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A quick reflection on three news stories that jumped off the page this weekend, each one vying for the title of how amazingly twisted human ideas and systems can become.

1. Financial columnist Al Lewis highlighted a study from the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank that leans progressive, which looked at how the current tax code encourages companies to pay their CEOs ever more exhorbitant salaries. It seems that companies can take an unlimited tax deduction for “performance pay” given to CEOs, thus limiting their tax liabilities. The study identified 26 CEOs who were paid an average of $20.4 million last year — 23 percent higher than the previous year. That’s obscene. I’m not suggesting the government should determine pay scales for the private sector, but it’s clear that business lobbyists have hijacked the tax system and rigged it even further in favor of the ridiculously rich. Congress could and should do something about that.

2. The News & Observer reports that two rival “ministry” groups, both seemingly dedicated to providing Bible studies and counsel to legislatures across the country, are trading lawsuits and ugly charges in a turf war that almost certainly wouldn’t exist if large donations were not at stake. California-based “Capitol Ministries” is led by former professional basketball player Ralph Drollinger, who once drew criticism for saying that women who seek public office when they have small children at home are sinful. His organization operates in California, D.C., and about six other state capitals, including the one in Raleigh, N.C. Former employees disgruntled with Drollinger pulled out and started the “Capitol Commission” as a rival group. Capitol Commission pulled in $1.1 million in donations in 2010, while donations to Capitol Ministries fell from $1.6 million to $496,000. Hence the lawsuits for all kinds of dirty tricks. And while the two “non-profit” groups besmirch the whole notion of ministry, any number of humble pastors and chaplains are more than willing to lead legislative Bible studies or prayer groups for free, no organizations or donations required.

3. The most egregious story on the ridiculosity scale, of course, is the sad tale of Todd Akin, who defended his near-total anti-abortion stance by claiming that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. The six-time congressman, who’s currently running for a senate seat in Missouri, told a St. Louis TV station that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he said. “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” Akin claimed to have gotten his information from medical doctors. “Legitimate” rape? Countering Akin’s mind-boggling mindset would be all too easy. Let’s just observe that in the case of a legitimate election, the voting body has a way of shutting things down.

Here’s hoping for some happier news this week …

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