Religion

Consumed by hate

On MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” Matthews ends the program with his “Let Me Finish” segment.  On November 14th, he provided a litany of assaults against humanity from the Republican presidential candidate debates.  It appears that one of the ties that bind Republican candidates and their enthusiastic supporters is their joy at the suffering of others and their desire to inflict pain, punishment, misery and even death.

This, from those who label themselves “Christian” and who apparently never learned the lessons of Christ, or redefined them in their own image and likeness.

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Anyone finding this post via a site that has a long-winded and copyright-infringing response should hopefully be asking ‘Who could be behind this? Who has the motive? Who would care that much?!’ and then look carefully at recent events. It’s really sad to hear the Lunatic Fringe in Longmont cooing about civility and yet continuing to spew vitriol from behind masks. It’s cowardly and, frankly, uncivil. But very much expected and not surprising. FRL will continue to call out the extremist lies and slant in Longmont regardless of attempts to defame us.

Republican Tea Party Agenda

That's one crazy teapot...

In case you’ve never read the Republican Tea Party agenda for 2012 and beyond, here is it in one place.  Is this the world you want to live in and leave to your kids?  I hope not.  If it is, you shame us all.

  • Rolling back civil rights protections
  • Overturning health care reform
  • Criminalizing women’s reproductive choices
  • Privatizing Social Security and cutting current benefits
  • Ending Medicare and gutting Medicaid
  • Eliminating the rights of workers to collectively bargain for safe working conditions and reasonable compensation
  • Passing laws to discriminate against gays and lesbians
  • Eliminating financial regulatory reform
  • Taking away the right of citizens to elect their own Senators
  • Eradicating safeguards and standards governing the environment and education
  • Enforcing a “hit list” for teachers who insist on teaching sicence based lessons
  • Imposing a narrow-minded religious view of existence on the nation
  • Defunding and censoring public media and museums
  • Stacking our nation’s courts with radical right-wing judicial activists
  • Repealing the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to those born in the United States, guarantees application of the Bill of Rights at the state level, and guarantees equal protection under the law.

C-words

There's some 'compassion'...

We are a socio-political nation divided in many way these days, none more stark than how we look at and treat each other. Consider two related words: community and compassion.

Some find the former word dangerously close to “communist,” and assert that in the end, we are all separate and owe no particular allegiance to anyone but ourselves and perhaps our immediate families.

Just over a decade ago, George W. Bush used that other “c-word” as if it were a political asset. Today, true-blue conservatives practically can’t say it without spitting.

“The crap that’s been done in the name of compassion in this country has robbed people of their dignity, of their chance, of their opportunity at their own greatness in using their own ambition and desire,” Rush Limbaugh pronounced on his Sept. 27 show, repeating a mantra he’s floated for years.

Despite the indisputable favor in which the Gospels hold the idea of compassion — for the poor, the weak, the sick — the nominally Christian GOP majority has all but abandoned that ethic for that of a new apostle, Ayn Rand.

Rand, the openly anti-Christian thinker and writer best known for “Atlas Shrugged,” neatly summarized her Objectivist philosophy in a 1964 interview with Playboy magazine: “The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”

To Rand, the anti-Jesus, the very idea that one would give of oneself for another is anathema. No surprise, then, that her contemporary adherents would believe that they should not pay taxes to help who Jesus called, “the least of these.”

That’s really all we need to know to understand the recent public demonstrations of anti-community and anti-compassion expressed by a few GOP partisans in the media. There were those who cheered Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s record of 236 executions. And the men who shouted a throaty “Yeah!” (in a neatly Biblical echo, three times) at a September presidential “debate” at the idea of allowing an uninsured person to pay the price of his irresponsibility (which it is) with his life. And then, of course, we have the bizarre spectacle of a debate audience booing an Iraq soldier who identified himself as gay. Plenty more examples where these came from.

Read the rest at the Boulder Daily Camera

How many poor people do you know?

You can't eat the bible...

You can't eat the bible...

This is a question that should be asked of any person who is running for a national office. We don’t mean how many poor people one sees on the streets as one drives by in an automobile, not just those who show up at the soup kitchen with whom a photo opportunity is in progress. We mean the people who live constantly at or slightly above the poverty line, constantly worrying as they juggle their meager budget to try to prioritize and keep their heads above the fiscal disaster that lurks everywhere, who work even when they’re ailing because they cannot feed the family without that paycheck and “doctors cost money.”

Pediatricians are becoming alarmed because more women are foregoing prenatal medical care and even having their babies without medical assistance of any kind due to lack of money to pay. Without free breakfasts and lunches at school many children would be going all day with an empty stomach when Daddy’s or Mommy’s money runs out before the next payday.

Do you know any of these people? Have you visited them just because you value their company and are interested in their opinions? Have you asked them to your home for an evening? If you answer in the negative, something is lacking, not only in your knowledge base but in your religious education. If you did know them, you would know of how offended they would be if you offered to give them money, but how willing they would be to find the time to do a job for you if you were to need some temporary chores. However, they would happily do the same chore for you without pay should you give ask them.

You see, these people are not the scum of society as so many politicians would term them. Your familial antecedents would have called them “the salt of the earth.” They are the same kind of people who would sell themselves into bondage for the opportunity to take their families and their poor possessions aboard a frail ship to reach a far-off land where they could work hard to build a better life for their children and for generations to come. They would serve out their bondage, gather their belongings again, and set out, bag and baggage, for lands unknown in order to fell trees for a shelter so they could till the soil and create a home.

But now we live in a settled land where everything belongs to somebody else; there is no virgin land there for the taking, there are no more frontiers to settle and there is no choice but for mankind to learn to live with one another. We are all in the same boat. The problem is that too many want to stand in the bow and captain the journey while those who man the oars are taken for granted. As the boat starts to sink from having the weight unevenly distributed by too many captains, those captains think the answer is to scuttle the oarsmen! Thus, we are faced with silly ideas like “trickle down.”

There was a time that candidates would campaign door-to-door, visiting with potential; voters in their homes and listening to their concerns. Now campaigns are limited to televised speeches and rallies among the faithful where the candidates never talk to anybody who is not already disposed to support them. The questions usually come from those who already know the canned answers which they will receive, and neither candidate nor voter actually learn anything.

It is easy for a candidate like Ron Paul to espouse leaving sick and uninsured to just die and to receive great applause from his supporters which leads him to believe that his answer was correct. Do you suppose Congressman Paul has any close friends or relatives who are truly poor? So why should he care should a constituent or a hired minion should die for lack of medical care?

To some of a gentler persuasion, it would seem necessary for a successful candidate to know those whom he is bound to represent in the government of the United States. Try asking the question at the next political rally you attend, “How many poor people do you really know?”

This writer is an octogenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.

ACLU Distributes New Guide On Religion In Public Schools

From the excellent Religion Clause blog by Howard Friedman

ACLU Distributes New Guide On Religion In Public Schools

The ACLU of Tennessee yesterday released a new guide on religion in schools designed for administrators and teachers. The 4-page document titled Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools, covers a range of issues that commonly arise in school settings, including prayer, holiday celebrations and Bible distribution. A letter accompanying the publication urges superintendents to share the document with principals and teachers.


Here’s the entire text of the PDF linked above:

Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools – A Guide for Administrators and Teachers

Prayer in Classrooms and at Assemblies

The United States Supreme Court has long held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits school-sponsored prayer or religious indoctrination. Forty years ago, the Court struck down classroom prayers and scripture readings, even if they were voluntary and even if students had the option of being excused. School Dist. Of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963); Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).

Pledge of Allegiance

The Constitution requires that students’ recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance must be voluntary. Over 60 years ago the United States Supreme Court declared that compulsory flag salute and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violated an individual’s constitutional right to freedom of expression. “No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).

While school officials may encourage students to show respect for our country, they may not require mandatory displays of patriotism. Students have the constitutional right to remain seated and silently respectful during the Pledge of Allegiance, and cannot be otherwise compelled to salute the flag. Students who choose not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance may do so without parental consent. Formal discipline, including detentions and suspen-sions, cannot be imposed for non-participation, nor can other types of non-disciplinary penalties such as reducing grades, requiring transfers to different classrooms, or withholding letters of recommendations.

Distribution of Gideon Bibles

In Berger v. Rensselaer School Corp.¸ 982 F.2d at 1165-66 (7th Cir.), cert. Denied. U.S. 113 S. Ct. 2344 (1993) the court ruled that the Gideons Society practice of distributing Bibles to public school students in fifth grade class-rooms was unconstitutional. The court found both the Gideons in-school presentation as well as the practice of stacking Bibles by the classroom door with the encouragement to take one to violate the Establishment Clause. Although the teachers did not distribute the Bibles, and the students were not required to take a Bible, the court found the practice to be an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion. The court noted that the availa-bility of Bibles to students in schools carried the stamp of school endorsement simply because they were made available to students during instructional time and with the permission of the school. The fact that distribution oc-curs during school hours could lead a reasonable student to believe that the school endorses the program.

Equal Access Act

Religious clubs may hold meetings on public high school grounds in accordance with the Federal Equal Access Act as long as other similar non-curriculum related student groups are allowed to meet during non-instructional time; the club does not interfere with regular educational activities; and the school does not initiate, direct, sponsor, par-ticipate in, or promote during instructional time the religious activities of student clubs. Additionally, while faculty are commonly required to be present during student meetings for insurance purposes, their role should be restrict-ed to a custodial, non-participatory role. These measures are in place to ensure the separation of church and state.

Under Federal Law, “nonschool persons may not direct, conduct, control, or regu-larly attend activities of student groups.” 20 U.S.C. 2071 (c) (5). This statute en-sures that the motivation for these meetings is based on genuine student inter-est, rather than a method of outside manipulation by adults for their own pur-poses.

Holiday Celebrations

If public schools hold holiday celebrations, they should make every effort to accommodate diverse faiths during the holiday season. Students cannot be forced to participate in any event that offends his or her beliefs, and school officials should make every effort to accommodate diverse faiths during the holiday season by including their cus-toms, songs and traditional foods at parties and other in-school events. However, assemblies dominated by reli-gious music would raise constitutional concerns.

The United States Supreme Court has determined that schools may celebrate the holidays and create displays as long as they so do within “the context of the Christmas season” and the religious component of their display does not dominate but simply represents one element of a holiday that has obtained secular status in our society. Lynch v. Donnelly, 465.U.S. 668, 679, and 691 (1984). Under this ruling, a Christmas tree would be appropriate while a cross or a nativity scene would not. Crosses and nativity scenes are purely religious symbols that have not gained secular status in our society and therefore may not be displayed in public schools.

Prayer at Athletic Events

In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 68 U.S. 4525 (2000), the United States Supreme Court ruled that a Texas school district’s policy permitting its student body to vote whether to have prayers before school football games and to elect a student chaplain to deliver the prayers over the loudspeaker violated the Establishment Clause. The Court rejected the argument that the decision to allow students to vote on the question of prayer re-lieved the school district of any constitutional responsibility if the students voted in favor of prayer.

As the Court explained: “[t]hese invocations are authorized by a government policy and take place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events.” Id. at 4529.

The Court also concluded that the school district’s ongoing and unconstitutional purpose had been to preserve the practice of prayer at football games, even though the wording of the school’s policy had changed during the course of litigation to omit any specific reference to “prayer.”

Finally, the Court held that the school district’s policy was facially unconstitutional regardless of the outcome of any particular student vote because it allowed the majority to determine the religious rights of the minority through an election.

The Court wrote: “Such system encourages divisiveness along religious lines and threatens the imposition of coer-cion upon those students not desiring to participate in a religious exercise. Simply by establishing the school-related procedure, which entrusts the inherently nongovernmental subject of religion to a majoritarian vote, a con-stitutional violation has occurred.”

Prayer at School Board Meetings

In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999), a former student and teacher filed action against the Cleveland Board of Education and superintendent, alleging that the board’s practice of opening meetings with a prayer or moment of silence was unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the board’s practice of opening its meetings with a prayer violated the Establishment Clause, finding “the school board’s practice of opening its meetings with prayer leads to excessive entanglement in religious matters…” Id. at 385.

The Court observed that “[t]he very fact that school board meetings focus solely on school-related matters provides students with an incentive to attend the meetings that is lacking in other settings. The board makes policy on a wide range of issues directly affecting a student’s life in school. Be it dress codes, locker searches, changes in the curriculum, or funding for extracurricular activities, school board meetings are the arena in which all issues directly relevant to students are discussed and decided. The fact that the board regularly presents honors and awards to students at its meetings only provides added enticements for students to attend school board meetings. Further-

more, students who wish to challenge their suspension or expulsion from school are required by statute to air their grievances at a school board meeting. For such students, attendance at a board meeting is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity.” Id. at 381-2.

Ultimately, the court held that “…the policy of the Cleveland School Board is so inextricably intertwined with the public schools that it must be evaluated on the same basis as the schools themselves.” Id. at 383. Under this analysis the court found that the practice of beginning school board meetings with a prayer was unconstitutional.

Prayer at Graduation

Graduation prayers violate the principle of separation of church and state. In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577 (1992), that prayer – even nonsectarian or nonproselytizing prayer – at public school graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court held that the inclu-sion of prayers as part of a school-sponsored and school-supervised ceremony contravenes the Establishment Clause. The decision was based on the inevitably coercive effect on students and because such religious activities convey a message of government endorsement of religion.

In Lee, the Supreme Court focused on the subtle pressures that accompany any religious exercise conducted as part of a school-sponsored event. The Court held that even though a school district does not require students to attend graduation in order to receive their diplomas, the students’ attendance and participation in graduation exer-cises is “in a fair and real sense obligatory.” Id. at 586.

As the Court observed: “Everyone knows that in our society and in our culture high school graduation is one of life’s most significant occasions…. Attendance may not be required by official decree, yet it is apparent that a stu-dent is not free to absent herself from the graduation exercise in any real sense of the term “voluntary,” for ab-sence would require forfeiture of those intangible benefits which have motivated the student through youth and all her high school years.” Id. at 595.

Because attendance at high school graduation ceremonies is in effect obligatory – and because the ceremonies themselves are an adjunct to, and, in a real sense, the culmination of the public school curriculum – the inclusion of a religious program in graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause.

As the Court stated in Lee: “The prayer exercises in this case are especially improper because the State has in every practical sense compelled attendance and participation in an explicit religious exercise at an event of singu-lar importance to every student, one the objecting student had no real alternative to avoid.” Id. at 598.

Baccalaureate Services

The absence of prayer from a public school’s official graduation ceremony does not prohibit students from affirming their religious beliefs before or after the ceremony. Nothing in Lee or Santa Fe, for example, would prevent or pro-hibit like-minded students from organizing a privately-sponsored baccalaureate service – provided that it was held separately from the school’s graduation program, was entirely voluntary, and was neither sponsored nor super-vised by school officials.

Indeed, the Court went out of its way in Santa Fe to make clear that “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the State affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.” Contrary to protests voiced by those who desire to use the public schools as a forum for promoting their particular religious beliefs, the Supreme Court’s holdings in Lee and Santa Fe are not anti-religious and do not interfere with the rights of students, guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause, to worship and pray according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Moment of Silence

The quiet time for reflection must neither be intended to promote religious values and conduct nor be used to intro-duce group prayer into public schools. In 1985, the Supreme Court held that a school district may not require that students observe a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day when the purpose of such a requirement is that students use the time for prayer. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 40 (1985).

As long as 1) the moment of silence is free from any direction by school officials, 2) there is no state coercion or element of preference during the moment of silence for a particular religion or for religion in general, and 3) stu-dents are left to meditate, reflect or pray silently as they see fit, the moment of silence does not violate the Estab-lishment Clause. In summary, if the school tells students they may use the moment of silence as they wish, the activity does not violate the Constitution.

The fundamental principle underlying these decisions is that the Constitution commands that public schools may not take sides in matters of religion, and may not endorse a particular religious perspective or any religion at all. The First Amendment prohibits government policies and practices “respecting an establishment of religion, or pro-hibiting the free exercise thereof.” Both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause operate to protect the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of all Americans.

“See You at the Pole”

Organized events such as “See You at the Pole” are permissible under certain conditions. “See You at the Pole” involves prayer meetings held before the start of the school day at a pre-arranged site on school grounds. Similar to guidelines outlined in the Equal Access Act, outside persons may not direct, conduct, control or regularly attend the activities of such student groups. Additionally, schools may not circumvent the ban against school-sponsored prayer by initiating such events and delegating the responsibilities to students, or by obtaining “permission” from parents. Furthermore, schools may not advertise or promote such events within the school either verbally or in writ-ing. Within this framework schools prevent the impression of endorsement, equally respecting the practices of stu-dents of all religions.

Free Exercise of Religion

The ACLU has always defended students’ right to pray individually and voluntarily in school as long as they do not disrupt regular school activities. For example, students may be allowed to read their Bibles on the school bus or pray together before lunch; however, they may not force other students to read along or listen. We also have de-fended the Free Exercise rights of students of many faiths when government officials have interfered with their reli-gious freedom. To cite just a few examples, the ACLU has defended: a high school basketball player in Alabama kicked off the team because he missed Sunday practice in order to attend church; an eighth grader in California barred from wearing a shirt that read “Real Women Love Jesus;” and a Vermont family who refused to provide their child’s Social Security Number to school authorities because of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

Summary

In conclusion, the state may neither prefer nor prohibit religious exercise but rather must remain neutral. “School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are non-adherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an ac-companying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’” Santa Fe [citing Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S., at 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring).]

“The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses mean that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State. The design of the Constitution is that preservation and transmis-sion of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere, which itself is promised freedom to pursue that mission.” Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999)

Rev. 09/11

For more information, please visit www.aclu-tn.org

9/11 Commemorative Weekend at First United Methodist of Boulder

Arts for the Soul

A Weekend of Remembrance, Healing and Wholeness

Celebrating the arts as a path to remembrance and healing in ways that move us individually and collectively closer to wholeness.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Arts for the Soul and First United Methodist Church of Boulder will host A Weekend of Remembrance, Healing and Wholeness, September 9th – 11th, featuring locally, nationally and internationally renowned artists, musicians, and spiritual and community leaders including: Boulder mayor Susan Osborne, Grammy-nominated Tibetan musician Nawang Khechong, Evanne Browne conducting the Duruflé Requiem, and Matthew Fox, acclaimed theologian and author of “Original Blessing” and “The Pope’s War.”

Letter from the Organizers

Tickets are on sale now for Matthew Fox’s presentation: An Evening with Matthew Fox: Lessons Learned from 9/11.

All other events throughout the weekend are offered free and open to the public, though donations to the larger events, in particular, are encouraged.

  • All events are hosted at First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce Street, Boulder.
  • Free parking is available during these events at the corner of Pine and 15th Streets.
  • Much more information on performer biographies and other information can be found here.

The real meaning of Freedom

Baum and friends have no respect for your rights

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The following communication is by Alan Grayson, former U.S. Representative from Florida and 2012 candidate. Grayson is likely one of the most committed and honorable public servants of the 21st century. He demands a freedom that belongs to the people, all people, all NATURAL people. Is it possible to achieve true freedom when so many in the United States would sacrifice genuine freedom to a crass, unethical, immoral philosophy that elevates wealth and corporate power above all else?

By Alan Grayson:

My 16-year-old daughter Skye got a credit card application in the mail yesterday. I guess I should be glad that we still get them. If we didn’t, that would be a strong sign that we’re broke.

Anyway, the envelope for this credit card application said: “FREEDOM. Defined By Cash Back Rewards.”

One could say that those six crass words, directed to a 16-year-old, sum up exactly what has gone wrong with America.

Honestly, I have no idea how “freedom” could be depicted by, associated with, or derived from – much less “Defined By” – cash-back rewards. Is that what the Revolutionary War was all about? Cash-back rewards?

Don’t get me wrong; I like cash-back rewards almost as much as I like cash. But they don’t have anything to do with freedom.

A great deal of advertising, just like a great deal of political discourse, reads like assault and battery on the English language. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read Karl Rove’s playbook, “Words That Work,” by Frank Luntz. Or Newt Gingrich’s “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” Or George Orwell’s “1984.” (Note to right wing: “1984” was not intended as a how-to book.)

And one of the all-time favorite tricks of the tricksters is their corruption and debasement of the word “freedom.”

After all, who can forget the twisted phrase, “they hate us because we are free”?

When a politician speaks about “freedom,” it’s usually meant to deflect your attention away from the gross disparities between the rich and poor. To paraphrase Anatole France, the rich and the poor are both free to lose their homes, and sleep in their cars.

But there was one American leader who knew what freedom really means: Franklin Roosevelt. He recognized that the term “freedom” includes freedom from certain things: freedom from poverty, freedom from ignorance, freedom from discrimination, freedom from disease, freedom from war. Listen to what FDR said in his ninth State of the Union address, after he was elected to an unprecedented third term:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”

It still is – 70 years later, in our time and in our generation.

My conception of freedom is that you can be all you can be, unchained by mass unemployment, bigotry, poor health and poverty. And it sure is different from Rick Perry’s, or Michele Bachmann’s, or Eric Cantor’s, or Sarah Palin’s. Janis Joplin summed up their kind of freedom this way:

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Which side are YOU on?

Address to Longmont City Council on July 26, 2011:

Some of you may laugh at my concerns, for you have done so before, or at least have ignored my efforts to bring such matters before your consideration.

For you have more important matters to attend to, such as to destroy our Longmont Election Committee, to eliminate disclosure, and to ban the only thriving new businesses in our city, thereby to strengthen the market for drug gangs.

The deafening racist propaganda machine, here and elsewhere, as carried out last Friday by their Norwegian mass murderer, was first headlined by Rupert Murdock’s international media dictatorship as “Islamo Terrorism” until downgraded (without apology) to “Lone Wolf” or “Crazy Man” attack. Because fascists would, of course, never promote violence.

We have endured a concerted effort by the national Republican Party and their hired Tea-bagger mouth-guns to destroy the United States economy, to prevent job creation, and to reduce this great country to status of Third World “client state” of the Banksters.

After robbing the world economy of $$$Trillions$$$ by mortgage fraud, CD swaps, untaxed and unregulated “Derivatives” and executive bonuses for destroying many millions of jobs, they now invoke a “debt crisis” which means that we, the people, are held hostage to repay to those same banksters the very $$$Trillions$$$ which they already have stolen from us.

It seems that we have no national Democratic Party whatsoever, but merely a self-sacrificial lamb offered up to appease the ravenous appetite of the greatest thieves ever born.

If we fail to entirely revolutionize the public discourse and re-democratize all our public institutions to their original sacred charge of health, harmony, humanity, and the interrelationship of all facets of the great web of livingness, and totally reject the pervasive, perverse materialistic worship of greed, power, violence, and destruction of Nature herself, then we cannot escape the destruction both of society and of life.

Our national political structure is so totally corrupt that such “Change we can believe in” is rendered quite impossible. Unless we can begin to speak as human beings rather than hypnotized robots, at the local level, where might such truths slip in for a hearing?

Had our churches not so corrupted themselves in the same game of Money Changers, they might plant such a spiritual seed, as they did twelve decades ago in the social gospel movement. Every man, every woman, every child is responsible for the kind of world we live in. Let us set to the great task before us.

Jesus was lynched by the State because he tried to do precisely this.

Which side are YOU on???

Making the Grade on Fascism

Hat tip to “Ohio Gringo” via Firedoglake for the following July 27th post.

Money + Religion + Military = Juggernaut

Ever since the United States was instrumental in defeating Fascism in 1945, if not before, various critics of the American government have accused it of behaving in a Fascist manner itself. The McCarthy hearings come to mind. Ever since Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President in 1981, the warnings have become more dire.

So I thought I, OhioGringo, would try to grade where America is today in its long march towards Fascism. For this, I used the 14 Points of Fascism, found all over the political blogosphere, and graded where I think we are on each one. Five asterisks(*****) means full Fascism, one means none. So, let’s have a bit of cynical fun:

Powerful and Continuing NationalismFascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

**** The only reason I don’t give this a five is because it’s still OK not to fly the flag or even to burn it.
Disdain for the Recognition of Human RightsBecause of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

**** There’s substantial opposition to this behavior, but Guantanamo’s still open, Bradley Manning’s still being tortured as far as we know, and President Obama has authorized assassination. Not five stars because people aren’t being disappeared domestically, yet.
Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying CauseThe people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

**** Well, that’s obvious. Not a five because there is still public opposition.
Supremacy of the MilitaryEven when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

***** No brainer.
Rampant SexismThe governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

** We have Fascist bitches, too! This has been tried, but is failing due to public sentiment.
Controlled Mass MediaSometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

*** There is clearly domination by corporate media, but I am writing this, after all, and Democracy Now! is still broadcast. Overall, the Fascists have the edge.
Obsession with National SecurityFear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

***** The daily use of fear of whoever and whatever is unavoidable.
Religion and Government are IntertwinedGovernments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

*** Thank God for atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and sometimes Catholics and “mainstream” Protestant denominations. This could be much worse, but there is strong opposition. Still, when was the last time a President did not conclude a speech with “God Bless America?”
Corporate Power is ProtectedThe industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

***** They have a lock. Citizens United v FEC have opened the floodgates. Look where our government officials come from and go to.
Labor Power is SuppressedBecause the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

**** Unions still exist, and sometimes fight, but they have been emasculated.
Disdain for Intellectuals and the ArtsFascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

*** Anti-intellectualism holds the edge here, there are attacks on the arts, but they are often unsuccessful.
Obsession with Crime and PunishmentUnder fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

***Leans that way, but there is still substantial opposition.
Rampant Cronyism and CorruptionFascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

***** No brainer. The Greatest Theft Ever took place under TARP. Look where Obama’s Treasury Secretary and advisers came from. Look where politicians go when they “retire.”

Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.**** Almost there!

And, by may calculations we are at 3.86. On a letter scale, America gets an overall C+ grade in Fascist achievement according to this little scale and myself. My political goal would be to get an “F”.

Christian fundamentalist attacks Norway

Robert Parry, writing for ConsortiumNews.com, offers an historical insight into religious violence. The complete article can be read here. Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

News that a Christian extremist has taken credit for the terror attacks in Norway, including the systematic slaying of scores of youth at a summer camp, may be shocking but it shouldn’t be surprising.

Over the past decade, the Christian Right and many Jewish neoconservatives have pushed the propaganda theme that Islam is a uniquely violent monotheistic religion that requires special suppression if the West is to avoid having Shariah law imposed on everyone.

Of course, in making that argument, one has to wonder if these Christian/Jewish zealots have ever read the Hebrew Torah or studied the history of Christianity.

The obvious truth is that the Torah (or Old Testament) is filled with story after story of ancient Israelites striking down their enemies with ruthless force and without remorse. Christianity, at least since its merger with the Roman Empire early in the Fourth Century, has been the world’s preeminent violent religion bathed in blood and steeped in hypocrisy….

So, who can be truly surprised that a Norwegian man, identified as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, has reportedly admitted to his role in the Oslo terror attacks on Friday?

Propaganda Techniques Fox ‘News’ Uses to Brainwash

The following is heavily excerpted from an article by Cynthia Boaz that appeared on Truthout.org. Italicized portions are direct quotes from the article “14 Propaganda Techniques Fox ‘News’ Uses to Brainwash American.” Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University.

There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship – the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

The 14 most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media are described in detail here. These techniques help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

1. Panic Mongering. …With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment….it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. …Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category,…

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first….

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview….Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. …The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness.

7. Bullying.

8. Confusion. …The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along….

9. Populism. …The speakers identify themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with….

10. Invoking the Christian God. …the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America….

11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere….

12. Disparaging Education.

13. Guilt by Association.

14. Diversion. …when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability….

The fact that a lot of people believe something is not necessarily a sign that it’s true; it’s just a sign that it’s been effectively marketed.

As honest, fair and truly intellectual debate degrades before the eyes of the global media audience, the quality of American democracy degrades along with it.

Gabe Santos: “I am not a liar”

Crooks of a feather...

Gabe Santos is channelling Richard Nixon

That statement by Council Member Gabe Santos at the City Council meeting of June 14th reminds me of President Richard Nixon’s televised statement, “I am not a crook.”

I don’t know if Gabe Santos is a crook, but I do know that he is a liar — no matter how much he protests to the contrary.

During the discussion of the amendment to the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that now allows for the first $5,000 in contributions and/or expenditures to issue committees to remain hidden, Santos decided to reference an earlier ballot issue. He had the gall to make the pronouncement that there was some doubt whether those signatures were gathered truthfully.

Santos was referencing the highly unpopular and undesirable annexation in 2007 of the LifeBridge development. Liars should not be allowed to have their lies stand unchallenged.

The following are my remarks at final Public Invited to be Heard.

Let me make something perfectly clear, especially to Mr. Santos and his friends and associates who leave comments to articles on the Times-Call or who otherwise write.

The referendum to overturn the annexation of the LifeBridge development garnered more signatures than needed — over 6,000 signatures. LifeBridge did a telephone poll to test the community waters and as a result pulled its application for annexation.

Your people, and they are your people, have taken to saying the signers of that petition were lied to.

The only people who are lying are those who make that statement.

It was that statement that prompted Santos to proclaim that he was not a LIAR. Sorry, Mr. Santos, you are not to be believed — on this and on any number of other matters.

Bag of Hammers

Your Tom DeLay tactics have been on display from the dais from the day you were sworn in. Most in the community won’t recognize them because you are slick, not to mention devious. The list could be longer, but here’s a start. You manipulate discussions and city staff with select questions that are intended to elicit only the responses that you want. And whenever possible, you attribute your motives to something the community would not likely reject, while concealing your true motives and intentions.

I’ve watched you and other council members for almost four years. I know mendacity when I see it. Mr. Santos, you and the rest of your cabal, reek of it.

You do Tom DeLay proud, Gabe Santos. Keep it up and you might end up a felon just like your former boss. He became overly cocky and now he’s facing a prison sentence.

8: The Mormon Proposition

Please join us at the Longmont Progressive Center, 723 Main Street on Wednesday, June 15, for a FREE viewing and discussion of the critically acclaimed documentary,
8:The Mormon Proposition. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the film begins at 7:00 PM.

8: The Mormon Proposition exposes the Mormon Church’s historic involvement in the promotion and passage of California’s Proposition 8 and the religion’s secretive, decades-long campaign against gay rights.

The film takes place in California and Utah as Mormons, following their prophets’ call to action, wage spiritual warfare with money and misinformation against gay citizens, doing everything they can to deny them of marriage and the rights that come with it.

8: The Mormon Proposition opened in theaters on June 18th, 2010, two years after the first gay marriages took place in California (June 17th, 2008).

Al Qaeda Likes Gun Show Loophole

From Crooks and Liars via Drudge Retort

In a new video, American-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urges would-be jihadis in the U.S. to stock up on guns through the gun-show loophole: “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” Gadahn says. “You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

Church as victim: doesn’t wash

From the outstanding blog Religion Clause by Howard M. Friedman.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Church’s RLUIPA Challenge To Zoning Denial Is Rejected

In Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canisteo v. Village of Canisteo, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58586 (WD NY, June 1, 2011), a New York federal district court held that a church had failed to plausibly plead that denial of its zoning request by the Village of Canisteo, NY imposed a substantial burden on the church’s free exercise rights under RLUIPA.  The city refused to permit building of a church in a light industrial zone. However, several other alternatives were available to the church, including building new structures on its existing property.


Hm. This sounds a LOT like LifeBridge’s whinings.

Sorry, the whole ‘victim’ thing is not working for churches.

Cities across the country are waking up to this tactic of using RLUIPA as a club to hammer away at zoning laws.

It’s time for RLUIPA to be challenged head-on – it’s nothing more than a tool for Dominionists.