As you've probably heard, former GOP Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty launched his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, with a characteristically flashy announcement video. To date, much of his national political exposure has focused more on his regular-guy credentials—he likes to fish and play hockey, and fancies himself as a "Sam's Club Republican" (as opposed to the country club sort). What tends to get overlooked, but probably shouldn't, is his faith. Here's Rose French:
"Pawlenty appeals to a younger evangelical, one who cares about issues beyond abortion and same-sex marriage like...the environment,'' Lindsey said. "He's seen as a fresher face. He's not a brash or harsh evangelical. He seems to embody this...authentic Christian faith. Evangelicals, if anything, have become well-trained on picking up on religious phonies."
To wit: Pawlenty's pastor at Minnesota's Wooddale Church is Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Anderson's no lefty—he's an author of the Manhattan Declaration, which called on Christian pastors to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage—but he's also pushed for amnesty for undocumented residents and supported greenhouse gas restrictions.
Going forward, this could be an asset for Pawlenty—the ability to speak sincerely to the party's conservative Christian base, without compromising his ordinary-guy image by coming off as a culture warrior. Leave that to Rick Santorum.
Von NotHaus developed the liberty dollar in 1998 as an "inflation-proof" alternative currency to the U.S. dollar, which he claimed has devalued since the Federal Reserve was established in 1913.
The silver medallions were produced by a private mint in Idaho on behalf of Evansville-based Liberty Services, which also issued paper notes the group said were backed by silver reserves...
According to federal prosecutors, Liberty coins were marked with the dollar sign; the words "dollar," "USA," "Liberty," "Trust in God" (instead of "In God We Trust"); and other features associated with legitimate U.S. coins.
In 2007, federal authorities raided Von NotHaus' Liberty Dollars headquarters in Evansville, and confiscated more than 2 tons of copper, silver, and gold coins. Von NotHaus had made no secret of his ambition, telling a Spokane newspaper, "we're going to be to the Federal Reserve System what Federal Express was to the Postal Service." Since 2009, lawmakers in at least 14 states have introduced legislation to require or encourage state governments to accept payment in gold or silver. In Utah, for instance, a proposed bill would permit citizens to operate their own private mints.
Since the raid, as the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, Von NotHaus has retired from the currency business to found the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, where he's a "high priest." He's currently working on a book, tentatively titled, One Toke to God—Two Tokes to Party. Von NotHaus faces up to 15 years in prison.
Terror babiesare back! Because a jihadist is never so dangerous as when he's teething, the Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right anti-immigrant group, is out with a new report alleging that terrorists are coming to the United States to have babies, which would, some 21 years down the line, make use of their American passports to wage stealth jihad. There are obviously no flaws with that plan.
Rick Santorum is back, too, and he's in mid-season form. At an event in Durham, New Hampshire the former Pennsylvania Senator made clear he intends to make the threat of Islamic law a central part of his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Per Politico: "We need to define it and say what it is. And it is evil. Sharia law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution."
I'd always assumed that, when the global caliphate comes to North America, we'd all be forced to move to Alaska to live out our pathetic existence in relative peace, in some sort of fusion of Coming Into the Country and Solzhenitsyn. But apparently it's the Last Frontier for Sharia, too. On Thursday, Alaska held hearings on a proposal to ban Islamic law from being enforced in state courts. You'll never probably guess who was invited to testify.
At hearings this week in Jefferson City, Missouri State Rep. Don Wells, sponsor of (one of) his state's proposed Sharia-bans, wanted the perfect analogy for what Sharia was capable of doing to his state. Instead, he compared compared it to Polio.Polio? Really?
And in Tennessee, the sponsor of a controversial bill that would classify Sharia as prima facie counter to American principles appears to have backtracked—at least somewhat.
Sharia giveth and it taketh away. On Tuesday, Pakistani authorities acquitted American contractor Ray Davis, who had been charged with murdering two men in Lahore. Why would they do that? TPM explains: "[T]he resolution came only after a deal was reached to pay the victims' families what the Punjab Law Minister called 'blood money'—in accordance with Islamic law." It's still unclear who actually paid for Davis' release.
On Wednesday, the Missouri House of Representatives held hearings on a proposed constitutional amendement to prohibit state courts from enforcing Sharia law. How did it go? Here's Republican State Rep. Don Wells, who introduced the bill, via the Post-Dispatch:
"This is to protect the people of America," Wells said of his bill.
He went on to compare Sharia law to a disease, like polio. Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, stopped him to confirm.
"Sharia law is like polio?" Kander asked.
"Absolutely, as far as I'm concerned in this country," Wells responded.
It's actually not a terrible analogy, but I'd tweak it a little bit: Sharia is a lot like polio in that it poses absolutely no threat to the United States. Fixed.
To refresh your memory, when a similar bill was introduced earlier this month, its GOP sponsors, State Rep. Paul Curtman and Speaker of the House Stephen Tilley, held a press conference in which Curtman failed to offer any real-life examples that would actually justify the law:
"I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to—the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."
My colleague Kate Sheppard has a piece up today on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency tasked with overseeing America's nuclear power plants and processing facilities. Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a new report analyzing the NRC's response to 14 "near-misses" over the last year. Conclusion: We're not doing so well. Among the "near-misses":
Peach Bottom. Workers slowed down control rod testing to evade regulations that would have required a plant shutdown; NRC inspectors were aware of the problem but failed to address it adequately.
Indian Point. Inspectors documented that the liner of the refueling cavity had been leaking since 1993; NRC management chose to ignore the problem.
Vermont Yankee. The NRC ignored regulations requiring that all releases of radioactively contaminated air be via controlled and monitored pathways—regulations that had been grounds for shutting down a Baton Rouge plant two years previously.
There's more: At Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, "A roof known for years to leak when it rained allowed rainwater to short out electrical equipment." At Diablo Canyon in California, "The reactor operated for nearly 18 months with vital emergency systems disabled." At Braidwood, in Illinois, "the problems included a poor design that led to repeated floods in buildings with safety equipment, a poor design that allowed vented steam to rip metal siding off containment walls, and undersized electrical fuses for vital safety equipment."
It's not all bad news—the report (which was scheduled for release even before last week's earthquake in Japan) highlights a few "outstanding" cases in which NRC regulators discovered problems and followed up to ensure they were resolved effectively. And because the most serious threats were fairly basic in nature, it suggests that safety can be significantly improved without dramatically overhauling the system.
But more generally, the authors argue that the NRC currently focuses on the immediate problem (a busted valve, for instance, or a leaking roof) without following up on the larger question of how those problems came to be, and why they weren't addressed sooner. The report also raises concerns about a specific company, Progress Energy, which was involved in 5 of the 14 "near miss" incidents; UCS suggests investigating the corporate policies of any company that racks up more than one "near miss," to clarify whether the demand for profits are interfering with public safety.
The big takeaway: "The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."