack against Christianity. Would they be so kind as to condemn this attack against Christianity? Sure, nobody’s dead, and that’s all to the good. But in this case it’s a real, actual, genuine attack against Christianity, so … you know … Hello?

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Sieczkowski, Cavan. “Church With Openly Gay Pastor Vandalized With ‘You’ll Burn'”. The Huffington Post. 24 July 2015.

Benen, Steve. “The Charleston massacre wasn’t about ‘religious liberty'”. msnbc. 19 June 2015.

Clarkson, Frederick. “Charelston Massacre an Attack on Christianity? Yes, But Not How the Christian Right Says”. Political Research Associates. 24 June 2015.

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The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

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The ‘Nigger’ Post

Barack Obama

Jordan Fabian sums it up well enough for The Hill:

President Obama caused a stir on Monday by using the N-word to make a point about racism in America.

In a conversation recorded on Friday, less than 48 hours after a mass shooting at an African-American church in South Carolina, Obama said racism is still deeply ingrained in society despite the fact that racial slurs are no longer acceptable in normal conversation.

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on,” Obama said during an interview on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF Podcast” released Monday.

“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama added. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n—– in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”

Obama’s phrasing renewed a debate over who is allowed to use the word and when it’s appropriate to say. The provocation also garnered more attention for his broader message, something that almost certainly factored into Obama’s decision to use the word.

The discussion about race consumed cable news chatter and dominated newspaper headlines on Monday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest fielded more than a dozen questions about Obama’s comments at his daily briefing with reporters.

The discussion arose amid a new battle over the Confederate flag, augmenting a debate about race and the country’s past. As the White House reiterated Obama’s call for the flag to be placed in museums rather than state grounds, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said she would seek to move the flag.

Few commentators said that Obama was wrong to use the word, though some acknowledged the discussion of one word threatened to overshadow Obama’s larger message. Despite improvements since the civil rights era, Obama said, “societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

I would only comment that if this is not an occasion on which editors should decide to go ahead and print the word nigger, I have no idea what would be.

Put simply, of course there will be discussion about President Obama’s use of the word. Yes, we should guard against allowing that discussion to overshadow the larger point. But, really, on this occasion, you are going to censor the President of the United States?

It is worth bearing this point in mind insofar as it might suggest something important about the readiness of American society to responsibly address these issues.

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Fabian, Jordan. “Obama uses N-word to spark talk about racism”. 22 June 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (Fancy & Shame)

Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush waves after he spoke during the 'Road to Majority' conference June 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. Conservatives gathered at the annual event held by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America. (Detail of photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It would seem we were not the only ones who noticed.

Matthew Yglesias looked into the Jeb Bush’s suggestion of four percent GDP growth:

But 4 percent is not really a round number. The US economy grew faster than 2 percent in 2014, 2013, and 2012 and is projected by most economists to grow faster than 2 percent in 2015. Economists surveyed by the Associated Press, Politico, and the New York Times all doubted that 4 percent growth was achievable.

Wednesday, speaking in Iowa, Jeb defended the 4 percent target on the grounds that “aspirational goals” are important in politics.

According to James Glassman, Bush originally selected this goal at random, backed by zero substantive analysis of any kind:

That ambitious goal was first raised as Bush and other advisers to the George W. Bush Institute discussed a distinctive economic program the organization could promote, recalled James Glassman, then the institute’s executive director.

“Even if we don’t make 4 percent it would be nice to grow at 3 or 3.5,” said Glassman, now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In that conference call, “we were looking for a niche and Jeb in that very laconic way said, ‘four percent growth.’ It was obvious to everybody that this was a very good idea.”

No, really, is there any telling that doesn’t make the story sound incredibly stupid? As Howard Schneider and Steve Holland explained for Reuters, “Asked by Reuters during a campaign-style stop in New Hampshire on Thursday how he had arrived at the figure, Bush said: ‘It’s a nice round number. It’s double the growth that we are growing at. It’s not just an aspiration. It’s doable.'”

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The Rick Perry Show (Useless Coward)

'This is the M.O. of this administration, any time there is an accident like this―the president is clear, he doesn't like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every oportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.' (Rick Perry, on mass murder at Mother Emanuel)

To: Rick Perry

re: Mother Emanuel

Mass murder is not an “accident”, sir.

“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this―the president is clear, he doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message.”

(qtd. in Tashman)

Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Tywanza Sanders.

Cynthia Hurd.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor.

Ethel Lance.

Susie Jackson.

Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.

Myra Thompson.

They have names, Mr. Perry.

This was not an accident.

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Tashman, Brian. “Rick Perry: Charleston Shooting An ‘Accident’ Due To Drug Use, Manipulated By Obama To Ban Guns”. Right Wing Watch. 19 June 2015.

Saliba, Emmanuelle, Erik Ortiz, and M. Alex Johnson. “Charleston Church Shooting: Tributes Paid to ‘Kind-Hearted’ Victims”. NBC News. 19 June 2015.