The Chosen Frozen

Screenshot of my blog, The Chosen Frozen

As you may or may not know, I am a blogger for The Jerusalem Post, which is the major daily English-language newspaper in Israel. My blog, The Chosen Frozen, appears on their website, JPost.com. I blog about Judaism, life as a convert, politics, diaspora issues and events, and much more. Check it out at http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Ryan-Fagan

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My take on the ‘Religious Freedom’ law in Indiana

I’m gonna use a bakery owner as an example:

Refusing to bake a damn cake for someone due to their sexual orientation is stupid… Aren’t you a businessperson? Don’t you want to make a damn profit?  You don’t agree with homosexuality?  Well, that is your own thought and you are entitled to it, but keep it to yourself.  You’re a twice divorced baker? If that is the case, on the same accord you should be refusing service to yourself… What do you think about that? Bake the damn cake… It doesn’t affect you in any negative way. You may be a bigot, but you’re making money.

Scott Walker Might Be “Called” to Run for President

My take on this… And Scott Walker in general:

Scott Walker doesn’t have a chance in hell of even a serious run for the Presidency. His purpose is to be the new Newt Gingrich—constantly running for office/the Presidency—but simply fundraising for himself/living off donations— and the Right wing causes he espouses. Basically, he’ll live off of donations for the rest of his life—That’s Walker’s goal.

Walker is a classic Grifter/a complete Fraud.

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“American dream” is now a myth: How bad Republican-born policies and worse ideology ruined us

Over the past few years of economic torpor and social despair there’s been a lot of discussion about the death of the American dream. This shouldn’t be surprising. In a time when people feel they can’t keep up or are falling behind, it’s hard to have faith in the idea that everyone can achieve a base level of security and provide for their kids to do better than they did. That was always the deal for working-class Americans, immigrants and middle-class alike.

Generally, people agree that the lack of social and economic mobility we see today — necessities for the achievement of the American dream — is a result of the dramatic income inequality that’s grown dramatically over the last couple of decades. There’s even a name for this phenomenon called the Great Gatsby Curve, which simply shows that the more income inequality there is, the less social mobility there is. As Tim Noah of the New Republic explained:

Economists have long suspected that you can’t really experience ever-growing income inequality without experiencing a decline in Horatio Alger-style upward mobility because (to use a frequently-employed metaphor) it’s harder to climb a ladder when the rungs are farther apart. [Economist Alan] Krueger calculates based on the Gatsby curve (admittedly, somewhat speculatively) that “the persistence in the advantages and disadvantages of income passed from parents to the children” will “rise by about a quarter for the next generation as a result of the rise in inequality that the U.S. has seen in the last 25 years

It’s doubtful that more than a handful of average Americans have heard of the Great Gatsby Curve but they do know that they aren’t getting ahead at the same pace as their parents did. Earlier generations started out with much less (there was less to have!), but the level of advancement over the course of a lifetime for average working people, whether factory workers or teachers or small business owners, was measurable and real. People who never thought of going to college had all their children graduate from university. Couples whose parents always lived in small urban dwellings bought big houses in the suburbs and retired from their jobs knowing they could live comfortably in their old age. Each generation did a bit better than the last, gaining more opportunity and living with more financial security. It wasn’t sexy but it was solid.

According to polling, including this latest one by the Public Religion Research Institute, the bottom has fallen out of the American dream for a whole lot of people. Only 42 percent of Americans still believe in it today and it’s not getting better:

Other polling has shown similar results.  That’s a sad comment on our country.

Oddly, that same poll shows that far more Republicans than Democrats believe the American dream is still operative, 55 percent to 32 percent. If you wonder why that is, perhaps it’s because many Republicans have a completely different definition of the American dream.  They don’t see it as a middle-class goal at all, much of it made possible by the promise of a decent education and secure retirement, guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.  No, they believe that the American dream is getting filthy rich. It’s not much different than winning the lottery or getting a slot on the Real Housewives of Galt’s Gulch.

Here’s a good example of how Republicans explain it to the rubes, in a piece called “In Defense of the Wealthy and the American Dream”:

The United States has 422 billionaires, nearly four times that of 2nd place China. We have a 15.3 trillion dollar economy. We have a standard of living that is the envy of the world. Why?

We have the American Dream and other countries don’t. This American Dream exists because we are free to pursue unlimited prosperity. What fuels the desire to pursue the American Dream is the right to keep the wealth you produce. Property rights are fundamental to the existence of the American Dream and to the continued success of our nation. It was intentional. Our founding fathers built a nation around individual liberty and individual property rights. Without these rights, there would be no 422 billionaires, no 15.3 trillion dollar economy, no high standard of living. These rights are the very foundation of America. Liberty and the right to keep your property (wealth) have, for generations, separated America from the rest of the world. It is the reason America has been considered by so many around the world as “the land of opportunity”.

He calls these 422 billionaires the “American Dream Achievers.” And if you too want to be an American Dream Achiever you must agree not to tax them or regulate their businesses or in any other way try to reduce the wealth inequality we know is causing virtually everyone else to stagnate economically. But have no fear, you can totally do it! Why, if you just work hard you can be the 423rd billionaire — out of 313 million Americans!

A few months ago David Leonhardt of the New York Times published a story that showed exactly where the real American dream — enough opportunity and security to live a decent life and make it possible for your kids to succeed — is in the most trouble. And ironically, it turns out that one specific group of people is being scammed by this absurd con game more than any other: Southern Republicans.

The results of this week’s poll on Americans’ pessimism about the American dream doesn’t break the data out by region. It does break it out by race and class, however, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that the most pessimistic, by a long shot, are the white working class and African-Americans. It’s fair to guess that an awful lot of those working-class whites and African-Americans hail from that red area on the map where their futures and their children’s futures really are grim.

And that’s largely thanks to the policies put in place by GOP politicians who are intent upon delivering for those rare “American Dream Achievers” — and nobody else. You can’t blame the African-Americans.  They know the score and don’t vote for these dream killers. The Southern white working class is another story. They’re participating in their own demise.

What if it was… Say… An Islamic Company??

The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in support of the “freedom” of corporations with “religious” beliefs to restrict the rights of their employees. In essence, religious “beliefs” trump the obligations, rights, and responsibilities that come with being members of the polity and a broader political community.

The NY Times details the logic of the theocrats as:

The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court’s five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies’ religious liberty. He said the government could provide the coverage in other ways.

The dissent offers up this chilling observation:

On that point, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said the court’s decision “is bound to have untoward effects” in other settings.

“The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood,” Justice Ginsburg wrote, “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.”

The corporateocracy and the 1 percent are using the tricks, smoke, and mirrors of “religious faith” to expand their power and protections from civil authority and the social compact.

The tactic is Orwellian and dystopian.

Alas, if corporations are indeed “people”–an insult to the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution which was put in place to protect the rights of newly freed black slaves–then their behavior is sociopathic. The sociopath will lie, dissemble, and exploit others for his or her own gain because that is their essential nature.

There are many complications that will arise from the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision.

The language of “religious liberty” and “free enterprise” are deified in American political culture and discourse. Those words are blinding and disorienting; therefore, they are also concepts that are not critically interrogated.

For example, “religious liberty” and “free enterprise” were used to justify slavery, as well as Jim and Jane Crow. The move towards privatized schools, “urban academies”, and publicly funded religiously based secondary and primary education are the direct heirs of the “freedom academies” that whites used as a means to resist integration and the Black Freedom Struggle in the South and elsewhere.

[I wonder how many African-Americans and others who support school privatization are aware of that ugly history and the intersection between neoliberalism and white supremacy in the present?]

In practice, the language of religious liberty and free enterprise are in many ways antithetical to a true and expansive view of freedom, liberty, and civil rights.

The Roberts and Scalia court is operating under an assumption that Christianity is the United States’ semi-official religion and that it should be legislated and protected in a way that other faiths are not. This is, of course, a misreading of the Constitution–despite what the deranged members of the Fox News Christian Evangelical Dominionist American public would like to believe.

Unintended consequences may lay bare the hypocrisy of the Right-wing and its agents on the Supreme Court.

How would conservatives and their agents respond if a company with Islamic beliefs (however defined) decided to impose its religious values on white, Christian, American employees?

Sharia hysteria would spread in such a way as to make the present day-to-day Islamophobia of the Right-wing echo chamber appear benign and muted by comparison.

What if a Black cultural nationalist organization such as the Nation of Islam or the Black Israelites claimed that they possessed a “religious freedom” to actively discriminate against white people in the workplace or elsewhere?

The White Right would explode with claims of “reverse discrimination” and “black racism”.

The end game of the Supreme Courts’ surrender to the theocrats and religious plutocrats could be the complete dismantlement of the liberal consensus politics of the post World War 2 era.

Consider the following questions.

Is there a “religious freedom” to practice housing discrimination if you are a member of a white supremacist “Christian” organization that leases or sells property? Does “religious freedom” for corporate entities trump anti-discrimination laws governing gender, sexuality, disability status, or race?

The beautiful thing about religious faith is its malleability and vagueness. “Faith” is a belief which cannot be proven by ordinary or empirical means: this trait makes religion dangerous and disruptive to a functioning democratic-liberal polity.

Religion can be anything to anyone.

The Framers understood this fact. Thus, their shrewd choice to separate church and state in the Constitution.

Movement conservatism is no longer a centrist force, one interested in stability or “tradition”. Its members are radicals who want to fundamentally destroy and transform the standing bargains and norms which have guided American society and politics for decades.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, what was once the United States’ most respected political institution, is soiling itself by surrendering to the American Right’s radical agenda.