Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction

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DDAlong with Republican obstructionism, add another wedge-based, ideological power tool: reductionism. Reduce every incident of the magnitude of the world’s greatest tragedies to a simple formula of failure and lay them neatly at the President’s feet.

In the Republican playbook, reductionism is a call to action; it focuses on President Obama as the enemy-in-chief; at once inept and over-reaching, an indecisive President making too many decisions, a weak President who has preserved America’s peace, a budget-cutter who spends too much, a President who ignores Congress after spending an entire term seeking a Grand Bargain with the Republican Speaker; an international leader who has squandered America’s leverage even as his policies of international sanctions are working; a leader who doesn’t understand and stifles businesses and finance, even as his Justice Department settles a civil case against a global behemoth of a bank for violations of the laws of business practices, settling for $7 billion, $2.5 billion of which will go to assist mortgage holders, with $180 million used to build affordable housing, the first time fees from government penalties will go to taxpayers.

Reduction presents a simple fact as it engages in massive distortions of the truth. True, no President in history has experienced or overseen the kind of humanitarian crisis involving children along the US southern border as Obama has, but no President has improved the US image as a beacon of hope to attract a pilgrim’s journey of thousands of children threatened by death and violence, by sexual exploitation by national gangs of drug thugs who hold power through force and intimidation in several Central American nations.

Reductionism ignores causes and settles on blame. Often without more than the appearance of evidence based on circumstances and without proof.

Reductionism is the exception that denies it’s the exception; it makes victims out of people who are then blamed as victims. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both the leadership and the people: health care costs are rising—Obama’s fault—yet lazy workers are waiting on a handout—healthcare is affordable if you are willing to work.

Can’t find a job? Your fault. Obama’s fault.

Other reasons? Nope. The above sums it up. Well, add too many taxes on business, too much noise about higher wages, fears of inflation, too much regulation in every business sector, too much interference in what should be the rights of the states.

Reductionism works best in an atmosphere of anger. Much of the racial opposition to Obama has been reduced to anger, anger waiting to attach itself to a cause that supports its cherished conclusions of power, privilege and competence. Reductionism docks with that anger. Both are then gravity-fed by high-pressure blame. Continue reading Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction

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Stormy Monday, 2/24/14

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StormyMondayHouse Republicans return to Washington this week, and among a host of very bad things, will attempt to expedite the ALERRT Act. While it might sound like yet another example of famously bad rightwing spelling, “ALERRT” is an acronym for “Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency,” which means the bill is actually just another example of famously bad rightwing ideas.

Also on the GOP House agenda is a bill to improve (meaning hobble) the CFPB, and the equally craptacular Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act, which of course is intended solely to stop what Republicans consider targeting of conservative political beliefs.

On Thursday, animatronic has-been Mitt Romney will be shipped to Boston and temporarily uncrated for a Republican Governors Association fundraiser. This is being spun as a show of support for the increasingly radioactive has-been-in-the-making Chris Christie, who chairs the RGA. How can you tell he’s radioactive? Because various fellow Republican governors are already making it a point to tell the press that he isn’t.

In a move almost comically emblematic of the term “military industrial complex,” on Tuesday the President will announce two new so-called innovation institutes, one in Chicago and one in Detroit. The institutes will be developed and funded through a partnership of private industry and the Department of Defense. Can’t see any downside to this. Nope.

Wednesday, the President heads to St. Paul’s splendidly refurbished Union Depot for another in his continuing series of speeches on the economy, this one focusing on “transportation and transit issues.” The White House website notes that he will “announce a new competition encouraging investments to create jobs and restore infrastructure as part of the President’s Year of Action.” Continue reading Stormy Monday, 2/24/14

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Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

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StormyMondayWill HHS Secretary Sebelius fall on her sword? Will Websitegate force Barack Obama from office? Will Republicans ever shut their damn mouths and concentrate, for once, on doing something positive, rather than devoting all their time and tons of public money to futile attempts at de-legitimizing this President? No, no, and hell no.

After initial refusals, followed by scheduling issues, it now appears that Secretary Sebelius will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect majority members on the Committee to grandstand vigorously, hoping to compile some tasty video clips they can use for next year’s reelection efforts when they try to convince their constituents to save them from having to go and earn an honest living for another two years.

Wednesday morning, the 29-member Conference Committee holds its first meeting on the budget. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on a way forward? Can anything actually get done? Well, one thing that might get done this week is the passage of a House resolution formally giving the President a wag of the finger for having the colossal temerity to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7.  Laissez les bipartisan temps rouler! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

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TSW #37

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I don’t know what planet Peggy Noonan inhabits, but I’m quite certain its atmosphere is critically lacking in oxygen. There’s no other way to account for her periodic dispatches to Earth via the Wall Street Journal. One of the latest, concerning last week’s opening of the George W. Bush Library, Museum and Crawfish Hut, is a textbook example of oxygen-deprived punditry at its flailing, gasping worst.

Like so many of Noonan’s ruminations, the piece reads like something written well in advance of the event it supposedly comments on, with just enough anecdotal detail added afterward to lend it a flimsy plausibility. And like so many of Noonan’s ruminations throughout Barack Obama’s White House tenure, it follows a paint-by-numbers approach: Peggy Noonan loathes the President, therefore obviously everyone else does too.

“Obama fatigue has opened the way to Bush affection,” proclaims Noonan, and having picked up that mythical ball, she runs like hell with it, dodging historical fact, empirical evidence and mountains of polling data as she makes her way downfield:

One thing Mr. Bush didn’t think he was was superior… He always seemed moved and grateful to be in the White House.

And so would I if five conservative Supreme Court Justices had installed me there over the express wishes of the electorate, but – come to think of it – I don’t remember any occasions where Bush seemed to be genuinely moved or grateful, for anything.

Glibness and triteness fight for dominance in Noonan’s portraits of the presidential attendees. It’s pretty much a draw:

Anyone can soften with age, but [Carter] seemed to have sweetened. That don’t come easy. Good for him.

… [GHW Bush] feels the tugs and tides of history… [the] crowd, and the people watching on TV—the person they loved and honored most was him.

At first I didn’t understand how Noonan knew which ex-President TV viewers “loved and honored most” but then it occurred to me that she probably just phoned all four or five of them afterward to check.

Then she segues into some nice stuff about Bill Clinton, so you just know she’s fixing to move on to some really nasty stuff about Barack Obama. It’s always fascinating to see which adjectives Noonan resorts to regarding the President, when the words she really seems to want to use range from “shiftless” to “uppity” and back again: Continue reading TSW #37

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Mark Sanford Is No Marion Barry. He's Worse!

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In the televised debate Monday night for South Carolina’s US House seat in District 1, Mark Sanford compared himself to Bill Clinton. Huh? Yep. The House’s most conservative Republican former member found common ground with the former Democratic president. You already know it was not an act of statesmanship. Clinton and Sanford were fallen, pushed by demons and desires into sin. Clinton looked to God for redemption. Mark Sanford turned to Bill Clinton.

Since Sanford brought it up, their sins and failings warrant a comparison, especially when a Republican in a Republican district evokes Bill Clinton as his politician savior. Is this a new thesis of mercy or an invitation to temptation? Their crimes do share elements both wide and narrow.

Narrow, as both had hot scandals. Both lied and were caught, both were in the public eye. Both had affairs. After that, the connection breaks down.

Clinton remains married. His wife is our former Secretary of State. Sanford chose divorce. He is engaged (but not yet married!) to the Argentinian woman with whom he had the affair. Clinton never ran again for public office. Sanford, who fervently supported and then broke self-imposed term limits, wants another chance. Clinton was not fined for the private use of government property. He avoided successful impeachment as the first President for whom the bill of high crime (and misdemeanors!) involved oral sex (it really is sex!). His high crime was lying about his risk-taking; his DNA was saved on a dress!

Sanford instead poetically proclaimed his love at a press conference when he returned from a week’s absence on Father’s Day weekend and asked his wife for an open marriage. He repeatedly confuses and commingles his private and public selves. Voting no on every spending bill and twice on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), he slickly slashed through his own fiscal barriers to fund his impulses and lasciviousness. He flew on his public credit card, in state planes.

His hand in the public till, he jetted off on taxpayers’ money. Eventually, he paid it back. But strange behavior for a man who spent his time in Congress sleeping on a couch and once gave his wife a $25 used bicycle as a combined Christmas and birthday gift! The man who slept on an office cot and voted against every budget took a state plane to get a haircut!

A wide comparison creates more stark differences between Clinton and Sanford. Clinton created 21 million jobs in eight years in office; in four years, South Carolina, with Sanford as its executive, lost 98,000 jobs, with a Republican in the White House. His current priority? In a state in the bottom five of employment, cutting the federal budget.

His claim of attracting Boeing is debunked by a well verified story that state leaders convinced Boeing that legislative support was more important than the governor’s endorsement when they were spooked and on the verge of pulling out because of Sanford’s weird behavior.

Since Sanford initiated a comparison with a Democrat in order to claim the privilege of forgiveness and equal treatment, principles he voted against and failed to fund, another comparison might be effective with a scandal-driven Democratic politician, one who sought and successfully achieved a return to public office—Washington, DC’s former mayor, Marion Barry.

First, I have met Marion Barry and Mark Sanford, and lived in cities and districts where they were elected to govern and procure progress. I have looked closely at the policies of both men and seen them on the campaign stump. Through their period of travails, I have witnessed their efforts at political comebacks. I have seen them put themselves before voters to judge not only policies and promises, but their penalties and crimes.

Marion went to jail. Mark paid $74,000 in fines. Both lost wives. But both are confident, handsome and resilient. Both are polarizing figures, with detractors and supporters. But Mark Sanford is no Marion Barry. He’s worse!

Here’s why: Politics comes down to service, money, and rights.

Mark Sanford, in his service as governor, once walked into the South Carolina State House, carrying a pig under each arm; he named them Pork and Barrel. Termed “an ill thought-out display,” deemed by the Republican Speaker “beneath the dignity of the Governor’s office,” the legislature, controlled by his own party, then promptly overturned, with bipartisan support, 100 of the 106 items he vetoed in the budget. He got his way with six.

This describes Sanford’s duty of service: sleep in his office, sleep with his fiance, proudly turn down stimulus money. And he also touts charter school reforms, including a statewide district, a reorganization of the Department of Motor Vehicles, cutting wait times, restructuring the state’s Department of Transportation, and tort reform. Jobs, wages and health, environmental protection, higher education don’t appear anywhere in his Sanford Seven.

In Congress, he wanted to reform Social Security, a program with a $2.7 trillion surplus (it added $69 billion this year!) and the lowest overhead and administrative costs of any private or public program for income security. He called it “putting tax payers first.” Really?

So he’s known for a little theater, a big temptation to tinker with public money, shorter waits for driver’s licenses, and running around the district this election with new props: cut-outs of Nancy Pelosi and waving hundred dollar bills, claiming this election is being bought—after the Republican National Committee withdrew his funding when it emerged that after repeated warnings, he was charged with trespassing at his ex-wife’s house!

“I had to make the call,” he says in his second explanation of the incident. It was Super Bowl Sunday and his wife wasn’t back yet to receive their 14-year-old son. Enter Mark.

I’m divorced. My daughter always had a key to her mother’s house. But my ex-wife never found me inside. The way you handle custody exchanges is not to enter each other’s dwellings. If the exchange or pickup is missed, you leave a message. It’s simple. “I have the child. You weren’t home yet. Contact me on what you want to do.” You reset. You don’t “make the call” to enter with ease. And then try for the moral high ground in a political ad, under the cover of great parenting skills. (Remember when Sanford was missing on Father’s Day? A time zone away? Out of touch?)

What could have been handled with a phone call or text message (Sanford lived 20 minutes away!) instead led to a full-page campaign ad to spin a clear error in judgment that millions of divorced parents make daily about custody. It also blames the media. It’s arithmetic; his errors multiply.

But what sets Mark Sanford aside from Marion Barry is his unabashed opposition to the dredging of Charleston’s harbor. Charleston ranks three or four in the nation’s busiest harbors, higher than New Orleans, Galveston, Mobile and West Coast ports. Moreover, it has an efficient connecting infrastructure of roads, warehouses and personnel skilled at trade, whose long arms affect the nation. $13 trillion worth of goods are imported through Charleston; $12 trillion are exported. The jobs, income, and multipliers are enormous. Continue reading Mark Sanford Is No Marion Barry. He’s Worse!

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Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate takes credit for benefits of Clinton '90s economic boom

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I noticed Reboot Illinois promoting this recent quote by Republican candidate for Governor Kirk Dillard.

“When I worked as Gov. Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, we turned a $1 billion deficit into a $1.5 billion surplus, all without an income tax increase.”

That got on my nerves. I guess the implication is that another Governor like Edgar could have balanced the current state budget without tax increases.

Let’s recall that Edgar served as Governor from 1991-1999. He entered office during a recession and governed during the Clinton economic boom of the ’90s. The recession decreased state revenue when Edgar first entered office. As the economy improved, tax revenues increased.

Of course Edgar balanced the budget and increased revenue! A monkey could have had a state budget surplus in the ’90s. Let’s also remember that the economy improved after Clinton raised taxes on the rich and increased the minimum wage; policies most Republicans oppose.

I’d like to hear more if Dillard is writing a thank you note to Bill Clinton. Otherwise, I’d like him to talk about things that were more directly under his control. For example, Edgar’s decision to underfund the state pension system. It’s not nice to brag about a budget surplus when you achieved it by screwing the state workforce. Continue reading Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate takes credit for benefits of Clinton ’90s economic boom

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Clinton Presidential Library provides contrast to Obama's transformative presidency

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Last month, I visited the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. It was my second visit since its opening in 2004 so it was nice to see it again, this time with completed grounds and the nearby Heifer International headquarters. It’s worth a visit if you haven’t been.

While walking through the exhibits, I thought back to Obama’s comments during the ’08 primary about the need for a more transformative presidency. He argued the Democratic party needs a President like Reagan, who changed the trajectory of American politics, as opposed to someone like Bill Clinton, who did not.

Some liberal blogs and Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to gin up outrage by accusing Obama of praising Reagan’s conservative agenda. But, when touring the Clinton Library, it’s easy to see what Obama really meant.

Most of the accomplishments Bill Clinton brags about were undone within a year of George W. Bush taking office.

The Clinton budget surplus became Bush’s record deficits. Responsible fiscal and tax policies that were more fair to the middle-class were scrapped for Paris Hilton tax cuts and government run on credit card debt. Strong job growth gave way to the Bush recession. His reduction in the crime rate ended as soon as the next recession hit. A time of relative peace and good relations with most of the world was squandered by Bush’s war of aggression that made the United States more hated than it has ever been.

In contrast, the damaging aspects of the Clinton presidency are more enduring. Trade agreements destroyed the American manufacturing sector. Clinton’s lending and financial deregulation, done near the end of his presidency, contributed to the housing mortgage collapse. Deregulation left the media in the hands of a few mega-corporations, limiting the diversity of viewpoints in news and homogenizing American culture. All of these were touted as accomplishments in the Clinton Library.

Plus, one can’t ignore Clinton’s adoption of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, his failure to take meaningful action on climate change, and his lack of effort in pushing for universal health care after the ’93 failure. The truth is that Obama isn’t just cleaning up Bush’s mess. He’s also fixing the damage done by Clinton.

If Obama’s first-term accomplishments are defended against future efforts to dismantle them, they will profoundly change America. Consider:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Obamacare
  • Reducing dependence on oil
  • Saved the US auto industry from collapse and pushed them to modernize their gas-guzzling fleet
  • Most significant re-regulation of Wall Street, lending, and credit cards since the New Deal
  • Largest investment in clean energy and efficiency projects in American history
  • Ended a war, began deescalation of another, and reduced the world’s nuclear weapons stockpile
  • Taking student loans back from the banks
  • Half a dozen EPA rule changes that will reduce pollution from coal

These are accomplishments progressives spent years fighting for; that previous Presidents have attempted and failed to achieve. The impact of these actions will be felt decades from now. If Obama goes on to effectively deal with climate change, he can easily be listed among the most effective Presidents in American history.

The difference can also be seen in how Obama advocates for progressive ideals. Obama often pushes progressive proposals in language that appeals to moderates. The fact that he’s still advancing progressive ideals is sometimes lost on the netroots, who would rather be pandered to with fiery Kucinich-style speeches. Continue reading Clinton Presidential Library provides contrast to Obama’s transformative presidency

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TSW #35

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It’s a mercy that I caught every moment of prime time TV coverage of the Democratic convention (mostly via PBS, where the daft commentary was generally kept to a minimum, at least when David Brooks wasn’t talking).  If I’d had to depend on certain myopic print and internet pundits for a retroactive overview, I’d be as hopelessly clueless about the event as they are.

Others, of course, aren’t myopic at all; they just have a naked agenda. In post-truth America, anyone can have a soapbox and say just as many patently untrue things as the mood, or the paymaster, might dictate. And it pays; there’s always someone somewhere – or thousands, or even millions – who, no matter the transparency of the falsehoods being pushed, will take the bullshit straight up. Recently, for instance, I ran across an absolutely remarkable Wall Street Journal piece by Charles G. Koch, a gentleman whose name, in some bright and, let us hope, not too distant future, will be as synonymous with “traitor” as Benedict Arnold’s. Koch’s piece is entitled “Corporate Cronyism Harms America.”

That’s sort of like Jerry Sandusky penning an impassioned appeal to street-proof your kids, or A-Rod bemoaning the effect of performance-enhancing substances on baseball, or David Koresh doing a PSA spotlighting the perils of cults.

Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times contributed a piece on the convention that splits the difference between the myopic and the agenda-driven. It reads suspiciously as though it had been written before a single speaker had taken the stage in Charlotte, although Huntley inserted a glib reference to the President’s and the ex-President’s speeches that could just as easily have been based on an intuitive notion of how they would unfold as on the actual speeches themselves. Huntley has a lot to say, most of it so utterly silly it’s hardly worth responding to, but responding to this sort of tripe is why TSW exists, so here goes.

Obama and Clinton tried to beguile the voters with soaring, emotional oratory. But voters have heard it before. This time they might be thinking about results. They might look at Mitt Romney and see success — success in starting familiar businesses like Staples, success in rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from financial ruin, success in political bipartisanship as a Republican governor who ran a Democratic state.

To paraphrase the Beatles song, Obama’s words may give us a thrill, but they don’t pay the bills — or create jobs.

Well, sure, Steve, some voters could look at Mitt Romney and see success, but I suspect the better informed among them will look at Mitt Romney and see an amoral if not immoral bastard, whose experience “starting familiar businesses” kept him nowhere near as busy as did his experience destroying perfectly viable enterprises by loading them up with debt, selling off their carcasses and pocketing exorbitant fees for killing American jobs. Continue reading TSW #35

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Sunday Talks, 9/23/12

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“Meet the Press” will feature Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and the political roundtable includes Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Dee Dee Myers, Joe Scarborough, Bay Buchanan and David Brooks in an episode . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/23/12

Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)

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ONE: Consider the Barn Burned

One of many sharp contrasts between the Republican and Democratic conventions was how the parties treated their former favorite sons. George W. Bush, a fellow you might remember from his demolition of the economy, his demolition of Iraq and/or his demolition of Republican claims to seriousness as a political party, appeared briefly on video, albeit with his daddy functioning as a sort of fig leaf of supposed respectability.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, appeared live in Charlotte, and delivered a speech as good as any he’s ever given, meaning it was utterly masterful. For those too young too remember the Clinton years, now you know. President Clinton, though, had plenty of company. Deval Patrick, Tammy Duckworth, John Kerry, Julián Castro, Jennifer Granholm, Elizabeth Warren, James Clyburn and many, many others roused and inspired. It was the polar opposite of the sorry spectacle in Tampa the week before, the “highlight” of which was a cranky old man chatting with a chair.

Michelle Obama’s star turn on Tuesday night cut through four years of right wing crap attempting to portray her husband as aloof, out of touch, out of his depth and out of step with that absurd construct Republicans like to describe as “mainstream American values.”

Gabrielle Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance on the final night, and if you didn’t have tears in your eyes watching it, well, you’re either a Republican or you need to consult an ophthalmologist.

Vice President Biden, as always, came across as that rarest of creatures, a politician I actually do want to have a beer with. Make that a few. And if he feels like cracking open a bottle of Jameson to cap off the evening, hell, yes, I’m in.

And Barack Obama? He did great, but I thought he sounded bone tired. And how could he not be? This election cycle he has the White House to carry on his back as he works the stump, and of course he can’t even play a round of golf without catcalls from the jerks, puds and phonies across the aisle. He’s spent four years pulling the country out of a deep hole, and for his extraordinary efforts he gets called a commie, a foreigner, an imposter, uppity, angry, lazy, a fraud. Why he wants the job again, I don’t know, but I’m damned grateful that he does, and it’s going to be no less gratifying voting for him again than it was the first time.

TWO: Matthew 25:35, with a Side of Orzo

While the late change of venue for President Obama’s Thursday night acceptance speech provided the usual conservative media suspects with plenty of food for thought – and by “thought” I mean “risibly baseless speculation” – it also provided 8,000 pounds of actual food to folks in need in Charlotte.

Bank of America Stadium’s “VIP suites and club rooms” were to have teemed with hungry Democrats on the convention’s final evening, and stadium chef Jon Morey and his staff worked feverishly to prepare a mountain of upscale eats in anticipation. Instead, the Carolina Panthers and the stadium’s food services company Delaware North Inc., with logistical support from US Foods, ended up distributing tons of “pecan-fried chicken, baked orzo, fresh crudités, three bean bake, fresh cut fruit and something called short rib cobbler” to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, and thence to local soup kitchens, daycare centers and homeless shelters. Food was also donated to local non-profits A Better World and the Harvest Center of Charlotte.

While it’s not known whether any leftover food from the Republican National Convention got to the truly hungry, a convoy of refrigerator trucks was rumored to have made the 200-mile trek from the Tampa Bay Times Forum to 1295 North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. I know this because I just originated the rumor.

THREE:  Unfair and Unbalanced

Speaking of Palm Beach, one of the newest residents of its county jail is David A. Kappheim, who earned his stay by allegedly committing domestic battery, aggravated assault and criminal mischief. Why? His girlfriend is a liberal, and he tried to strangle her.

When Kappheim was approached by the arresting deputy, he said “he was very conservative and (his girlfriend) was a liberal.” He also told the deputy that “he felt that he was going to have to kill her,” the report said.

Kappheim also admitted to trying to kill his girlfriend three times, the deputy said. When he was placed in handcuffs, he allegedly had a panic attack and kicked the sheriff’s car’s rear door so hard it was knocked out of its alignment.

While inside of the woman’s apartment, the deputy said he found documents that made him believe Kappheim is obsessed with Fox News and the Republican Party, and that he may be a danger to others.

Rick Scott had barely arrived in Tallahassee in 2011 when he ordered a purge of felons from Florida’s voter rolls. Just this once, perhaps that worked out for the best. Continue reading Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)

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