Archive for Religion

Feb
26

Bow your heads as we pray the Pledge of Allegiance

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The reason business interests want to undermine public education, I argue, is to get their hands on the largest portion of the annual budget in all 50 states. At Salon this morning, Thom Hartmann argues that conservatives hate public education because “it’s hard to sell the Conservative brand” to people who know their own history:

So now, thanks to the war on education that began with Ronald Raegan, we have come to that remote period in time Jefferson was concerned about. Our leaders, ignorant of or ignoring the history of this nation’s founding, make a parody of liberty and flaunt their challenges even to those rights explicitly defined in the Constitution. And, perhaps worse, they allow monopolistic corporations to do the same.

Our best defense against today’s pervasive ignorance about American history and human rights is education, a task that Jefferson undertook in starting the University of Virginia to provide a comprehensive and free public education to all capable students. A well-informed populace will always preserve liberty better than a powerful government, a philosophy which led the University of California and others to once offer free education to their states’ citizens.

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Feb
09

Wait. I got this.

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McClatchy asks an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry how the Islamic State justifies its blood lust:

They cherry-pick Quranic verses out of context, apply the most rigid interpretations of jurisprudence and excuse just about any brutality by saying they’re waging a defensive jihad on behalf of aggrieved Muslims worldwide, according to Jocelyne Cesari, a renowned scholar of Islam who’s part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s working group on faith and foreign policy.

Swap out “Quranic” with “Bible,” “jihad” with “preemptive war,” and “Muslims” with “Christians” and this could describe death penalty proponents in Texas or torture apologists across America.

See if this doesn’t sound familiar:

Q: What religious grounding does the Islamic State give for its atrocities?

A: They say they’re in survival mode. They believe that conditions for Muslims today are a danger to your soul as a Muslim. They don’t see their jihad as an attack; they see it as defensive jihad.

Wait. I got this. “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Preemptive jihad. Who’da thunk that strategery would have become so popular?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
04

A zombie faith

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It was kind of stunning, actually, to see the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson invoke “the common good” in a national newspaper, as I mentioned yesterday. Speaking of that sort of thing (like “public trust”) being so gauche and all. Pitting people against each other? Now that’s how you get ahead in politics. At least, for a certain kind of politician.

Long ago, President Lyndon Johnson explained how this conservative schtick works:

If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.

The Fox News business model, ladies and gentlemen. They’ve just expanded the palette a little.

Regarding pitting people against each other, Michael Hiltzik yesterday looked at how the Republican Congress is dealing with Social Security disability funding — not by solving the problem, but by “intensifying the crisis.” Someone must be punished, and Republicans are pretty sure it’s the Poors, the aged, and the infirm:

In practical terms, the rule change sets up a confrontation over Social Security’s finances by pitting the program’s retirees against its disabled beneficiaries and their dependents. The confrontation is totally unnecessary, because the required reallocation would have minimal effect on the old-age program. The old-age trust fund, which is still growing today and has not yet been tapped, is expected to last at least until 2034; the reallocation would make both the disability and old-age funds solvent until 2033, according to the latest estimates by the Social Security trustees.

The rule change does, however, reflect Republicans’ cherished disdain for disability recipients, whom they love to caricature as malingering layabouts. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slathered himself in iniquity last month when he told a New Hampshire audience: “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.”

Digby dealt with this at Salon yesterday, noting that at $1,130/mo on average, nobody’s living large on disability. But:

Apparently, even that’s too much. The government needs to crack down on these lazy moochers and put them to work. Back in the day they used to sell pencils and apples on street corners, amirite? And in third world countries you see plenty of horrifically disabled people making a tidy living by begging. They show the kind of gumption we are denying our paraplegics and mentally ill by molly coddling them with a poverty level stipend.

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,” the apostle wrote mockingly of false piety, teaching that faith without works is dead. But that zombie faith is much in vogue.

This morning, Stephen Richter examines the need conservative lights such as George Will have to keep flogging the welfare horse, writing:

If there is a resurgence of the level of transfer payments to welfare recipients now, that is not due to any relaxation of the standards under which people qualify for welfare. (Indeed, the bar to obtain and keep benefits remains quite high.)

Nor is it the result of some sweeping cultural degradation foisted upon the good and hard-working American people by “progressives,” as Will ultimately insists. There is little to suggest struggling Americans have become newly enthusiastic about being compelled to seek help – including from the government – to make ends meet.

That the United States is at the bottom of rankings of social mobility among OECD countries matters little to theoreticians like Will, Richter writes.

Facts be damned. Hands up as well as handouts are for the weak, and against the natural order. The Founders may have mentioned tending to the “general welfare” twice in the U.S. Constitution, but they didn’t really mean it. Social Darwinism and The Market are hungry gods.


(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Poverty, Religion
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Jan
15

Did we mention the stonings?

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On a local Facebook political page the other day, a resident conservative was fear mongering about Islam and posted the address of the local Islamic Center as evidence of something somehow threatening. It’s next door to an office where I spend a lot of time. Nice people, I replied, you should drop by sometime. And they are.

Sadly, given the Charlie Hebdo attacks and other recent events, Islam’s fundamentalists are much higher profile. I feel for myth neighbors. It’s like mentioning America and every time having someone bring up Timothy McVeigh or the Westboro Baptist Church. Having lived and worked within a few miles of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, religious fundamentalism is a topic of some interest to explore in detail when there is more time. But right now, Christian fundamentalists are not what’s news. This is:

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have publicly executed a woman accused of adultery in northwestern Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in total 14 people had been executed for alleged adultery or homosexuality in the war-torn country since July, half of them women.

It released a video showing fighters from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, tying up a woman and shooting her in a square in the town of Maaret Masirin in the province of Idlib.

Stonings. Did we mention the stonings? And it’s not just Syria:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi liberal convicted of publishing a blog, has been told he will again be flogged 50 times on Friday – the second part of his 1,000-lash sentence which also includes a 10-year jail term.

The US, Britain and other western governments had all called for the punishment to be dropped but there has been no sign of any diplomatic action against Riyadh. Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the UK government to challenge Saudi Arabia, which has ignored all protests over the case.

Badawi will be given 50 more lashes outside a mosque in his home city of Jeddah unless a Saudi prison doctor determines he is not yet fit to face the punishment owing to injuries sustained last Friday. If nothing changes, he will be flogged every Friday for the next 19 weeks.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, wonders why British authorities are so vocal about the Charlie Hebdo attacks, yet “tone everything down” when it comes to the Saudis. U.S. authorities, too, we might add.

Why is it that people who talk about faith the most seem to understand it the least?

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

Categories : International, Religion
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Jan
11

Apologies excepted

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News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch tweeted this on Friday about the Charlie Hebdo attacks:

Murdoch’s sweeping indictment of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims drew its own round of apologies for Murdoch from other Australian men, conveniently aggregated by the Independent, including this none-too-subtle rebuke:

As Vox observed, a ritual apology is expected of the Muslim world after every incident resembling the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris:

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Categories : International, News, Religion
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Nov
08

Lies we tell ourselves

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America has lost faith with itself.

Grazing on the Net this morning, one story after another pops up where a common thread is the lies we tell ourselves and the ugly truths about ourselves we struggle to hide.

Paul Krugman:

According to conservative dogma, which denounces any regulation of the sacred pursuit of profit, the financial crisis of 2008 — brought on by runaway financial institutions — shouldn’t have been possible. But Republicans chose not to rethink their views even slightly. They invented an imaginary history in which the government was somehow responsible for the irresponsibility of private lenders, while fighting any and all policies that might limit the damage.

Matt Taibbi (on securities fraud at Chase and collusion between the company and the Justice Department to cover it up):

When [Alayne] Fleischmann and her team reviewed random samples of the loans, they found that around 40 percent of them were based on overstated incomes – an astronomically high defect rate for any pool of mortgages; Chase’s normal tolerance for error was five percent. One mortgage in particular that sticks out in Fleischmann’s mind involved a manicurist who claimed to have an annual income of $117,000. Fleischmann figured that even working seven days a week, this woman would have needed to work 488 days a year to make that much. “And that’s with no overhead,” Fleischmann says. “It wasn’t possible.”

But when she and others raised objections to the toxic loans, something odd started happening. The number-crunchers who had been complaining about the loans suddenly began changing their reports. The process she describes is strikingly similar to the way police obtain false confessions: The interrogator verbally abuses the target until he starts producing the desired answers. “What happened,” Fleischmann says, “is the head diligence manager started yelling at his team, berating them, making them do reports over and over, keeping them late at night.” Then the loans started clearing …

“That’s the thing I’m worried about,” she says. “That they make the whole thing disappear. If they do that, the truth will never come out.”

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Oct
13

Watch This

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Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, argues that if Islam is a violent theology, then 99.99 percent of its 1.6 billion followers have failed to get it.

[h/t Jill Boniske]

Categories : International, Religion
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Sep
11

An economic cult

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Paul Krugman this morning writes about “the inflation cult,” doomsaying pundits and supposed economic experts who, economic rain or shine, predict that a steep rise in inflation is coming anytime now and, quite reliably, get it wrong time after time.

Part of that appeal is clearly political; there’s a reason why Mr. Santelli yells about both inflation and how President Obama is giving money away to “losers,” why Mr. Ryan warns about both a debased currency and a government that redistributes from “makers” to “takers.” Inflation cultists almost always link the Fed’s policies to complaints about government spending. They’re completely wrong about the details — no, the Fed isn’t printing money to cover the budget deficit — but it’s true that governments whose debt is denominated in a currency they can issue have more fiscal flexibility, and hence more ability to maintain aid to those in need, than governments that don’t.

And anger against “takers” — anger that is very much tied up with ethnic and cultural divisions — runs deep. Many people, therefore, feel an affinity with those who rant about looming inflation; Mr. Santelli is their kind of guy. In an important sense, I’d argue, the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the “affinity fraud” crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.

This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

Not just economists, but the country (and perhaps the entire Republican Party) seems to be in the grip of an economic cult concerned with much more than inflation — that’s just a symptom. As Krugman suggests, ethnic and cultural (and class) divisions factor into it. Digby has written repeatedly (and just yesterday) that many of the same people “have always been wrong about everything.” And yet, their followers keep listening. Conservatism never fails. It is unfalsifiable. I wrote last week that the Koch brothers’ evangelism for the their libertarian Kochification Church resembles recruiting techniques used by cults.

Hey, let’s start a meme.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
04

Like Beer? You’ll love Koch.

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Tapes and transcripts leaked recently from the Koch brothers’ annual summit meeting are filled with eye-popping details. For example, their efforts to market their free-market gospel to uninterested young people are as ham-fisted as Fox News Channel’s ill-fated 1/2 Hour News Hour. Joan Walsh writes:

“I have a big surprise for everyone here: Young people like beer,” joked Evan Feinberg of the Koch-funded Generation Opportunity. At least I think he was trying to make a joke. GenOpp is the group behind those “Creepy Uncle Sam” anti-Obamacare ads that backfired against the right. So understandably, Feinberg didn’t mention Creepy Uncle Sam, but bragged about GenOpp’s recent “Free the Brews” campaign, which used his generation’s interest in craft brewing to advance the Kochs’ deregulation agenda.

They hope to use phony interest in beer and food trucks to entice young people into trying Koch. Essentially, this is GenOpp’s recruitment pitch to twenty-somethings:

Do you like beer?

Hey, me too!

You know, we should get together and lower marginal tax rates.

Walsh calls Feinberg’s career “a case study in the way wingnut welfare creates a culture of dependency, or alternatively, the debilitating effects of affirmative action for white people.”

Jokes aside, this approach reminded me of … something. Oh, yeah. There are lots of sources on this, but this one will do:

To more effectively recruit new believers, cult members sometimes organize special events, a tactic which allows them to camouflage their true motives. They know that people are more likely to attend a networking mixer, a youth group or a charity fundraiser than they are to sign up for an information session on the interdimensional doomsday prophesy of Gur the Dragon of Death.

Except in this case the sessions were framed as a death match between the Kochs and the collectivists:

In his speech titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” Charles Koch echoed an op-ed he wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal in both his paranoia and self-pity. The billionaire oil industrialist, hosting some of the most powerful men in Washington, without irony claimed in his speech that he and his brother were “put squarely in front of the firing squad.” He later framed the path ahead for America as a binary choice between freedom and collectivism, a catchall term he used to describe liberalism, socialism, and fascism.

Audio and transcripts are here if this sort of thing from the Kochification Church is your cup of Kool-Aid.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Religion
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Still recovering from an electrifying conference in Detroit. Wanted to post this.

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Rev. William Barber from the Forward Together movement spoke for an hour on Thursday night and wowed the Netroots Nation audience. It was many people’s first exposure to Rev. Barber, and it was all anyone could talk about on Friday morning. And least one person said it was the best speech they had ever heard live.

Barber drew energy from the crowd. He talked at one point about how, to get out of the wilderness, you don’t go down into the valley. There are snakes down there! Instead, he said, you make for the ridge tops.

From his telling, there is a climatic effect, an elevation above which snakes don’t go. Our politics, Barber said, have got to “rise above the snake line.” By the next morning, you could buy Rise above the snake line buttons in the exhibit hall with the coiled Tea Party snake below the line on the lower half.

He seemed to be enjoying himself, and was much lighter on his feet by the end of this speech even bouncing a little bit.

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