Archive for September 16th, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on what it means to be part of the Tea Party

| September 16, 2010 | 1 Reply
Andrew Sullivan on what it means to be part of the Tea Party

Glenn Greenwald’s asked: What sets Tea Party politicians apart from the radical right-wing republicans who preceded them? Here’s part of Andrew Sullivan’s response:

I think what the tea-partiers would say is that they are for real – that, unlike Bush, they won’t spend the country into oblivion, that they won’t bail out the banks, that they won’t pass unpaid-for entitlements, that they actually will make sure that abortion is illegal, that they will round up illegal immigrants and enforce the border, and will not pretend that we are not fighting Islam in a civilizational war. And that they will refuse to raise taxes even if it means the most radical dismantlement of the entitlement state since the New Deal.

Now you can argue that this kind of extremism was always part of the picture, but the Rove method was to use these convictions, not actually share them. Bush increased spending radically, added a huge unpaid entitlement to the next generation, pandered to Hispanics, favored immigration reform, did nothing to prevent legal abortion, felt awkward demonizing gays, pretended he wasn’t torturing prisoners, did not kill enough Iraqis, and made a major point about not having a fight with Islam as such. The base wants to get rid of any of these nuances and get the real thing.

But here’s more to the inner-psyche of at least some Tea Party advocates. Each of the following positions have been promoted by Christine O’Donnell (this excerpt is by John Farrell):

Darwin was wrong, the earth is 6,000 years old, and creationism should be taught in the public schools. God wouldn’t want us to lie to the Nazis, even to save folks from concentration camps. Onanism is a pressing social issue. She’s going to Washington to fix the federal budget, but can’t seem to pay her own bills and taxes, or compose an accurate resume

I do suspect that these sorts of positions are intentional displays of ignorance in order to impress similarly situated others regarding one’s loyalty that that group. It’s much like wearing saggy pants or professing belief that Mary was a virgin who had a baby. I don’t suspect that the Tea Party advocates necessarily really believe many of the things they say–I suspect that they don’t really feel strongly about Onanism (masturbation) or lying to Nazis, for example. But it’s not really about Onanism or Nazis. These purported positions are more about attempting to coordinate the energies of many individuals in order to make a power grab as a group. Not that they wouldn’t then try to pass some laws along these lines, in order to further their displays to each other, in attempts to prove sincerity. This could create a dangerous situation where intra-group stroking is the impetus for enacting self-destructive laws.

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Grass Roots Groups: Big Banks are quietly profiting from payday lending

| September 16, 2010 | 4 Replies
Grass Roots Groups:  Big Banks are quietly profiting from payday lending

A group called Grass Roots Organizing (GRO) held a rally in front of the Bank of America Building in downtown St. Louis, announcing that big banks are quietly financing the biggest payday lending companies. The announcement was based on a report issued by National People’s Action out of Chicago.

I videotaped portions of the rally, which was led by an energized woman named Robin Acree, Executive Director of GRO. When you understand how payday lenders operate (and subvert the political process), you’ll also understand why it takes some spunk to stand up to the lenders and to expose these shady dealings. [Note: Acree's microphone had malfunctioned just prior to this segment--she was still carrying it, but it wasn't working].

After seeing a bit of Acree’s presentation, you’ll see a two-minute confession by Graham McCaulley, who formerly worked at a payday lender and offers a laundry list of the unscrupulous practices he saw first hand.

Consider that these two presentations constitute a formidable indictment of big banks. Here’s an excerpt from the NPA document handed out at the St. Louis Rally:

Major payday loan companies receive their funding from the largest national banks . . . Major banks provide over $1.5 Billion in credit available to fund major payday lending companies . . . The major banks funding payday lending include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, JP Morgan Bank, and National City (PNC Financial Services Group) . . . Our analysis find that the major banks indirectly fund approximately 450,000 payday loans per year totaling $16.4 Billion in short-term payday loans . . . Major banks access credit from the Federal Reserve discount window at 0.5% or less, these banks extend an estimated $1.5 Billion annually to eight major payday lending companies, who in turn use this credit to issue millions of payday loans to consumers every year at average rates of 400% APR.

For a lot more information about 400% payday loans and why they should be outlawed, see this earlier post, which includes a powerful video of St. Louis attorney John Campbell (John and I work together as consumer lawyers at the Simon Law Firm). And isn’t it incredible that it is almost impossible to convince state legislators to cap consumer loans at the substantial rate of 36%? Sad but true.

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Roman Catholics Must Reconcile With Victims of Abuse

| September 16, 2010 | 6 Replies
Roman Catholics Must Reconcile With Victims of Abuse

I am a lifelong practicing Roman Catholic. I am now a member of parish in Kirkwood, Missouri. I have not been a victim of abuse.

I have seen the efforts of my Church to deal with victims of abuse by priests and I don’t see the matter being handled in the way in which I was brought up in my faith. The examples of selflessness, compassion and dedication to the Gospels which I have experienced throughout my life in the Church are inconsistent with what continues to be a serious threat to the continued existence of the Roman Catholic Church as a faithful expression of the Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Roman Catholic Church efforts to reconcile with its victims of sexual abuse are failing. The failure has been because of a lack of willingness upon the part of Church leaders to simply ask, humbly and contritely, for forgiveness from those which they have harmed. It is incomprehensible to any adherent to a faith which professes to be a true expression of the Gospels of Jesus Christ that someone who has harmed another would not seek to reconcile themselves to that fellow Church member and God by asking forgiveness. The leadership in the Roman Catholic Church needs a refresher course on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (formerly Penance).

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