The American Bear


One option would be to change — to become better people who use their power, privilege and influence to make the world a better place. But that’s hard. It’s easier just to play make-believe. So they spin out fantasy scenarios in which they’re not privileged and powerful, but rather an oppressed, beleaguered and aggrieved minority suffering injustice at the hands of some other, imaginary powers that be. Then they can imagine that, in this fantasy, they’re just like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and Harriet Tubman all rolled into one and they can imagine just a tiny taste of how proud they would be of themselves if anything at all like that were actually true. When talk of ‘civil disobedience’ is just masturbation (via azspot)

(via randomactsofchaos)

September 11th, Islamophobia, and the ‘Persecution Industry' | Jadaliyya

What I find disturbing is the alacrity with which particular US political forces have taken up the cause of anti-Christian persecution, notably over the past decade, just as the “war on terror” has gained so much momentum. And perhaps unsurprisingly given these political links, “persecution experts” have, much like their counterparts in the ‘terrorism expert’ industry, tended to find their way to particular think-tanks in Washington.

Arguably the leader in this regard is the Hudson Institute, which houses the Center for Religious Freedom under the directorship of Nina Shea. According to the Hudson Institute’s website, the Center “promotes religious freedom as a component of U.S. foreign policy by working with a worldwide network of religious freedom experts to provide defenses against religious persecution and oppression.” Despite the emphasis in this description on a ‘worldwide network,’ a quick scan of op-eds by Center staff reveals that the geographic scope of their concern is substantially narrower: The vast majority of the articles concern the Muslim world, and among them, Egypt features most prominently. The venues in which Center staff publish op-eds is likewise worthy of note, and far and away the most popular is National Review Online, “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion.”

Why would American conservatives take a particular interest in sectarian tensions in Egypt? As is well known, in recent decades, evangelical Christians in the United States have moved increasingly rightward in political orientation. At first glance, it would appear that Christian conservatives are moved by the plight of fellow Christians like the Copts. In practice, however, these Christian conservatives are moved to a still greater extent by Israeli protestations of insecurity. Given their track record of unstinting support for Israel, and relative disregard for the plight of Palestinian Christians, the focus on Egypt’s Copts emerges as a function of ‘Realpolitik’ rather than ideals. And with the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since the 25 January revolution, accusations of anti-Christian persecution have become a particularly useful tool for discrediting the Islamists who are now in government.

It is disturbing enough that the important issue of sectarian relations in Egypt is bandied about Washington as a means of leveraging Israeli security. Emblematic of this was how a panel at this year’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference evolved into a sort of elegy for the Coptic community, led by Nina Shea.

Perhaps more disturbing, though, is how particular Copts have endorsed the Islamophobia of “persecution experts” without considering their political consequences in Egypt or the United States. In this regard, I cannot help but recall an image recently posted to “The Free Copts” page on Facebook. In the image, President Obama, with a photo-shopped beard and turban, appears under the following caption: “This idiot helped transform Egypt from a modern state into a Muslim Brotherhood dominated tribe and still claims it’s a transition into democracy!” In a breathtaking concoction of bigotry, white anxieties about a black president are fused with Coptic anxieties about the rise of Islamism. To my mind, the post speaks powerfully to the influence, and the ignorance, of the “persecution industry.”

I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools…Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana. In which a Louisiana Republican completely fails to comprehend that Islam is a religion… (via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

Robert Jeffress Backs Mitt Romney | Religion Dispatches

Former Rick Perry backer Pastor Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, is now supportingMitt Romney for President, he told a Texas radio station.

This is the same Pastor Robert Jeffress who grabbed headlines last fall when he stormed into the Values Voter Summit and proclaimed that Mormonism was a “cult.” (An act which, as it turns out, may have been publicity stunt to drive Jeffress’ book sales.)

The most vocally anti-Mormon evangelical public figures are leaving the barricades.

Partisanship trumps sectarianism.

Game over.


Evangelical minister Rick Warren has a warped understanding of poverty and self-worth. Warren recently told ABC’s Jake Tapper (h/t theamericanbear):

The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth. When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You — you rob them of dignity.

The evidence supporting the necessity for food assistance is overwhelming and of course sharply clashes with Warren’s ideology. 85 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits live below the poverty line ($22,000/year for a family of four and $11,000/year for an individual). And in case you’re like Warren and incessantly equate all government assistance with joblessness, keep in mind that about half of SNAP beneficiaries with children are employed.

I’m more inclined to believe that a single mother with children to feed is only worrying about the loss of dignity when she struggles to feed her children. Same goes for the 21-year-old mother of two who moved back in with her violent-tempered boyfriend after she lost her welfare check. Same goes for the mother who pays rent by selling groceries she purchased with food stamps and keeps her children fed with help from neighbors and school lunches. Same goes for the 37 percent of SNAP recipients who are elderly and/or disabled.

The only morally ambiguous characters here are those who want to slash programs that benefit low-income individuals, all in the name of “prosperity.”

[Graphs via CBPP]

(Source: pantslessprogressive)

So Rick Warren really went on TV and said that “subsidizing” poor people”robs them of their dignity?” On Easter? I just love it when people who pay no taxes make this case. Especially when all they have to do is crook their fingers and millions of tax free dollars flow in to them.


more about Rick Warren’s jackassery here.

…is it even remotely true that - as Santorum claims - both Obama and the hated/satanic blue half of America elevate the Earth above people? Wrong. We elevate our great-grandchildren… and their great-grandchildren… above both short-term ripoff artists and dopes who pray for Armageddon. Tens and hundreds of billions of people… future people… our descendants. We want to save a viable planet — and a viable, vibrantly creative economy and a vigorously scientific civilization — for them. When you strip away all the dross and distractions — like the insipid notion that any of this involves old-fashioned “left-vs-right — and when you also strip away all the self-hypnosis incantations like “muslim” and “socialism” — what is left? What’s the essential. core matter before us? The divide is not left/right… it is forward vs backward David Brin (via azspot)

(via azspot)

They seem tormented by demons that those in the reality-based community scarcely experience. That may explain their extraordinary latitude in absolving their political and ecclesiastical heroes of their sins: while most of us might regard George W. Bush as a dry drunk resentful of his father, Newt Gingrich as a sociopathic serial adulterer and Ted Haggard as a pathetic specimen in terminal denial, their followers on the right apparently believe that the greater the sin, the more impressive the salvation - so long as the magic words are uttered and the penitent sinner is washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Mike Lofgren | The Right-Wing Id Unzipped

In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism. Mike Lofgren

Repeal PA state-sponsored "Year of the Bible"

Thank his worshipfulness on high that the good conservatives of PA are focusing on the stuff that really matters…

On January 24, 2012, The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 535, a non-binding resolution declaring 2012 “The Year of the Bible.” The resolution states that we have a “national need to study and apply the holy scriptures,” a position which clearly favors Christianity over other religions and violates the separation of church and state as protected by the Constitution of the United States.

(Source: sarahlee310)

Romney Accuses Obama of Stifling Religious Liberty | Sarah Posner

Liberal media, war on religion, blah blah blah.

Mitt stagedives into the conservative cult of victimhood. Thankfully, Sarah Posner (and Katha Pollitt) call bullshit:

Today, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed from Mitt Romney, “President Obama versus Religious Liberty:”

The Obama administration is at it again. They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.

This is the same Mitt Romney who could barely utter a word about religious freedom for his own faith when it was under assault by some of his fellow conservatives. Now that he’s expected to be his party’s nominee, he feels compelled to take up its most potent religion crusade this year: the claim that religious institutions who are opposed to contraception should get a special exemption from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that employers provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, free of co-pays. Even those religious institutions which have been, without complaint, providing contraceptive coverage to their employees for years. 

As I wrote on the night of the Florida primary, and as I predicted earlier in January, these supposed liberal attacks on “religious liberty,” and in particular, the contraception requirement, would become an essential theme of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Romney, fighting off Newt Gingrich’s campaign theme that he is a “Massachusetts moderate,” today jumps on the bandwagon in hopes of sealing the deal with religious conservatives:

But, now, more than two centuries after the drafting of the Bill of Rights, religious liberty is facing the most serious assault in generations. And the assault is coming from liberalism itself. In the process of implementing Obamacare, the Obama administration is pressing forward with a rule that tramples on religious freedom, taking particular aim at Roman Catholics. The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience  or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.

But note how Romney only builds the case that he’s a politically opportunistic flip-flopper with this op-ed, in particular:

[W]hen it comes to the agenda of the left-wing of the Democratic Party—those who brought us abortion on demand and who fight against the teaching of abstinence education in our children’s schools—their devotion to religious freedom goes out the window. They would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats.

That’s the same Romney who pledged, while he was running for governor of Massacusetts in 2002, ”I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.” (Or the Bishops, right?) In that same campaign, in response to a Planned Parenthood questionnaire, Romney answered ”yes” to the question: “Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools?” But here he blames the “left-wing of the Democratic Party” for forcing religious people to violate their consciences.

Katha Pollitt dispenses with the argument that the Catholic institutions are entitled to have an exemption based on religious conscience:

Are Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other pacifists exempt from taxes that pay for war and weapons? Can Scientologists, who abhor psychiatry, deduct the costs of the National Institute of Mental Health? As an atheist, a feminist, a progressive, I ante up for so much stuff that violates my conscience, the government should probably pay me damages. Why should the bishops be exempt from the costs of living in a pluralistic society?… . The vast majority of Catholics long ago rejected the Vatican’s ban on contraception. Catholic women are as likely to use birth control as other women. What about their consciences?

Or, for that matter, the consciences of Romney’s fellow Mormons: the LDS Church permits the use of birth control, all methods. And here’s another one: what would the reaction of the anti-Mormons in conservative-land be to a claim of violation of religious freedom by the LDS Church, should it request an exemption from a law? Wouldn’t they start to worry that the government might be endorsing that non-Christian religion?

Baby Moses, Human–Jellyfish Hybrids, and Transhumanism: The GOP Candidates Weigh In | Tim Murphy

Tales from the bizarre world of the not-so-fringe-anymore “Personhood” people…

Also, another example of rightwing extremism from Ron Paul (and another reason I always stop short of endorsement even though I agree with his stances on civil liberties and imperialism):

When anti-Planned Parenthood activist Lila Rose asked Paul what steps he might take to curtail abortions, he offered a nuclear option: “Well, one very important thing to do would be to stop all the funding,” Paul said, explaining that the current prohibition on funds for abortion doesn’t cut it because “all these funds are fungible. So I would deny all funding for birth control and abortion.”

The moderators probed his views until he touted his authorship of a constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at conception, and, when asked yet again about how he might crack down on abortion as president, noted that he had supported a similiar proposal from the late Sen. Jess Helms (R-N.C.). “This is very clearly a Biblical viewpoint,” he said, explaining the basis of his pro-life views.

Jesus Christ. Read the whole piece. Warning: your head may explode.

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … | Kevin M. Kruse

In the end, Mr. Romney is correct to claim that complaints about economic inequality are inconsistent with the concept of “one nation under God.” But that’s only because the “1 percent” of an earlier era intended it that way. - Kevin Kruse

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”)

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

Read on →

The 'invented people' stand little chance | Robert Fisk

[Newt Gingrich’s] statement that the Palestinians were an “invented people” marked about the lowest point in the Republican-Christian Right-Likudist/Israel relationship. So deep has this pact now become that you can deny the existence of an entire people if you want to become US president. It’s time, surely, to take a look at this extraordinary movement, to remind ourselves – since US “statesmen” cannot – just what its implications really are.

[…] That Israel has “veered to the right” (as if it might soon “veer” back to the left) has long been a sop phrase for American journalists – though it’s not long ago that one of them was instructed to refrain from referring to a Netanyahu cabinet as “right wing” on the grounds that this upset his paper’s Jewish readers. The presence of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister – Nicolas Sarkozy has many times beseeched Netanyahu to get rid of him – is proof of that; it would be difficult to find a better Israeli “match” for the crackpot president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But something far more worrying is taking place.

In the United States, where Netanyahu received so many standing ovations from a Congress that apparently thought it was the Knesset – far more ovations than he would ever have received in the real Knesset in Jerusalem – Israel is increasingly relying on the support of Christian fundamentalists.

This support has now coalesced with the Republican Party against Obama – whose grovelling to Netanyahu has won him no new friends – so that over recent years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is routinely used to attack the Democrats. Having once been sustained by the progressive left, Israel now draws its principal support from right-wing conservatism of a particularly unpleasant kind. Christian evangelicals believe that all Jews will die if they do not convert to Christianity on the coming of the Messiah. And right-wing racists in Europe – the most prominent of them being Dutch – are welcome in Israel, while the likes of Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein are not.

Not a word about this from the would-be Republican candidates and their followers these past few days. Governor Rick Perry has long accused Obama of “appeasement” in the Middle East, and former New York mayor Ed Koch has never withdrawn his claim that Obama “threw Israel under the bus”. Mitt Romney has said that he wants “to increase military and intelligence co-ordination with Israel” – as if the US hasn’t been handing out aircraft and billions of dollars to Israel for decades. What chance do an “invented people” have against this?