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.

Breaking Down Gun Nuts

Ah, gun nuts… Everything with these people is guns. You see it with these open carry lunatics where they apparently feel the need to carry some kind of firearm with them 24 hours a day.  Not only that, they want it strapped to them in full display of the public.  Because nothing says “I’m sane” quite like believing that you need an AR-15 strapped to your back while you order a burger at a local fast food restaurant.

It’s just absurd. But these open carry clowns honestly aren’t about self defense and “the Second Amendment” – it’s about inadequacy and “looking tough.”  That’s why they stage events to show off their guns.  It’s not about being out somewhere that you feel you might need protection.  It’s all about telling the public, “F*ck you, I’m carrying this big gun wherever I want!” The way I look at it, although I’m not licensed as a medical practitioner, I just don’t see these people as mentally stable.  If they really believe that life is so terrifying that they need a semi-automatic weapon with them wherever they go – that’s mental illness as far as I’m concerned.  If you believe that strapping a rifle to your back to shop at your local Walmart is a “necessity,”

Here are 10 signs that I believe prove that someone is too mentally ill to own guns.  Again, this isn’t meant to be viewed as any sort of “official” guide to mental illness and I am not a doctor.  This is just my own personal opinion on the matter, so keep that in mind.

1) They believe that guns should be openly displayed in public – everywhere.

2) They hoard guns in anticipation of a possible overthrow of our federal government.

3) Even the slightest mention of a new gun regulation sends them into a paranoid rant about gun confiscation, bringing about references to Nazi Germany.

4) They honestly believe that the federal government can be overthrown.

5) Their answer to any kind of dispute between the government and a citizen is to show up in armed groups because they don’t like how a court ruled on a particular issue.

6) They’ve frequently rush out to buy guns an ammo in anticipation of some form of government ban on weapons that never – ever happens.

7) They honestly believe that easy access to guns has nothing to do with gun violence.

8) They believe that anytime they feel threatened, shooting anything that they feel threatened by is the first answer.

9) They own nearly a full wardrobe of shirts or hats depicting gun manufacturers or NRA logos.

10) They believe that it should be easier to buy a gun than cast a vote.

Check out my earlier post “Gun Nuttery is a Religion” for a nice graphic detailing more gun nut facts.

Last Monday > This Monday

Last week Monday was greater than today in terms of Mondays…

Why???

Well….

Last Monday:

Monday Morning: February 10th, 2014

Monday Morning in Tel Aviv, Israel: February 10th, 2014

 This Morning:

Morning in Fitchburg, Wisconsin: February 17, 2014

Morning in Fitchburg, Wisconsin: February 17, 2014

So I think it is pretty obvious why Last Monday > This Monday.

Any Questions?

Meet the 5 Most Overrated Presidents

Don’t worry… Ronald Reagan is on this list!

Americans love to rank things. So lists of the best presidents in American history frequently allow historians to duke it out over whether George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt should be remembered as our nation’s greatest leader. Meanwhile, recently departed President George W. Bush already ranks close to the top in polls of historians asked to rank the worst president in American history. Rather than wade into the thicket of which men best or worst served their nation during their time in the White House, we would like to offer a different kind of list. Here are five presidents who routinely rank far above what their performance in office deserves in surveys considering presidential performance:

1. Andrew Jackson

The Democratic Party frequently hosts Jefferson-Jackson Dinners honoring President Jackson and another historic president who is also on this list. It should reconsider this practice, as Jackson’s policy towards Native Americans was only a few steps shy of genocidal. In theory, President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, permitted him to negotiate voluntary agreements with tribes in the southeastern United States encouraging them to exchange their eastern lands for new territory in the west. In reality, Jackson’s forced migration policy was anything but voluntary. By his last year in office, 46,000 Native Americans were removed from their lands, opening up tens of millions of acres to white settlement and slave-worked agriculture. As many as a quarter of the southeastern Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease in the Trail of Tears march that began shortly after Jackson left the White House.

Beyond his indefensible treatment of Native Americans, it is ironic that Jackson’s face is now featured on the $20 bill, because he proved such a poor steward of the nation’s economy. Jackson waged war against the Second Bank of the United States, an early predecessor to the modern Federal Reserve, and he required federal land sales to be conducted in gold or silver. Historians disagree somewhat about the role Jackson’s retrograde monetary policy played in triggering the economic depression that began shortly after he left office. But there’s little doubt that, by taking away America’s ability to centrally manage its money supply, Jackson deprived his nation of a key tool it would need to fight off the looming depression. America would not have a central bank for most of a century after Jackson left office, and we paid the price for this fact. Today, banking panics are viewed as rare, disastrous economic events. Yet in the years that America had no central bank, according to Harvard Business Professor David Moss, we experienced more bank panics than any other industrialized nation — such panics occurred in 1837, 1839, 1857, 1873 and 1907.

2. Ronald Reagan

President Reagan ushered in the misguided era of massive deficits, bloated military spending and tax cuts for the very rich that America still struggles to this day to put to an end. Yet Reagan wrongly receives credit for the economic boom that began a few years into his presidency due to events entirely outside of his control. When Reagan took office, America faced double-digit inflation rates matched with a sharp spike in unemployment. Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, a Carter appointee, chose to break the first problem by exacerbating the second — driving up interest rates in a successful effort to break inflation. When Volcker finally took the brakes off the economy and ended the recession he created by lowering interest rates back to more normal levels, housing and auto sales took off, the economy boomed back to life, and Reagan rode the undeserved credit to a second term in the White House.

As Rosalynn Carter once said, Reagan made America “comfortable with our prejudices.” Reagan infamously began the final leg of his presidential campaign by traveling to the Mississippi town where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered and proclaiming “I believe in states’ rights.” Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis for years. He gave us Justice Antonin Scalia. And he tried and failed to appoint another justice who once claimed that the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters is rooted in a “principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”

3. Woodrow Wilson

Unlike the first two names on this list, Wilson presided over a far more mixed legacy as President of the United States. Wilson created the Federal Reserve. He expanded federal anti-trust law. He signed a law effectively banning child labor, although it would eventually be struck down by a conservative Supreme Court. And his League of Nations formed much of the framework for the modern UN — even if Wilson could not convince his own nation to join the League.

Yet, for all of his accomplishments, Wilson belongs on this list because of his inexcusable record on civil liberties. Wilson’s Espionage Act criminalized the mere act of presenting conscripted men with arguments regarding why they should avoid the draft. And his Sedition Act went even further, banning “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government, military or flag. Wilson was a racist who signed laws banning interracial marriage in the District of Columbia and segregating DC’s streetcars. And his elevation of Justice James Clark McReynolds ranks among the worst appointments to the Supreme Court in American history.

4. Thomas Jefferson

Like Wilson, Jefferson’s legacy is far more mixed than malign, as no one can question the significance of his contributions to American history — beginning with the document that declared us an independent nation. Yet Jefferson’s most important accomplishment as president was also the most important flip-flop in American history. During the Washington Administration, Jefferson led a losing faction seeking to constrain federal power to foster the nation’s economic growth far beyond the limits contained in the Constitution’s text. This narrow vision of the Constitution initially led him to oppose the Louisiana Purchase as president, although he eventually relented and doubled the size of the United States in the process.

Nevertheless, Jefferson’s initial view of the Constitution lives on in the modern tenther movement which would declare everything from Medicare to Social Security to national child labor laws unconstitutional, and it occasionally inspired future presidents to stand athwart American progress. President James Buchanan, who is widely viewed as among our nation’s worst presidents, raised Jeffersonian constitutional objections when he vetoed land grant colleges. President Abraham Lincoln, considered one of America’s greatest presidents, would later sign the same bill Buchanan blocked.

Additionally, while Jefferson may have written that “all men are created equal,” his actions did not match his words. Our third president held hundreds of slaves over the course of his lifetime, freed only a handful upon his death, and often engaged in the unspeakably cruel practice of punishing slaves by selling them away from their families and friends.

5. James Madison

Madison was another man of accomplishment who belongs on this list despite his tremendous contributions to his nation and to the world. Madison’s Bill of Rights formed the backbone of America’s single greatest export: the idea that a nation’s charter should embrace fundamental civil rights that cannot be abridged by government — although these rights would not be understood as limits on state governments until many years after Madison’s death. Like Jefferson, however, Madison also believed that we should ignore the text of the Constitution and impose limits on Congress’ power that, if they existed today, would make Medicare, Social Security and much of America’s educational infrastructure impossible. As president, Madison vetoed a bill to create new roads and canals, claiming that it violated the Constitution.

To his credit, however, Madison would oppose the efforts by modern conservatives to revive the least appealing aspects of his constitutional vision. Although Madison opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States on constitutional grounds, he signed the bill creating the Second Bank, noting that “Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and (most important, by failing to use their amending power) the American people had for two decades accepted” the First Bank. Unlike so many of today’s conservatives, Madison understood that he had no right to toss out decades of well-settled constitutional law just to satisfy his own pet theory.

FYI: Unless you…

Unless you:
 
– have no tattoos,
 
– believe that death should be the punishment for prostitution, blasphemy, adultery, practicing astrology, putting semen anywhere but in a vagina, and cursing one’s parents,
 
– refuse to allow a man who has lost or injured a testicle or penis into a church,
 
– have never worn different types of fabrics at the same time, …
 
– have never cut the hair on your temples or beard,
 
– have never sold land “permanently”,
 
– believe in forcing all rape victims to marry their rapists,
 
– support men having multiple wives,
 
– support daughters being sold into marriage,
 
– have never eaten or touched shellfish,
 
– have never eaten pork, eel, or the fat or blood of meat,
 
– have never touched the carcass of a pig, rodent, snake, lizard, or “unclean” bird… and this includes traditional footballs (i.e. pigskins)
 
– believe that exile should be the punishment for having sex with a woman on her period,
 
– have never gone to church within 33 days of giving birth to a boy, or 66 days for a girl,
 
– have never picked up grapes that have fallen on the ground in your vineyard
 
– have never born a grudge
 
– have never held the wages of your employees overnight
 
– have never stood in the presence of the elderly
 
– have never mistreated foreigners (uh oh)
 
– and support slavery,
 
THEN YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY THAT THE BIBLE SAYS THAT GAYS ARE EVIL!

The Cult of “Republicanity”

It’s no secret that I don’t believe many conservatives are actually Christians.  And I damn sure don’t believe the GOP represents real Christianity at all.

So I think I will use the term “Republicanity” as the religion I believe these people actually worship. 

Republicanity is a blend of cult-like religious beliefs mixed with political ideologies.  It’s neither a true political party, nor a real religion—it’s both.  It’s why so many conservatives cling to being a Republican as tightly as they do being a “Christian.”  To many of these individuals, they treat their devotion to their political beliefs with the same conviction as they do their faith.

For them to dare question Republican talking points is tantamount to questioning their belief in God.

See, real Christianity is predicated on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  You know, that whole helping the poor; giving to the needy; accepting one another; loving thy neighbor; forgiveness; hope and not judging others.  Basically, principles that aren’t beholden to one specific faith or religion — instead, they’re what I think are representative of good human beings.

You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in the values for which Christianity stands.   The values I believe in transcend religion to the very heart of human kindness and decency.  I believe people of other religions — or of no religious affiliation whatsoever — can share these common values as good people.

Yet, when it comes to many conservatives, they don’t represent any of these values.  Their entire political movement is based on fear, hatred, judgment, anger, paranoia and disdain for those who are different.

Hell, the only “Biblical” values I ever see followed by many of these people is their opposition to homosexuality, abortion and church attendance.  (By the way, all three of those are issues which Jesus Christ never spoke about.)

See, you can say the Bible is your book, without actually being a Christian.  Jews aren’t considered Christians, but they believe in God and follow the Bible.

What conservatives have is a “religion,” if you will, built by two completely contradicting systems of belief.  First, their political ideology comes from Ayn Rand — someone who thought religion was stupid and those who followed it were idiots Then their social ideology is taken from a few handpicked excerpts from the Bible.

The reason why I view these people more like cult followers than anything else stems from the fact that their economic and social ideologies are complete contradictions of one another.  How does it make any sense to claim religious “moral” principles socially while at the same time supporting economic policies created by someone who opposed all forms of religion?

It makes absolutely no sense.  In fact, the only way anyone could believe such idiocy is if they were a part of some brainwashed cult following.

Think about it.  These people really believe they follow Jesus Christ by hating most anyone who isn’t just like them.  They really think that Jesus Christ — someone who spent his life helping the poor and the needy — would support massive cuts to programs that help the poor and the needy while protecting tax breaks for the rich.

These are people who complain constantly about their quality of life, then vote for Republican politicians who support policies which make their quality of life worse.

Many of these people base their entire spirituality off church attendance and how much they hate gay people.  Because, you know, same-sex marriage will ruin the sanctity of marriage — according to millions of conservative heterosexuals who’ve been divorced (often multiple times).

When I think of all the idiocy and contradiction within the conservative movement, “cult” is about the only term that properly describes what I see day in and day out with conservatives, because they’re damn sure not Christians.

They belong to a cult I call Republicanity.