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John Kasich Completely Misunderstands the Teachings of Jesus

| Fri Jun. 19, 2015 10:48 AM EDT

Ed Kilgore points me toward a Politico profile of John Kasich that demonstrates pretty vividly why he's not likely to make a dent in the Republican primaries. Here he is at a conference hosted by the Koch brothers last year:

At one point, according to accounts provided by two sources present, Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he’d expressed the view it was what God wanted.

The governor’s response was fiery. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he said as he pointed at Kendrick, his voice rising. “But when I get to the Pearly Gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

The rest of the Republican Party, needless to say, believes that St. Peter is going to ask them what they did to keep the poor from suckling on the tits of the rich. Because that's what the Bible say. See, right here: When it comes to paying poor laborers whatever he feels like, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" Jesus once said in a quote taken entirely out of context.

Obviously Kasich doesn't know his Bible. Help the poor indeed. Who can blame Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, and 20 audience members for stalking out? Kasich needs to bone up on the real Bible before he spouts off again.

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The Recent, Hateful History of Attacks on Black Churches

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 8:22 PM EDT

Update, June 29, 11 a.m. PT: Fires have been reported at six black churches in five southern states since the mass shooting in Charleston. Two of the fires are thought to have been from electrical or other unintentional causes, but at least two other are being investigated as arson. (See timeline below.) According to BuzzFeed, the FBI and ATF are investigating the incidents. For more, including an interview with a pastor at a church that burned in South Carolina, see this NPR story.
 

Churches have long been hubs of organizing and advocacy in the black community, which was one reason they were so often attacked during the civil rights movement. But the violence didn't end there—attacks and threats against black churches and institutions still take place at a greater frequency than you might think. Here is a partial list of church incidents in the past two decades alone:

1996

January 8: Eighteen Molotov cocktails are thrown at Inner City Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The phrases, "Die N----- Die" and "White is Right" are painted on the church's back door.

Rep. Larry Hill looks over the remains of Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church. Chuck Barton/AP Photo

January 11: Mount Zoar Baptist Church and Little Zion Baptist Church, two black churches within six miles of each other, are burned to the ground on the same night in rural Alabama.

February 8: The Department of Justice launches an investigation into a string of arsons at black churches in rural Tennessee and Alabama.

June 7: Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church is set on fire in Charlotte, North Carolina.

1997
 

March 22: Two men burn down Macedonia Baptist Church in Ferris, Texas. Asked why they did it, according to the US Attorney General's Office, one of the men responded, "because it was a n----- church."

June 30: Five white men and women, all between the ages of 18 and 21, burn down St. Joe Baptist Church, a small church of 21 worshippers in Little River, Alabama.

2004

January 12: Two white men in Roanoke, Virginia, cause $77,000 worth of damage to the inside of Mount Moriah Baptist Church after breaking into and vandalizing the premises.

2006
 

July 11: A cross is burned outside a predominantly black church in Richmond, Virginia.

2008
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Macedonia Church of God in Christ. Mark M. Murray/AP Photo

November 5: The morning after President Obama's first election, three white men set alight Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts. The church was under construction.

2010

December 28: A white man firebombs Faith in Christ Church in Crane, Texas, in an attempt to "gain status" with the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist gang.

2011

June 23: The FBI investigates a cross burning on the lawn of St. John's Baptist Church in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

November 17: Vandals break into Cedar Hill AME Zion Church in Ansonville, North Carolina. They throw chairs through the stained glass windows, burn a cross, defecate on an alter, and dig up the tombstone of a child buried in the church's historic slave cemetery.

2013

February 25: Vandals break into a day care center housed within a church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; spray paint swastikas on the inside; and set the building alight. One church member said that, several weeks earlier, the church had received a call saying, "We need these n----- to get out of here."

2014
Members of the destroyed Flood Christian Church hold service in a tent in Country Club Hill, Missouri. J.B Forbes/AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

November 26: Federal officials open an investigation into the arson of Flood Christian Church, the church attended by Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The fire was set the same night the prosecutor in the case announced he would not bring charges against officer Darren Wilson for killing Brown.

July 22: A cross is burned in the parking lot of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee.

2015
Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. David Goldman/AP Photo

June 17: Dylann Roof kills nine people at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

June 24: Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., went up in flames in the early morning. A wing of the church used as an education center was nearly completely destroyed, and the sanctuary and gymnasium sustained extensive smoke damage, with damages totaling an estimated $250,000. The fire is being investigated as arson.

June 28: Bales of hay and bags of dirt were set on fire and left against the front doors of College Hill Seventh Day Adventist church in Knoxville, T.N. Separately, a church van was also set on fire and destroyed. The fires are being investigated as arson.

 

The "Umbrella Revolution" Just Scored a Major Victory in Hong Kong

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 8:00 PM EDT
Thousands of pro-democracy protestors occupy Hong Kong's streets on September 30th, 2014.

Last fall, the streets of Hong Kong filled with protestors demonstrating for greater autonomy after China proposed an election system that would undermine their right to vote for the city's highest official. Students and concerned citizens camped outside of government buildings and blocked major thoroughfares for weeks on end wielding umbrellas to protect against police tear gas (leading to the name "Umbrella Revolution"). Eventually the demonstrations lost steam and protestors acquiesced to government demands to evacuate the streets. Many feared that the end of the protests meant a win for China and a blow to democracy in Hong Kong.

However early Thursday, Hong Kong's legislature voted down the Chinese proposal that instigated the massive demonstrations. Pro-democracy supporters are calling it a major legislative victory. In order to understand why, we have to back up a bit.

Hong Kong becomes part of China...sort of: In 1997, the United Kingdom handed over control of Hong Kong to China. Under an agreement known as "one country, two systems," however, China promised that Hong Kong would maintain political autonomy and many civil liberties that are not afforded to mainland Chinese (Vox does a good job laying out this confusing transition). One right citizens of Hong Kong did not get was the ability to directly vote for the city's executive chancellor. Instead, a mostly pro-Beijing 1,200-member election committee has chosen the leader through simple majority every 5 years. In 2007, though, China told Hong Kong it would be allowed to elect its leader by popular vote in 2017.

Fall 2014, protests begin: But then, in August of 2014, the Chinese Communist Party released a proposed election plan outlining their version of a popular vote. In it, a special committee controlled by the Chinese Communist Party would choose up to three candidates for whom Hong Kong's 5 million eligible voters could cast a ballot. Hong Kong's current chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, supported the proposal but thousands of Hong Kong citizens viewed this system as a "sham democracy" that would allow China to continue exercising control over Hong Kong. They took to the streets flooding the area surrounding Hong's Kong's government buildings for weeks before finally going home.

Okay, so what just happened: Hong Kong's Legislative Council voted today on whether or not it would enact the the election system proposed by China. It was struck down with only 8 lawmakers out of 70 voting for the proposal, a big hit to the Chinese Communist Party and victory for the pro-democracy camp.

What's next: Pro-democracy activists are praising the legislature's move, but also point out there is a long way to go before real democracy is achieved. Because China's election plan was voted down, the current system will stay in place until at least 2022. Some believe a more productive short-term approach to reforming Hong Kong's election system would be pushing the current election committee to better represent the people of Hong Kong instead of Chinese interests.

Jeb Bush Has Announced the Perfect Republican Economic Plan

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 3:03 PM EDT

Rand Paul says his secret to success is that his tax cut plan will supercharge economic growth. Jeb Bush says his secret to success is that merely by being president he will supercharge economic growth.

I guess I have to give this round to Paul. He at least tried to come up with some math salad to justify his belief that a Rand Paul presidency will bring about economic nirvana. Bush simply declared ex cathedra that he'd make the economy grow at an astonishing 4 percent per year. Why? "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."

Um, OK. He gets points for copping to a sort of amiable idiocy, I suppose. But in case you're interested, here's economic growth since the Reagan administration:

Reagan managed 4 percent growth four times in eight years. George H. W. Bush managed it zero times. Bill Clinton did it five times in eight years. George W. Bush did it zero times. Barack Obama has (so far) done it zero times. And no president in history has averaged 4 percent growth over the course of his presidency. No one.1

If you want all the gory details, Matt Yglesias has much more here about just how unlikely this kind of growth is. But politically speaking, the details aren't what's interesting. What's interesting is that Bush's comment is an unusually clear peek behind the curtain, one that demonstrates how unseriously Republicans take the economy. It's all just cotton candy for the gullible. Cut taxes on the rich and this will—somehow—supercharge the economy. Slash regulations and this will—somehow—unleash business activity and supercharge the economy. Now Bush has decided to dispense with even the mumbo jumbo explanations. He's distilled the GOP economic message down to its essence: Elect me president and—merely because I'm a Republican and I say so—I'll supercharge the economy.

And there's more. If you assume the economy is going to skyrocket, there's no need to address niggling concerns about spending or budget deficits. There will be money for everything! And when it doesn't happen? Oops. Sorry. Next time we'll get serious for sure. Honest.

1OK, OK, it's true that FDR did it. How? By starting at the bottom of the worst depression in history and ending with the biggest wartime boom in history. This basically makes the case for just how unlikely this is to ever happen again.

Fast Track Is Now Back on a Fast Track to the Senate

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 1:15 PM EDT

Well, the House just passed standalone fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty. Now it's on to the Senate, where 14 Democrats voted for it back when it was paired up with TAA, the assistance program for workers who lose their jobs because of the treaty. Will the Gang of 14 still vote for it as a standalone bill? By my count, if there are more than four or five defections, it will fail. Stay tuned.

If it passes, TAA will then get a second vote too, free of fast-track entanglements: "Republicans have decided to tuck the worker assistance components into a noncontentious trade preference bill related to Africa, and send it back to the House for final passage."

So there you have it. Stay tuned.

POSTSCRIPT: I still don't have a firm opinion on the treaty since I failed to delve into it over the weekend. Sorry. Unfortunately, my proxy guides aren't working for me either. On the anti side, I'm no big fan of the IP clauses in the treaty. On the pro side, I'm influenced by the fact that it's supported by both President Obama and Ron Wyden, my favorite senator. So I'm still on the fence.

WATCH: Obama Just Delivered Remarks About the Mass Shooting in Charleston

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 12:34 PM EDT

On Thursday, President Obama spoke about the mass shooting that killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

"Any death of this sort is a tragedy," Obama said in the televised address. "Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship. Emmanuel is more than church. It is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshippers worked to end slavery."

He then addressed the problems of gun violence and urged Americans to take action.

"Let's be clear—this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries," he said. "It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. At some point it is going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it and shift how we deal with gun violence collectively."

This time last year, Obama called the nation's political failure to act on guns the "biggest frustration" of his presidency.

Shortly before the president's press conference on Thursday, the suspected gunman behind the attack, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, was arrested in Shelby, North Carolina.

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Clarence Thomas Joins Supreme Court Liberals in Ruling Against Confederate Flag Rights

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 12:32 PM EDT

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right of the state of Texas to reject a specialty license plate featuring a Confederate flag. The case featured an unusual alliance in which Justice Clarence Thomas, known for his rigid ideological conservatism, teamed up with the court's four liberal justices in a 5-4 majority.

The central issue in this case was whether a message displayed on a license plate is personal speech or government speech.

A Texas board had denied a request by the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a license plate that displayed the group's name, founding date, and the Confederate flag. The state of Texas argued that license plates are government speech, so the state has the right to censor it. The Sons of Confederate Veterans claimed the plates are private speech, and that the government's decision not to approve its license plate request was discrimination based on viewpoint and a violation of its free-speech rights.

While the government can't engage in viewpoint discrimination of private speech, "[w]hen government speaks, it is not barred by the Free Speech Clause from determining the content of what it says," Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion states. "Texas license plates are, essentially, government IDs. And issuers of ID 'typically do not permit' the placement on their IDs of 'message[s] with which they do not wish to be associated.'"

The four dissenting justices argued that the majority "passes off private speech as government speech and, in doing so, establishes a precedent that threatens private speech that government finds displeasing."

Although Texas is now free to deny the Sons of Confederate Veterans a license plate with a Confederate flag, some state governments still embrace the controversial Civil War symbol. In South Carolina, where a shooting Wednesday night in a historic black church left nine people dead, the Confederate flag still flies on state capitol grounds.

Dylann Roof Had Confederate Plates. Here's Why the Rebel Flag Still Flies in South Carolina.

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 12:31 PM EDT
Pro-flag demonstrators at the South Carolina Capitol after the flag was removed from the dome in 2000.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will almost certainly order flags across the state to be flown at half-mast this week in honor of the black parishioners murdered Wednesday night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. But one flag will continue to fly as it always has—the Confederate flag in front of the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia. In a photo posted by the New York Times, the alleged gunman, Dylann Storm Roof, is seen posing in front of a car with a license plate bearing several iterations of the flag. (In an odd twist, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas could refuse to offer specialty Confederate flag license plates that had been requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.)

 

The flag, a symbol of the struggle by a white minority engaged in an armed insurrection to preserve its right to violently enslave the black majority, has long been a divisive issue in the state, and criticism of its continued display flared up again after Wednesday's shooting. It was removed from the Capitol dome after massive protests in 2000, and as part of a compromise, relocated to the Confederate memorial. But the flag's origins in Columbia are a remnant of segregation, not the Civil War—it was first flown over the Capitol in 1962 in response to the civil rights push from Washington.

Despite the most recent incident of racial violence, don't expect the flag to come down any time soon. When Republican Gov. Nikki Haley was asked about it at a debate during her 2014 re-election campaign, she argued that it was a non-issue:

What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag...We really kinda fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African American US senator. That sent a huge message.

Watch:

Given that less than 1 percent of Fortune 500 CEOS are black (compared with 28 percent of South Carolinians), they may not be the best focus group.

I Read Rand Paul's Flat Tax Plan So You Don't Have To

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 12:14 PM EDT

Rand Paul talks taxes in the Wall Street Journal today:

My tax plan would blow up the tax code and start over. In consultation with some of the top tax experts in the country, including the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore....

Hmmm. I think we can probably stop there. If Stephen Moore is one of the brains behind this, we can be pretty sure it's the usual hodgepodge of innumerate nonsense he's famous for. But at least Paul's op-ed doesn't lack for tea party applause lines! Here are my favorites: "seized by the IRS," "rogue agency," "harass anyone who might be adversarial to President Obama’s policies," "economic steroid injection," "rot in the system," and "crony capitalists and lobbyists exploded his noble crusade."1

In any case, I'll save you the trouble of reading the whole thing. It's the usual flat-tax utopia: One rate for everyone, no deductions, end of story. No discussion of how to define "income," of course, which is what makes the tax code complicated in the first place. But no matter. According to Paul, the rich will end up paying 14.5 percent in taxes, with no loopholes to pay less. Given that the rich currently pay about 22 percent of their income in federal taxes, they should be pretty happy about that. They should also be pretty happy that he's getting rid of the estate tax entirely.

And the middle class? Well, they no longer have to pay payroll taxes. Just 14.5 percent of their income.

Happy days! And how will this add up? The usual way: it will supercharge the economy blah blah blah, and we'll all be making such huge buckets of cash that tax revenues will go up. Easy peasy.

The song never changes with these guys. But it's a siren song, and Americans have never been very good at math. I'm sure it will sound good to lots of people, and it will sound great to the lucky few. Hell, I figure it would save me personally $15,000 a year, maybe more. Rand Paul 2016!

1That would be Paul's buddy Steve Forbes, whose noble flat-tax crusade in 1996 went nowhere thanks to the shadowy forces of....Bob Dole.

It Looks Like Germany is Ready to Let Greece Collapse

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 11:05 AM EDT

Last-ditch talks between Greece and the rest of Europe are scheduled to start today. Nobody is very optimistic:

There is little sign that either side is softening its position....In Germany especially, the fear is that providing new loans to Greece without extracting more spending cuts represents a fateful step toward a so-called transfer union, with wealthier nations providing handouts to Greece and other weaker countries. “If a small country can blackmail the other members into a transfer union without conditions and controls, the euro cannot survive,” said Adam Lerrick, a sovereign debt expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a research organization based in Washington.

....Both sides are girding for a euro exit.

The Greek central bank warned on Wednesday that the country’s economy would be devastated. And bankers say that in the last week, Greeks have pulled more than €1.5 billion from their deposit accounts. Within the European Stability Mechanism, Europe’s newly formed rescue vehicle, preparations are being made to bolster other weak countries in the event of a contagion panic.

While polls in Greece still show overwhelming support of the euro, a majority of Greeks are fed up with the harsh austerity measures that have been a condition for the €240 billion in loans that have been disbursed to the country.

I have the advantage of living in California, where this is all a fairly academic debate. It's even interesting, in a way. Will both sides blink at the last second? If they don't, and Greece leaves the euro and then defaults on its loans and devalues its currency, will it work? How much pain will it cause? Will Greece recover fairly quickly?

Those are interesting questions for anyone who doesn't actually have to live with the answers. For the Greeks themselves, though, the result is going to be horrible either way. It's just a matter of which way is slightly less horrible. For the rest of Europe, it's possible that it will all be a big nothingburger. Then again, nobody thought the default of Creditanstalt would supercharge the Great Depression. So who knows?

What a mess. Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. But so far Europe has done next to nothing for Greece. They've made lots of loans, but mainly so that Greece could pay back its debt to shaky European banks. It's been every bit as disingenuous and self-interested as all the cheap loans those banks made to Greece in the first place so that Germans and others could enjoy access to cheap Greek products during the aughts. They enjoyed the boom from those loans and supported it with monetary policy that favored Germany but overheated Greece, and then when the economy went sour they set monetary policy continent-wide to favor Germany yet again, not the folks they'd been shoveling money to all those years. And when Greece's economy collapsed, they just sat back, talked about following the rules, and demanded that Greece let their economy collapse even further.

It's not as if Greece bears no blame for what happened. A lot of people share in that. But Germany has been the cynical manipulator of events all the way back to 2000, tacitly approving capital flows to Greece when it helped the German economy and then orchestrating billions in loans when German banks ended up in trouble. And now that German banks aren't in trouble anymore, bye bye loans. Time to pull up the ladder.

Whatever else happens, it's a good time to be German and it's a crappy time to be Greek. Welcome to the European "union."