Category Archives: religion

Bad. More bad.

So SCOTUS has decided:  protections accorded human beings by the Bill of Rights are extended, yet again, to Corporations.

  • Since corporations are persons and speech is money, political donations are from them are unrestricted. It’s Free Speech, protected by the First Amendment.
  • And now, some for-profit corporations have been granted Freedom of Religion and the attendant protections to exercised those ‘freedoms’ even when in opposition to the civil laws of the land.

Heed Thomas Jefferson:

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Say no more.

Politifact needs to learn arithmetic

Last week Bill Maher said: “There are 278 Republicans in Congress. (With Eric Cantor’s defeat), they are now all Christian and all white except for one black senator, who was appointed.”

With tortured twisted reasoning, Politifact rates that Half True. First they describe the Dems:

The 2012 elections ushered in the first Buddhist in the Senate (Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, a Democrat), the first Hindu in either chamber (Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat), and the first Congress member to list her religious affiliation as “none” (Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat) . . . They joined two Muslims (Democrats) and a Unitarian Universalist (a Democrat).

They don’t offer a total of non-Christian Dems in Congress. It’s 37. Now here’s what they say of Congressional Republicans:

When it comes to Republicans,192 of 278 GOP members identify with a Protestant denomination (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.), 70 identify as Catholic, three are Orthodox Christian, and 12 are Mormon (more on that in a moment). Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, is Jewish and makes No. 278, but Brat, the Republican who could succeed him after the November election, is Catholic.

So until the next Congress is sworn in in January, we can count 277 Christian and one Jew. Politifact notes that some people don’t consider Mormons Christian. Which matters not at all because that’s how Mormons identify.

So that’s  37 non-Christian Dems and one (ONE) non-Christian Republican. Yup, that’s half alright.

Are Republicans all white?  Politifact says half-true because there are seven Hispanics. For some reason they felt compelled to mention that there are also three  GOP Senators .

To say the other Republicans in Congress are all white depends on your definition of “all white,” which isn’t always so easy to define.

There are no other African-American Republicans in Congress (there are 43 black Democrats). There also are no Asian or Pacific Islander Republicans in Congress (there are 13 Democrats).

But there are three Hispanic Republican senators and seven Hispanic Republicans in the House. Those Hispanics?

So there you go – the Dems have 56 and the GOP has seven. Definitely half.

 

 

Who lost Iraq?

Who lost Iraq? Two views:

Fareed Zacharia says that first, above all, Nouri Al-Maliki lost it.

The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents. The insurgency the Maliki government faces today was utterly predictable because, in fact, it happened before. From 2003 onward, Iraq faced a Sunni insurgency that was finally tamped down by Gen. David Petraeus, who said explicitly at the time that the core element of his strategy was political, bringing Sunni tribes and militias into the fold. The surge’s success, he often noted, bought time for a real power-sharing deal in Iraq that would bring the Sunnis into the structure of the government. . .

But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called “the worst war plan in American history” — the administration needed to find local allies. It quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed. These moves — to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy [Moe: thank you Paul Bremmer you creep] and purge Sunnis in general — might have been more consequential than the invasion itself.

Dexter Filkins, noting among other things that the border between Iraq and Syria has been erased, names three causes: 1) the Syrian war, and 2)  Al-Maliki, whose thuggery since the US withdrawal (which itself was necessitated in part by his absolute refusal to sign the usual Status of Forces Agreement to provide legal protections to remaining US Troops), and 3) . . .

Which brings us to the third reason. When the Americans invaded, in March, 2003, they destroyed the Iraqi state—its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together. They spent the next nine years trying to build a state to replace the one they crushed. By 2011, by any reasonable measure, the Americans had made a lot of headway but were not finished with the job . . .

Today, many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now missing from Iraq.

So Bush broke it and Obama left before it was finished (I’m surprised that Filkins beleives we could ever actually ‘finish’ it). By the way, Filkins is a war correspondent of the ‘old school’ and spent years in Iraq during the war and his book about that time, The Forever War, is just stunning.

 

Oh damn them damn them and damn them again

When (perhaps ‘if’ but I’m not hopeful) Iraq dissolves and brings eastern Syria and Kurdistan with it and the region falls into a few more decades of war, I will remember Paul Wolfowitz assuring the Senate before our 2003 invasion that ‘there is no history of sectarian violence in Iraq’. Really, he said that. In a neighborhood where sectarian war has been the norm for  a thousand years. He said that.

Damn them all.

It seems Creationists are rude

http://l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/iIwuez.guuKNsCCqED1GPw--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NTt3PTM2MA--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/blogs/thelookout/IMG_1377.jpgSo it’s cleaning day: the vacuum sits there staring at me, cleaning fluids wait on the counter, rags out too, probably wondering what this is all about. And on C-Span is a ‘debate’ at the Creation Museum between Ken Ham, founder (for Creationism) and Bill Nye, the ‘Science Guy’. Great stuff focusing on Genesis, the Ark and the age of the earth (and evolution of course).

On go the headphones to ease the task at hand.

The debate is conducted by standard rules. The two are allowed 30 minutes to make their respective cases and are then allowed periods for rebuttal.

Ham went first (he presents an utterly bizarre case, but the man is very good on the podium) and after he concluded his remarks, the entire audience gave a nice round of applause. The entire audience.

Then Nye spoke (he’s not as polished as Ham was). And when he concluded, half of the audience applauded. Those who did not applause sat resolutely still – with grim faces.

Whatever the composition of the audience, half of them didn’t learn their manners from Mama.

Hands off the Girl Scouts: a jump the shark moment?

It seems the Girl Scouts – in a Tweet – mentioned women of achievement (and linked to a story about Wendy Davis!). Which – as night follows day – means they are in league with Planned Parenthood. Here is ABC valiantly trying to follow the story but don’t bother (you could probably write it yourself – blindfolded).

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In so many ways . . .

. . . we are really two different countries and the similarities to Civil War era America abound.

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And there’s this too  – the ten poorest States. I got it from a 2011 story at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze where commenters were not surprised, reasoning that that’s what Obama had done to us in just 20 months. The man worked fast!

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. Louisiana
  6. Montana
  7. South CArolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. North Carolina

How about teen pregnancies? Below the mid point and dominating the list for ‘least teen pregnancies’, all of New England and most of the NorthEast. And what region dominates the list for ‘most teen pregnancies’? Lookee here:

STATES WITH MOST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
New Mexico – 93/1,000
Mississippi – 90/1,000
Texas – 85/1,000
Nevada – 84/1,000
Arkansas – 82/1,000
Arizona – 82/1,000
Delaware – 81/1,000
Louisiana – 80/1,000
Oklahoma – 80/1,000
Georgia – 78/1,000

STATES WITH FEWEST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
Iowa – 51/1,000
Nebraska – 50/1,000
Utah – 48/1,000
Wisconsin – 45/1,000
Maine – 43/1,000
Massachusetts – 42/1,000
North Dakota – 42/1,000
Minnesota – 42/1,000
Vermont – 38/1,000
New Hampshire – 33/1,000

How about high school dropouts by State? A pattern emerges.

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Something else to be thankful for

Pope Francis – yesterday:

The pope also denounced “trickle-down” theories of economics promoted by many conservatives and politicians who espouse an unregulated free market.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he said. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Perhaps the professional Christians in our Congress – and especially in State legislatures – should give a listen. Possible? I’m not placing bets on that, but if Francis keeps it up I could become – whilst still unbelieving – a practicing Catholic again.

Oh Michele we will miss you . . .

Before she leaves us for good, Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Outerspace) is doing her best for late night comics everywhere. Here’s she’s commenting on recent US foreign policy in the Middle East. Or something. And it means that End Times are near.

SPOILER ALERT! Best line ever ever ever:  “Yes it gives us fear in some respects because we want the retirement that our parents enjoyed.”

“This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history,” Bachmann told Jan Markell, radio host of “Understanding the Times,” on Saturday.

“Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand,” Bachmann added later. “And so when we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; that these days would be as the days of Noah. We are seeing that in our time. Yes it gives us fear in some respects because we want the retirement that our parents enjoyed. Well they will, if they know Jesus Christ.”

Syria shares a border with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. And that matters.

syriaIn a country where none of the news is good, this is very very bad. I’ve worried about Turkey since the Islamists started flowing into Syria – they’re Sunnis, determined to help overthrow a Shia government.

An extremist group linked to Al Qaeda routed Syrian rebel fighters and seized control of a gateway town near Syria’s northern border with Turkey on Wednesday, posting snipers on rooftops, erecting checkpoints and imposing a curfew on the local population . . .

Its seizure is likely to alarm Syria’s neighbors. Turkey, which has vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed fighters and arms to flow freely across its southern border, now faces a bold al Qaeda affiliate. . . 

In recent months, jihadist groups have isolated local populations by imposing strict Islamic codes, carrying out public executions and clashing with rebel groups.

Lebanon is expressing some worry too.

When John McCain is good, he is very, very . . .

Now that the couch at Fox & Friends is getting a new lady to sit in the middle, it’s time for me to stop referring to Brian Kilmeade as the one whose name no one knows. After all, he is now the second most recognizable face of the couch dwellers. Watch that very face as John McCain ‘splains a little something:

I saw this earlier and thought it was satire

trumpDonald Trump, Trump, Trump. Serious American, serious Christian.

From Duane today:

If you are so inclined, you can attend on Saturday—for only 49 bucks!—a “Family Leadership Summit” in Ames, Iowa, put on by a Christian group called The Family Leader. That group identifies itself this way:

The FAMiLY LEADER champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family. Our goal at The FAMiLY LEADER is to honor and glorify God – not a political party, not a candidate, and not a program. The FAMiLY LEADER is a Christ-centered organization that leads with humility and service to strengthen and protect the family.

The Family Leadership Summit, put on by a group that says it is a non-partisan, Christ-centered organization, features Republicans like Chuck Grassley, Steve King, and Rick Santorum, as well as fast-rising reactionary Ted Cruz from Texas.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Highlighting the evening—the last speaker of the day—is that paragon of Christ-centered living, that champion of God-honoring and God-glorifying behavior, Donald Trump.

FOX News – where embarrasment is foreign, and a star is born

As this story says (video at the link) this is the single most cringe-worthy interview ever.

The author here, Reza Aslan, has been interviewed extensively on C-Span’s Booknotes, PBS’ News Hour, the BBC and dozens of other outlets. So why not FOX? This is why – and lesson learned. Don’t bother next time Reza, unless you’re game for providing the rest of us with something to fill in the time while Jon Stewart is away.

 Fox News anchor Lauren Green* had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”*

But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan.

Dear god (by which I mean the one of the Hebrews, Christians and Muslims. That one.)

*And she’s not even blonde!

There must be almost a hundred people there – why is no one objecting?

In Alabama, at a hearing on a public power utility hearing:

Perhaps they’re really praying for lightning; they may think that’s where their ‘lectricity comes from?

As watertiger put it, grifters gotta grift

Here again cometh Christian pin-up Ralph Reed and this time with More-Deity-For-Your-Dollars! He had to shut down that Indian Tribe swindle he had going – and damn but that was good money! Former partner Jack Abramoff went and changed careers after getting himself convicted and sent to jail. Jack’s into redemption now, so Ralph is back to plain old huckstering, an ancient, if dishonorable, profession. (See those annoying little points on the pocket handkerchief? There’s yer proof that Ralph’s the too too smooth sort.)

Does make me wonder where is Tom DeLay these days?

I’d say she got the ‘modestly dressed’ part just pitch-perfect

Who wouldn’t want to rush home to this little lady? Anyone? Anyone? Come on guys, look at that resume! Jeeez.

BOljqmWCMAAVeAf

Wisconsin won. Well, the godly gentlemens did anyway.

Calling Wendy! Calling Nina!

Governor Scott Walker put pen to paper yesterday and proudly inflicted mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds upon Wisconsin ladies because that’ll get the women’s vote fer-sure!

BOVfoNQCcAAFh12

Something new is in the air. My sisters are waking up.

Here’s what’s new. Wendy Davis and Nina Turner. And many many other women, young women, around the country using an entirely different vocabulary and saying back off fellas, hands off.  This is a different conversation. It’s a different fight. It’s not about abortion this time. . .  it’s not about fetuses. It’s about them. Always was.

Here’s what’s old. Ohio. Texas. North Carolina. Mandatory vaginal probes. Forced ultrasound. Catholic Bishops. Religious right. Family Research Council. Todd Aiken. The American Taliban. Rep. Steve King. Louie Gomert!!!! Michele Bachmann. Personhood. Pat Robertson. Phyllis Schlafley. Pin-up boy Ralph Reed.

A little background? Try this. And this. And this.

Or just read a whole buncha posts about lady parts and the men who want, well, this is what  they want:

Available in other colors – as long as it’s black.

Like Wendy, Nina knows it’s not really about abortion. It’s about women.

Meet another woman warrior; I love this lady. Like Texas’ Wendy Davis, Turner gets that all this is really about women, about uppity women, about women having sex. Especially about punishing women for liking it.

Take it away Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (she really rolls at 4:38):

Here’s a glimpse of her Governor, ole John Kasich with his theocratic allies thrusting themselves (legislatively of course – what, you thought I meant something else?) into yet more lady parts:

I do love (South – nope) NORTH Carolina: I’m not sure if it’s the abortion part or the Sharia part that’s taken my breath away

South North Carolina’s legislature swung into late night action to propose legislation (yet again, sigh) aimed at getting a handle on those lady parts – and to guard against the imagined but dangerous onslaught of Sharia law – and they did it all in one tidy bill.

Senate tacks sweeping abortion legislation onto Sharia law bill

Raleigh, N.C. — Senators on Tuesday tacked a suite of new restrictions and regulations pertaining to abortion clinics onto a bill dealing with the application of foreign laws in North Carolina family courts.

As described here, there is a long tradition of U.S. law incorporating religious law into our system.

Duncan has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would bar U.S. judges from considering Shariah or any foreign law. But that might be problematic: U.S. courts already recognize and enforce Shariah law in everything from commercial contracts to divorce settlements, wills and estates.

What’s In Place

Marc Stern, a religion law expert at the American Jewish Committee, says that’s no different from how religious laws and customs are already applied.

He says when there’s a conflict, U.S. law always wins. For example, when Orthodox Jews have asked judges to enforce their laws on divorce, the courts have refused to do it; they won’t be involved in interpreting religion. In the same way, the government won’t enforce Kosher food standards because it would violate the separation of church and state.

Of course, once in a while, a judge with limited knowledge of the law as it is (they’re out there) rules otherwise – and certain legislators and media stars get the vapors. For a while. The follow up   – rarely inspiring the alarm – is that such rulings are always overturned in appellate courts.

It can’t be stopped: there’s a new one every day of the week

I usually try to stay away from these kinds of stories but honestly . . . to me, today, these two no longer look like outliers. From the always amusing and sometimes squirm-worthy Dependable Renegade, where mockery of the stupid is an art form:

  • The Safety Net – North Carolina (motto: “We’re Number 45!”) has cut unemployment benefits so far that they are disqualified from a federal compensation program for the long-term jobless. The changes go into effect Sunday for North Carolina, which has the country’s fifth-worst jobless rate.
  •  Free Speech! – Xristian Xrazie Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Satan’s Hollow) decided that allowing sodomite colleagues to speak on the floor of the legislature about DOMA was a bridge too far: [he said] “I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law.”

Okeydokee.

Civilization is always ending, isn’t it. What a bitch.

Maybe the good Congressman Gomert (or, as watertiger has named him, Screwy-Louie) could have scrounged around and quoted someone a bit less randy than Solomon when condemning same-sex marriage.

According to the Bible at I Kings 11:1-7: Solomon had 700 official wives and about 300 concubines – so, a thousand ladies, give or take.

 

Now this IS big news

pope%20francis%20laughingPope Francis has formed a commission to investigate the Vatican Bank. What makes this move very important is that the commission is to report to him directly, and bypass the Vatican bureaucracy.

Pope John Paul I a man with a very kind face

John Paul I (he had such a kind face)

 

 

 

A number of books have been written about the corruption – and sometimes criminality – emanating from that bank.

It’s long been rumored that Pope John Paul I was murdered (in 1978) because he was about to focus attention on the bank. He was a humble man, perhaps in the style of Francis –  the first pope to forego a ‘coronation’. John Paul I lasted 33 days. He was 55 when he was found dead in his bed. (Some of the theories about his death are here.)

So this is a big deal.

Just ask Rush how it’s done

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The problem, you see, is that they don’t do it the American way. One at a time.

What will The Nine sayeth?

As those who give a damn wait for the Supreme Court to wrap up this session and announce their final decisions, I dare to repost my own predictions. Know that I bravely put these out here so that you may bow to my majesty if I’m right, or mock me without mercy if I’m wrong.

  • DOMA – The Supremes knock it down as unconstitutional
  • California Prop 8 – unconstitutional
  • Affirmative Action – limited decision, but basically will say the program has – in some instances – run its course. They side for the Plaintiff.

Not a sea change, but a step. Maybe an important one.

Wow. This is as of 5:00 pm Tehran time. The yellow is votes for Rouhani, the only ‘moderate’ candidate for President in Iran’s elections.

ipos-iranelection-results

Giggle . . .

Billions and billions . . .

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society. . . of stars. I can still hear the late Carl Sagan saying that on his iconic TV program Cosmos,  so I got a little thrill when I saw this story from Phoenix:

An atheist state lawmaker tasked with delivering the opening prayer for this afternoon’s session of the House of Representatives asked that people not bow their heads.

Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, of Tempe, instead spoke about his “secular humanist tradition” and even quoted author Carl Sagan.

Mendez said:

“I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

. . . “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.'”

 

 

I was kind of hoping they could make it

The Westboro Baptist Church will picket Roger Ebert’s funeral on Monday, because he obviously asked for it. They’re very clear about that in their statement:

“American entertainment industry publicity leech Roger Ebert took to Twitterverse to mock the faithful servants of God at Westboro Baptist church, just days before he received the horrifying summons.”

To be fair, the tweets were pretty obscene. You may want to close your eyes:

ebert tweet

An elegant and kind man with a poet’s touch

roger_ebertRoger Ebert, who died yesterday, began blogging in earnest some years back after cancer robbed him of speech. He racked up millions of hits and every post generated hundreds of comments.  I’ve written about him a few times. From March of 2010:

I discovered his blog a few months ago and was enchanted – a fine writer, a profoundly human man and very very brave. He’s wasting away from cancer – can no longer speak or eat. He doesn’t even have a jaw anymore. And yet he blogs. And he cares. And he has his finger on the pulse of the humanity that is us. I wish I knew him.

Roger Ebert’s Journal was much more than movies; while he chronicled the challenges of his illness he also wrote – always elegantly – of so many other things – of politics, music, art, children and cooking.

He and I were born in the same year, so when he wrote of his own youth, which he often did – as often happens with those battling terminal illnesses – I went back in time with him. Like in this passage from a very recent post titled “How I am a Roman Catholic”:

The nuns at St. Mary’s were Dominicans. They lived in a small square convent behind the school, holding six nuns (some taught two grades) and a cook and their housekeeping nun, who kept a sharp eye trained on us through her screen door. We had humble playground equipment, a swing set and two basketball hoops. Our principal sport was playing King of the World. This involved two boys standing on a log, each trying to push the other off. The housekeeper would open the screen door and shout, “If you break your necks, you have only yourselves to blame.”

It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum”–“On Capital and Labor.”

I’ll miss him and his writing but I’ll go back now and again to the archives. There is wisdom there.