Nel's New Day

June 21, 2015

Pope’s Climate Encyclical Enrages Conservatives

Just when it seemed that Pope Francis couldn’t do more to offend U.S. conservatives—including Catholics—after he argued for income equality, he tackled the environment. The opening lines of his new encyclical, “Laudato Si (Praised Be),” come from a 13th-century poem, “Canticle of the Creatures,” written by his namesake. “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs,” the saint from Assisi wrote. The current pope chose his namesake because of his concern for the poor, his love of peace, and his care for creation.

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” Francis wrote. “We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environment change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable that it is, can only precipitate disaster.”

He closed with progressive ideas that conservatives hate: a commitment to renewable energy, a binding agreement on carbon emissions, and an economy that throws away less and recycles more.

These are five important arguments in the pope’s document:

Climate change is real and “disturbing,” and people are the primary cause of it, primarily from “the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity.”

Technology will not save the environment because “it’s based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

There is no excuse for denying reality or playing politics, especially from business-people and elected officials who use personal gain in “masking the problems or concealing their symptoms” and “pretending nothing will happen.”

The Bible was written by an environmentalist, and “Christians in their turn realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.”

Survival comes only from changing everything.

Pope Francis Climate

The 184-page encyclical infuriated 170 members of the House—56 percent of the entire membership—who oppose the belief from 97 percent of scientists that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. In the Senate, 72 percent are climate deniers, including the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. After a draft of the text was leaked, members of the conservative Heartland Institute traveled to Rome for a “pre-rebuttal,” and GOP presidential candidates attacked the pope for being political instead of religious. Jeb Bush, the Catholic who said that religion would guide his presidency, stated. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” Another Catholic, Rick Santorum, who declared he was more qualified to discuss climate change than the pope, said,  “We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

Defacto GOP leader Rush Limbaugh complained that Francis “doesn’t even disguise” his Marxist beliefs about global warming. Fox nework Greg Gutfeld supported Limbaugh after Juan Williams tried to explain to Gutfeld that being better stewards of the planet isn’t political. Williams said:

“I think the problem for you is that you put it in a box of pure politics, left and right. What about if the Pope is simply saying… we should do all we can to support God’s green earth. Is that so radical?”

Gutfeld responded, “Um, he has a Marxist background.” That was after Gutfeld called Pope Francis “the most dangerous person on the planet.” He added, “[Francis] wants to be a modern Pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandana and he could be on Occupy Wall Street.” Gutfeld is even angry about the pope believing “that the Earth is overpopulated.” He continued, “Remember he said Catholics have to stop breeding like rabbits? Do you remember where that came from? That’s a Malthusian belief. And Malthusians believe that the Earth is overpopulated and it would be nice if there were a few billion people less. How does that happen? Global warming.” Malthusian belief is that population will be controlled by famine and disease; it seems the Gutfeld opposes the pope in order to have the controlling influence of climate change on population control.

Scientists disagree with the conservative politicians about the pope’s encyclical. Deborah Huntzinger, an assistant professor of climate sciences at Northern Arizona University, criticized only one part of the encyclical because it was simplistic, that how greenhouse gases warm the planet is more complicated. She did say that “the pope captures the science quite well.” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, noted that the only problem is that “Pope Francis is overly conservative [with respect to] the science in the encyclical” and understated some of the problems. “All of the increase in the carbon dioxide is due to fossil fuel burning and other human activities,” Mann said. Anthony Broccoli, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University, said:

“Pope Francis doesn’t have to be a scientist to arrive at these conclusions. All he would have to do is consult the extensive reports on climate change that have been written by the world’s climate scientists in a process organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These reports have been written to inform policymakers and stakeholders about the state of the science and they are a reliable source of information.”

Columnist E.J. Dionne addressed the fallacy of conservative arguments that Francis is ignoring the past and presenting “radical new doctrines.” The encyclical frequently cites Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, neither one known for being liberal, “on the limits of markets and the urgency of environmental stewardship.” As the pope writes, “opinion makers, communications media and centers of power are far removed from the poor.” Hardly a radical statement or new to the Catholic religion. The focus of his paper is “that the world’s poor face the largest threat from climate change and that the world’s rich have a special obligation to deal with it.” In focusing on the “shared responsibility for others and the world,” he brings together the connection between the personal and the political.

If the Koch brothers succeed in buying conservative Catholics with huge donations to Catholic universities, conservative Catholics may turn farther away from the pope’s positions. In 2013 the Kochs give $1 million to launch the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America (CUA), dedicated to “principled entrepreneurship” where the school’s dean, Andrew Abela, opposes public-sector unions and argues that questioning global warming or climate change is a sin.” The donation brought a letter of protest from 50 Catholic educators regarding the ultra-conservative, anti-government, anti-workers-rights, climate-change-questioning, free-market-hyping tendencies of the Koch brothers. It read in part:

“The Koch brothers are billionaire industrialists who fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship.”

CUA leaders released a press release calling the educators’ letter “presumptuous.”

Last December, the Charles Koch Foundation gave Creighton University (Omaha, NE) funds for the new Institute for Economic Inquiry. The next month, the Foundation pledged another $3 million to CUA. The Koch brothers’ donations to a secular university have allowed them to veto most of the professors that the school wanted to hire with the donation. The Catholic Church opposes the Koch brothers’ positions on shrinking the social safety net, cutting taxes, weakening environmental regulations, ending the minimum wage, and busting unions. Conservatives argue that Pope Francis is not talking about capitalism as it is practiced in the U.S., or that he simply doesn’t understand economics. David Koch supports marriage equality and abortion rights; critics of the CUA gifts have pointed out the irony of the school’s accepting massive support from him when Catholic charities are not allowed to take money from any person or group that supports abortion rights or gay rights.

There was a time when the Pope was infallible and the President of the United States deserved respect. Now conservative Catholics have set themselves above the pope’s teaching, following only the restrictive teachings against abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. They have tried to make themselves gods.

The pope says, “We are not God” and should not act as if we are “usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot.”

 

June 18, 2015

Victories Accompanied by Another Tragic Shooting

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 in Turkmen v. Ashcroft that George W. Bush officials can be sued for roundups and illegal detentions. Plaintiffs of Arab and Middle Eastern descent were held for three to eight months in New York for being “suspected terrorists” and claim that they were abused and profiled by guards and other authority figures. That decision was presented the day after 78 senators voted against torture. Twenty-one senators favor torture, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was out of town, presumably campaigning.

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans cannot force Texas to allow the Confederate flag on car license plates. The astonishing part of the ruling is the fifth justice who voted with the four liberal judges—Clarence Thomas. He also dissented with a majority in Virginia v. Black (2003), writing that cross-burning violates the First Amendment right to free speech because it “has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence.” Not all Southern states have the same concern about the state’s endorsement of racism: South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag on state capitol grounds and allows Confederate vanity license plates.

One person with South Carolina Confederate plates is the white man in a hoodie who went to a Bible study class last night in an historic Charleston (SC) church where he killed nine people with a gun he bought from the money that his father gave him for his 21st birthday. The killing was on the same date that Denmark Vesey, a former slave, was targeted for what white Charlestonians believed was a revolt. Vesey was captured on June 22 and executed on July 2.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the people, all Black, were murdered because they were Christians, and another presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, agreed with Graham. The Fox network and other conservative media are spreading the same word. To them, the location of killings in a church identifies the murder of a “war on Christians.” Fox & Friends also claimed that the deaths could have been prevented if the congregation had been armed, and they pulled in Virginia’s former lieutenant governor candidate to back them up. Known for calling the LGBT rights movement a “cancer” and President Obama as a “radical anti-American” and “anti-Christian,” E. W. Jackson urged “pastors and men in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” and host Brian Kilmeade wondered if giving pastors a gun could help with “security.” Later in the show, Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed.

Once again Fox spreads the insanity. An analysis of 62 mass public shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones found no cases in which an ordinary civilian with a gun stopped an attack although some instances showed that a gun caused the death or injury of that person.

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told an audience of social conservatives:

“There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong. But it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away, it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. I think if we understand that, we’ll have better expectations of what to expect from government.”

Paul did not give any solutions about curing the “sickness.”

confederate flagThe day after this tragedy, flags at the South Carolina capitol are at half mast—except for the Confederate flag. Gov. Nikki Haley cried at the news conference about the killings but earlier said that she didn’t think that the Confederate flag presented an image problem. Today Haley’s press secretary said that only the General Assembly had the legal authority to do something about the flag. No one from that body has responded to any requests about it. South Carolina is one of five states without a state hate crime law and celebrated “Confederate Memorial Day” last month.

South Carolina has 19 known hate groups, including two Ku Klux Klans and four “white nationalist” organizations. Of course, they aren’t “terrorist groups” because they aren’t Muslims. Six neo-Confederate groups listed include two branches of the League of the South, which advocates for Southern secession and “the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is opposed to racial integration and affirmative action “and similar measures to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people.” One of its key figures, Kyle Rogers, said, “I don’t see a legacy of oppression. Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.” Other hate groups include three neo-Nazi cells, a chapter of the racist skinhead movement Confederate Hammerskins, a branch of black separatist organization Nation of Islam, an “anti-gay” church and an anti-immigration protest group called Americans Have Had Enough.

Graham and other conservatives have been spreading the fear about foreign terrorists and claiming that the U.S. needs to go to war in order to be safe. At the same time, these people ignore heavily armed, violent domestic terrorists, many of them supported by the law. How many of these groups exist in the country is unknown because the Department of Homeland Security stopped an investigation into homeland terrorism six years ago.

Daryl Johnson, a top government counterterrorism analyst, spent six years working at Homeland Security, collecting extensive data on far-right extremist groups posing threats to people in the United States. After the first election of President Obama, these groups went farther right, and Johnson reported that radical Islam is just a small portion of the terrorism groups within the nation. He noted that five totally domestic groups considered using weapons of mass destruction during his investigation, and the same warnings were expressed by the two principal non-government groups that track domestic terrorism: the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year the SPLC listed 13 major incidents and arrests last year, almost double the annual number in previous years. In 2010, the number of hate groups topped 1,000 in 2010, for the first time in at least two decades.

After Johnson was forced out of his position, President Obama has received an unprecedented number of death threats, hate groups have gained ground, and white supremacist attacks are regularly occurring. In places such as Nevada’s Bundy ranch, terrorists successfully faced down the federal government. Congress holds hearings about Muslim extremism but says nothing about domestic terrorism. Their silence allows the extremist movement to grow as the common statement after tragedies such as the one at the South Carolina church is that the event shouldn’t be politicized and people need to have time to mourn before taking action. The only action that occurs after mass shootings at this time is an increasing laxness of gun laws.

The killer’s license plate had three Confederate flags, and the patches on his jacket were flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa with brutal segregation policies. He also shouted, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” That’s racism, not an attack on Christianity. And people with these beliefs aren’t going to change them just because Rand Paul thinks that it’s a good idea.

June 14, 2015

Christian Unjustified Paranoia Leads to Discrimination

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) may be a Catholic, but he opposes his church’s leader in climate change. Santorum thinks that Pope Francis should stay quiet about this subject because the pope isn’t a scientist. Santorum said,”I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality,” he said. Francis has an advanced degree in chemistry—which makes him a scientist.

During his interview on the Fox network, host Chris Wallace asked Santorum:

“I guess the question would be, if he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?”

Santorum answered that “there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change.”

Santorum has company in Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, who thinks that the pope’s authority lies only with faith and morals. Donohue wants Pope Francis not to talk about climate change because “no one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who proved to his personal satisfaction that climate change doesn’t exist because he threw a snowball on the Senate floor, is equally upset with Pope Francis. He said:

“Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” he said. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours…. I am not going to talk about the pope. Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”

A Presbyterian, Inhofe doesn’t need to follow the Pope’s precepts, but Santorum and Donohue should. And the pope is scheduled to speak to Congress in a little over three months.

The persecution complex of fundamentalist Christians ratcheted up when Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, a far-right mega-church leader in Texas, compared the treatment of Christians in the United States to Germany’s treatment of Jews before the Holocaust. “They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and make them objects of contempt.” Questioning from Fox’s Sean Hannity led Jeffress to add that Christians in the United States are “treated as objects of contempt by the media and once that happens then the taking away of further rights will be very easy.” Jeffress’ terror comes from LGBT rights in receiving businesses and services.

After Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order allowing refusal of services based on the provider’s religious beliefs, the “religious freedom” fans scored victories in other states. In Michigan, faith-based adoption groups can refuse to work with any couples that violate the groups’ religious beliefs. The bill was put on the state Senate’s agenda at the last minute with no notice, and the House immediately concurred. North Carolina now allows magistrates and registers of deed to recuse themselves from performing marriage duties that might violate their religious beliefs. The number of legislators required to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto was lowered because of absent legislators, some who had voted against the bill the first time. North Carolina’s bill has an interesting twist. Any North Carolina officials opting out in writing cannot perform marriage duties for the next six months, creating long delays for couples wanting to marry in rural areas. [My question is whether they still get paid.]

Although both Michigan’s and North Carolina’s laws are intended for same-sex couples, the legislation is so broad that anyone can be the brunt of discrimination. Almost 40 years ago, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, two legally blind North Carolinians, were denied a marriage license by two different magistrates because of their skin colors. This happened nine years after the Supreme Court had declared that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Person recently wrote, “The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs.” The current law gives magistrates the right to discriminate against couples because of their race, religion, divorce status—in short, anyone.

At least one presidential candidate thinks that Christian discrimination is more important than LGBT rights. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is positive that being LGBT is a choice and that LGBT people don’t suffer discrimination because they don’t have to drink out of different fountains from heterosexual people. He refused to discuss LGBT rights further, insisting that they talk about discrimination against Christians in the United States. T. Steelman wrote:

“When you have your Bibles confiscated, churches burned and gun-toting idiots protesting outside your sanctuary then you can talk about being persecuted. Nobody is stopping you from worshiping as you wish or burning you at the stake for heresy. Until they do, please just stop it.”

On his 700 Club program, Pat Robertson first explained that the death of a woman’s child was human error rather than the fault of God.  Then he explained to her that God killed the woman’s baby because he could grow up to be Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or a serial killer. According to Robertson, God deliberately terminated the baby’s life to save the world.

The Duggar story keeps growing after the revelation that the oldest of 19 Kids and Counting molested at least four of his sisters, one of them five years old at the time, and another young girl several years ago. Two weeks ago, the parents refused to let DHS talk to a child in their care after a 911 call. The refusal led to a county DHS employee calling police for help. The information was revealed after Fox’s Megyn Kelly gave a cozy interview with the parents when patriarch Jim Bob Duggar said that child molestation is common in Christian families.

The Duggars had a compelling reason for not divulging Josh Duggar’s molestation of his younger sisters. While Jim Bob was in state legislature, Arkansas passed a law that the children could not have been homeschooled if Josh were forced to register as a sex offender. Jim Bob said that he knew Josh’s actions were crimes, but he didn’t trust government-sponsored programs to help Josh.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continued to support the Duggars after the truth came out. He told Megyn Kelly that “a person is innocent until proven guilty” although Kelly said, “But he confessed.” That didn’t matter to Huckabee, who joked that he wanted to be transgender as a teenager so that he could shower with high school girls.

Another of Huckabee’s friends has also been accused twice of child molestation. John Perry, the man who co-authored several of Huckabee’s books, escaped “sustained” allegations of “sexual battery” against children because the statute of limitations had expired. Perry was ex-communicated from the Presbyterian church because he “has confessed to committing heinous and repetitive sin […] and has not shown evidence of repentance.” Perry molested one of the girls for three years.

Have you read what the religious right has written about the alleged history of former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert molesting his high school students? No? There’s a reason. The conservative religious media is staying mum on the issue: to them, it’s not really news.

People who think that separation of church and state might delight in this exchange between Australian comedian and satirist David Thorne and the self-proclaimed “School Chaplain” at his son’s school. The email exchange is five years old but priceless.

“Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins,” according to Mayor Will Rogers’ sign in Hawkins (TX). Putting the sign on public land isn’t any violation of the constitution, according to Rogers, because “Jesus is part of every major religion in the world, so you can’t pin one religion on Jesus.” No wonder U.S. ranks 14th in the world in education. I’m surprised that the nation isn’t lower.

May 29, 2015

Pataki, Santorum Widen GOP Candidate Field

Rick-Santorum-at-CPAC-638x439

The GOP presidential candidate field increased by one-third this week with former candidate Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki entering the fray. Rebranding himself without his iconic sweater vest, Santorum, a Catholic, is setting himself up as the evangelical alternative to Mike Huckabee, and the largely unknown Pataki will counter with his moderate—for Republicans—positions.

Santorum wants to move forward after unforgettable  statements on the Internet. He told an audience that President J.F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious liberty made him want to “throw up” and accused President Obama of trying to get college education for more youth to turn them into liberals. His inarticulate ramblings against marriage equality became a Google sensation:

 “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality—”

Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan interrupted Santorum:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about ‘man on dog’ with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.”

After that, Santorum stuck to showing the difference in marriages by waving napkins and paper towels. Columnist Dan Savage, however, ran a contest for a Santorum definition, the winner being “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.” Santorum continued by criticizing the Supreme Court’s right that its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas would lead to bigamy and incest. In other references he accused gays of being pedophiles and engaging in bestiality. Santorum’s incest statement is unfortunate because he is a good friend of the Duggar family, and Savage is working on a definition for “duggary.”  

Contraception is “not OK,” according to Santorum. “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” At the same time, he hates single mothers because he thinks people who “look to the government for help” give Democrats an advantage in getting votes. He believes that building two-parent families will “eliminate that desire for government.”

According to Santorum, the separation of church and state, although not in the U.S. Constitution, is “in the constitution of the former Soviet Union,” another GOP myth. Scholars have translated Article 124 of the Soviet Union’s 1947 version constitution: “In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.”

Santorum’s impassioned bombasts also led him to claim that blacks are those who get benefits from the country’s safety net. In Sioux City (IA) he told his audience, composed primarily of whites, that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later denied using the term “black,” saying he meant “blah people.” Later, he began a sentence with “We know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like – the anti-war government nig …”

Other Santorum statements:

The United States shouldn’t put women in combat because “emotions that are involved,” rendering them not fit for the battlefield. His dire predictions about letting lesbians and gays serve in the military have not come to fruition.

“The NBA” and “rock concerts” are corrupting U.S. culture, possibly because of the “blah people.”

Obamacare is like apartheid as well as a plot to kill the opposition’s voters and the “final death knell” of America. The apartheid statement was made after the death of Nelson Mandela to illustrate Santorum’s believe that people having health care in the U.S. is a “great injustice.” Santorum explained that health care is a system to “take care of the people who can vote and people who can’t vote, get rid of them as quickly as possible by not giving them care so they can’t vote against you.”

Health insurance companies should discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Santorum’s reason is the expense to the insurance company.

People who don’t have IDs are trying to rig the election. Although over ten percent of people living legally in the U.S. don’t have a government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a passport, Santorum said, “The only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.”

Consensual LGBT sex should be illegal. “We can’t have a constitutional right to consensual sexual activity, no matter what it is,” Santorum said.

The U.S. is on the path to behead religious (aka Christian) people because of their faith, because of President Obama’s “overt hostility to faith in America.” Santorum’s faith, however, supported Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky because the “conclusions … [regarding child molestation] aren’t matched by the evidence that they presented.”

Some may declaim that these comments are in the past. Last night, however, Santorum said on the Kelly File that President Obama wasn’t killing enough people because he was afraid of “blowback” from killing civilians. Santorum’s position is that if the U.S. isn’t killing enough civilians because “it’s a public relations campaign.” If he became president, Santorum said, he would order air strikes on Iran if the country didn’t open up all their suspected nuclear program facilities.

To Santorum, “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.” In his announcement speech, Rick said he wants to “drive a stake” through Common Core, junk the IRS, and institute a flat tax so that the poor pays the same percentage as Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Santorum said he worries about “anti-government rhetoric” and argued there is a place for government. “Government’s us,” he said. It’s a radical—and probably not permanent—shift from his claims that President Obama is a tyrant who “intentionally turned his back on evil and let it prosper around the world.” He has also said that the president is faking a war with ISIS to permit Christian persecution and “has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions.”  According to Santorum, business owners who refuse service to gay customers have been sent to “reeducation camps” and pastors will soon be jailed or martyred.

Every candidate needs a billionaire, and Santorum’s major donor is the same as during his last presidential run: Foster Friess, who claims that he won’t be using a super PAC which reports donors. “The money I give will be hard to track,” said Friess. The donor is memorable for suggesting that women use an aspirin for birth control by putting one between their knees.

George Pataki, who announced his candidacy the day after Santorum, is about as far from the rest of the current crowd as a Republican candidate can get. In supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S., Pataki said that the country cannot “send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains.” When signing a law to legalize marriage equality in New York, he said that the GOP’s focus on issues such as marriage equality and abortion are a “distraction” that hurt the party’s chance of retaking the White House. After the recent disastrous Amtrak derailment, Pataki called for major investments in the rail system and pushes for high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor. He is also in favor of environmental preservation efforts, abortion rights and gun control laws.

In its endorsement for Pataki’s third gubernatorial term in 2002, the so-called liberal New York Times praised Pataki’s “generally progressive stance on social issues.” This time, the NYT wrote that Pataki wants to deploy ground troops to take out ISIL and opposes government regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and promote green energy. If elected, Pataki said he would cut the federal work force by 15 percent through repealing the Affordable Care Act, ending Common Core, and curbing the “overreach” of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wants to start the federal tax code from scratch.

That that’s it for this week’s GOP presidential candidate announcements. Pataki most likely won’t win, but he’ll create an interesting dialog. Next week, watch for Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and former Texas governor Rick Perry to join the eight GOP presidential candidates.

April 25, 2015

Presidential Campaign Updates

Three declared GOP presidential candidates and almost 20 others are jostling each other with insults and geometrically increasing extremist positions to make them stand out from the crowded field. Most of their speech time is spent condemning Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic candidate at this time, but this is what they have to say in their spare time. Just a peek at how they would act if they were elected President of the United States:

Ted Cruz: “Obama is a … socialist.” Conservatives think the word socialist—actually meaning public ownership of the means of production—is a term for “stuff Republicans don’t like.”  To Cruz, however, it must mean all-time high corporate profits and stock market with the big drop in unemployment based on private-sector jobs. Cruz’s complaint that “the top 1 percent in this country … earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928” must mean “an unmitigated socialist.”

Cruz has openly attacked his two declared opponents, Paul and Rubio, for not supporting the Second Amendment. As a blogger wrote, “Let the cannibalism begin.”

Last Wednesday, two wealthy gay business hoteliers, Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, arranged a fundraising dinner; Thursday Cruz rolled out his plan to make marriage equality illegal. The first proposed bill is pretty standard for a Republican: amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage in any state that doesn’t want it. The second bill, however, is bizarre. It would ban any federal court from issuing a ruling related to marriage equality until the constitutional amendment passed. No mention was made of these proposed bills the night before, but Cruz did say, “If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much.” Reisner and Weiderpass both disavowed Cruz’s position, but they’re taking a lot of heat about the event from their customers.

In the House, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is introducing a bill to keep judges from hearing or deciding “any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has countered with a bill to restrain King from introducing bills and made a statement about King’s long record of outrageous racist and other inflammatory remarks–ending “anchor babies” and describing undocumented immigrants as having “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they were smuggling drugs.”

Cruz may have found his billionaire supporter in Wall Street hedge-fund magnate  Robert Mercer who made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market.  Oregonians remember Mercer as the man who bankrolled Art Robinson’s attempt to unseat Rep. Peter DeFazio. Robinson, known for his opposition to scientific viewpoints about evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste, is now collecting urine samples from people across southeastern Oregon in an experiment about curing cancer.

With the highest percentage of missing votes in the Senate—10.4 percent—Cruz also skipped the vote on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General for a fundraiser in Texas. He also missed the vote on the Keystone Pipeline while fundraising in California. (Rubio is second in missed votes with 8.2 percent.)

Rand Paul: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are President Obama’s “lapdogs,” said Paul in response to the two war hawks accusing Paul of naivete. from the two war hawks. McCain and Graham are actually contemptuous of the president’s foreign policy because he won’t attack more nations and start more wars: the president is more like Paul until as Paul advocates a huge increase in defense spending and more strikes against ISIL.

Paul is over 50 years old, but he still struts around in his shades trying to look “cool” with his shades. The inclusion of “Rand branded Raybans” in his campaign store, however breaks the law just as Paul’s plagiarism may have. The glasses are gone after a Rayban made a formal request that Paul remove the glasses from the store and “cease any further use of our trademarks.”

Paul’s revelation that he had found a Hillary Clinton scandal so terrible that her campaign would be wrecked fizzled after Peter Schweizer admitted that he had no proof for his allegations in his book, Clinton Cash. Now Paul is begging for information about Clinton scandals on his website and through Twitter.

Paul wants to terminate programs for the elderly such as Meals on Wheels and let old people depend on the “nobility of charity.” He also wants to destroy more federal agencies than Rick Perry did, eliminating all federal funding for education—even school lunches. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security also fits into his agenda.

Paul wrote the piece lauding the Koch brothers on Times’ 100 most influential list, praising their “generous philanthropic efforts” and their consistent lobbying “against special-interest politics.” The brothers developed the pledge “No Climate Tax” to combat climate change, signed by over 450 federal and state politicians including Rand Paul. Thirty-six of 48 Koch Industries lobbyists in 2013-2014 had held government jobs in the past. Here’s a partial list of the special-interest groups that receive millions from the Koch brothers. And they plan to donate almost $1 billion to elect a GOP president in 2016.

Marco Rubio: The $85 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler was not the “right way” for the federal government, but “our auto industry is important.” The bailout actually saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the industry bounced back. It was an effective action, but Rubio still thinks that the successful policy wasn’t “the right way to handle it.” Everyone can agree and disagree with Rubio’s statements because he takes both sides with the same breath.

A few other self-avowed “undeclareds”:

Mike Huckabee: “I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.” In other words, Huckabee is telling young people to not join the military in an attempt to weaken security for the United States.

Huckabee claims that the backlash to Indiana’s law permitting discrimination is proof that liberals hate all Christians. He also says that the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality will be moot because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two.”

Bobby Jindal: Despite watching the debacles in other states attempting to legalize discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, Jindal wants one of his own. IBM has asked Jindal to change his position because the law creates a “hostile environment” in the state that is already in dire financial straits. Jindal refused and thinks he can solve his fiscal problems with an 82-percent cut for higher education. Louisiana is already in the top ten least educated states in the country and almost last in the annual education report card issued by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. College professors get about $16,000 less than the national average salary. Jindal explains his low approval rate—27 percent—by saying that it’s dropped by 15 to 20 points because he cut spending and took on the teacher unions. That was his campaign platform in a deep red state; he did exactly what he told the voters he would do.

Rick Santorum:  As president, the former senator would force children to read the Bible, force pregnant rape victims to give birth, stop birth control, and keep mothers at home. He thinks that people misunderstood the Crusades, Palestinians don’t exist, and President Obama wants a secular theocracy. It’s an oxymoron: theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god, and  secular is not subject to or bound by religious rule.

Scott Walker: Wisconsin’s current governor is such a disaster that his actions require several books to explain, but, using Wisconsin as a model, the U.S. would get higher employment and deficits if Walker were president. From January 2011 to January 2015, Wisconsin was 35th in job growth, compared to a national average of 8.21 percent. (Other governors considering the White House have the same problem: Jindal’s Louisiana is 32nd, and Chris Christie’s New Jersey is 40th.) Walker, with a two-year deficit as high as $2 billion, has cut $300 million for higher education on top billions in previous education cuts. Without a college diploma, he may consider education to be superfluous. In his home state, his disapproval rate is 56 percent.

After the New York Times published an article accusing Hillary Clinton of exchanging favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation, Mitt Romney’s commented, “It looks like bribery.” He missed the facts. As Secretary of State, Clinton had nothing to do with the review of the Uranium One deal, and nine separate U.S. agencies, including departments of Treasury, Justice and Commerce, were part of the process. The donation to the Clinton Foundation occurred in early 2008, a year before Clinton became Secretary of State. As NBC news wrote, “[U]pon reflection, that Times article doesn’t hold up that well 24 hours after its publication.” All the discussion was on “perception” or “narratives.”

Deficits, high unemployment, lack of personal freedom, poor education, corruption, illegal activities, lying, bigotry, war—which one do you pick for president?

March 19, 2015

Netanyahu Denies Racism That Elected Him

How far will GOP presidential wannabes go to pander to the crazies? When the crazies started talking around John McCain during his run in 2008, he shut them down. Not Rick Santorum. At Frank Gaffney’s South Carolina National Security Action Summit last week, a woman unleashed her venom against President Obama:

“Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this Communist dictator destroy my country? Y’all know what he is and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House; he’s not a citizen; he could have been removed a long time ago…

“Ted [Cruz?] told me I’ve got to wait for the next election. I don’t think the country will be around for the next election. Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago! And the three admirals, and generals. He has totally destroyed our military. He’s fired all the generals and all the admirals that said they wouldn’t fire on the American people.”

Santorum sidestepped the vitriol by saying it wasn’t his fault because he wasn’t in Congress any more. He refused to question the woman’s rants, instead saying that he can “absolutely agree” about the “complete lack of leadership” from the White House. Referring to immigration policy, Santorum said “the word ‘tyrant’ ” comes to mind to describe President Obama.

Eugene Robinson made an excellent observation in expressing gratitude that the self-identified retired school teacher is no longer in the classroom. A question, however, is where this woman got the idea that “Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago.”

David Weigel has the answer.  An “exclusive story,” published in 2013 on the conspiracy news site InfoWars, quoted “a high level source inside the military” about the transfer of nuclear warheads to the East Coast. The story, which moved across Facebook at least 25,000 times, also quoted Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) worry that a military build-up would lead to nuclear weapons moving through the port of Charleston.

Later that year the European Union Times, a “news” site that mixes accuracy with rumors, moved the false story along by citing a “Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today” to report that a nuclear weapon had been detonated off of Charleston’s harbor. The story’s proof was an October 8, 2013 earthquake that happened hundreds of miles from the coast. The website claimed that it was a botched “false flag” attack, carried out in the middle of the government shutdown.

Reddit discussion spread another rumor that the “false flag” attack caused the dismissal of U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Carey, Major General Charles M. Gurganus, and Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant.  Giardina was caught in a poker-rigging scheme, and Carey was removed from his job after a drunken bender in Moscow. Gurganus and Sturdevant were forced into retirement before October 2013 after an investigation into a Taliban attack in Afghanistan. None of what the woman said was true, but Santorum just accepted it.

At a Minnesota McCain town hall meeting almost seven years ago, a woman said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, he’s not uh—he’s an Arab. He’s not —. ”

McCain told his supporter:

“No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

At another town hall meeting, McCain said, “We want to fight, and I will fight, but I will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him.”

Santorum and the rest of the far-right presidential candidates remember what McCain did and how he lost the election. They also watched this week’s election in Israel when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won his election after playing his bigot cards: the day before the election, he promised that no Palestinian state would be established as long as he stayed in office. Although Netanyahu has done everything he can to bury a two-state solution since his took the formal position of supporting it six years ago, he has not come out with any declaration against it until he was in danger of losing the election.

To cement his election, Netanyahu ran an ad that “Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes.” He accused “left-wing NGOs [of bringing] them in buses.”  During his campaign, Netanyahu accused foreign governments of undermining his leadership with non-governmental organizations (NGO).

Thomas Friedman wrote about the Middle East:

“It is hard to know what is more depressing: that Netanyahu went for the gutter in the last few days in order to salvage his campaign—renouncing his own commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians and race-baiting Israeli Jews to get out and vote because, he said, too many Israeli Arabs were going to the polls — or the fact that this seemed to work.

“The fact is a good half of Israel identifies with the paranoid, everyone-is-against-us, and religious-nationalist tropes Netanyahu deployed in this campaign. That, along with the fact that some 350,000 settlers are now living in the West Bank, makes it hard to see how a viable two-state solution is possible anymore no matter who would have won.”

J Street vice-president for communications, Alan Elsner, said that the pro-Israel, pro-peace organization fears the newly-elected prime minister will have to deal with the consequences of his claims. Elsner said that “suggesting that Arab citizens who have the right to vote are somehow a threat to Israel because they exercise their democratic right is outrageous” and Netanyahu tried “to scare his own supporters to go to the polls … in a disgusting, racist way.” He added, “If he walks back from it, he’s really going to enrage his right-wing supporters, and if he doesn’t walk back from it, he’s going to enrage the international community. Either way, neither constituency is going to believe him because he’s shot his credibility.”

Today Netanyahu “shot his credibility.” In his first interview since the election, he said:

“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change.”

He denied that he had changed his position from Monday’s comments when he explicitly eliminated the possibility of a Palestinian state. “I haven’t changed my policy,” he said. “What has changed is the reality.”

Netanyahu’s latest statement came after the White House suggested that the U.S. could stop protecting Israel with the UN and other international organizations if the country failed to commit to a two-state solution. The U.S. might even recognize a Palestinian state. White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned that the foundation for its policy for supporting Israel had been “eroded,” indicating that the U.S. would “need to re-evaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward.” Earlier Earnest had again denounced Netanyahu’s “cynical, divisive election-day tactics” and condemned the prime minister’s incendiary remarks about the Israeli Arab voters.

Friedman had predicted—correctly—that “Netanyahu could reverse himself tomorrow” and quoted Yediot Ahronot columnist Nahum Barnea who described the prime minister’s promises as something “written on ice on a very hot day.” As Friedman wrote, however:

“The fact is a good half of Israel identifies with the paranoid, everyone-is-against-us, and religious-nationalist tropes Netanyahu deployed in this campaign. That, along with the fact that some 350,000 settlers are now living in the West Bank, makes it hard to see how a viable two-state solution is possible anymore no matter who would have won.”

Friedman also addressed the problem of Iran, writing that additional sanctions on Iran, as critics of President Obama want, are useless because the Middle East only reacts to regime changes. The U.S. tried—and failed—with this tactic in Afghanistan and Iraq. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big U.S. land army into the Middle East “should have his head examined.”

The question is why the United States is fighting, for the third time in less than 15 years, a war on behalf of Iran. The U.S. destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (2002) and Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab World (2003), leaving a vacuum in Iraq and the Sunni Arab world. Now Iran’s proxies dominate Beirut, Damascus, Sanaa and Baghdad. As terrible as ISIS is, the Sunni Arab response to the U.S. defeat of Sunni Arabism is “the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq,” according to Friedman. By fighting ISIS, the U.S. is again hoping that the Shiite militias will rule better, an idea that has failed for over a decade.

Today marks two grim anniversaries: the 12th anniversary of U.S. preemptive war on Iraq and the 5th anniversary of the NATO intervention in Libya. Both overthrew Arab dictators; both left the local people in such horrific straits that many of them look back with nostalgia to the days of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi.

Now war against Iran is backed by 47 percent of the U.S. Senate and the new Israeli prime minister who appears to lead the U.S. House.

[Note: To the people who claim that anti-Netanyahu is anti-Israel, ask them if being anti-President Obama is anti-American.]

March 16, 2013

Nothing New from CPAC

March is Brain Injury Month with the past week, March 9-16, labeled Brain Awareness Week. During the same week, conservatives met in Maryland at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Studies of the human brain have shown that conservatives are authoritarian and resistant to change. The speeches of those who are trying to move the Republicans toward an election victory in 2014 and 2016 through greater conservative actions resemble dinosaurs’ trying to cope with a changing world.

CPAC organizers claim that the purpose of the event is to “showcase the movement’s ‘diversity.'” They’re making progress with 20 percent of the panelists being African American avoiding last year’s white nationalists from the American Conservative Union. This year, however, they refused to allow two LGBT conservative groups, GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans, to attend, showing a farther move to the right.

Even the names of CPAC’s panels show the group’s clueless hostility and ignorance:

  • Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?
  • The Future of the Movement: Winning with Generation X/Y
  • Stop THIS: Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander and Bullying from the Obama Administration
  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food, & Big Gulp Sodas
  • Is America Coming Apart?
  • The Fight for Religious Liberty: 40 years after Roe v. Wade
  • Getting Hollywood Right
  • Free at Last: When the Right to Work Came Back to the Midwest

CPAC gave Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) an opportunity to push his budget plan as one “trying to improve people’s lives.” This plan is rooted in air and fantasy; past experiences and economists’ expertise prove that cutting taxes will fail to increase revenue and build the economy.

Despite its claim to move toward the future, CPAC invited all the old faces. (Think “lean backward.”) Mitt Romney, ignored by Fox News, told his audience to “learn from my mistakes” and to look to purple- and blue-state GOP governors for guidance. His role model governors, such as Chris Christie (NJ) and Bob McDonnell (VA), weren’t even invited to CPAC because they had accepted federal funding. At least Romney didn’t mention Scott Walker (WI) who lost jobs in his state after he promoted disastrous legislation and Rick Snyder (MI) who is destroying democracy through his appointment of emergency financial managers.

Gov. Rick Perry (TX) continued to attack Romney for not being conservative enough but got boos from his audience when he mentioned the changing Hispanic demographic. He saved himself by saying that the GOP could win over this population through its economic message, not through immigration.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), tired of the “crybaby caucus,” said he wanted his party to move forward but continues his same old pattern of trying to get rid of Obamacare. “Don’t tell me Democrats are the party of the future when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the ‘Golden Girls,’ ” 71-year-old McConnell said in combined agism and sexism as he referred to Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden.

Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) indicated the usual GOP ignorance of climate change. To Scalise, the fact that President Obama wore a trench coat at his inauguration shows that the world has no climate warming. GOP strategist Ford O’Connell repeated the GOP conclusion regarding success in winning voters: “You’re going to have to repackage [issues] and explain to people why that impacts them.”

Rick Santorum worked at the repackaging. In lamenting the problems of the poor, he said, “Yet the suffering is greater today because our culture and our political leadership have robbed them of the why of America–our purpose.” Translation: with the conservative “why of America,” people won’t mind lack of food and health care. 

Donald Trump set the tone for the second day, calling immigration reform a “suicide mission” for Republicans because “everyone of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic.” He argued that the U.S. should open the borders to the “tremendous” and “hard-working” European immigrants. Few people heard him, however, because of the largely empty room—sort of like an empty chair at the GOP convention.

trump room

Not everyone verbalized the continuance of old, failed ideas. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told conservatives to get over their “obsession with zeros” and stop focusing only on the federal budget, arguing Republicans must take a broader view in order to succeed. Let’s remember, however, Jindal is the governor trying to move all taxes for government from the wealthy and the corporations to the poor.

Six years out of public office, Jeb Bush tried to move the party forward: “Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs because those voters feel unwanted, unloved and unwelcome in our party.” Once again, GOP love may not make up for lack of rights and equality.

Fortunately for the Democrats, Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and his policy that the party needs to move farther right won the straw vote with 25 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) followed him by 23 percent. The next three places were taken by Santorum, the uninvited Christie, and Ryan. That left the remaining 17 on the ballot to share the leftover 31 percent. At 10th, Sarah Palin got 3 percent with the other four women garnering another 4 percent.

This is the field:

NH Senator Kelly Ayotte
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
Ohio Governor John Kasich
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul
Indiana Governor Mike Pence
Texas Governor Rick Perry
Ohio Senator Rob Portman
Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott
South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

CPAC doesn’t represent the entire Republican Party, but it is a powerful force in getting their candidates into, and sometimes winning, primaries. Once into Congress, they drive the GOP leadership crazy with their truculent intransigence. And their anti-women, anti-people of color, anti-LGBT, and anti-youth, anti-union, and anti-middle class policies make them less and less electable.

Looking at the above list, I’ll stick with the “golden girls.”

December 2, 2012

Christians Deal with Christmas, Demons, Oil

Usually on Sunday when I write about the ignorance of religious folks who want to suppress freedom for everyone else, I’s the one who gets riled. This Sunday, I’m betting that millions of Christians are equally upset with Fox News. Last Wednesday night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly insisted that Christianity is not a religion, trying to protect Christmas from American Atheists president David Silverman. O’Reilly also accused the organization of being “fascists” who, O’Reilly claimed, want to banish Christmas from the United States.

After calling Silverman “insane,” O’Reilly finished his oration about religion versus philosophy by saying, “Again if you are stone-cold dumb and don’t understand the difference between an organized church and a philosophy, I cannot help you.” The conservative host added that those who believe Christianity is a religion “are so stupid, it’s painful.”

Christmas trees are a secular symbol, according to O’Reilly. Actually they are  pagan symbols, worshiped before Christianity in Druidic ceremonies and also during the Roman Saturnalia. For a very funny perspective on Christmas and Christianity, check out this blog on Addicting Information.   

Like O’Reilly, Kentucky hates atheism, so much that the state made it illegal. A state homeland security law requires residents to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God–or risk 12 months in prison. Since the law went into effect in 2006, the state’s Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality.

Because “the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God,” plaques celebrating God’s power must be installed outside the state Homeland Security Building. Law mandates that these plaques state “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.” Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative, sponsored the law.

Pat Robertson doesn’t believe in separation of church and state although he claims religious exemptions for political activity, and he thinks that people who believe in evolution are atheists, “… contrary to the First Amendment.” But he does think that the world is older than 6,000 years, contrary to The Annals of the World written in 1650 by Archbishop of Ireland James Ussher. Yet 46 percent of pastors insist that Ussher is right. So does Sarah Palin. And probably so does GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, putting Robertson to the left of all these politicians.

Robertson hasn’t said what he thinks about a theory espoused by the Christian magazine Charisma: people are gay because they have sex with demons. Demons have become a popular part of far-right Christianity. The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a global network of Charismatic Christian ministries devoted to Dominionism, the idea that they must take over public institutions in order to save America and the world from demons and gays.

Bruce Wilson, who’s reported on the movement for years, said,

“For the apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation, demon powers, and also divine curses — incurred by human unfaithfulness to God’s plan, are at the root of virtually any and all conceivable misfortunes, from crime trends, drops in the stock market, and declining SAT scores, to headaches and dandruff. I mean that literally.”

Followers of and others with strong relationships to NAR include several presidential candidates and wannabes: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry to name a few. Heads of state in Uganda who want to legalize the murder of LGBT people also belong to NAR. Detroit, the financial markets, and Native Americans are all controlled by demons, according to NAR, as is your own head. Demons are the source of migraine headaches and probably impure thoughts.

For those who wish to help the world and worship God, the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation has a solution: extravagantly waste the Earth’s resources. They claim that there is no global warming and that restricting use of energy hurts the poor. Therefore they proclaim the following—and a lot more: “We call on political leaders to adopt policies that protect human liberty, make energy more affordable, and free the poor to rise out of poverty, while abandoning fruitless, indeed harmful policies to control global temperature.” As the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer said, using fewer fossil fuels is an insult to God.

The final jewel in this Sunday’s sermon is the work that ex-presidential candidate Rick Santorum is doing on Capitol Hill. He and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) are lobbying Senate to reject the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This human rights treaty was negotiated during George W. Bush’s administration and ratified by 126 nations, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. (This might not be “religious,” but it’s certainly “anti-Christian”!)

Both Santorum and Lee have pronounced “grave concerns” about the treaty, which forbids discrimination against people with AIDS, the blind, those in wheelchairs, etc. “This is a direct assault on us,” Santorum declared. The treaty directs the other signatories to update their laws to closely match the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would extend American values worldwide and guarantee disabled people equal treatment and freedom from torture and exploitation.

Far from being sinister, the treaty has the support of disabilities and veterans groups; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Republican senators such as John McCain (AZ) and John Barrasso (WY); and conservative legal minds such as Boyden Gray and Dick Thornburgh.

Santorum claims that he has 36 senators who will oppose signing the treaty; treaties require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. It is well-known that his daughter, Bella, has a severe birth defect. He even brought Bella to a Senate hearing to show them why they should vote against a treaty that will help people with disabilities.

Santorum justified his opposition by saying that other countries wouldn’t actually enforce the provisions. “It does not provide any moral leadership,” he said. This is the man who fought to lead our country into the medieval ages. ,

 

September 25, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part One

For the past two weeks, I haven’t had the opportunity to receive any news except through the CNN and Fox filters.  Watching these stations makes me realize how fortunate I am in having the variety of news from the Internet and other cable stations. They concentrated purely on the discovery that Mitt Romney called 47 percent of the people in the United States “freeloaders,” people that he doesn’t represent, and then accused President Obama of being a notorious income redistributer because of a vague 14-year-old speech. The two stations also continued to make great hay out of the tragedy in Libya as Fox reporters tried to convince the public that throwing gas on a fire is the best way to control it.

Now they’re probably skipping more news, concentrating on the sports crisis of substitute referees, employed because of the three-week-old labor dispute between the NFL and the regular officials, that caused, in the opinion of many fans, the Seattle Seahawks’ defeat of the San Francisco Packers last night after what some people determined as a bad call. (Probably not the Seahawks’ fans!)  It was enough to make Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) believe in unions–at least for referees. 

Update: Yes, it’s the Green Bay Packers! Mea culpa. I know more about unions than I do sports–which was my point here!

But now I have great sources such as Addicting Information, Alternet, and Care. Therefore during the next few days, I’ll recap some of the news that I’ve missed. There’s not room for much detail so I’ll provide links to more information.

Media:

Rupert Murdoch, owner of far-right media such as Fox and Wall Street Journal, was so convinced in the errors of the polls showing President Obama ahead of Romney that he paid for his own polls. The Fox polls showed President Obama leading Romney by seven points in both Ohio (49 to 42 percent) and Virginia (50 to 43 percent). President Obama leads by five points (49 to 44 percent) in Florida. Fox News either ignored the polls’ results or explained that they had no validity.

Rush Limbaugh saw an Italian study showing that penises are now “10% smaller.” He blames the shrinking on “feminazis.”

Congress:

Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) adjourned the House of Representatives until after the November election, having accomplished only a six-month extension of the nation’s budget. It is the earliest adjournment by the House of Representatives in a general election year in fifty years!

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has won “Most Corrupt Award” from the non-partisan watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington). He has used his unlimited subpoena power to persecute Attorney General Eric Holder for almost a year. Holder’s release 7,600 pages from 46 separate dumps and his testimony to the House on seven separate  situations have not satisfied Issa. At the same time Issa refused to comply with subpoenas in the Roger Clemens’ steroids and Duke Cunningham bribery cases. CREW also cited Issa for illegally revealing confidential information from a sealed wiretap in the Congressional Record and then shielding himself from reproach and censure by claiming that, as a member of Congress, he had constitutional protections for his unethical actions. The watchdog group concluded “that the committee was seeking fodder for a political agenda to embarrass the attorney general and, through him, President Barack Obama.” The New Yorker has far more information about Issa in a January 2011 article.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), notorious for his statement that women who are really raped can’t get pregnant, was caught on tape in May at a Fair Tax Kansas City Meeting saying that he will sell favors to people who contribute to his current senate campaign. “I’m in a three way primary for the U.S. Senate. I’ve gone to people and asked for their support, their help, or their endorsement and some people say yes. They write me a decent check. I remember that… You remember who’s helping you. That’s one way that people get to know Congressmen and Senators.” Today was Akin’s last day to remove himself from the senate campaign, something he won’t do although such Republican luminaries as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have consistently asked for him to do this.

Voting:

Thirty states will have started early voting by the end of September, with one-third of all ballots being cast this way before the actual Election Day on November 6.

New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.

Melissa Harris-Perry said that 34 million women in Pennsylvania may have trouble voting because they changed their names after they married. The voter ID law requires all these women to present two forms of identification: the state voter ID issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and a separate government-issued ID or driver’s license.  “There’s officially a tax on being a woman in Pennsylvania if you want to vote,” Harris-Perry said. Each of the state’s 31,000 individual poll-workers can enforce the law at their discretion.

A week ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a district court judge to look again at his decision saying the voter ID law passed muster. The judge must determine whether it is realistic to expect state’s Department of Transportation to be able to issue photo ID cards to people who do not currently have them in time for the November 6 election, a number estimated from 100,000 to 1.6 million. If the lower court decides that getting the required photo-ID will be subject to back-ups and other problems that results in disenfranchisement, the high court says the judge must block the law from going forward. At the very least, that would put it off until the next election. Two justices dissented, arguing that the evidence is already clear that the law presents onerous problems for obtaining IDs within the time-frame available. 

Romney’s Campaign:

“We use Ann [Romney] sparingly now, so that people don’t get tired of her–-or start attacking.” This quote came from the same private fund-raiser event when Mitt Romney said that he wasn’t interested in 47 percent of the people in the United States. Evidently Romney’s wife is just a prop to make him look better.

On the Diane Rehm Show (9/24/12), Bay Buchanan, a Romney campaign advisor, told guest host Susan Gage that the campaign needs to “pick off” women from Barack Obama supporters to increase support for Romney. Like Ann Romney, other women are objects, not humans.

Tim Pawlenty resigned last week as co-chair of the Romney presidential campaign to become CEO of The Financial Services Roundtable, a banking lobby that represents Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and other financial companies that represent over $92 trillion dollars in assets. Part of his new job is to get rid of the Dodd-Franks rules to protect the U.S. economy from banks and take the country back to the time of George W. Bush.

In Romney’s infamous May 17 speech when he described the elderly, veterans, disabled, and others who don’t pay taxes as moochers, he had other noteworthy statements to his private audience. Referencing a possible pre-election disaster such as the Carter hostage situation, “I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.” About Mideast peace, “And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.” Romney talked about when he traveled with Bain Capital to buy a factory in China that employed “about 20,000” young women.

About Latino voters and Elizabeth Warren, Romney said, “And had [my dad] been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this… [Donor: “Pull an Elizabeth Warren!”]…That’s right I could go out and say—for those who don’t know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who’s running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee…”

Mitt Romney Gaffes:

The presidential candidate is upset because airplane windows don’t open.

Romney appeared to be several shades darker when he appeared on Univision, a media company serving Hispanic America.  He also threatened not to attend the Hispanic interview unless he was allowed to pack the audience with his local supporters. He allegedly “threw a tantrum” after an introduction that he was allotted 35 minutes and the president would have a full hour the next night. He came out on stage after a new introduction was taped.

Anti-Obama Propaganda:

An anti-Obama film falsely claiming, among other things, that President Obama’s biological father is Frank Marshall Davis, an African-American communist, has been mailed across the country to millions of voters, including 1.5 million in Ohio. The film’s director and producer, Joel Gilbert, did not say how the company is funded to distribute so many free disks.

Good News:

California has passed a bill that will “authorize a registered nurse to dispense specified drugs or devices upon an order issued by a certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant if the nurse is functioning within a specified clinic. The bill would also authorize a registered nurse to dispense or administer hormonal contraceptives in strict adherence to specified standardized procedures.”

“We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”—Rick Santorum

More tomorrow!

April 12, 2012

Santorum Leaves a Pink Bowling Ball

Whenever I went on a vacation for a couple of decades, it seemed someone important to the future of the world resigned—like Supreme Court justices—or died–like some legislators, who were disappeared from this earth under suspicious circumstances. The same thing happened earlier this week. I was gone for only two days, and Rick Santorum “suspended” his campaign. And just when I was ready to put together more of his outrageous statements!

I can’t resist one last story. Less than two weeks before his family values speech about how he’s leaving the campaign for his family, showing what a good husband and father he is, Santorum had some fatherly advice for a college student at a Lacrosse (WI) bowling alley. When the young man reached for a pink bowling ball, Santorum said, “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.” Not satisfied with what he had already said, he continued, “Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.” Thus the man obsessed by bullies, calling Mitt Romney a “bully” and unions “bullies” and accusing New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny of trying to “bully” him, shows his bullying nature, just like a school kid, who thinks that pink is only a female or gay color.

Although Santorum has to join the one big happy family of Republican life, his stories about Romney will follow him. Santorum has continually called the presumptive Republican presidential candidate a liar and an ultimate flip-flopper. He also told his adoring crowds that they might as well re-elect Obama as vote for Romney and finished that statement off by saying that Romney is the worst Republican in the country. Approached by Zeleny about that claim, Santorum lost his temper and shouted an expletive at Zeleny.

Santorum also sneered at Romney for being a “Wall Street financier.” This claim will be hard for Romney to live down because his super PAC, Restore Our Future, gets over half its money from the financial industry, $20.5 million out of the $43.2 million thus far raised. Newt Gingrich got $16 million from Sheldon Adelson; now the candidate is broke. Santorum got only $1.7 from Wyoming investor who now promises to pass his money along to Romney but managed another $5 million from other donors to his super PAC. Adelson has hinted that his money will go to Romney if Gingrich ever gets around to quitting.

One of Santorum’s claims might get Romney some votes from independents. “He created the blueprint for Obamacare and advocated for exactly what Obamacare is, which is a mandated health insurance program…it is exactly the Massachusetts health care plan. …He is uniquely disqualified.” Those who like the Affordable Care Act would disagree.

The one statement that will stick to Romney throughout his campaign, coming from one of his aides but widely repeated by Santorum, is the “Etch-a-Sketch Candidate.” Santorum said, “Governor Romney, after he wins the primaries, will be like an [Etch A Sketch]–you take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone, and he’s going to draw a whole new picture for the general election.”

In his 1919 essay “Hamlet and His Problems,” T.S. Eliot suggested that using a concrete thing to represent an abstract idea would cement the concept in the brain, like stereotypes that relieve people of the need to think. Hearing the term “etch a sketch” automatically brings up the image of Romney wiping out all his past statements and coming up with new, probably very different, policies. Too, the excessive comparison of  broccoli to health care, even by Supreme Court Justices, creates an equity between these two in many people’s minds, allowing them to negate the importance of health care.  The GOP tried to do the same thing with women and caterpillars, but that attempt seems to have backfired.

Ironically, Santorum’s legacy—in addition to the disgusting definition for his name acquired after he compared homosexuality to bestiality—may be the pink bowling ball. Whether he believes that the color pink is associated with being gay or being female doesn’t matter. What matters is that his rigidity in color choice for men shows his sense of superiority to both these groups. [Note: sportswear might capitalize on the “pink” concept!]

Beyond choosing the “right” color for a bowling ball, however, is evangelicals’ decision regarding their votes for U.S. president in 2012. Will they settle for the fake Santorum, or will they just let Obama win, waiting for Santorum to run again in 2016? After all, he left the door open for this choice.

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