32 Republicans Who Caused the Government Shutdown


32 Republicans Who Caused the Government Shutdown
Here’s the Republican clown car!
Meet the House conservative hardliners.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Friday was the fourth day of the government shutdown, and there’s still no sign of an exit. What’s surprising about the ongoing fight is how a small group of members of Congress have managed to bring Washington to a halt. Just months ago, Speaker John Boehner was warning that forcing the government to shut down over Obamacare or anything else was politically hazardous. Yet Boehner remains stuck, his strategy dictated by a small rump of members in the Republican caucus who refuse to budge. On Monday night, as government funding ran out, a group of around 40 hardline conservatives refused to support any resolution to fund the government that didn’t defund Obamacare. Since Monday night, their goals may have become less clear, but their resolve has not weakened. While it’s widely believed that a “clean” resolution would pass the House handily, it would also likely lead to a right-wing rebellion in the caucus that would spell the end of Boehner’s speakership.

So who are those hardliners? To compile this list, we started with a roster that the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group aligned with Ted Cruz, created of representatives who were allied with them. We cross-checked it with the list of members who signed an August letter by Rep. Mark Meadows demanding that Boehner use a shutdown as a threat to defund Obamacare, and against other public statements this week. It’s not a comprehensive roll — there’s no official “wacko bird” caucus that keeps a register — but it’s a window into the small but powerful group of men and women in the House of Representatives who brought the federal government to a standstill.


Representative: Justin Amash

Home District: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Quoted: “President Obama and Senator Reid refuse to negotiate over giving regular Americans the same breaks they give themselves, government workers, and big business.”


Representative: Michele Bachmann

Home District: Stillwater, Minnesota

Quoted: “This is about the happiest I’ve seen members in a long time because we’ve seen we’re starting to win this dialogue on a national level.”


Representative: Marsha Blackburn

Home District: Brentwood, Tennessee

Quoted: “There is some good news out of the shutdown, the EPA can’t issue new regulations.”


Representative: Mo Brooks

Home District: Huntsville, Alabama

Quoted: “America survived the last 17 government shutdowns.”


Representative: Paul Broun

Home District: Athens, Georgia

Quoted: “[The Democrats] need to look in the mirror, because they’re the ones to blame. They’re the ones that shut the government down.”


Representative: John Carter

Home District: Round Rock, Texas

Quoted: “We must postpone this overreaching and damaging law that I believe will bankrupt the hard-working every day American.”


Representative: John Culberson

Home District: Houston, Texas

Quoted: “The whole room [said]: ‘Let’s vote!’ I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!


Representative: Ron DeSantis

Home District: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Quoted: “It is a simple issue of fairness: Members of Congress, their staff, and the political elite should not be given special relief from the harmful effects of Obamacare while the rest of America is left holding the bag.”


Representative: Scott DesJarlais

Home District: Jasper, Tennessee

Quoted: “I remain committed in refusing to vote for any proposal that funds the president’s health-care law, and I call upon my colleagues to join me. A temporary government shutdown pales in comparison to the long-term negative consequences that Obamacare will impose on our economy and our healthcare system.”


Representative: Jeff Duncan

Home District: Laurens, South Carolina

Quoted: “I believe Obamacare has shut down America, so I’d rather shut down the government than continue doing what we’re doing, which is penalizing businesses and families in this country.”


Representative: John Fleming

Home District: Minden, Louisiana

Quoted: “This is what my constituents send me here for. This does underscore just how serious we are and how serious our constituents are about putting an end to Obamacare.”


Representative: Scott Garrett

Home District: Wantange Township, New Jersey

Quoted: “I am deeply disappointed that President Obama and the Senate refused to come to the negotiation table and failed to fund the federal government.”


Representative: Phil Gingrey

Home District: Marietta, Georgia

Quoted: “A majority of Americans think Obamacare will make health care in our country worse, and they’re right. House Republicans are listening to the American people, and I urge Harry Reid and Senate Democrats to do the same.”


Representative: Louie Gohmert

Home District: Tyler, Texas

Quoted: “There are just so many broken promises that we need to slow this train wreck, this nightmare. It’s time to put the skids on this thing and slow it down before more people get hurt.”


Representative: Tom Graves

Home District: Ranger, Georgia

Quoted: “House GOP is united around a very reasonable policy: POTUS should give families the same Obamacare delay he gave to businesses.”


Representative: Vicky Hartzler

Home District: Harrisonville, Missouri

Quoted: “The American people have spoken already on this: They do not want Obamacare …. It is hurting people.”


Representative: Tim Huelskamp

Home District: Fowler, Kansas

Quoted: “Most Americans realize the government shutdown has no impact on their daily life. They got their mail today; they’re going to get their Social Security check.”


Representative: Jim Jordan

Home District: Urbana, Ohio

Quoted: “We have to get something on Obamacare, because that — if you want to get this country on a fiscal path to balance, you cannot let an entitlement of this size that will truly bankrupt the country and, more importantly, one that’s not going to help Americans with their health care, you can’t let this happen. ”


Representative: Steve King

Home District: Kiron, Iowa

Quoted: “The American people have rejected Obamacare. The president is willing to put all of that on the line to save his namesake legislation, which I think would go down in history as the largest political tantrum ever.”


Representative: Raul Labrador

Home District: Eagle, Idaho

Quoted: To Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “You know, your boss, Tip O’Neill, shut down the government 12 different times. And you didn’t call him a terrorist.


Representative: Tom Massie

Home District: Garrison, Kentucky

Quoted: “It’s just not that big of a deal.”


Representative: Tom McClintock

Home District: Elk Grove, California

Quoted: In response to Harry Reid calling Tea Partiers “anarchists”: “When the other guy starts calling you names, you know that you’re winning the debate, and you know that he knows you’re winning the debate.”


Representative: Mark Meadows

Home District: Cashier, North Carolina

Quoted: “James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 58 that ‘the power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon . . . for obtaining redress of every grievance.’”


Representative: Randy Neugebauer

Home District: Lubbock, Texas

Quoted: “We get tons of mail and E-mails and phone calls. And overwhelmingly, those phone calls say, ‘Congressman, do everything you can to get rid of this very onerous piece of legislation. We don’t want the government running our health care.’ And so, from my perspective, we’re doing the people’s work here.”


Representative: Matt Salmon

Home District: Mesa, Arizona

Quoted: “I was here during the government shutdown in 1995. It was a divided government. we had a Democrat president of the United States. We had a Republican Congress. And I believe that that government shutdown actually gave us the impetus, as we went forward, to push toward some real serious compromise.”


Representative: Mark Sanford

Home District: Charleston, South Carolina

Quoted: “Our society has been held together for over 200 years in no small part due to the belief that our system was fair or equitable, yet the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been anything but that.”


Representative: Steve Scalise

Home District: Jefferson, Louisiana

Quoted: “Either Obamacare is good enough that it should apply to all or it is so bad that it should apply to none. It is time for the sweetheart deals and backroom exemptions to end.”


Representative: Dave Schweikert

Home District: Fountain Hills, Arizona

Quoted: “I know it’s not comfortable for a lot of people here, but this is how it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to be cantankerous. It’s supposed to be this constant grinding.” *

* A previous version of this story quoted Schweikert saying that the shutdown “is my kind of fun.” That statement was taken out of context. The congressman was referring to an interview with NPR, not with the government shutdown. We regret the error.

Representative: Steve Stockman

Home District: Clear Lake, Texas

Quoted: “Americans want Congress to do two things, work together on our national fiscal crisis and stop Obamacare. It’s time Congress started listening to them.”


Representative: Marlin Stutzman

Home District: Howe, Indiana

Quoted: “We aren’t going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”


Representative: Randy Weber

Home District: Pearland, Texas

Quoted: “When the Democrats passed [Obamacare] over 60 percent of America’s wishes three years ago, they began this government shutdown.”


Representative: Ted Yoho

Home District: Gainesville, Florida

Quoted: “It only takes one with passion — look at Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King.”


This post has been amended to clarify the context of a comment by Rep. Dave Schweikert.

All photos: Wikimedia Commons 

Christian Right v Godless Liberalism: Why Do Christians Attack Godless Liberals?


Christian Right v Godless Liberalism: Why Do Christians Attack Godless Liberals?

By ,

Growth of “Godless” as an Epithet for Liberals:

The nature of godless liberalism can be difficult to understand because of the misuse of the label by the Christian Right. According to them, all liberals are godless because they don’t adhere to conservative evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity. Only conservative political policies are seen as compatible with Christianity; therefore, all other policies are anti-Christian, anti-religious, and anti-God. Advocates are all thus godless liberals, but that misrepresents the nature of atheism.

Godless Liberals are Communists:

Christian Right pundits often claim that atheism is essentially socialist or communist in nature – indeed, “godless” and “communist” are often used side-by-side as epithets. Communism is not, however, inherently atheistic. It’s possible to hold communist economic views while being a theist, and it isn’t uncommon to be an atheist who staunchly defends capitalism. Those who link the two as a smear simply haven’t gotten the message that the “war on godless communism” ended long ago. Read More…

Godless Liberals are Elitist & Arrogant:

Just as common as the use of “godless” and “communist” as political smears is the label “elitist.” Conservatives have long attacked liberals as “elitist” to convince average Americans that liberals have nothing in common with them. The truth is that the label “elitist” would apply equally to some conservatives as well as some liberals. There is nothing about being godless which makes a person is more elitist or arrogant; if anything, claiming to know what God wants is a sign of arrogance.

Godless Liberals are Secularists, Opposed to Religious Liberty:

The Christian Right opposes secularism and regards it as one of modernity’s greatest evils, so it’s only natural that they use it as a smear against liberals, godless or otherwise. Liberals are generally secularists, and godless liberals particularly so, because secularism is so important to modern society. Secularism simply means having civil institutions which are independent of ecclesiastical control. The opposite of secularism and secular government is some form of theocracy.

Godless Liberals are Anti-American:

A popular attack on godless atheists is that they are anti-American. This derives in part from the assumption that true American patriotism is impossible without also being a True Christian – America is a Christian Nation, after all – and in part from the traditional assumption that communists are also anti-American. If godless atheists are anti-America, then godless liberals must be as well. The falsehood of this is obvious given just how false all the premises necessarily are.

Godless Liberals are Anti-Christian:

Many atheists spend a great deal of time with the doctrines and beliefs which are specific to Christianity or, at the very least, to traditional forms of Western monotheism. Some atheists are indeed vehemently anti-Christian, but only insofar as they oppose religion generally – Christianity is simply the most relevant religion in their social context. This isn’t much of a complaint against atheists, though, unless it can be shown that Christianity should be exempted from such attacks.

Godless Liberals are Anti-Religion:

For people who see their god or their religion as the source of all order and morality, godless liberalism may be treated as impossible or even as a threat. The fact that godless liberals do not derive their political positions from religious doctrine does not make them anti-religious, though. They may personally be anti-religion, but politically they may not be – indeed, they may have no problem making common cause with religious liberals.

Godless Liberalism is an anti-Christian Religion:

Alongside accusing godless liberals of being anti-religion, conservatives accuse it of also being a religion that opposes Christianity. Being an atheist isn’t incompatible with belonging to a religion, but atheism itself doesn’t qualify as a religion. Liberalism is a political philosophy which lacks all the basic characteristics of a religion and is no more religious than conservatism – and possibly less so. Godless liberalism is not a religion and there is no church of godless liberalism.

Godless Liberals Undermine Moral Values with Godless Evolution:

A popular target for conservatives is evolutionary science, which they say undermines traditional religious faith and morality. They say evolution is incompatible with Christian beliefs and are convinced that teaching evolution will destroy Christianity. Liberals who support teaching science in public schools are accused of being godless and anti-Christian. The science of evolution is godless, but it’s not a religion, not incompatible with morality, and not anti-Christian. Read More…

Godless Liberalism, Traditional Bigotry, and Christian Privilege:

Atheists don’t exist in large numbers in America and aren’t a very powerful interest group in American politics. Atheists can be found in both liberal and conservative political movements; liberals overall are primarily theistic and Christian, not atheists. Neither the godless nor godless liberals have by themselves any significant impact on politics, culture, or society. Because of all this and more, we have to ask why conservatives have become so obsessed with attacking “godless liberals.”Conservative attacks on godless liberals make no sense if the target is really supposed to be godless liberals themselves; on the other hand, if godless liberals are merely a substitute for other targets, the attacks are more understandable. One likely point of the attacks is an indirect defense of traditional Christian privileges: if anything is indicative of the loss of Christian privileges in America, it’s the unapologetic presence of outspoken atheists – and especially the presence of atheists filing lawsuits to eliminate government favoritism towards and promotion of Christianity. Attacks on the godless are thus a means for expressing outrage that some feel because Christians and Christianity are not treated as special anymore.Another likely reason for the attacks on godless liberals is the fact that conservatives are finding it increasingly difficult to attack the minorities they have traditionally tried to attack in defense of other traditional privileges: male privilege, white privilege, and heterosexual privilege. Conservatives frequently attack gays, but it’s getting harder to be openly bigoted towards them without social consequences. Attacks on the equality of women and racial minorities are even more difficult and must be heavily veiled with code-words involving immigration, radical feminism, and so forth. If someone wants to vent their bigotry, they do so against liberalism generally because it’s largely responsible for the decline of traditional privileges.

Republican Hypocrite Whose Family Takes Government Farm Subsidies, Mocks Food Stamp Recipients


Rep. Huelskamp, Whose Family Takes Government Farm Subsidies, Mocks Food Stamp Recipients

by Brian Tashman
Religious nutcase Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who bravely opposed federal aid to all those greedy Northeasterners affected by Hurricane Sandy, is now boasting about his support for a House GOP plan to kick four to six million people off the food stamp program.

As Jonathan Chait details, the GOP’s draconian food stamp cuts were coupled with a push to preserve excessive subsidies for farmers and agribusinesses, which the GOP refused to cut as much as the Obama administration proposed. And, surprise surprise, Huelskamp’s family has greatly benefited from such government aid:

Huelskamp has been able to see a need for federal relief closer to his home. His brother’s farm received $1.6 million in federal subsidies from 1995 to 2011. The federal payouts included more than $30,000 for disaster subsidies.

Huelskamp’s parents’ farm has also received subsidies. Politico reported in 2011 that the farm took in $1.1 million in federal farms subsidies from 1995 to 2009.

While speaking to right-wing talk show host Steve Deace yesterday, Huelskamp had fun sticking it to all those whiney poors trying to receive food assistance for their families.

Huelskamp pointed to Jason Greenslate, a California surfer who has been all over Fox News, as the face of American food stamp recipients. Media Matters points out that “labeling Greenslate a representative of SNAP recipients flies in the face of readily available data, which shows that the fraud and waste rate in the SNAP program is less than 1 percent and that 41 percent of food stamp recipients live ‘in a household with earnings.’”

Huelskamp joked that his two kids always feel “starved” under his watch, but that with his vote to cut food assistance, he only “decided to starve a surfer by the name of Jason in California who has decided that he’s not going to get a job in life because he gets food stamps.”

“Go pick up trash in a road ditch,” Huelskamp said, “you got to do something. There are 3.5-4 million American adults who are able-bodied, have no dependence and what do we require them to do to get a free check for food? Nothing.”

Huelskamp went on to call the food stamp program “out of control” because of its growth in size. Gee, it’s not like America has faced a recession or high unemployment rates or anything that might have driven up enrollment. Maybe all these working families struggling to put food on the table can just buy a big farm and get government welfare that way!

New Chicago Wage Theft Law Sets Model for Nation


New Chicago Wage Theft Law Sets Model for Nation

By Camille Beredjick

A car wash worker testifies before a Chicago City Council committee about having his wages stolen by an employer.
(Courtesy of Arise Chicago)

Chicago’s City Council unanimously passed a wage theft law Thursday that labor activists hope will set a standard for other cities around the United States. Under the new law, companies convicted of wage theft—which includes unpaid overtime or hourly pay below the minimum wage—could have their business licenses revoked.

Before Thursday’s vote, members of the labor group Arise Chicago and other workers and activists showed up in droves to committee hearings. Labor activists agreed to one concession: a provision of the bill specifying that businesses could lose their licenses only after “willful or egregious violations,” a means of protecting companies who miscalculate workers’ pay by accident.

According to a 2012 report from Progressive States Network, the ratio of federal Department of Labor enforcement agents to U.S. workers is a dismal one to every 141,000. With less enforcement and accountability, activists say, it’s easier for companies to mistreat workers.

“In low-wage industries,” said [Arise Chicago’s Adam] Kader, “it’s standard practice to be practicing wage theft.” Now, he said, “there’s another force that they have to reckon with, which is the threat of losing their license.” Advocates say Chicago is now the second, and the largest, U.S. city with such a law on the books. San Francisco was the first

20 Percent of Americans Don’t Believe in God–So Why is Our Congress So Religious?


By Alex Kane           

20 Percent of Americans Don’t Believe in God–So Why is Our Congress So Religious?

The new Congress includes a Hindu, a Buddhist and someone who doesn’t identify with any religion, but the majority of members remain Christian.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

The new, 113th Congress that was sworn in last week may be more religiously diverse than any other session, but the body as a whole is more committed to religion than the U.S. population. New data analysis  released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life bears this out.

When the new Congress gathered last week in Washington, D.C., a Hindu and a Buddhist were sworn in–a first in U.S. history. Rounding out the religious diversity in the new Congress is Kyrsten Sinema, a representative from Arizona, who is not religious at all (she d oesn’t identify with the terms “non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever”).

But Congress remains more religious than Americans are. As  the Pew Forum states, “perhaps the greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’– a group sometimes collectively called the ‘nones.’”

Those numbers are a striking contrast to the religious beliefs of Congress. The majority of Congress remains Protestant–56 percent, to be exact. 30 percent identify as Catholic, with Mormons, Jews and other religious minorities rounding out the list. Still, the Pew Forum notes that “the proportion of Protestants in Congress has been in gradual decline for decades, and the number in the 113th Congress is lower than the number in the previous Congress (307), even if the difference in percentage terms is slight.”

Atheists and Non-Religious Underrepresented in New Congress


New Congress Underrepresents Nonreligious And ‘Nones’, But Gains In Diversity With Hindu, Buddhist

New Congress Religion

Members of the 113th US House of Representatives recite the Pledge of Allegience during the opening session at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 3, 2013.

Nearly one-in-five Americans have no religion, but only one member of the 533 people in the new 113th Congress that was sworn in Thursday would fall into one of the largest and fastest growing American demographics when it comes to religion or lack thereof.

A new analysis from the Pew Forum shows that while the new Congress is more diverse than ever before — it includes the the nation’s first Buddhist Senator and the first Hindu in either chamber of Congress, for example — it’s still far less diverse than the nation it represents.

Like the one before it, the new Congress is majority Protestant, but its changing membership is part of a “gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole,” according to the Pew analysis. Congress is “far less” Protestant today than it was 50 years ago, when almost three-quarters of its membership was Protestant, according to the analysis.

“Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Mormons each make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. The same is true for some subgroups of Protestants, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. By contrast, Pentecostals are a much smaller percentage of Congress than of the general public,” the analysis says. “Due in part to electoral gains in recent years, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus now are represented in Congress in closer proportion to their numbers in the U.S. adult population. But some small religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.”

Pew says that “perhaps greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion.” One-in-five U.S. adults are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” a group that’s altogether often called the “nones.” But only one person in the 113th Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), does not affiliate with any particular religion, though Sinema has also said through a spokesman that “the terms non-theist, atheist or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

In addition to Sinema, ten other members of the new Congress (about two percent) don’t specify their religion, an increase from six members (about one percent) in the previous Congress. According to Pew, that two percent figure is the same as the share of U.S. adults who have said in surveys that they don’t know or will not specify their religion.

The religious group to have the biggest increase in Congressional membership is Catholics, who have gained seven seats for a total of 163, making just above 30 percent of Congress Catholic. The biggest declines in numbers are among Jews and Protestants. Jews now have 33 seats in Congress (six percent), which is six fewer than before. Protestants lost eight seats, but they the current Congress has nearly the same percentage of Protestants (56 percent) as the previous one (57 percent).

The share of Protestants in each party remains nearly the same, too, as the 112th Congress. About seven-in-ten Republicans are Protestants, while less than half of Democrats are. But members of Congress who were sworn in for the first time on Thursday are significantly less Protestant than the Congressional freshmen class of 2011. Forty-eight percent of this year’s freshmen class are Protestant, compared to 59 percent of the freshmen class two years ago.

Mormons have 15 seats (about three percent) in the new Congress, the same number as in the previous Congress.

From Pew:

Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who has served on the Honolulu City Council and in the Hawaii state legislature, represents Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. Gabbard takes over the seat held in the 112th Congress by Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D), who on Nov. 6, 2012, became the first Buddhist elected to the Senate.In 2006, Hirono and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) became the first Buddhists to be elected to the House. Four years later, they were joined by a third Buddhist member, Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii). Johnson and Hanabusa were re-elected to serve in the 113th Congress.

The first Muslim to serve in either the House or the Senate, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was elected in 2006. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) became the second Muslim in Congress when he won a special election in 2008. In 2012, Michigan Democrat Syed Taj lost his bid to become the third Muslim member of Congress. Ellison and Carson were re-elected.

Members of other small religious groups started serving in Congress more than a century ago. The first Jewish member arrived in 1845, when Lewis Charles Levin of the American Party began representing Pennsylvania in the House. The first Mormon in Congress, John Milton Bernhisel, began serving in 1851, after Utah was officially recognized as a territory. California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, the first and so far only Sikh to serve in Congress, served three terms starting in 1957.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a Unitarian who joined Congress in 1973, became the first member of Congress to publicly declare, in 2007, that he does not believe in a Supreme Being. He lost his re-election bid in 2012.

Of the 533 members of the new Congress, 299 are Protestant, which is about the same percentage (56 percent) as in the 112th Congress (57 percent) and higher than the share of Protestants in the U.S. adult population (48 percent). But the proportion of Protestants in Congress has been in gradual decline for decades, and the number in the 113th Congress is lower than the number in the previous Congress (307), even if the difference in percentage terms is slight.

From Pew:

In many ways, the changes in the religious makeup of Congress during the last half-century mirror broader changes in American society. Congress, like the nation as a whole, has become much less Protestant and more religiously diverse. The number of Protestants in Congress has dropped from three-quarters (75 percent) in 1961 to 56 percent today, which roughly tracks with broader religious demographic trends during this period. As recently as the 1980s, General Social Surveys found that about six-in-ten Americans identified themselves as Protestants. In aggregated surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012 and reported in the Pew Forum’s October 2012 report “‘Nones’ on the Rise,” the share of self-identified Protestants has dipped to just under half (48 percent).Likewise, many of the major Protestant denominational families have lost ground in Congress in the past 50 years. Methodists, who made up nearly one-in-five members (18 percent) of the 87th Congress, which was seated in 1961, make up nine percent of the 113th Congress. Some other Protestant denominational families also have seen a decline in their numerical representation in Congress. For example, Episcopalians have gone from 12 percent to seven percent and Congregationalists from five percent to less than one percent during this period.

A few Protestant groups have fared somewhat better, however. From 1961 to today, the proportion of Baptists in Congress has increased slightly from 12 percent to 14 percent, and the Lutheran share has stayed roughly the same (around four percent).

Meanwhile, other religious groups have seen their share of congressional seats grow, in some cases dramatically. Catholics, for instance, have gone from 19 percent of the congressional membership in 1961 to 31 percent today. The percentage of Jewish members of Congress has risen from two percent in 1961 to six percent today.

Top 10 Most and Least Religious States
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  • #1: Mississippi (59 percent)

  • #2 Utah (57 percent)

  • #3 Alabama (56 percent)

  • #4 Louisiana (54 percent)

  • #5 Arkansas (54 percent)

  • #6 South Carolina (54 percent)

  • #7 Tennessee (52 percent)

  • #8 North Carolina (50 percent)

  • #9 Georgia (48 percent)

  • #10 Oklahoma (48 percent)

  • #51 Vermont (23 percent)

  • #50 New Hampshire (23 percent)

  • #49 Maine (25 percent)

  • #48 Massachusetts (28 percent)

  • #47 Alaska (28 percent)

  • #46 Oregon (30 percent)

  • #45 Nevada (30 percent)

  • #44 Washington (30 percent)

  • #43 Connecticut (31 percent)

  • #42 District of Columbia (32 percent)

  • #42 New York (32 percent)

  • #42 Rhode Island (32 percent)

10,000 Protesters Converge on Michigan Capitol as Gov. Snyder’s Assault on Workers’ Rights Signed Into Law


10,000 Protesters Converge on Michigan Capitol as Gov. Snyder’s Assault on Workers’ Rights Signed Into Law

Things got dicey in Lansing when protesters took down a tent erected on Capitol grounds by the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity, as lawmakers passed a law designed to eviscerate union membership rolls.

Rat balloons were used to depict Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and allied legislators on Tuesday, Dec. 11, as they passed into law new rules that allow workers in union shops to not pay union dues. Photo Credit: UAW.org

Union protesters in front of the Michigan Capitol today knocked down an enormous tent erected by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-brothers-funded group that helped bring right to work to the state. State troopers arriving on horseback were helpless, bringing to mind images of Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s men.Several dozen protesters were sitting down in the Capitol Rotunda, risking arrest, and more were outside the governor’s office. Three school districts were forced to close schools because so many teachers called off for the day.

Four giant inflatable rats in the 10,000-person crowd were named for prominent Republican politicians and their richest backer.

But despite the anger and the chants, the legislature made it official. Gov. Rick “The Nerd” Snyder was expected to sign right-to-work bills tomorrow.

ShockedMichigan unionists were shocked last Tuesday when Snyder announced his support for right to work. His legislative allies quickly did their part, passing the needed public and private sector bills last week as police used Mace to clear the Capitol of protesting union members.

Snyder had previously said right-to-work was too divisive and not on his agenda. Such laws outlaw union contracts that require all represented workers to pay dues, allowing members to resign and depleting union treasuries. United Auto Workers President Bob King, who has 151,000 members and 190,000 retirees in the state, said the governor’s about-face “blind-sided” him.

But the plan to make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state was long brewing. With 17.5 percent union density, the fifth-highest in the country, and a record of voting for Democratic presidents, Michigan was a tempting target for such billionaire-funded national groups as Americans for Prosperity (the Koch brothers) and for the state’s home-grown billionaire, Richard DeVos of the Amway fortune.

Writing in a blog for The Nation, Lee Fang shows that Americans for Prosperity’s Michigan chapter quadrupled its spending in 2010, the year Snyder was elected, to $1.1 million. The Mackinac Center, a longtime right-wing think tank in the state, spent $5.7 million last year, and stepped up its game last week to support Snyder’s move. DeVos funds both groups.

Long Time ComingMichigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer dates the campaign for right to work to at least 2007. A video shows former Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser speaking to a Tea Party meeting in August. Weiser, now finance chair of the Republican National Committee, describes meeting with DeVos, former Michigan Governor John Engler (now with the Business Roundtable), representatives from Americans for Prosperity, and Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma, which passed right to work in 2001. (Here the CEO of Oklahoma’s Chamber of Commerce admits he can’t name any companies that moved to Oklahoma because of right to work.)

Weiser: “We hired a political consultant, and I invested a bunch of money and time, and I was working on that full-time from October [2007] until March [2008]…. [After meeting with the above-named players], what we determined was that to win that election, and to be sure we were gonna win it, we couldn’t have a governor that was against it. So we decided to wait. Wait until we had a governor. Now we have a legislature and we have a governor.”

Those elements were in place by January 2011. But Snyder and the Republican majority in the legislature held off on right to work, perhaps warned by the tumult next door in Wisconsin that winter. Instead they pursued a piecemeal strategy, appointing “emergency managers” to run troubled cities and throw out union contracts, taking away teachers’ automatic dues deductions, rescinding domestic partner benefits for public employees, defining university research assistants, who were organizing, as non-workers, and a host of other measures that wouldn’t rile everyone at once.

Attempt to Head Off Right to WorkTo head off right to work and to nullify all the laws that interfered with collective bargaining, the UAW’s King and other union leaders developed an offensive plan, to pass a constitutional amendment. Proposal 2, on the ballot last month, would have made collective bargaining a constitutional right in the state.

But Proposal 2 went down to defeat decisively, 57 to 42 percent. It fell victim to a $30 million disinformation campaign, with ads citing the sanctity of the constitution and warning that the bill would prevent school districts from firing child molesters.

Campaign leaders were reluctant to specify any particular laws that Proposal 2 would have outlawed, according to Mark O’Keefe, a staffer for the Detroit Federation of Teachers—presumably afraid that any specific was likely to offend someone. O’Keefe thought the vagueness “created uncertainty and mistrust” among voters, and that a simple ban on right-to-work would have stood a better chance.

The campaign seemed to come from nowhere, in any case. It was not the result of discussion within the union base. Community allies were approached after the decision was made.

And Ray Holman, legislative liaison for the UAW’s big state employees local, thinks the proactive strategy was actually a disadvantage. He contrasted the defeat with last year’s victory in Ohio, where voters saved collective bargaining rights by repealing Senate Bill 5. “They had an advantage because rights were taken away,” Holman said right after the vote. “Here it was a harder climb. If they passed right-to-work and then we tried to repeal it, we’d have a better chance.”

He probably won’t have the chance to find out. Legislators attached appropriations to the right-to-work bills, and money bills can’t be repealed by the citizens, in Michigan.

At the same time, though, O’Keefe noted that pre-election polls showed union members backing Proposal 2 by just two-thirds. “If we only get two-thirds within the unions, it’s not surprising we don’t get a majority overall,” he said.

Who’s to Blame?Some now want to blame Bob King for Snyder’s initiative. If he hadn’t demonstrated to the world that unions aren’t that popular in Michigan, they say, Snyder might not have gotten the right-to-work idea. In addition, King angered Snyder by going for Proposal 2 even though Snyder asked him not to.

But it didn’t take the defeat of Proposal 2 to alert Republicans to right to work, nor any desire for personal revenge on Snyder’s part. The Nerd, as he likes to be known, doesn’t have that personality. More likely he moved now because the balance of votes in the legislature will shift in January. Though they retained a majority in both houses, Republicans lost five seats in the House in November, and not all Republicans have been voting with the majority on right to work.

Stepping back, though, it is possible to partly blame the victim of this latest assault. The UAW is the leading union in Michigan, and it is the union that, over the last generation, led the way nationally on concessions of all kinds, from speedup on the job to labor-management participation schemes to two-tier pay. Though many remain loyal, it’s impossible to claim that the UAW is popular with its members.

At today’s rally, Teamsters President James Hoffa, who’s from Michigan, said the way back for unions will be a long fight. The slide down has been long, too, and now it’s accelerating.

The Day God Punk’d Pat Roberston


Robertson Admits he Blew Election Prediction he Received from God

In January, televangelist Pat Robertson told 700 Club viewers that in his annual New Year’s “conversation” with God, the Almighty had revealed to him who the next president would  be. Up through Election Day, Robertson harshly criticized President Obama and the Democratic Party while praising Mitt Romney. Then, Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network predicted a GOP sweep, leaving Robertson utterly confounded by Obama’s victory.

Today, responding to a question from a viewer who wondered why her business is struggling since she thought God told her it would be successful, Robertson admitted that he sometimes misses God’s message. “So many of us miss God, I won’t get into great detail about elections but I sure did miss it, I thought I heard from God, I thought I had heard clearly from God, what happened?” Robertson replied, “You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I have a lot of practice.”

Dire Warning! | Frothing Religious Lunatic Pat Robertson Accuses Atheists!


Dire Warning! | Frothing Religious Lunatic Pat Robertson Accuses Atheists!
Robertson: ‘Miserable’ Atheists Trying to ‘Steal’ Christmas
SUBMITTED BY Brian Tashman

The “War on Christmas” has arrived and the 700 Club is doing all it can to stoke fears that Christmas may cease to exist. Host Pat Robertson warned that “the Grinch is trying to steal our holiday” as “miserable” atheists “want to steal your holiday away from you” simply because they can’t stand the joy of Christmas. “Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable,” he said. “They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable.”

Watch:

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Mormon Assclown Romney’s Ludicrous Foreign Policy Cockups!


Hilarious! Mitt Romney’s Easy Five-Step Approach to Foreign Policy

The next presidential debate will deal with foreign policy, which is probably why the latest web ad from the Obama campaign is a satirical take on Mitt Romney’s many ludicrous foreign policy mistakes.

The $71 Billion Break From Religious Parasites


The $71 Billion Break: Why Reforming Religious Subsidies Will Benefit Us All

Now more than ever, the United States needs to change its laws surrounding religious subsidies. Last year, the state of Florida cut over $1.3 billion from the budget meant for public schools as well as $1.1 billion for police and firefighter pensions. If Florida had collected property taxes on religious institutions, the revenue would have been $2.2 Billion, almost enough to cover both of these budgetary expenses. In fact, the debate over religious tax exemptions has recently been distilled down to one number: 71 billion dollars. That’s the total amount that the government forgoes every year in religious subsidies, and clearly, there are places that this money could be put to use.

It’s not that religious organizations are unimportant to our civil society, nor should churches necessarily be stripped of all the privileges they enjoy. Rather, we should reform our tax law to ensure that churches really are doing good work with the money they are given. It will not weaken religious groups to put them on equal footing with the other non-profit organizations in our country.

The $71 billion sum comes from Prof. Ryan Cragun of the University of Tampa. He and his students arrived at this number by adding up the various government subsidies that churches enjoy (these include the parsonage exemption, income tax subsidies, and property tax subsidies among others). Other charitable groups are also eligible for some of these benefits—the difference is that secular nonprofits are responsible for reporting their finances. If a nonreligious charity wants to maintain its tax free status, they must prove they are addressing the issues they claim to work on—such as poverty, homelessness, or health care. The American Red Cross, for instance, spends 92.1 percent of its budget directly on the needs of those it aims to assist.

However, the primary function of a church is not to provide charity as much as it is to address spiritual concerns. For example, the Mormon Church gives about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charitable causes. Other churches, like the United Methodist Church, give significantly more (about 29 percent of its annual income 2010). Yet, as the study’s authors point out, even if a 50 percent cutoff is used to determine whether an institution is primarily a charitable organization, there may not be a single religion that would qualify.

Even so, churches do not have to apply for tax exempt status; they get it automatically. Additionally, while all other 501(c)(3) charities are restricted in their political activities, churches go as far as to intentionally flout these rules, blatantly daring the IRS to take actions against them. This lack of regulation is especially troubling considering the $71 billion of government money at stake. Doesn’t the government have an interest in ensuring that a church is respecting its 501(c)(3) designation, and doesn’t the privileging of religious groups over secular institutions represent an unconstitutional endorsement of religion?

Not everyone believes in the same answers to these questions. In a May 2012 New York Times opinion piece, Prof. Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, responded directly to a prompt about religious tax breaks. He wrote that “What is good for religion is good for America,” and noted that religious exemptions (including tax laws) help churches remain independent from the government. These institutions then use their independence to act as instrumental forces for good in the public sphere. As evidence, Rienzi asks us to look at the history of the United States: From Quakers leading the charge against slavery to Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC, the whole nation benefits when religious groups share their beliefs with the American community.

With this popular line of reasoning, Rienzi manages to sidestep the question at hand. He swiftly frames his argument as a general defense of all religious privileges and thus avoids engaging the concern of tax exemptions in any detail (while also declining to mention any of the religiously informed bigotry of our past and present).

As a start, religious organizations should separate their charitable activities and finances from their religious activities and finances. This way, we can be sure that money is not being used for political or personal purposes. However, even this practical solution is unlikely to gain much traction in today’s political environment, because Rienzi and others fear that by keeping church financial records honest, we may encroach on the crucial “breathing space” that religious individuals and institutions need to exist. Ultimately however, a church that operates like any other charity will depend less on government exemptions and will be more likely to do work that does the most good for the most people in our society.

Christianity Synonymous With Ignorance | American Xtian Teens Most Ignorant on Sex and Contraception


Why Are American Teens So Ignorant About Sex and Birth Control?
A new survey reveals just how ignorant young people are about contraception and pregnancy.

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7
 When it comes to sex and reproduction, even the most mind-numbingly intuitive conclusions can be politicized or disbelieved. So they bear repeating and resubstantiation. Take this recent Guttmacher study on contraceptive knowledge. Surveying 1,800 men and women ages 18–29, the authors “found that the lower the level of contraceptive knowledge among young women, the greater the likelihood that they expected to have unprotected sex in the next three months, behavior that puts them at risk for an unplanned pregnancy.” In other words, access to factual information helps prevent risky behavior.

I’m holding myself back from saying “duh” here, but this still has to be reiterated at a time when abstinence-only education that doesn’t provide detailed information about contraceptive use, except occasionally to emphasize its limits, not only persists but recently got a federal stamp of approval. As an Advocates for Youth report on the impact of abstinence-only education noted, “Proponents of abstinence-only programs believe that providing information about the health benefits of condoms or contraception contradicts their message of abstinence-only and undermines its impact. As such, abstinence-only programs provide no information about contraception beyond failure rates.” That’s how you get terrifying statistics like this one from the Guttmacher report: In the survey, “60 percent underestimated the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and 40 percent held the fatalistic view that using birth control does not matter.” Overall, “more than half of young men and a quarter of young women received low scores on contraceptive knowledge.” It’s also how you get figures like the one from the CDC that found that 31.4 percent of pregnant teens didn’t use contraception because they “thought they could not get pregnant at the time.”

There are two reasons to be optimistic that some dent can be made in these depressing figures, and they both have to do with provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Much has been made of the mandate that insurance policies cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, but there’s another aspect that’s been relatively overlooked: the fact that the same provision includes free education and counseling about sex and contraception, at least for the insured. The second reason for optimism is that the mandate will make it far easier for women to get longer-acting and more effective forms of contraception like the IUD — which are also more expensive and which studies have shown women would be interested in if they could afford them. Incidentally, the recent Guttmacher study found that women who were using long-acting or regular hormonal contraception tended to score higher on overall knowledge.

It will be awhile before we know if these changes will move the needle on the nation’s unparalleled rate of unintended pregnancy. The women’s health provisions only go into effect for new plans in August 2012, and older plans will be initially grandfathered and eventually phased out. And of course, there’s another big fat if – whether the Supreme Court overturns all or part of the Affordable Care Act. The Obama campaign and its allies are keen to point out how such a move — or, perhaps, a legislative repeal down the line — will hurt women above all. The Center for American Progress recently released a report on “Women and Obamacare” (the campaign having officially embraced the derisively intended term). It declares Obamacare “the greatest legislative advancement for women’s health in a generation,” which may be true for reasons more depressing than inspiring: There have been very few advancements partly because there has been so much political defense played.

In addition to the reproductive health benefits, the report points to preventive care recommendations for which cost-sharing has already been cut: mammograms, pap smears, prenatal care and so on. According to the report, “close to 9 million women will gain coverage for maternity care in the individual market starting in 2014,” currently not covered in 78 percent of plans sold on the individual market. It notes that women are more frequent users of healthcare services than men, that they’re likelier to make the household decisions on healthcare and that they’re more vulnerable to losing coverage because they’re likelier to be listed as dependents on a partner’s plan. The Affordable Care Act also makes it illegal to engage in “gender rating” – charging women $1 billion more than men on the individual market – and bans states from discriminating on the basis of gender identity in their insurance exchanges.

The report does acknowledge two ways in which Obamacare falls short for women who were “left out of the law — undocumented and recent immigrant women and women who need abortion services.” It claims that “political compromises on abortion coverage were necessary to ensure passage of the Affordable Care Act” – still a bitter loss to reproductive rights groups, who memorably described women as having been “thrown under the bus” by Democrats – “but the work to obtain abortion coverage for all women continues.” The last part is particularly debatable, at least when it comes to any momentum on the funding issue from national Democrats, while Republicans in the states and federally have spent considerable energy trying to limit abortion coverage on even private insurance plans.

Still, if the Affordable Care Act is allowed to stand, the magnitude of having an actual, proactive reproductive health access policy shouldn’t be underplayed. Maybe we’ll get closer to a saner republic where hearing “birth control doesn’t matter” from people who don’t want to get pregnant is a quaint memory.

Have Monsanto and Big Corporations Hijacked Higher Education?


How Corporations Like Monsanto Have Hijacked Higher Education
Student research is often dictated by corporations that endow professorships, give money to universities, and put their executives on education boards.
 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/mostafa fawzy

Here’s what happens when corporations begin to control education.

“When I approached professors to discuss research projects addressing organic agriculture in farmer’s markets, the first one told me that ‘no one cares about people selling food in parking lots on the other side of the train tracks,’” said a PhD student at a large land-grant university who did not wish to be identified. “My academic adviser told me my best bet was to write a grant for Monsanto or the Department of Homeland Security to fund my research on why farmer’s markets were stocked with ‘black market vegetables’ that ‘are a bioterrorism threat waiting to happen.’ It was communicated to me on more than one occasion throughout my education that I should just study something Monsanto would fund rather than ideas to which I was deeply committed. I ended up studying what I wanted, but received no financial support, and paid for my education out of pocket.”

Unfortunately, she’s not alone. Conducting research requires funding, and today’s research follows the golden rule: The one with the gold makes the rules.

A report just released by Food and Water Watch examines the role of corporate funding of agricultural research at land grant universities, of which there are more than 100. “You hear again and again Congress and regulators clamoring for science-based rules, policies, regulations,” says Food and Water Watch researcher Tim
Schwab, explaining why he began investigating corporate influence in agricultural research. “So if the rules and regulations and policies are based on science that is industry-biased, then the fallout goes beyond academic articles. It really trickles down to farmer livelihoods and consumer choice.”

The report found that nearly one quarter of research funding at land grant universities now comes from corporations, compared to less than 15 percent from the USDA. Although corporate funding of research surpassed USDA funding at these universities in the mid-1990s, the gap is now larger than ever. What’s more, a broader look at all corporate agricultural research, $7.4 billion in 2006, dwarfs the mere $5.7 billion in all public funding of agricultural research spent the same year.

Influence does not end with research funding, however. In 2005, nearly one third of agricultural scientists reported consulting for private industry. Corporations endow professorships and donate money to universities in return for having buildings, labs and wings named for them. Purdue University’s Department of Nutrition Science blatantly offers corporate affiliates “corporate visibility with students and faculty” and “commitment by faculty and administration to address [corporate] members’ needs,” in return for the $6,000 each corporate affiliate pays annually.

In perhaps the most egregious cases, corporate boards and college leadership overlap. In 2009, South Dakota State’s president, for example, joined the board of directors of Monsanto, where he earns six figures each year. Bruce Rastetter is simultaneously the co-founder and managing director of a company called AgriSol Energy and a member of the Iowa Board of Regents. Under his influence, Iowa State joined AgriSol in a venture in Tanzania that would have forcefully removed 162,000 people from their land, but the university later pulled out of the project after public outcry.

What is the impact of the flood of corporate cash? “We know from a number of meta-analyses, that corporate funding leads to results that are favorable to the corporate funder,” says Schwab. For example, one peer-reviewed study found that corporate-funded nutrition research on soft drinks, juice and milk were four to eight times more likely to reach conclusions in line with the sponsors’ interests. And when a scrupulous scientist publishes research that is unfavorable to the study’s funder, he or she should be prepared to look for a new source of funding.

That’s what happened to a team of researchers at University of Illinois who were funded by a statewide fertilizer “checkoff” after they published a finding that nitrogen fertilizer depletes organic matter in the soil. Checkoffs are a common method used to market agricultural products, and they are funded by a small amount from each sale of a product – in this case, fertilizer. Richard Mulvaney, one of the U of I researchers, feels it is twisted that, in this way, farmers fund research intended to promote fertilizer use with their own fertilizer purchases.

But often the industry influence may be more subtle. Joyce Lok, a graduate student at Iowa State University, said, “If a corporation funds your research, they want you to look at certain research questions that they want answered. So if that happens it’s not like you can explore other things they don’t want you to look at… I think they direct the research in that way.”

John Henry Wells, who spent several decades as a student, professor and administrator at land grant universities sees it a different way. As an academic, he hopes that his research is relevant to real world problems that agriculture faces at the time. “When you ask the question, did I ever outline a research plan with the explicit notion of is this going to be fundable, I would say no. But I thought very deeply about whether my research plan was going to be relevant, and one of the indicators of relevancy would be if the ideas I put forward would get the attention of trade associations, private industry, benefactors, etc.”

If scientists use fundability as an important criteria of selecting research topics, research intended to serve the needs of the poor and the powerless will be at a disadvantage. However, Wells says that this is hardly a new phenomenon: land grants have existed to serve the elites since their creation in the 19th century.

“As its basis, the land-grant university was intended to cater to a narrow political interest of landowners and homesteaders – individuals who had the right to vote and participate in the political structure of a representative democracy.” he says. “Contemporarily, it is not so much that the land-grant university has been corrupted by modern agro-industrial influence, as it has been historically successful in focusing on its mission in the context of our Constitutional framework of governance. For the land-grant university, its greatest strength – a political collaboration spanning the top-to-bottom echelons of influence – has been its greatest weakness.”

Land grant universities and the USDA itself first came into being at a time when the academic view of agriculture was fundamentally changing – even if most farmers at the time ignored the advice of academics, dismissing them as “book farmers” who knew little about actually working the land. Will Allen writes about this period in his book The War on Bugs, telling the story of Justus von Liebig, a prominent agricultural chemist in Germany.

“In the 1830s, Liebig began asserting that the most essential plant nutrients were nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. His theories fueled the development of chemical fertilizers and ushered in a new age of agricultural science and soil chemistry in the 1840s and 1850s. Though many of Liebig’s theories were wrong, he was the first great propagandist for chemistry and for chemical-industrial agriculture.” Perhaps the most significant of his mistakes was his belief that organic matter in the soil was unimportant.

Dozens of Americans studied under Liebig and returned to the U.S. to continue their work. Two of these students established labs at Harvard and Yale, and soon “all agricultural schools and experiment stations in the country followed their lead.” Thus, practically from the start, the elites in this country served the interests of those who peddled chemical fertilizers and other agricultural inputs – even if that wasn’t their intent. No doubt many were enticed by the prospect of founding a new, modern, scientific form of agriculture, as they felt they were doing.

The unholy trinity of industry, government and academics promoting industrial agriculture and de-emphasizing or dismissing sustainable methods has a long history and it continues today. In its report, Food and Water Watch advocates a return to robust federal funding of research at land grant universities. But government is hardly immune from serving the corporate agenda either.

Take, for example, Roger Beachy, the former head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the agency in the USDA that doles out research grants. Beachy spent much of his career as an academic, collaborating with Monsanto to produce the world’s first genetically engineered tomato. He later became the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Monsanto’s non-profit arm, before President Obama appointed him to lead NIFA.

As Schwab noted, policy is often based on research, but good policy requires a basis in unbiased, objective research. In a system in which corporations and government both fund research, but due to the revolving door, the same people switch between positions within industry, lobbying for industry, and within government, what is the solution?

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Study Says Republicans Regressive and More Right Wing Than Last 100 Years


Most Conservative Congress in How Long?

There is a new study out by a pair of political scientists saying that the current Republican caucuses in Congress are the most conservative in a hundred years. I think they are underestimating.

The 1911-12 congressional Republicans, after all, at least had some Teddy Roosevelt Republicans still in the Congress, so while a distinct minority, the party had some reformers and moderates in their caucuses. No, I think you would have to go back into the 1800s, into the Republican Congress swept into power with William McKinley‘s 1896 election, to find a party as thoroughly reactionary as this one. This is somehow appropriate, because these Republicans clearly do want to repeal the 20th century. Starting with the early Progressive movement reforms Teddy Roosevelt got accomplished, the tea party GOP is trying to roll back all the progress our country has seen over the last century plus.

Let’s go back to those late 1890s Republicans — who they were, what they believed, how they operated. This was the heart of the era dominated by Social Darwinists and Robber Baron industrialists, and the McKinley presidency was the peak of those forces’ power. The Robber Barons were hiring the Pinkertons to (literally) murder union leaders, and were (literally) buying off elected officials to get whatever they wanted out of the government: money for bribery was openly allocated in yearly corporate budgets. These huge corporate trusts were working hand in hand with their worshipful friends in the Social Darwinist world, the 1800s version of Ayn Rand, who taught that if you were rich, it was because that was the way nature meant things to be — and if you were poor, you deserved to be. Any exploitation, any greed, any concentration of wealth was justified by a survival of the strongest ethic. It was an era where Lincoln’s and the Radical Republicans of the 1860s’ progressive idea of giving land away free to poor people who wanted to work hard to be independent farmers through the Homestead Act was being overturned by big bank and railroad trusts ruthlessly driving millions of family farmers out of business. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was being completely ignored by McKinley. And of course, none of the advances of the 20th century were yet in place: child labor laws, consumer safety, the national parks or later environmental laws, consumer safety, popular election of Senators, women’s suffrage, a progressive tax system, decent labor laws, a minimum wage, Social Security, Glass-Steagall, the GI Bill, civil rights laws, Medicare, Medicaid, Legal Services, Head Start. None of it existed.

Flash forward to today. With the exception of women’s suffrage (and given the gender gap, I have no doubt that secretly Republicans would be happy to get rid of that), various high-level Republicans from this session of Congress have argued for the repeal or severe curtailment of all of those advances. This is not just Conservative with a capital C, but Reactionary with a capital R.

This is why the worship by so many pundits and establishment figures of bipartisanship and meeting in the middle as the all-around best value in American politics is so fundamentally wrong as a political strategy for Democrats. With the Republicans in Congress actually wanting to repeal the gains of the 20th century, for Democrats to meet them halfway becomes a nightmare strategy. Repealing half of the 20th century is just not a reasonable compromise, even though that would be meeting the Republicans halfway. What we need to do instead is to propose our own bold strategy for how to move forward and solve the really big problems we have. Our country needs to have this debate, and I am confident once people understand the two alternatives, they will choose our path forward rather than the Republicans’ path backward.

Ultimately, this is a debate about values. Conservatives believe in that old Social Darwinist philosophy: whoever has money and power got that way because nature intended it, and they ought to get to keep everything they have and to hell with anyone not strong to make it on their own. Selfishness is a virtue, as Ayn Rand said; greed is good, as Gordon Gekko proclaimed in the movie Wall Street; in nature, the lions eat the weak, as Glenn Beck happily proclaimed to a cheering audience. That is the underlying ethic of the Ryan-Romney Budget. What progressives argue is the opposite: that we really are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; that we should treat others as we would want to be treated, and give a helping hand to those who need it; that investing in our citizens and promoting a broadly prosperous middle class that is growing because young people and poor people are given the tools to climb the ladder into it is the key to making a better society and growing economy.

The debate is well worth having. The good news is that the Republicans are hardly shying away from it: by embracing this radically retrograde Ryan-Romney Budget, they are wearing their hearts on their sleeves and openly yearning to return to 1896. The Democrats should welcome this debate with open arms.

 

Is There A War On Religion?


 

Is There A War On Religion?

No…. But There Is A Religious Right/Catholic Hierarchy Attack On Individual Freedom

 

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By Rob Boston

From a posh residence in the heart of New York City that has been described as a “mini-mansion,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan is perhaps the most visible representative of an American church empire of 60 million adherents and vast financial holdings.

Dolan and his fellow clergy move easily through the corridors of political power, courted by big-city mayors, governors and even presidents. In the halls of Congress, they are treated with a deference no secular lobbyist can match.

From humble origins in America, the church has risen to lofty heights marked by affluence, political influence and social respect. Yet, according to church officials, they are being increasingly persecuted, and their rights are under sustained attack.

The refrain has become commonplace: There is a “war on religion.” Faith is under assault. The administration of President Barack Obama has unleashed a bombardment on religion unlike anything ever seen.

The average American would be hard-pressed to see evidence of this “war.” Millions of people meet regularly in houses of worship. What’s more, those institutions are tax exempt. Many denominations participate in taxpayer-funded social service programs. Their clergy regularly speak out on the issues of the day. In the political arena, religious leaders are treated with great respect.

Furthermore, religious organizations often get special breaks that aren’t accorded to their secular counterparts. Houses of worship aren’t required to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service. They don’t have to apply for tax-exempt status; they receive it automatically as soon as they form. Religious entities are routinely exempted from employment laws, anti-discrimination measures and even routine health and safety inspections.

Unlike secular lobbies, religious groups that work with legislators on Capitol Hill don’t have to register with the federal government and are free from the stringent reporting requirements imposed on any group that seeks to influence legislation.

Religion in America would seem to be thriving in this “hands-off” atmosphere, as evidenced by church attendance rates, which in the United States tend to be higher than any other Western nation. So where springs this “war on religion” talk?

Twin dynamics, mutually related and interdependent, are likely at work. On one hand, some religious groups are upping their demands for even more exemptions from general laws. When these are not always extended, leaders of these groups scream about hostility toward religion and say they are being discriminated against. This catches the attention of right-wing political leaders, who toss gasoline on the rhetorical fires.

A textbook example of this occurred during the recent flap over coverage of contraceptives under the new health care reform. The law seeks to ensure a baseline of coverage for all Americans, and birth control is included. Insurance firms that contract with companies must make it available with no co-pays.

Houses of worship are exempt from this requirement. But religiously affiliated organizations, such as church-run hospitals, colleges and social service agencies, are dealt with differently. The insurance companies that serve them must make contraceptives available to the employees of these entities, but the religious agencies don’t have to pay for them directly.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) attacked this policy and insisted that it violates the church’s right of conscience. Furthermore, the hierarchy insisted that all private employers should also have the right to deny any medical coverage that conflicts with their beliefs – no matter what the religious views of their employees.

The issue quickly became mired in partisan politics. Claims of a “war on religion” expand on long-held Religious Right seasonal claims of an alleged “war on Christmas.” The assertions of yuletide hostility paid great dividends to the Religious Right. They boosted groups’ fund-raising efforts and motivated some activists to get involved in politics.

Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy are hoping for a similar payoff through their claims of a war on religion.

With the economy improving, Republicans may be on the verge of losing a powerful piece of ammunition to use against Obama. The party’s Religious Right faction is eager to push social issues to the front and center as a way of mobilizing the base.

Many political leaders are happy to parrot this line. For the time being, they’ve latched on to the birth control issue as their leading example of this alleged war.

To hear these right-wing politicians tell it, asking a religiously affiliated institution that is heavily subsidized with taxpayer funds to allow an insurance company to provide birth control to those who want it is a great violation of “religious liberty.”

In mid February, House members went so far as to hold a hearing on the matter before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stacking it with a bevy of religious leaders who oppose the rule on contraceptives. Among them was Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads up a new Catholic lobbying effort on this and other social issues.

Americans United submitted testimony to the committee, but Republicans on the panel denied the Democrats’ request to hear testimony from Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School who supports the contraceptive mandate, thus leaving the panel stacked with religious figures – mostly men – who are hostile to contraceptives. (See “No Fluke,” April 2012 Church & State.)

The idea was to create the impression that the religious community – and by extension the American public – is up in arms over the regulation. In fact, the religious figures who spoke at the event were from ultra-conservative traditions that represent just one segment of religion in America. Many religious leaders and denominations support access to contraceptives, and several polls have shown support for the Obama administration’s position hovering at around 65 percent. (Polls also show that many American Catholics disagree with the church hierarchy on this issue.)

This isn’t surprising in a country where use of contraceptives is widespread. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of women who engage in sexual activity will use at least one artificial form of birth control at some point in their lives.

Contraceptives are also often prescribed for medical reasons, such as shrinking ovarian cysts or relieving menstrual pain. Americans respect religious liberty, but most believe it can be maintained while safeguarding access to needed medications.

Most Americans, in fact, understand the need to balance rights. Religious organizations have the right to believe and preach what they want, but their ability to rely on government to help them spread these views is necessarily limited.

In addition, valid social goals can override an overly broad definition of religious liberty. In some states, fundamentalist Christian parents have been ordered by courts to take their children to doctors. The theory is that a child’s right to live free of sickness and disease outweighs the parents’ religious liberty concerns.

In addition, religious liberty has not traditionally been construed as license to trample on the rights of others.

“People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose,” wrote Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and administrator at Harvard College, on a Time magazine blog recently.

The courts have long recognized this need to balance rights. In the late 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down plural marriage, which was then practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon practice, the court held, was disruptive to society and had no roots in Western tradition; thus it could be banned.

In the modern era, the court devised a test whereby government could restrict religious liberty if it could demonstrate a “compelling state interest” and that it had employed the “least restrictive means” to meets its goals.

That standard was tightened even further in 1990, when the Supreme Court handed down a decision in a case known as Employment Division v. Smith. The decision, written by arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, held that government has no obligation to exempt religious entities from “neutral” laws that are “generally applicable.”

Since then, many religious groups have turned to the political process to win exemptions from the law. Generally speaking, they’ve been very successful. In a ground-breaking 2006 New York Times series, the newspaper chronicled the various exemptions from the law granted to religious organizations covering areas like immigration, land use, employment regulations, safety inspections and others.

The Times reported that since 1989, “more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation….” The paper noted that other breaks “have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch.”

But religious groups, like any other special interest, don’t get everything they want. On occasions when they’ve failed, some religious organizations have been quick to complain that discrimination or a hostility toward religion did them in. In fact, political leaders might have simply concluded that certain demands of religious groups are not in the best interests of larger society.

Is there any evidence that Obama is stingier with exemptions than past administrations or that the president has it in for religious groups? Not really.

Under Obama, the “faith-based” initiative, an idea that goes back to the days of George W. Bush, has continued to flourish. Obama even stepped back from a vow he made while campaigning in 2008 to require religious groups that receive support from the taxpayer to drop discriminatory hiring policies.

Mother Jones magazine reported in February that if Obama is hostile to religion, he has an odd way of showing it.

“But all the outrage about religious freedom has overshadowed a basic truth about the Obama administration: When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous,” reported Stephanie Mencimer for the magazine. “Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from.”

Obama’s Justice Department hasn’t always pleased religious conservatives, but it has hardly been hostile to faith. The department sided with the state of Arizona in defending at the Supreme Court a private school tax-credit scheme that overwhelmingly benefits religious schools, going so far as to assist with oral arguments before the justices. When a federal court struck down the National Day of Prayer as a church-state violation in 2010, the administration criticized the ruling and quickly filed an appeal.

“If Obama is ‘warring’ against religion, he’s doing it with a popgun and a rubber knife,” Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, told The Washington Times recently. “On core religious freedom issues, they have been moderate, to a fault…. It’s not much of a war.”

Other observers note that in a nation where the government’s regulatory touch over religiously affiliated institutions is exceedingly light, it’s hard to take claims of a war on religion seriously.

“People who claim the government is hostile to religion are either insincere or uninformed,” said Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University. “Religious entities enjoy a host of benefits and advantages that their non-religous counterparts lack.

Green, who was legal director at Americans United during the 1990’s, added, “At the same time, many religious entities that enjoy exemptions from neutral regulations receive subsidies from the government for their operations. Rather than there being a ‘war on religion,’ the government surrendered its regulatory forces a long time ago.”

Religious Liberty | Deceptive Code for Oppressing Others


Doctrine of Religious Liberty Can Be Used to Deny the “Liberty of the Enemies of God”
Rachel Tabachnick

“So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” –Gary NorthThere’s been a lot of talk about “religious liberty” in the last few weeks, so I’m reposting segments of a January article with quotes from Christianity and Civilization, a Christian Reconstructionist journal, also published as part of a multi-volume set of booklets. My original post was part of a series on the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the “Theocratic Libertarianism” promoted by Gary North. In this version of the article I emphasize North’s concept of manipulating the doctrine of religious liberty to advance a theocratic agenda, and the reasons why Theocratic Libertarianism is seductive to corporate interests and think tanks that might not otherwise promote a regressive social agenda or partner with theocrats.

The next article in this series will include other authors from this multi-volume set of 1980s Reconstructionist booklets including Rousas Rushdoony, Pat Robertson, Francis Schaeffer, Joseph Morecraft, Larry Pratt, Paul Weyrich, John W. Whitehead, George Grant, Connie Marshner, Tom Rose, and Peter Lillback. Many of these contributors cannot be dismissed as isolated or fringe.

The late Paul Weyrich is considered the architect of the New Right; Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute is now a regular at Huffington Post; and Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary and founder of the Providence Forum, helped Glenn Beck promote his “social justice is Marxism, not Christianity” argument. Lillback is also author of a book on George Washington that zoomed to #1 bestseller on Amazon after being promoted by Beck.The partnership of corporate interests, right-wing think tanks, and the Religious Right has resulted in sophisticated attacks on secular democracy. The Theocratic Libertarian or biblical economics agenda merges a regressive social agenda with radical free market economics, seductive to both plutocrats and theocrats. North’s writings provide a window into what this brand of religious liberty and justice means. Years of financial support from the plutocratic end of the partnership has helped to sanitize and refine the message, but Christian Reconstructionism, with its biblical capitalism component, has provided the intellectual foundations for today’s Religious Right. The package is currently being marketed to Americans as the ultimate in ” religious liberty.” The quote at the beginning of the article is how North described this religious liberty as being used to bring about theocracy.

Throughout the United States, there is a centralized and well-funded “private school choice” movement to divert public tax dollars to private schools . Many of these schools are using A Beka Books and other fundamentalist texts that teach the same brand of biblical capitalism found in Christian Reconstructionism. As students are removed from the public education system and moved to private religious schools, many will be indoctrinated into the biblical economics worldview. This may help explain why hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent promoting “school reform” designed to shift students to private schools.

The corporate interests and right-wing foundations funding this effort may not be interested in stoning homosexuals, but the anti-labor, anti-regulatory, and anti-tax messages that are presented as part of a biblical worldview and education in these schools is obviously appealing. Previous articles at Talk2action.org have included quotes from these textbooks and information on schools in Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states, using tax dollars to fund scholarships for students in schools using these texts.

Christian Reconstructionism is often described as the movement that wants to execute adulterers, blasphemers, and homosexuals, by stoning. Since this is not likely to happen any time soon, the movement is often dismissed as fringe and inconsequential. The preoccupation with the stoning aspect has obscured the fact that many other foundational components of the movement have been mainstreamed in the Religious Right since the time when Gary North wrote the following words.

As you read the following quotes, consider how much of North’s philosophy is now commonplace, not only in the Christian Right but also in this year’s political campaigns. Also note that the current emphasis on the libertarian part of Theocratic Libertarianism has been developed over the decades since this volume was published and is now expressed in a veiled way that has proved to be appealing to many progressives.

One of the most revealing of Gary North’s writings is in the first volume of the journal Christianity and Civilization, published by the Geneva Divinity School in Spring, 1982. The entire issue was dedicated to a symposium on “The Failure of American Baptist Culture.” This would be the first in a series of booklets published on the failures of the early Religious Right and the need to “reconstruct” the church. Subsequent volumes were titled,

#2 The Theology of Christian Resistance
#3 Tactic of Christian Resistance
#4 Reconstruction of the Christian Church

PhotobucketThe first and fourth volumes were edited by James B. Jordan and the second and third in the series by Gary North. My next article in this series will describe the subsequent volumes and other authors in more detail. The following quotes are from the first volume.According to Jordan,

“The New Christian Right has indicated time and time again, that it does not know what it is doing, and its program is riddled with contradictions.”

The Calvinist contributors to the journal were coming to the rescue to help the New Christian Right find “sure footing” and argued that the movement would have to abandon its “Baptist individualism” and adopt the Christian Reconstructionist’s brand of “full-orbed Biblical and Reformed Theology” in order to survive.The following quotes are from North’s article in the first volume titled “The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right.” North begins by describing the 1980 Religious Roundtable-sponsored event in Washington, D.C., which drew 15,000 people. The “National Affairs Briefing Conference” featured New Christian Right leaders and was keynoted by Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. North describes it as “watershed moment for American fundamentalism.”

“The rally was a political rally; more precisely, it was a rally for politics as such, and for Christian involvement in politics. It was a break from almost six decades of political inaction on the part of American fundamentalist religious leaders.[p. 2]

North continues,

“Bible principles” is a euphemism for Old Testament law. The leaders of the fundamentalist movement are generally premillennial dispensationalists. Some are believers in a pretribulation “rapture,” meaning that Christians will be secretly “called into the heavens” before the great tribulation of the nation of Israel. Others, a growing minority, are post-tribulationists, who think that Christians will go through the tribulation period before Christ comes to transform Christian believers into sinless, death-free people who will rule the world under Christ’s personal administration for a thousand years. All premillennialists believe that the world will become worse before Christ returns in person to set up his thousand-year reign, so that they have tended in the past to take a dim view of those who preached the moral necessity of social and political action. The campaign of 1980 changed this outlook. Now they are talking about restoring morality to politics by imposing “Bible principles” on the nation. Not Old Testament law exactly, yet “principles” based on Old Testament law. [p. 8]

North explains that the majority of American fundamentalists rejected Old Testament Law as valid because of their Dispensational theology and shunned political participation. He also explains how this began to change after the election of President Jimmy Carter, when the Christian Right was “stung” by the “self-proclaimed born again” Baptist who North described as “handpicked by David Rockefeller and the Trilateral Commission.”North credits Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of Christian Reconstructionism, as laying the foundation for political activism by the New Christian Right.

It was only with the publications written by R.J. Rushdoony, beginning in the early 1960’s, that any theologian began to make a serious, systematic, exegetical attempt to link the Bible to principles of limited civil government and free-market economics. [p. 11]

North then describes a “black-out” of Rushdoony’s work during the 60s and 70s, when he was not able to get his books reviewed in the Westminster Theological Journal with the exception of his Institutes of Biblical Law.

Thus, the fundamentalists have had no intellectual leadership throughout the twentieth century. Only with the revival of interest in creationism, which was made possible by Rushdoony’s support and Presbyterian and Reformed initial investment for The Genesis Flood, did the fundamentalist movement begin to get involved in arguments outside theology narrowly defined. [p. 11]

The 1960 book referred to by North, The Genesis Flood, was authored by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, and is credited as triggering the modern revival of creationism.

North continues,

In the speakers’ room at the National Affairs Briefing Conference, I spoke with Robert Billings, who had worked with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority organization. (He was subsequently appointed to a high position in the Department of Education.) We were speaking of the conference, and what a remarkable event it was. We agreed that it was unfortunate that Rushdoony was not speaking. He said, If it weren’t for his books, none of us would be here.” I replied, “Nobody in the audience understands that.” His response: “True, but we do.” [p. 12]

The fundamentalist have picked up the phrase “secular humanism.” They do not know where they found it. It comes from Rushdoony’s writings throughout the 1960s. Rushdoony influenced lawyer John Whitehead, who helped popularize it in a new widely quoted article by Whitehead and former Congressman John Conlan. [p. 14]

Under the heading “State-Financed Education,” North writes,

Fundamentalists are still trying to win their battle for the public schools. Not all of them, perhaps, but enough of them, especially those who lead the creation science movement. In 1982, they were still trying to get the public schools of the state of Arkansas to adopt creationist materials to be taught as part of the schools’ curricula in science. They had already given away the case by arguing only that creationism is a legitimate theory and explanation of the origins of the universe and man, to be taught alongside of evolution. [p. 18]

The government schools are established as a humanist religion aimed at stamping out Christianity. This is what Rushdoony said in his pathbreaking scholarly study, The Messianic Character of American Education (1963) The creationists are still schizophrenic. They do not recognize the mythical nature of the objectivity hypothesis, and therefore they have chosen to do battle in terms of that mythical framework. They therefore have to grant the evolutionists, in advance, equal rights with God’s own revelation of Himself. If they refused to do this, they would have no legal case to get their materials into the public schools. Yet the public schools are a fraud; they are humanist schools that have had as their goal, since the days of Horace Mann, the express goal of wiping out Christianity. [p. 19]

Note that Gary North uses the term “government schools” in place of “public schools,” almost two decades before Dick DeVos recommended using the change as a way to promote school vouchers in his 2002 speechat the Heritage Foundation. Also note that Gary North is a signer of the Alliance for Separation of School and State mandate for the eradication of public schools. Other signers include Rep. Ron Paul and numerous Religious Right and free market think tank leaders, including Ed Crane, co-founder of the Koch-funded Cato Institute. Another little discussed component of the plutocratic and theocratic partnership is the role that Young Earth Creationism is playing politically. For example, if the earth is only a few thousand years old, then energy such as oil, gas, and coal, was formed rapidly and could be described as a renewable resource.North:

What is the proper argument? Simple: there is no neutrality, and since there is no neutrality, the present legal foundation of government-financed education is a fraud. Conclusion: close every government-financed school, tomorrow.Refund the taxes to the taxpayers. Let the taxpayers seek out their own schools for their children at their expense (or from privately financed scholarships or other donations).But the fundamentalist instinctively shy away from such a view. Why? Because they see where it necessarily leads: to a theocracy in which no public funds can be appropriated for anti-Christian activities, or to anarch, where there are no public funds to appropriate. It must lead to God’s civil government or no civil government. In short, it leads to either Rushdoony or Rothbard. Most fundamentalists have never heard of either man, but they instinctively recognize where the abandonment of the myth of neutrality could lead them. [p. 20]

Rothbard in the above quote is Murray Rothbard (1926 – 1995), the Austrian School economist who promoted “anarcho-capitalism.” He was a founder of the Cato Institute, one of several libertarian think tanks funded by Charles Koch. At LewRockwell.com, Rothbard is described as the dean of the Austrian School of economics, the founder of libertarianism, and an exemplar of the Old Right. Another LewRockwell.com articledescribes how Rothbard parted ways with the Cato Institute.North:

The Christians are caught in an intellectual bind. They use the doctrine of religious freedom to defend themselves, yet this involves, necessarily, the right of all other religious groups, including the satanic cults, to set up schools for their children and other people’s children. It means, in short, that Christians windy up giving “equal time” in society to the devil. [pp. 22-23]

In the next section, titled “The Christian School Movement,” North states that it is legitimate as a short term tactic for the movement to use the “doctrine of religious freedom” in order to buy some time. He argued previously that “religious liberty” is a trap because it allows rights to all religions and forms of belief. However, in the short term, it could be used strategically. This is where North makes the statement about religious liberty that I quoted in the beginning of this article, a quote worth repeating.

So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God. Murder, abortion, and pornography will be illegal. God’s law will be enforced. It will take time. A minority religion cannot do this. Theocracy must flow from the heart of a majority of citizens, just as compulsory education came only after most people had their children in schools of some sort. [p.25]

Rushdoony and North wrote extensively about changing the tax structure to align with biblical law. For instance, inheritance taxes would not be allowed. North writes in this article about taxes not exceeding the tithe.

The idea that the state has the right to get inside one’s mind or attempt to do so, is humanistic. It makes the state a pseudo-God. It also drains the resources of the state, which means that the state must collect taxes far above the tithe, yet the state’s taking a tithe was considered an affront to God…. A civil tax of 10% or more of one’s annual increase is satanic. [p.26]

North closes with advice to the New Christian Right on how to get out of the intellectual bind of the “doctrine of religious freedom” by pursuing their own definition of “religious liberty.”

In order to survive the onslaught of the humanists, Christians must oppose the humanists’ version of religious freedom, which is officially grounded in the myth of neutrality, and which is really being used to construct a temple of man, with tax revenues. We must argue that true religious liberty is exclusively for people to obey the social laws of the Bible. [p. 32]

We have to face up to the choice that must be made between God’s law or man’s law. We have to acknowledge the inescapable decision: God’s covenant or natural law? [pp. 37 -38]

North then spells out “The Tactics of Victory” for the New Christian Right.

The taste of political victory is sweet. The New Christian Right has had some victories. They have developed satellite television networks. They have created newsletter and mailing networks. In short, they have the means of achieving victory. What they lack is: 1) eschatological dynamism, 2) a program of social reconstruction, and 3) the willingness to abandon all traces of the myth of neutrality. When the taste of victory finally overcomes a century of pietistic retreat, the humanists will see their civilization salted over; a new society will replace the collapsing social order of today. If the New Christian Right abandons its schizophrenia – eschatological pessimism in the face of victories, antinomianism in the face of the power of biblical law, an outmoded “common ground” philosophy (neutrality doctrine) in the face of a consistent presuppositional biblical philosophy – then the humanists will at last have a real fight on their hands. [39 – 40]

In closing, I would argue that North’s advice has been taken very seriously over the last 30 years by much of the Christian Right, and that Christian Reconstructionism has been at least partially successful in redefining the meaning of “freedom” and “liberty” in a way that has escaped the notice of much of the American public.

Additional Notes:

For more information on the success of Gary North and other Dominionists in drawing large numbers of Charismatics and Pentecostals away from pre-Tribulation eschatology and into Dominionist belief, see Frederick Clarkson series on Theocratic Dominionism including Part Three, No Longer Without Sheep and my previous article The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism. Also see the following articles at Talk2action.org on “Biblical Capitalism” and the role it has played in the current war on unions and federal regulatory policy including:

The War on Unions, Regulatory System, and Social Safety Net – Examples from Fundamentalist Textbooks

Two Decades of Christian Nationalist Education Paved Way for Today’s War on Labor

Biblical Capitalism – The Sacralizing of Political and Economic Issues

Coke and PepsiCo End Partnership With Right-Wing Front Group ALEC


Coke & PepsiCo End Partnership With Right-Wing Front Group ALEC

By Adam Peck

Coke or Pepsi 300x240 Coke & PepsiCo End Partnership With Right Wing Front Group ALECPepsiCo, the world’s second largest beverage company, has ended its partnership with ALEC, the controversial right-wing group that lobbies for voter suppression efforts. Pepsi’s move, which actually came in January but was first reported this morning by NPR, may also have had a role in compelling Coca-Cola to drop its support for ALEC.

Yesterday, progressive advocacy group Color of Change announced a boycott effort targeting several other corporations that are still members of the group, which for years has partnered with elected officials at a state level to draft and pass controversial, far-right legislation. Just a few hours later, Coke announced that they too are severing ties with the ALEC. As NPR reported today:

It’s part of a much broader campaign to spotlight companies that sell products to a public that might object to hard-line conservative policies such as stand your ground laws or requirements that voters show a photo ID at the polls.

Some civil rights groups say voter ID laws are discriminatory and suppress minority voter turnout.

“The clear and simple message was that you can’t come for black folks’ money by day and try to take away our vote by night,” said Rashad Robinson, director of ColorOfChange.

ALEC has also been cited as the driving force behind “Stand Your Ground” laws which have contributed to cases like Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon in February, remains free thanks to Florida’s version of the bill, which ALEC now uses as a template when introducing similar bills across the country.

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released an extensive new report explaining ALEC’s efforts to disenfranchise voters.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/05/458781/pepsico-ends-partnership-with-right-wing-front-group-alec/

BREAKING: Progressive Movement Compels Coca-Cola To Pull Support From ALEC Over Voter Suppression Efforts

By Faiz Shakir

Think Progress, Apr 4, 2012

Prompted by a petition campaign by the progressive advocacy group Color of Change, Coca-Cola has pulled its support from ALEC, a right-wing corporate-funded front group which has been pushing voter restriction efforts around the country. The company released this statement moments ago:

The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business.  We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.

Impressively, Coke’s retreat came just five hours after Color of Change announced its petition, which read: “ALEC has pushed voter ID laws which disenfranchise large numbers of Black voters. Along with the NRA, ALEC also pushed a bill based on Florida’s ‘shoot first’ law – which has shielded Trayvon Martin’s killer from justice – into two dozen states across the country.”

Just this morning, the Center for American Progress released a report highlighting ALEC’s role in voter suppression:

ALEC charges corporations such as Koch Industries Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and The Coca-Cola Co. a fee and gives them access to members of state legislatures. Under ALEC’s auspices, legislators, corporate representatives, and ALEC officials work together to draft model legislation. As ALEC spokesperson Michael Bowman told NPR, this system is especially effective because “you have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters.”

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/04/458591/progressive-movement-compels-coca-cola-to-pull-support-from-alec-over-voter-suppression-efforts/

Ron Paul | Biggest Loser


Ron Paul | Biggest Loser

He’s a loser who still keeps on losing!

Orthodox Jews Arrested for Medicaid Fraud


Monsey – 3 Orthodox Jews Arrested for Medicaid fraud

Continuing Rockland County crackdown on welfare fraud resulted in the arrests of 10 more people on accusations of filing false documentation to get more than $42,000 in state and federal social service benefits administered through the county government.
Most of those charged — including two married couples — face charges of of third-degree grand larceny or third-degree welfare fraud. Both felony charges carry a prison sentence ranging from 1 1/3 to seven years in prison, along with probation and restitution.
In previous cases during the past four years, the Rockland District Attorney’s Office has pressed for
restitution of pilfered funds from dozens of people, as opposed to prison sentences. Prosecutors also sought probationary sentences and some jail terms.
Rooting out fraud helps ensure the integrity of the programs and those who legally qualify for social services, whether it’s food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment, and other programs, authorities said.
“Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits are all finite resources of critical importance,” District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Tuesday. “These individuals not only cheated the system, but also cheated law-abiding Rockland County taxpayers who play by the rules.
The 10 people were arrested following an investigation by the Rockland Special Investigations Unit, with assistance from the Rockland Social Services Department, the state Labor Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General.
The collaboration began after Zugibe took office in January 2008, starting with more than 40 arrests and an offer of amnesty for those who admitted fraud and paid back the money. Few people took advantage of the amnesty offer in 2008. Officials estimated up to 70 people have been arrested since.
In the latest investigation, the 10 people charged are accused of concocting various schemes to steal welfare benefits, including underreporting income, concealing either home or business ownership or both, using false names and bogus Social Security information, and providing misleading household composition.
Astrel Auborg, 50, and her husband, Georges Falaise, 48, of 50 Springbrook Road, Nanuet, each charged with third-degree grand larceny in the theft of $6,569.
John Corry, 58, of 199 Goebel Road, New City, with third-degree grand larceny in the theft of $3,146.
Michael Lafuentes, 32, of 9 Overlook Road, New City, with third-degree welfare fraud in the theft of $6,743.
Chana Landau, 33, and her husband, Israel Landau, 37, both of 63 Carlton Road, Monsey, each charged with third-degree welfare fraud in the theft of $3,513.
Corwin Moore, 39, of 110 Union Road, Apt. 1E, Spring Valley, with fourth-degree grand larceny in the theft of $2,002.
Naftali Wagschal, 29, of 6 Horizon Court, Monsey, with third-degree welfare fraud in the theft of $4,167.
Jonathan Desvarieux, 24, of 311 N. Main St., Spring Valley, with third-degree grand larceny in the theft of $12,887.
Angela Smartt, 44, of 5 George St., Apt. 5, Spring Valley, with third-degree grand larceny in the theft of $3,516.
The latest arrests — with people ranging in age from 24 to 58 and from around the country — involves accusations of theft from $2,002 to $12,887 between 2008 and 2011.
Zugibe said that in one case, Jonathan Desvarieux, 24, of 311 N. Main St., Spring Valley, is accused of falsely reporting that he was unemployed when recertifying eligibility for Social Services-Medicaid benefits between September 2009 and February 2011.
An investigation revealed that he was working at a Dunkin’ Donuts location in Rockland during the same period, Zugibe said, and received benefits totaling $12,887 to which he was not entitled.

Crazy Michele Bachmann ‘Steps Aside’ For Equally Unhinged Rick Santorum


Bye Bye Bachmann
Bye Bye Bachmann
by vjack
Michele Bachmann
It is all over for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). She did not get her miracle after all. Jesus was not in her corner like she thought. And that is really good news for the reality-based community.
As she announced that she was dropping out of the presidential race following her poor showing in Iowa, Bachmann repeatedly referred to her god, you know, the god who wanted her to run for president in the first place.

Surrounded by her family, Mrs. Bachmann invoked her faith frequently. “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan,” she said. “He has one for each of us, you know.”

Did her god change its mind? Did she simply misunderstand her god? Of course not. Running a losing campaign based on lies was exactly what her god wanted of her. I mean, what other explanation could there be?

I know some atheists will miss Bachmann. Her antics were undeniably entertaining. I’ll certainly grant you that. But we must remember that she represents something dangerous: American theocracy. You see, Michele Bachmann is a true Christian extremist. Keeping her far away from political power of any sort is a good thing.

Anyone remotely in touch with reality – which, of course, ruled out Michele Bachmann and husband “Marcia” Bachmann (pictured above) – would have known that Michele Bachmann didn’t had a snowball’s chance in Hell of moving forward beyond Iowa in the GOP presidential clown car contest. And as one blogger noted, when Bachmann claims she heard God telling her to run for president, she should have asked “president of what?” In any event, in the wake of her disastrous showing in Iowa, Bachmann has been forced to at least briefly get in touch with reality and the result is that she is suspending – translated, ending – her presidential campaign. Frankly, given Bachmann’s unbridled homophobia and her marketing of reparative therapy through “Marcia” Bachmann’s “Christian counseling clinics,” I find it difficult to have even a shred of sympathy for her. Here are some highlights from Politico:

Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday morning that she would drop her GOP presidential bid after a sixth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday. “Last night, the people in Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to step aside,” Bachmann told supporters in West Des Moines.

She did not endorse one of her rivals, but said instead that Republicans “must rally” around whoever the party chooses as its “standard-bearer” in the race.

Her departure will give a boost to Rick Santorum, whose recent surge put him in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

Heading into South Carolina, where evangelicals and social conservatives dominate the pool of potential voters, Santorum will be in a better position to consolidate that support. Santorum’s hoping to establish himself as the new — and perhaps final — conservative alternative to Romney

[H]er campaign was beset by a string of gaffes — starting with the assertion at her campaign launch that Waterloo was the home of John Wayne, when it was actually the hometown of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Another blow came when Ed Rollins, her campaign manager, departed and began speaking out against Bachmann on cable TV and in the media.
Heading into the fall, Bachmann tried to derail the then-front-runner Perry by attacking him for mandating the HPV vaccine Gardasil. But the blowback of her claims that the vaccine caused mental retardation hurt her as well

Since her decline began, Bachmann had been banking on a strong finish with Iowa’s social conservative and evangelical voters. Last month, when Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats endorsed Santorum and called Bachmann asking her to consider dropping out, it became clear that she would not be the top choice of social conservatives in the state.

Bachmann is up for reelection to the House in November, but did not make any announcement regarding her plans for that race. Congressional observers and those in her district say she’d be a virtual lock for reelection if she decides to run.

With Bachmann out of the running, the equally unhinged Rick Santorum will be the short term beneficiary. However, one can only hope that as a result of Santorum’s new high profile, the media and his opponents will seriously focus on his significant baggage and far out of the mainstream positions on divorce, contraception and, of course, treatment of LGBT citizens. As for Bachmann’s re-election to her House seat, I hope and pray that her constituents may have waken up to the fact that she’s a huge liability to her district and the State of Minnesota.

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