I’m just going to go ahead and say this: Focus on the Family is not a Christian organization.
I don’t say this lightly. I’m one of those Christians willing to tolerate a pretty big tent. If you want to call yourself a Christian—and you’re at least vaguely trying—great. There’s room for people of faith to disagree. But .. there’s not quite enough room for Focus on the Family. Not in my tent. Not anymore.
Driving through rural Ohio sometimes means some … limited radio options. In practice, this means I’ll occasionally listen to Christian Talk radio. It ranges from goofy to challenging to boring to vaguely disturbing. But today’s selection was beyond the pale.
The broadcast featured a compelling witness by a Holocaust survivor that concluded with an appeal to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten. I think that sort of thing is important to put on the radio. But the commentary afterward was entirely unacceptable.
The Focus on the Family folks proceeded to discuss that the Holocaust is what happens when the church becomes marginalized, when the government rescues the economy, and when the government educates children. “Hitler,” the man explained, “was a brilliant politician.” Nobody explicitly said that Obama is literally Hitler … but the nudging and winking was pretty obvious. The broadcast then urged Christians to be politically active.
So here’s the deal. I’m a Christian. I’m politically active. And I’m seriously pissed at Focus on the Family.
It’s not just that their history is bad. Hitler didn’t marginalize the church. He appropriated it. The Deutsche Christen attempted to synthesize Christianity with Hitler’s hateful ideals. The church allowed itself to be appropriated by a hateful and nationalistic political movement. A lot of people calling themselves Christians also called themselves Nazis. The Church was tested. Much of it failed.
It’s also not just Focus on the Family’s willingness to exploit the most graphic elements of the Holocaust for political gain. This isn’t just drawing a Hitler moustache on your political opponent’s picture. This was a graphic description of the atrocities of the concentration camps followed by the serious and deliberate implication that if we don’t vote for Republicans the same thing could happen to us.
For those of us plugged into tumblr, or conversant in the multitude of internet offerings, this seems a wretched joke. But for millions of Americans, this type of fare may comprise the bulk of their media input. Worse, it has an insidious effect upon their local church leaders and pastors, where unwittingly, they are put to the same standard as these whacky radio preachers.
This is good news - the US doesn’t really have any punishments left to lay on Syria. The European sanctions will add much-needed pressure.
The European Union agreed in principle on Friday to impose an arms embargo against Syria and prepare additional measures to punish the regime for a bloody crackdown against protests, a diplomat said.
The move comes after the United States earlier in the day imposed new sanctions on Syria over its brutal repression of mass protests, and again singled out Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which it said was aiding the crackdown.
The sanctions were unveiled as tens of thousands of protestors poured onto the streets across Syria following a call for a “day of rage” against the Syrian government after the weekly Muslim prayers.
It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there’s value, there’s money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI).
The Obama administration can continue using federal tax dollars to fund human embryonic stem cell research, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday, overturning a lower court decision and handing a victory to the White House.
The US’s second-largest oil company by production said on Friday it earned $6.2bn, or $3.09 per share, in the first quarter of 2011, compared with $4.6bn, or $2.27 per share, in the same quarter last year.
Sales and operating revenue in the first quarter were $58bn, up from $47bn in the first quarter of 2010.
“Some areas smell really bad due to the bodies rotting in the street. No one can collect them for fear of being shot,” he said, the sound of continuous gunfire audible over the phone. Those bodies which have been collected are being stored in refrigerated lorries, he said.
“Deraa is completely surrounded by tanks and armed troops. There are snipers on the roofs of government buildings and tall buildings. They are hiding behind water tanks and some are even hiding in the minarets of mosques.”
The source said some members of the Syrian army’s fifth division had defected and were attempting to protect civilians against attacks, but had come under fire themselves from soldiers in the fourth division, led by Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad.
“Those who have defected are fighting on behalf of the people, helping them with information on the army’s movements and trying to protect civilians from attacks,” he said.
Clear commentary from Steven Cook on Bahrain. A quick, must read.
To be sure, Bahrain’s Shia have economic grievances as do many people all over the Middle East, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of ideas in this season of Arab unrest. Bahrain’s protests, like those in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen are about politics—people are demanding their freedom and basic human rights. If it was anything else, Bahrain’s military tribunal would not be sentencing protesters to death.
The nomination of Petraeus doesn’t change much; it merely reflects how Washington is run. That George Bush’s favorite war-commanding General — who advocated for and oversaw the Surge in Iraq — is also Barack Obama’s favorite war-commanding General, and that Obama is now appointing him to run a nominally civilian agency that has been converted into an “increasingly militarized” arm of the American war-fighting state, says all one needs to know about the fully bipartisan militarization of American policy. There’s little functional difference between running America’s multiple wars as a General and running them as CIA Director because American institutions in the National Security State are all devoted to the same overarching cause: Endless War.
BP PLC posted a 17 percent increase in net profit for the first quarter as higher oil prices helped to offset continued costs stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster last year. The U.K.-based energy giant said Wednesday net profit for the quarter was $7.12 billion, compared with $6.08 billion a year earlier. Total revenue for the quarter rose 18.7% to $88.31 billion from $74.42 billion.
69%quarterly profit increase for ExxonMobil source
» And yet you’re paying $4 a gallon for gas: The world’s most iconic oil company scored $10.65 billion in profits for the quarter, which is at least in part due to the fact that oil is currently over $100 a barrel. While the…
Sawasiah, founded by jailed Syrian human rights lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani, also said thousands of Syrians have been arrested and scores have gone missing after demonstrations demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption began almost six weeks ago.
"We call on civilized governments to take action to stop the bloodbath in Syria and to reign in the Syrian regime and halt its murders, torture, sieges and arrests. We have the names of at least 500 confirmed killed,” Sawasiah said in a statement sent to Reuters.
"The regime continues its organised campaign of killings against its own people with impunity. The shelling of Deraa is a crime against humanity," the statement said, referring to the army using tanks to crush resistance in the city of Deraa, where the protests began.
The leader of a militia that helped Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara defeat rival Laurent Gbagbo this month was killed on Wednesday after he and his men refused to obey a presidential order to disarm. [read more]
“It is absolutely unacceptable that despite several scientific studies — undertaken both by Central and State agencies — finding that endosulfan is a deadly chemical, it is still sold and used in our country,” the party Central Secretariat said in a release.
Meanwhile Dr. Mohammed Asheel of Kerala 92s Health Services, who is attending the conference as an independent observer, has sent a communication to the Kerala Health Minister P. K. Sreemathi mentioning instances of the organisations of the pesticide industry, present at the conference as observers, influencing the Indian delegation to the conference. The Indian delegates are just following their bosses in the pesticide industry, he criticized.
Another 203 members of Syria’s ruling Baath party announced their resignation Wednesday in protest of the deadly crackdown on protesters, raising the number to 233, according to lists seen by AFP.
The latest group to step down were members from the Houran region, which covers the flashpoint town of Daraa in the south of the country. Earlier 30 members resigned from the restive city of Banias in northwest Syria.
Eight American service members and a contractor were shot and killed by an Afghan military officer on Wednesday while they attended a meeting of foreign and Afghan officers on the military side of Kabul International Airport, according to statements from Afghan and NATO spokesmen.
In addition, two NATO service members died in attacks elsewhere inAfghanistan, bringing the total NATO deaths on Wednesday to 10.
The shooting in Kabul occurred during a meeting between American and Afghan officers, said Col. Bahader, a spokesman for the Afghan Army Air Corps. NATO did not confirm the nationalities of the soldiers. None of the dead were Afghan troops, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
The gunman was an older officer named Hamid Gul, who had been trained 30 years ago when the Soviet Union occupied the country, according to senior Afghan Army aides. The Afghan Army declined to speculate on his motives.
“You cannot read someone’s mind,” said Colonel Bahader, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. He described a chaotic scene in which some soldiers and officers fled the barrage of bullets, jumping out of second- and third-floor windows.
They had minor injuries, and some were wounded by broken glass, he said.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the assailant as a Taliban militant named Azizullah from a district of Kabul Province. A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in a telephone interview that the assailant “was living in Kabul, and he got dressed in an Afghan military uniform, and when he ran out of ammunition he was killed by foreigners and Afghan soldiers.”
Welcome to the new food economics of 2011: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we’ve seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity. But for the planet’s poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one. Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. This can contribute — and it has — to revolutions and upheaval.
Already in 2011, the U.N. Food Price Index has eclipsed its previous all-time global high; as of March it had climbed for eight consecutive months. With this year’s harvest predicted to fall short, with governments in the Middle East and Africa teetering as a result of the price spikes, and with anxious markets sustaining one shock after another, food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics. And crises like these are going to become increasingly common. The new geopolitics of food looks a whole lot more volatile — and a whole lot more contentious — than it used to. Scarcity is the new norm.
The protests against an ammended SOFA in Iraq are getting almost no attention:
Iraqis in Mosul continue to protest regularly by the thousands against any plan to keep US troops in Iraq past this December. They accuse Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of ordering troops to use live ammunition against the rallies, in which two persons have been killed and dozens wounded since Sunday. Al-Maliki himself appears to be leaning against trying to amend the Status of Forces Agreement that stipulates a US departure by the end of this year, precisely because he is feeling pressure from the Iraqi people both in the Sunni center-north and in the Shiite south (where Muqtada al-Sadr and his movement have agitated against an extended US presence; al-Maliki depends on an alliance of convenience with al-Sadr to remain prime minister).
More airplane news today. This is a must read from Mother Jones.
The piece starts on a bright note:
The Department of Defense appears to have to scored a rare victory for fiscal sanity by taking out the F-136. “It took 2 SecDefs, 2 Admins & 5+ years, but Extra Engine contract finally terminated, saving taxpayers $1M per day,” tweeted DOD spokesman Geoff Morrell.
That sounds great. Score. That would help out quite a bit, but
the F-136 is just a drop in the bucket. On April 15, the Pentagon told Congress that it expected the JSF program to cost taxpayers $1 trillion, plus another $382 billion for development and production, assuming a 30-year lifespan for the first batch of aircraft. “Most of the cost of our programs is in ‘having’ them, not in ‘acquiring’ them,” the DOD’s top arms buyer, Ashton Carter, told a crowd at the Heritage Foundation last week. In other words, while Congress debates defunding NPR and Planned Parenthood, it’s putting taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions to maintain and repair a planned fleet of 2,443 Joint Strike Fighters. (In comparison, China reportedly has 1,300 fighter aircraft; Russia has 748.)
And GE still gets to play with our money help protect us from terrorists.
the company is hardly on the outs with the Pentagon. In January, the Navy gave it $576 million to keep the engines running on the sea service’s existing fighter aircraft. And on a single day last March, not long before GE’s creative tax accounting came to light, the firm got half a billion dollars from the Defense Logistics Agency to provide replacement motors for existing planes, as well as another $247 million from the Navy for 68 additional fighter jet engines. Every day, the Pentagon publishes a list of all the contracts worth more than $5 million that it’s awarded that day. And nearly every day, GE makes the list.
Take a look at that contract list, too. The amount of money sacrificed daily for the holy MIC is astounding.
To suggest that Palestinians are equally responsible for this state of affairs would suggest the two sides hold equal power to shape events. They don’t. No matter how many rhetorical checkpoints get thrown up, there are some basic facts you just cannot get around. Israel is the occupier; Palestinians are the occupied.
That justifies nothing, and explains a great deal. Israel does not have to be the worst place on Earth for the occupation to be worthy of condemnation. Nor can its actions or existence be understood in isolation from western foreign policy and Europe’s history of antisemitism. Similarly, Palestinians do not need to be beyond criticism for their right to resist occupation to be considered valid.