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“Ayatollah Alito”: Still Not Sure That Elections Have Consequences?

Ayotallah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, say hello to your new comrade, Ayotallah Samuel Alito. Supreme Leader meet Supreme Court Justice.

And, no, regrettably, this is not hyperbole.

With his pronouncement in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court Justice Alito signaled to the world that America has joined the world’s theocracies.

This extraordinary nation, borne of the Enlightenment 238 years ago to the day, will now cloak power, policy and even what qualifies as facts in the vestments of religious belief.

Because, as Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent (p. 65ff), religious beliefs cannot be questioned either for substance or sincerity. If one, for example, asserts scientifically that IUDs prevent implantation of fertilized embryos, the scientific response would be to explain that their mechanism of action is to prevent fertilization (the sperm cannot ‘swim in a dry lake’ to reach the ovum to fertilize it).

But, if one makes the same claim religiously, then that is the end of it, even if it determines the application of public policy. The Court cannot question the assertion nor whether you believe it, and now, post Hobby Lobby, if you are empowered to act upon it, your religious beliefs determines secular policy for other people.

The Koch Boys, for example, can now claim a religious belief that carbon dioxide is not a heat-trapping gas. So, they can now violate EPA regulations so that their “religious freedom” is not burdened. Post Hobby Lobby, the Ayatollah Alito may declare that, e.g., a carbon tax is a “less restrictive” way to “impose” a science-driven public policy upon the Kochs’ religious beliefs about carbon. Will Congress, under the influence of the Koch Boys, pass such a tax? Of course not. Game… set… match… and planet.

God probably reminded Art Pope this morning that the minimum wage is a sin. Is there a “less restrictive” way to establish adequate wages for his employees, so we do not “burden” the poor sot’s religion? The Ayatollah Alito could choose between the Earned Income Tax Credit and workers’ “freedom” to bargain in the free market to establish wages. (I kid you not… listen to JFK’s rally for Medicare, especially 14:36-16:50.)

As previously described, right-wing politics is not just pro-business, it is itself a big business. The more vitriol, the more money the right-wing groups can raise, and it is protected as political speech. By contrast, when a commercial enterprise raises money from investors, or makes claims about its products, it is subject to fines and/or imprisonment for false and misleading claims.

But, that is just speech. Now, post Hobby Lobby, a simple claim of religious belief, blessed by Alito, can be used to thwart public policy so long as there is any “less restrictive alternative,” real or imagined, that can be referenced. It is a full-employment ruling for the Right Wing Belief Tanks, such as Heritage, to concoct the alternatives.

What does this mean for America? Whatever semblance of democratic government has survived its purchase as a result of the Citizens United ruling is now snuffed out by the counter-majoritarian (see, e.g., Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch) Supreme Court. Does it, should it, matter if the “less restrictive alternative” is even viable? Who decides these matter of public policy? Our new Supreme Leaders.

It means that “closely-held” corporations will have competitive advantages against all the others as they will not have to comply with federal or state law because they are now deemed to be capable of holding religious beliefs about public policy and, if those beliefs conflict with public policy, the beliefs win.

But, it may also have consequences Alito did not consider. For example, if religious beliefs can now stay the application of public policy, will they remain forever free from scrutiny? This is quite different from advocating a public policy position grounded in religious belief. Hobby Lobby allows corporations to thwart enforcement of public policy based upon unchallengeable religious belief.

Moreover, since corporations can now, apparently, hold religious beliefs, as creations of the State, does their very existence not now violate the First Amendment’s Establishment clause? The State, after all, provides corporations with special benefits such as limitations on personal liability, licenses to operate, and so forth. If such entities can themselves have religious beliefs of any kind, has the State not helped establish these religions?

Such considerations will, of course, require the return of some enlightenment to the Supreme Court.

One can almost hear the Founders weeping.

Still not sure that elections have consequences?

 

By: Paul Abrams, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Hobby Lobby, Samuel Alito | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Holy Paulites”: The Split Within The Christian Right Over Taking Government Money

At the Lunch Buffet post, I mentioned an interesting new piece from Sarah Posner at Salon drawing attention to a faction of evangelical leaders who are closely aligned with the Ron Paul Revolution. They are hardly “libertarians,” as her description makes clear:

These religious Paul supporters are part of a subculture that fuses some of the most extreme elements of the American right: birthers, Birchers, neo-Confederates, contraception-eschewing home-schoolers, neo-Calvinists and gun rights supporters who think (like Paul does) that the National Rifle Association is too liberal. They include disaffected former supporters of Republicans like the Baptist preacher-turned-politician Mike Huckabee and Mormons who won’t vote for Mitt Romney.

They’re attracted to Paul because they think that in the place of the federal government, which they believe should not be “legislating morality,” their ultra-conservative brand of Christianity should play a central role in shaping the laws and morals of their states and communities.

Some of these folk, in fact, are frankly theocratic:

Patricia Wheat, an activist I met at an antiabortion rally in South Carolina, contended that the Constitution “comes out of the Book of Deuteronomy, which sets specific precepts for government.” (Wheat also serves on the South Carolina Sound Money Committee, which promotes an “alternative currency” for the state.) The Bible, she added, “is the only recognized religious book that sets forth jurisdiction and promotes liberty. The Bible says that the family is responsible for education of the children. The Bible says that the church is responsible for the spiritual nurturing in the community and to minister to the widows and the orphans. That’s a legitimate function of the church. Civil government is to defend the people’s liberties so they can live freely, because a free people are by nature of being a free people, a holy people.”

But while they strongly believe they have the right to impose their values on others through the law, they are horrified at the idea of becoming wards of the state via subsidies:

At the core of [South Carolina pastor Tony] Romo’s beliefs — like the other religious Paul supporters I spoke to — is that the federal government is largely unconstitutional. Romo’s church isn’t incorporated under South Carolina law, nor did he apply for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Those acts, he said, would make “the state your Lord” or the “federal government your Lord.” If the government “dictates to the church you can no longer preach against homosexuality, those churches better submit … you [give] them [the government] the right to tell you what to preach.”

The unincorporated church, he maintained, “was the original church in the New Testament and was the original church in America.” When churches began incorporating and seeking tax-exempt status, “all they did was enslave themselves to the federal government.”

These folk provide an interesting contrast to the standard-brand conservative evangelicals who are lining up at the trough for school vouchers and “faith-based organization” dollars, and who accuse the Obama administration of waging a “war on religion” for not giving their affiliated charities and health care institutions federal money along with a blanket exemption from laws and regulations they find offensive.

Perhaps the Holy Paulites will begin firing a few open shots at their brethren who have no trouble with Big Government so long as they are in charge, and who might be accused of polishing Satan’s jeweled crown in pursuit of the almighty (fiat money!) dollar.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 5, 2012

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scott Walker Finds Making Bumper Stickers Is Easier Than Creating Jobs

Where are the jobs, Gov. Walker?

Scott Walker, the chief executive of Wisconsin, is riding a wave of triumph. The state Supreme Court just upheld his famous crusade to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers. The state legislature just voted, along party lines, to approve his 2012 budget reordering the state’s finances to his conservative tastes.

On Monday morning, Walker stopped by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to participate in a roundtable discussion about “what works and what doesn’t” in job creation.

Walker regaled the assembled business leaders and governors with tales of his job-creating acumen. He boasted about passing tort reform, tax cuts, a “major regulatory reform” and his celebrated fight against the public-sector unions. “That’s powerful for job creators out there,” he said.

How powerful? “Since the beginning of the year in Wisconsin we’ve seen 25,000 new jobs,” Walker reported.

Sorry, governor, but that’s not very powerful.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin’s nonfarm payroll in May was 2,764,300 on a seasonally-adjusted basis, up 20,300 from January’s 2,744,000.

That’s an increase of seven-tenths of one percent in the workforce — not much better than the anemic nationwide growth in nonfarm payrolls to 131,043,000 in May from 130,328,000 in January.

This doesn’t mean Walker’s policies have failed; by his own account, the benefits could take years to materialize. But it does suggest that the conservatives criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of the economy don’t have a silver bullet of their own. Walker, who has large Republican majorities in the Wisconsin legislature, experimented with a long conservative wish-list, but the state hasn’t been a standout in job creation during his six-month tenure.

The truth is that there’s not much more that government can do to boost jobs in the short term. That’s up to the private sector now. Corporate America has recovered so well that profits have been at or near record levels of an annualized $1.7 trillion in the last two quarters – but businesses have yet to spend their piles of cash.

Instead, flush CEOs are demanding still more government spending. This was a theme of Monday’s session at the Chamber, where 23 men and one woman sat around a u-shaped table and listened to Chamber president Tom Donohue describe states as “laboratories of democracy,” where businesses are more likely to find “common sense solutions, innovations, experimentations, bipartisanship.”

Walker, whose tenure has made Wisconsin more of a laboratory of theocracy, clenched his jaw at the mention of bipartisanship. “The very first day I was elected,” he said when his turn came, “I put up a sign that said, ‘Wisconsin is open for business.’” He waved a bumper sticker for the Chamber crowd with that same message. “I called the legislature into a special session based solely on jobs.”

That led to the fight over collective bargaining, the fleeing of Democratic legislators across state lines, and huge protests in Madison. “We got a little more attention than most,” he said.

The attention continued on Monday. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, one of two Democrats on the panel, said he “took a different approach” than Walker did: “I invited the unions to the table.” Markell said that the cuts he got from the unions exceeded his target by 30 percent, without creating statewide bitterness.

The other Democrat, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, implicitly rebuked Walker when he said “with a Republican House and Democratic Senate we passed our budget with at least 75 percent in both houses.”

In terms of job-creation, neither Democrat’s approach has worked any better than Walker’s. Colorado added 9,000 non-farm jobs this year and Delaware has been flat. Iowa, represented on the panel by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, added 12,000. Virginia, represented by Gov. Bob McDonnell, added 22,000.

The biggest job creator of the six, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), boasted that his tax cuts, deregulation and tort reform enabled him to cut “unemployment every month since I came into office, and last month our job creation was more than the entire rest of the country.” That’s nice, but even Scott’s job growth amounts to just 1 percent of the state’s workforce, and Florida’s unemployment is among the highest in the country.

Eventually, the governors – like President Obama – will have more to show for their job-creation policies. But for now, they’ll have to settle for baby steps. Walker told the Chamber that Wisconsin moved up 17 places in Chief Executive magazine’s annual ranking. “Last year we were 41,” he said. “This year, we went up to No. 24.”

If only those happy CEOs would start hiring.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 20, 2011

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Jobs, Labor, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Unemployed, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbottabad: Bin Laden Couldn’t Have Picked A More Unlikely Place To Hide Out

The main Karakuram Highway leading into Abbottabad, Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011. Photo by Balkis Press/ABACAUSA.COM

It is a special irony that Osama bin Laden, who made his name as an enemy of Western imperialism real and imagined, hid and died in a town that is itself a model colonial outpost of the British Empire. Bin Laden may have dreamed of renewing a caliphate, but he was killed in a city founded by and still bearing the unmistakable imprint of the West.

Even in its name, Abbottabad sheds any pretense of local origins: it bears the name of the town’s founder, James Abbott, a British army officer who was assigned in 1849 the task of pacifying and governing the Hazare region of the Punjab province that had been annexed by the British Empire after the First Anglo-Sikh War. Abbotabad is today a medium-sized city of nearly one million people, but no urban enclave existed there at all until Abbott decided that it would be a strategic location for an administrative capital. 

In a broader geographic and historic context, Abbottabad is a particularly unlikely epicenter of the type of future caliphate bin Laden dreamed of founding. Lying as it does on the old Silk Road, the area has always cultivated contact with diverse outsiders — especially with those from points farther east. (Today, it sits along the Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan with China through the Himalayas.) In some ways, its historic and religious ties with the Middle East are more tenuous than its historic commercial ties with East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. As an Arab, Bin Laden would have been a member of a vanishingly small minority in Abbottabad: Hindkowans, an ethnic group marked by its late conversion to Islam from Hinduism, comprise the majority of the area’s population.

Today, the characteristics that Pakistanis associate with Abbottabad underscore its unlikeliness as a place for an international fugitive to make his home. First, it is something of a tourist spot, attracting Pakistanis from around the country to enjoy its verdant and hilly surrounds, temperate climate, and nearby national parks. James Abbott himself developed a deep attachment to the area in his years of service there, composing a poem“Abbottabad” after returning to Britain, in which he paid tribute to its beauty. A selection:

I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right

And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave our perhaps on a sunny noon

Oh Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart

Abbottabad is also a garrison city for the Pakistani military, home to its most noted military academy. And it’s also a favored location for retired generals and army officers, many of whom have houses there. It is an unmistakable company town: Much of the area has been parceled and divided, to great profit, by the Pakistani Army — a force that was ostensibly hard at work in search of Bin Laden in partnership with the United States, from whom it derives much of its funding (at least $1 billion every yearsince 2005).  Washington will have many questions about how Bin Laden could have hidden undetected for so long in the midst of the Pakistani military’s administrative apparatus, less than 100 miles away from the seat of government in Islamabad.

That Bin Laden ultimately was killed in Abbottabad is perhaps a testimony to his myriad weaknesses in his latter days. The head of al Qaeda was more than a terrorist — he was a political figure who derived much of his power from religious symbolism. But his final home was not in an area with any particular pedigree as a launching point for global jihad. Abbottabad doesn’t share a border with Afghanistan, where Taliban forces are struggling to re-establish a theocracy; and it is utterly alien to whatever grievances the Muslim world harbors about Palestine. In the end, then, Osama bin Laden died not as an historic emir, but as a hidden fugitive, surrounded by Western influence and allies of the U.S. military — a man utterly reliant on luck, until it finally ran out.

By: Cameron Abadi, Associate Editor, Foreign Policy, May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 Posted by | Ground Zero, Islam, Justice, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christian Economics” Meets The Anti-Union Movement

Gary North was nearly impossible to track down. He did not return multiple e-mails, and when finally reached by phone, he refused to talk and hung up.

But if you know where to look, he is everywhere.

Mr. North, a onetime aide to Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate, is the leading proponent of “Christian economics,” which applies biblical principles to economic issues and the free market.

Largely unknown to the broader public, Mr. North is an influential figure on the American far right. He has written dozens of books, blogs prolifically and is on the curriculum of Christian home-schoolers across America.

He may even have turned up among the antiunion protesters in Madison, Wis., this year.

Not literally, of course (and who would have recognized him if he had been there?). But Christian conservatism and free-market conservatism meet in Mr. North’s writings. A small but vigorous part of the conservative movement has absorbed his view that the Bible is opposed to organized labor, and especially to organized public employees.

“Not only do Reconstructionists believe that public employees should not have the right to organize, they believe that almost all of them should not be public employees,” writes Julie Ingersoll, of the University of North Florida, in the Web magazine Religion Dispatches. “Most of the tasks performed by those protesting the Wisconsin state budget would, in the biblical economics of North,” be privatized.

These “Reconstructionists” are believers in Christian Reconstructionism, the philosophy of R. J. Rushdoony, who died in 2001. According to Reconstructionism, a Christian theocracy under Old Testament law is the best form of government, and a radically libertarian one. Biblical law, they believe, presupposes total government decentralization, with the family and church providing order. Until that day comes, Reconstructionists believe the rights to home-school and to worship freely at least provide the barest conditions of liberty.

Mr. North, who is Mr. Rushdoony’s son-in-law but was not on speaking terms with him from 1981 until Mr. Rushdoony’s death, focuses on how that biblical libertarianism applies to economics. He concluded that the Bible forbids any welfare programs, is opposed to all inflation, and requires a gold-coin standard for money.

“God has cursed the earth,” Mr. North writes, alluding to the Book of Genesis in his 1973 book “Introduction to Christian Economics. “This is the starting point for all economic analysis. The earth no longer gives up her fruits automatically. Man must sweat to eat.” Mr. North writes that no form of government assistance “will escape the ethical limits” of the Apostle Paul’s dictum, in II Thessalonians, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

And evidence that God would prefer gold money to paper can be found throughout the Old Testament, according to Mr. North. There are more than 350 references to gold in Strong’s famous Bible concordance, he writes. Gold is used in worship, godly wisdom is compared to gold and the Hebrew prophets used the debasement of metals as a metaphor for immorality.

Home-schoolers can download Mr. North’s economics textbook free from his Web site. And his thinking may have influenced Representative Paul, who briefly employed Mr. North as a speechwriter, working on monetary policy, in 1976.

Michael J. McVicar, who teaches at Ohio State and wrote a doctoral dissertation on Mr. Rushdoony, said Mr. North discovered Mr. Rushdoony’s writing as a young man in Southern California, shortly after he became, along with his parents, an evangelical Christian.

“He corresponded with Rushdoony and made this his livelihood: to generate some synthesis between biblical law and libertarian economics,” Mr. McVicar said. “Eventually Rushdoony took him under his wing and became a sort of surrogate father for North, who married one of Rushdoony’s daughters.”

The two men’s “spectacular break,” as Mr. McVicar calls it, split Reconstructionism into two camps. The break was partly over the kind of theological minutiae that would impress even a rabbinical scholar. In fact, one issue might pique the interest of real rabbinical scholars.

“It was about North’s interpretation of, of all things, Passover and the Israelites’ marking the doorposts with the blood of the lamb,” Mr. McVicar said. “North made this argument, that because of the doorpost’s structure, that this was an indication of hymenal blood from the marriage bed, and tied it into what Rushdoony called this ‘fertility cult’ mentality. And Rushdoony took a much more common-sense approach to the blood.

“The subtext is, it’s a father-son spat,” Mr. McVicar concluded.

The deeper one looks into the obsessions of Mr. North — who was born in 1942 and who as of 2007 lived in Horn Lake, Miss. — the harder it is to spot his influence in Wisconsin. The main themes of the Wisconsin budget battles were union influence, the distribution of wealth and the public fisc; Mr. North, by contrast, is associated with his own brand of far-right Presbyterianism, gun-owners’ rights, home-schooling and the gold standard for money.

Mr. McVicar believes that Professor Ingersoll’s attempted connection between Christian economics and the rallies in Madison is a bit tenuous. “Her insight has to be in my mind so heavily qualified as to make it almost nothing,” he said. But he concedes that it “has the most basic essence of truth,” given how widely Mr. North’s teachings have been disseminated on the Christian right.

Professor Ingersoll concedes it is difficult to prove direct connections between Mr. North’s writings and Wisconsin antiunion conservatism. On the other hand, Mr. North might like to think he has influenced the Wisconsin debate, and he has written in vociferous support of Gov. Scott Walker.

And, as Professor Ingersoll cautions, influence does not always announce itself:

“I like to say, ‘How many Christians know who is Augustine is, and how he influenced them?’ ”

By: Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times, April 29, 2011

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberatarians, Politics, Religion, Right Wing, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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