Posts Tagged ‘current events’

I don’t see how you can be President without a relationship with the Lord.
-President George Bush, 2005

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The second coming of Christ is everything that I’m living for. I hope the rapture comes tomorrow.
-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, 2007

America has no King but Jesus
-Attorney General John Ashcroft, 2004

The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian Nation
-Official platform, GOP, Texas

Apparently some people think it can’t happen here in America – at least according to many of the comments on the various places my last article appeared. (See part one: “What will happen when the Christian right takes over”.)

Well, let’s discuss this.

Can you think of other examples throughout world history in which fundamentalist, right-wing, religious extremists have gained images-210power and plunged their country into a dark ages-like society of ignorance, oppression and fear? I’m sure you can – I can think of probably eight examples right now, without even using Google. So why couldn’t this happen here? All it takes are four ingredients, all of which are present right now in America.

1. A large group of religiously inspired fundamentalist leaders who are committed to seeing their religious texts made to be the law of the land. Check.

2. A large group of religiously inspired citizens willing to follow and support said powerful people. Check.

3. A perceived enemy. Check.

4. A persecution complex. Check.

Let’s briefly take these one at a time:

A large minority of religiously inspired fundamentalist leaders who are committed to seeing their religious texts made to be the law of the land.

images-211Dominionism, as I’ve written about previously, simply means that Christians have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society and to govern solely in accordance with Biblical law. These Christians believe that until we have a theocracy, Jesus will be delayed in His return.

In short, Jesus will come only after Christians succeed in establishing Christian rule over the earth.

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.
-George Grant, executive director of D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, in “The Changing of the Guard.”

Let’s go back to 2005. By that time, the Christian right was well on its way to gaining control. James Dobson and his ilk had succeeded in bringing their brand of fundamentalist Christianity from the fringes of American life to the heart of political power.

images-212By 2005, 42 out of 100 US senators were entirely supportive of the Christian right agenda, holding ratings of 100 percent from the Christian Coalition. Extreme fundamentalists entered the US Senate, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (calling for the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions) and Jim DeMint (wanting to ban unmarried pregnant women from teaching in public schools). Fundamentalist Christian theology was already driving our federal policy on medical research (with the ban on stem cell research), sex education (which the government decreed should focus exclusively on abstinence), and US foreign policy in the Middle East (where an important driver of US policy was the need to have Jerusalem in the hands of the Jews in order to satisfy a biblical condition to the second coming of Christ). The federal government was channeling billions in taxpayer funds to evangelical organizations.

And new legislation was being introduced almost weekly. A few examples, among hundreds: Have you heard of the Constitution Restoration Act? This law would have prevented federal courts from hearing church/state separation cases. Seriously. How about the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would have allowed tax-exempt churches to engage in partisan political activity?

And all this has continued, and it has actually picked up speed.

Did you know that there are many Christians, including in government, who believe that all Old Testament punishments, includingNew-Fundamentalism stoning, should be restored?

Did you know that in Oklahoma, to name just one example, most state-wide executive offices are held by evangelicals, along with over 85% of the legislature? And most of them support the entire agenda – criminalization of homosexuality, adultery and blasphemy (seriously!), the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions, reinstatement of mandatory school prayer, a requirement that Genesis be taught in science classes – all based on the Bible as ultimate law. They call their vision of America a “Christian Nation,” and all that stands in the way of that vision is the federal court system.

A large group of religiously inspired citizens willing to follow and support said powerful people.

73%-76% of Americans self identify as Christian.

Six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that the Bible should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people.

Seven-in-ten white evangelicals (69%) believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people and a solid majority (59%) believes that Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Significantly, those who believe that God gave Israel to the Jews and that the state of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy are much more likely than others to sympathize with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians.

An overwhelming percentage of Christians (79%) say they believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ, and fully 62% of white evangelicals say the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally.

A perceived enemy

Anti-Semitism served other totalitarian movements well, but it is currently off-limits. Communism worked for a while, but has faded as a credible threat following the fall of the Soviet Union. So which enemy did American fundamentalists choose? They picked two:

1. Secularism is the big one, which, they argue, is really a competing religion. It’s what they’ve been fighting for years.

images-2132. The “homosexual agenda.” Preachers preach that the rise of homosexuality is the surest sign of the coming end times. Conservative preachers remind the faithful over and over that the rise of homosexuality is God’s way of testing humanity – if we tolerate the abomination, then we are irrevocably lost and abandoned by God.

The official platform of the Texas Republican Party states:

Homosexuality is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

A persecution complex

robertsonA common strategy of fundamentalists the world over is to claim victimhood, and our country’s evangelical preachers have successfully tapped into the “persecuted church” paradigm. The growth of a modern, secular, and tolerant society, they argue, really is about the tyrannical suppression of Christianity, because the idea of a secular and tolerant society is inconsistent with Christian claims to dominion over civil society. In an Orwellian twist, “religious tolerance” becomes, to the right-wingers, intolerant and tyrannical. Extension of basic civil liberties to those who engage in a sexual practice that is taboo to fundamentalists becomes an attack on the Christian church in which Christians are the true victims. Permitting gays to marry becomes an attack on marriage in which married people are somehow victimized. Abortion is seen as an attack on God and, by extension, on Christians. Not allowing teachers to teach scripture as science is now “persecution” of Christians. See how this works? Basically, if they can’t have things their way, they are being persecuted.

Pat Robertson kicked this whole thing off in the early 1990’s when he stated:

Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to Evangelical Christians. It’s no different. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media, and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority group in history.

Do you hear how bizarre, how sick this thinking is? A former candidate for president asserting that the treatment of evangelical Christians by “liberal America” was more terrible than the treatment of Cambodians at the hands of Pol Pot, of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority in Rwanda, the Bosnian Muslims by the Serbs, the Jews by the Nazis, the early Christians by the Romans, the Native Americans by the Spanish, the slaves by the slave owners? Just…wow.

According to the fundamentalists, if our society does NOT base its laws on the bronze age morality found in the Christian Bible, then it’s Christians who are being persecuted and victimized.

oppression

———————————————–

So, again I ask – why do people think that religious extremists could never plunge this country into the kind of hell that’s going on in Afghanistan and so many other countries around the world? Because our extremists follow a different religion and read a different set of sacred texts?

In Salem, Massachusetts, in 1683, 83% of taxpayers stated that they “had no religious allegiance.” There is not a single mention of God in the US Constitution. And although deists and theocrats and religious dissidents of all stripes were among the earliest settlers of the New World, the political project that was America was first and foremost a project of the enlightenment, where freedom from state religion – the source of so much turmoil and tragedy in European history – was among the core objectives.

See part 3:  Lock and Load!  The new Christian Right rhetoric

By |Posted Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, at 1:54 PM

obama_syria_180pxI was in a meeting recently in Washington with a whole bunch of important people, when I heard a chilling phrase: Obama had “no good options” in Syria. It’s become a cliché. Aaron David Miller in a CNN commentary said there were “no good options” for dealing with the situation. Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast wonders if bombing Syria is America’s “best bad option.” This is how Washington talks itself into a war that has little public support and scant basis in facts or logic. It’s completely unclear how much military strikes will weaken Bashar al-Assad’s regime and also completely unclear to what extent a weaker Syrian regime serves American or humanitarian interests. Military engagement has potentially large downsides and essentially no upsides. But we can brush that all under the table with the thought that there are no good options, which makes it OK to endorse some shoddy ones.

Except, in this case, it’s total nonsense. Obama has an excellent option. It’s called “don’t bomb Syria.” Don’t fire cruise missiles at Syria either. Or in any other way conduct acts of war.

Condemn Assad’s violations of international humanitarian law. If rebels violate international humanitarian law, condemn them, too.

Work at the United Nations to get wrongdoing punished. Insofar as geopolitically driven Russian and Chinese intransigence SyriaActionprevents that from happening, accept alliance politics as a fact of life. The government of Bahrain has killed dozens of protesters since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, and America has done nothing. We haven’t cut aid to Egypt despite massacres there, and while it’s at least imaginable that we might cut aid at some point, we certainly won’t be greenlighting any cross-border attacks on the Egyptian military. We don’t have to like it when our friends in Beijing and Moscow block our schemes, but there’s no need to be self-righteous about it.

Obama’s good option would be to reread his administration’s official National Security Strategy, which sagely argues that:
[a]s we did after World War II, we must pursue a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests.
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In this case, the relevant rules are inChapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which  states that all countries have an “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense” in the case of an armed attack. Bombing Syria would not be an act of U.S. self-defense. Nor would it be an act of collective self-defense in which the United States comes to the aid of an ally. Beyond individual and collective self-defense, military action may be legally undertaken at the direction of the Security Council. In this case, direction will not be forthcoming, which is what makes Obama’s choice easy. He needs to stick with the pursuit of a rules-based international system by, in this case, playing by the rules.
a

This is a good option.

What makes it a bad option in the eyes of many is the reality that following my advice will lead to the deaths of many Syrian civilians. That is truly and genuinely tragic. On the other hand, it is by no means clear that bombing military institutions will reduce the number of civilian casualties. Historically, military intervention on the side of rebel groups has increased the pace of civilian deaths, not decreased it.

SyriaFreedomHouseMore to the point, if you put arbitrary framing issues aside, the United States stands by and does nothing in the face of human tragedy all the time. Millions of desperate people in Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere would love to escape dire poverty by moving to the United States to work, and we don’t let them. Nobody in Washington is doing anything about theongoing civil war in Congo.

One way to look at this—the heartless way—is that the United States is really good at being indifferent to foreign suffering, and that in the case of Syria, we have a pretty strong reason for indifference.

Another way of looking at it—the bleeding-heart, correct way—is that Americans ought to care more about the lives of people outside our borders. That we ought to be more open to foreign immigration and foreign trade to help bolster foreign economies. That when the Office of Management and Budget does cost-benefit analysis for regulatory measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it ought to consider the impact on foreigners. That both as individuals and as a government we ought to do more to support charities such as the Against Malaria Foundation or Give Directly that save 10 times as many innocent lives or more than humanitarian military interventions.

To be clear, the mere fact that bombing is rarely an optimal or cost-effective way of helping foreigners is not a reason to avoid 130714141043-01-syria-0714-horizontal-gallerydoing it. The reason to avoid unilateral bombing campaigns is that the pursuit of long-term peace requires the United States to play by the rules. But if reading the news or watching television and thinking about the poor Syrian civilians is leaving you so conscience-stricken that somehow allowing the civil war to continue is intolerable, then think about all the other suffering you aren’t seeing on TV. Try doing something to help some of those people. President Obama himself needs to consider that his and his senior staff’s time and attention are one of the scarcest and most valuable resources on the planet. He needs to be spending that time wisely. If he finds himself pondering a problem for which he thinks he has “no good options,” that means he ought to move on to something else—to problems for which he does have good options but where the issue itself is languishing in obscurity.

But for an unsolvable problem like Syria, the good option is the sensible one: Do nothing, and don’t start any unnecessary and illegal wars.

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Turns out a lot of Republicans love Obamacare, reports Daniel Gross. Or at least, they like coverage for their kids, health-care rebates and a ban on denying coverage for preexisting conditions.

gop_plan512The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, is starting to take effect. And here’s a shocker. While the overall legislation is wildly unpopular among Republicans—90 percent disapproved, according to a June poll—individual components seem to be catching on like wildfire among the GOP crowd.

Take, for example, the requirement that insurers continue policies to children whose parents have coverage until they turn 26. The Commonwealth Fund last week released an interesting study (PDF) of young people and Obamacare. It found that between 2011 and 2013, the number of people aged 19 to 25 who had been on a parent’s health insurance plan in the previous year rose from 13.7 million to 15 million. “Of the 15 million young adults on a parent’s plan, an estimated 7.8 million likely would not have been eligible to enroll in that plan prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the Commonwealth Fund reported. The report also found that Republicans were more into this provision of the ACA than Democrats. In March 2013, 73 percent of young Republicans surveyed had heard of the provision, compared with 63 percent of Democratic youths. Maybe it’s because they were more likely to be benefitting from the expansion. “In March 2013, 63 percent of Republican young adults had enrolled in a parents’ policy, compared with 45 percent of Democrats,” the report said.

That’s a pretty significant difference. What accounts for it? It could be that young Republicans are less likely to leave the nest and get their own jobs with benefits than young Democrats. Or it could be that Republicans simply love their kids more. But it is more likely that Republicans, being generally better off than Democrats, are more likely to have solid employer-based health insurance in the first place. The kids of well-off people don’t typically enter the workforce or the military at the age of 18. They go to college, then take a gap year, or go to graduate school, or try to get in on the ground floor of professions like media, entertainment, politics, and finance by taking a series of internships, or part-time jobs, or volunteer jobs, none of which may come with insurance. And so the (likely) Republican parents of Republican youths aren’t making their kids take out health savings plans or buy crappy high-deductible plans, or simply fend for themselves—as most Republican politicians think everybody else’s kids should do. Thanks to Obamacare, the grown-ups are putting their kids on their insurance plans.

In the old days, they used to say that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. When it comes to health insurance, it seems a liberal is a conservative who has been mugged by an illness.

Rebates are a second, apparently non-objectionable component of Obamacare that has already kicked in. The ACA set standards for the insurance industry, stipulating that firms must spend a certain amount (80 percent) of the premiums they collect on patient care. Under Obamacare, insurers that choose to spend more money on administration, or marketing, or salaries, or dividends have to send rebates to customers. This summer, the first rebates were sent out, some $500 million to 8 million Americans. Now, these rebates are likely to have been shipped disproportionately to Republican households—those with high-end, employee-subsidized coverage. But I haven’t been able to turn up any examples of people refusing thechecks, or sending them back, or burning them—an act FreedomWorks is suggesting people do to their fictional “Obamacare cards.”  Republicans, like Democrats, enjoy receiving checks in the mail.

Then there’s the case of pre-existing conditions—another aspect of Obamacare that is popular among some Republicans. In the old days, they used to say that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. When it comes to health insurance, it seems a liberal is a conservative who has been mugged by an illness. After having a devastating stroke in 2012, Sen. Mark Kirk had an epiphany about the inadequacy of rehabilitation services for poor people. “My concern is what happens if you have a stroke and you’re not in the U.S. Senate, and you have no insurance and no income,” he told National Journal. “That’s the question I have been asking, and the reality is that if you’re on Illinois Medicaid and are a stroke survivor, you will get just five visits to the rehab specialist.”

The same holds for the pre-existing condition ban. Clint Murphy, a former political operative, McCain campaign staffer, and cancer survivor turned Georgia real estate agent, recently wrote of his conversion on Obamacare. Although he had long since been cancer free, Murphy still wasn’t able to get insurance as a self-employed person. “I have sleep apnea. They treated sleep apnea as a pre-existing condition. I’m going right now with no insurance,” he said. Murphy said he can’t wait for the exchanges to bet set up in Georgia, so that he’ll be able to purchase insurance without being denied for a pre-existing condition. And even as they cavil about ripping up Obamacare, and hence the ban on pre-existing conditions, it is common to hear some Republicans speak kindly of the ban.

This is a dynamic we’ve seen over and over again in the past 80 years. Republicans shriek, cry socialism, and offer full resistance to any effort to expand social insurance. Then, after a certain amount of time passes and social insurance measures become popular and effective, they stand foursquare behind them and demand they be protected. Every single stinking component of FDR’s New Deal was a disaster, but don’t you dare touch Social Security! Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program was a debacle, but keep the government out of Medicare! Obamacare must be torn up root and branch, just don’t kick junior off my insurance plan!

It almost seems as if much of the political toxin could be removed from the debate if Republicans could somehow be kept ignorant about the party affiliation of the president who first proposed the plan.

To this point, there was a great anecdote in a recent Washington Post article about efforts to pitch state-level exchange programs at the Kentucky State Fair:

A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare. The man is impressed. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he mutters to one of the workers.

The person running the booth didn’t have the heart to tell the guy that the program he seems to like is Obamacare.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/28/why-rebublicans-are-starting-to-love-health-reform.html

climate-change_1509200cWe are going over Niagara Falls in a life raft.  We can hear the falls at this point.  Unfortunately, turning the boat around and leisurely paddling against the current will not be enough at this point.  The ice caps are already melting.  The globe is already on fire.  The islands are already drowning.  People are dying.

To my conservative friends:  This is not alarmist.  This is science.  The reason you don’t know about this and don’t believe it when you do hear about it is two-fold:

1.  The energy companies (the wealthiest corporations on earth) control the Republican Party AND they control the mainstream media, and therefore our access to information.

2.   The fundamentalists believe that God is in control, and that nothing bad will happen to this planet or to us (or to other species) that isn’t ordained by God.

So – if you’re conservative politically AND conservative religiously, you’ve got an uphill battle to fight toward truth.  You have likely bought into the lies you hear on TV and talk radio – things like “many scientists disagree that climate change is a result of human activity.”  You know what?  The scientists who say things like this are ones whose checks are signed by Mobile and friends OR by the Christian Right.  Bad things are happening, and worse things are coming, and if you’re a science-denier, you are part of the problem!

Scientists agree that a temperature increase above 1900 levels of over 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) will be problematicimages-188 – more wild fires, crazier storms, an accelerated loss of species, and more.  They also agree that a rise of over 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) above 1900 levels will be catastrophic.  We’re talking world drought, the loss of coastlines, more fires, more violent storms, billions of dollars in loss – and lots of deaths.

Today we are well on our way – we are up just a little over 1 degree Farenheit, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.  Let me say this again…we are in big trouble.  This isn’t a Hollywood movie or alarmist propaganda.  It’s science, and it’s real.

Click HERE for “A degree by degree explanation of what will happen as the earth warms up.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are  due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.  The following is a partial list of scientific organizations that have endorsed the position that we are in trouble:

AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES

GSA-emblem-with-canvass-borderStatement on climate change from 18 scientific associations:  
“Observations throughout the world make it  clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

AAAS-emblem-with-canvas-borderAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science
:  “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.”

ACS-emblem-with-canvass-borderAmerican Chemical Society
:  “Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem.”

AGU-emblem-with-canvas-borderAmerican Geophysical Union
:  “The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system — including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons — are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century.”

AMA-emblem-with-canvas-border 
American Medical Association
:  “Our AMA … supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant.”

AMS-emblem-with-canvass-border_133x75American Meteorological Society:  
“It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide.”

APS-emblem-with-canvass-borderAmerican Physical Society:  
“The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”

GSA-emblem-with-canvass-borderThe Geological Society of America:  
“The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s.”

SCIENCE ACADEMIES

International academies joint statement
:  “Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities.”

USNAS-emblem-with-canvass-border_133x75U.S. National Academy of Sciences
:  “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

USGCRP-emblem-with-canvas-borderU.S. Global Change Research Program
:  “The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases. Human ‘fingerprints’ also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice.”

INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODIES

IPCC-emblem-with-canvass-and-borderIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
:  “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.   Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is likely (greater than 90 percent probability) due to the observed increase in man-made greenhouse gas concentrations.”

wrong side of history

Money in politics 2