Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rick Santorum and religious fascism.

On Sunday,on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous, Rick Santorum said:

"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country...to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up."
Santorum and others on the far right who think as he does continue to either be painfully ignorant as to the founding of the United States,ignorant about the people who founded it and the principles on which it was founded or they willfully lie to themselves and others.

Given the principles of the Founders, and their true beliefs, the religious views of Santorum and many conservatives on the Christian right are views that are not only un-American and anti-American by the founders standards and definition, their goal of wanting laws that reflect their religious views and social agenda represent exactly the kind of religious fascism that the Founders wanted to insure would never be a part of the United States.

Santorum's biggest problem isn't his religion. He is free to believe in whatever he wants. If he or anyone else believes holding his nose and jumping up and down on one foot will bring him peace and happiness let him do it. Let anyone find whatever way to peace happiness and productivity they wish. But let them remember that's all it is -- their own beliefs and just because they believe it, it doesn't make it so. In fact there is more hard irrefutable evidence that what they believe isn't so as Thomas Jefferson as well as ancient documents point out. The idea of forcing others to accept their beliefs and to make their beliefs part of the law of the land so as to make those beliefs part of everyone's life is what is called fascism and flies in the face of what the Founders envisioned for this country.

In saying that the separation of church and state is "antithetical to the American vision" Santorum shows such an ignorance of the people who founded this country, the principles on which it was founded and their beliefs and what this country stands for all of  which are antithetical to Santorum's beliefs and those of people who think as he does that he is unfit to run for public office.

The anti-Americanism of those views and those of many Republicans and those on the Christian right should have been pointed out a long ago by the media and the political oppositon.Unfortunately we live in a time of such  extreme political cowardice in both media and among Democrats, both of whom are fearful of stirring up anger and what they are afraid they might lose than in stating the truth,  they let the right get away with it.

So let's set the record absolutely irrevocably and irrefutably and inarguably straight -- this country was not only never founded on Christian values, nor by anyone who believed in them, the primary founders of this country did not believe in Christianity at all, and some, like many of the principle founders like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to varying degrees had contempt for the church not respect.

John Adams, in a letter to Jefferson when Jefferson was looking to hire professors for his newly established University of Virginia wrote to him, " whatever you do, do not hire any professors from Europe as they have already been indoctrinated by the church".

The founders wrote the establishment clause of the first amendment to insure that the church would never have an official voice in the government of the United States, an idea in direct opposition to Santorum's ignorance. Unlike what Santorum and others on the christian right  believe, the founders of this country wanted to insure there would never be anything in the United States like the Church of England and that the church would never be in a position to exert any official power over the government even though they constantly try.

That what Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders  fervently believed was one of the pillars of the United States, one of the founding principles that would set the United States apart from other countries in Europe, that this makes Santorum "want to throw up",  makes Santorum and those like him not just un- American and unfit for public office, it puts him at odds with the American idea, its institutions and the very principles on which it was founded.

Santorum, by saying  that the separation of church and state is "absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country" shows the kind of ignorance and arrogance that marks Christian conservatives in general who seem to think they know more about the principles this country was founded upon than Thomas Jefferson, John Adams or Thomas Paine.

Just so there is no doubt about what the Founders of this country believed and on what principles the country was based as it relates to religion and to prove that conservatives and the Christian right try to propagate untruths in the service of their agenda,  here are some quotes from Thomas Jefferson on the subject and we will see if the separation of church and state, the wall that Santorum said is, "absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision" of the United States is what is true, or if conservatives who are always claiming patriotism will admit that true patriotism is keeping their religious ideas completely out of government. 

"I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians" Letter from Jefferson to Richard Price.(Richard Price had written to Jefferson about the harm done by religion and wrote "Would not Society be better without such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?")

"They [the Christian clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion. " Jefferson letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god,that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." Jefferson letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. " Jefferson letter to Alexander Humboldt.

"The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. " Jefferson letter to John Adams ( note Jefferson's reference to Jesus as "an extraordinary man", which reaffirms Jefferson's belief that Jesus was not a deity).

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." Jefferson letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper.

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. " Jefferson letter to Horatio Spafford.

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." Jefferson letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kamp.

"Priests dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live." Jefferson letter to Correa de Serra.

"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being." Jefferson, letter to William Short on his belief that most of the New Testament is fabrication.

"And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter." Jefferson letter to John Adams.

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch.."
Jefferson in "Notes on Virginia".

These are only some of Jefferson's beliefs pertaining to Christianity and the church, most, if not all, shared by the other Founders and should make the meaning and original intent of the founders clear in creating the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

 Thomas Paine who wrote "Common Sense" the treatise whose ideas inspired the colonists to revolution and was the first to call for active revolution against England, went even further than Jefferson on the subjects of religion and Christianity in his essay "the Age of Reason" where among other things he called the story of the virgin birth a "fairy story" and believed Christianity, like Jefferson, was a form of tyranny over people's minds. And no wonder given that heresy against the church, that is, making statements that opposed or called into question church teachings, were for centuries punishable by death. It should be kept in mind that the Latin root for the word "heresy" is "to think for oneself".

Reading the quotes from Jefferson and understanding his position was  held not only by other founders, but by the American people as a whole who  ratified the establishment clause, the intent of the First Amendment become even more clear: "Congress shall make no law with respect to the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

This was not only to prevent Christianity from ever becoming the official religion of the United States and to keep the church and its beliefs out of the affairs of government, but also to keep the church from interfering with the practice of other religions, an interference the church had a history of doing, and often violently, for more than 1,000 years.

Conservatives are free to believe and worship as they wish, as is everyone, s long as they confine their beliefs to themselves.  But their goals to impose their beliefs as Santorum wants to do, on everyone else by passing laws that reflect their religious beliefs is not just unconstitutional, un- American and fly in the face of the country the founders envisioned, it is the hallmark of fascism.

This country was founded by people whose personal beliefs and principles considered the church anathema to liberty and human freedom. And that resulted in the Establishment clause of the first amendment to the constitution, which Santorum says makes him sick.

Santorum has made his beliefs, his feelings towards the author of the Declaration of Independence, the founders of this country, the Constitution itself and the first amendment very clear. Given that he "doesn't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute", which is one of the country's founding principles, he cannot in good conscience ever again put his hand on a bible and swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It would be the worst kind of lie and betrayal, both to himself, his country and, according to him, his own religious beliefs.

NOTE: on Thursday March 1st, Republicans in the senate are forcing a vote on an amendment by Republican Roy Blunt that will allow employers to refuse to offer contraceptive coverage on "moral" and religous grounds. Both Blunt and at least one Democratic senator, Manchin of West Virginia are supporting the amendment on what they say are first amendment grounds of religious freedom. That there are members of the US Senate like Blunt and Democrat Manchin who are so preposterously ignorant of the First Amendment and what it means is just one more example of why the congress has become so intellectually bankrupt and filled with members  so ignorant of the constitution.

Far from Blunts amendment asserting a first amendment right it is violating it. The amendment states in part, " Congress shall make no law with respect to the establishment of a religion". Blunt is proposing that congress do just that -- pass a law  that allows an institution that is not exclusively religious,  to opt out of a public policy law based on their  personal religious beliefs. The proposed law would be a clear violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and to hear Blunt and a senator like Manchin call it a protection of the First Amendment is another example that we have constitutional dolts in congress. The amendment wont pass anyway, saving everyone's time in having the Supreme Court rule it unconstitutional but it is a waste of time to put it to a vote and another example of how some conservatives would trash the constitution to further their own religious agenda.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Did Democrats and progressives learn their lesson from the Susan G. Komen fiasco?

Its too soon to know if Democrats and so called progressives learned a much needed lesson from the Susan G.Komen fiasco but they should have.

For too long, at least since 2000, Democrats, progressives and liberals, provably right on almost every aspect of policy and philosophy, from economics, war, and terrorism to social issues seemed to know how to do only one thing politically -- roll over and play dead in the face of Republican and conservative opposition. That propensity reached new lows the last 3 years when Democrats and progressives rolled over and played dead against the single biggest enemy and roadblock to their agenda, Barrack Obama, who himself set new lows for capitulation, lack of conviction and principle,and  standing for nothing.

But with the announcement by the Susan G. Komen Foundation that they would stop their funding of Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, people became infuriated and galvanized.

The decision to stop the funding of Planned Parenthood was, as most people know by now, the political decision of Karen Handel, a dishonest right wing ideologue who had at one time run for governor of Georgia and lost. She had recently been named VP of public policy for Komen.

Handel, as others of her ilk think, felt that her personal  anti-abortion beliefs should be forced down the throats of those who see things differently and decided to use her position at Komen to further her  ideological point of view, even at the expense of breast cancer screenings and womens' health. And she decided to do it by defunding grants to Planned Parenthood for the work they do on behalf of breast cancer because of their other work related to contraception and abortion.. Handel had made it clear in the past that she would like to see Planned Parenthood go out of business and this was going to be her small contribution.

The uproar over her decision to defund Planned Parenthoods breast cancer grants was immediate. The Komen Foundation had overnight, become a pariah over the very thing it was in existence to combat -- breast cancer.

Karen Handel's decision on the face of it was clearly political and an attempt on her part to further her own personal agenda, and like many from her political spectrum, had to resort to lying and subterfuge to do it but her actions had the opposite effect. Planned Parenthood received record donations, donors to Komen were withdrawing, and soon, on the issue of breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen Foundation found itself  ostracized and on the outside looking in.

Within a few days the foundation was forced to reverse its decision and a few days after that, in the face of a public relations nightmare that was not going to go away, Karen Handel was forced to resign.

Emails later revealed that Handel's decision to defund Planned Parenthood was indeed  implemented by an underhanded plot. It would be the result of a new "policy" concocted by Handel, to withhold funding to any group "under investigation". Handel knew there was a contrived and meaningless investigation of Planned Parenthood underway involving trivial issues which would amount to nothing, but her plan was to use the "policy"and the investigation to deflect any criticism that her decision against Planned Parenthood was ideological. The "policy" was  a smoke screen designed to hide Handel's true agenda to try and accomplish dishonestly and with subterfuge what couldnt be done honestly.

It not only didnt work, it backfired in the ways these things often do and Handel was forced to resign.

So now in the wake of this fiasco, did liberals, Democrats and progressive learn a lesson? They should have. They should have learned that " I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Take it Anymore" works. And they should have learned this:

Had the same anger and outrage been applied when Obama was selling out the public option to healthcare industry lobbyists we probably would have real healthcare reform now and a public option today. Had it been applied to Pelosi and Reid when they decided to go along with the sellout in spite of their better judgement and had they been forced  to pass the public option in spite of Obama's sellout, the Democrats would still be in control of the House. Had it been applied to financial reform and eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the upper 1% and  every other aspect of the Democratic agenda that was sold out by Obama or watered down by him to suit Republicans, the country would be in much better shape now. The deficit would be on the way to being cut by an additional $960 billion, and there would probably be signs of an improving economy since business would have more confidence in a sound and aggressive government policy which is exactly what happened during the Clinton Administration when Clinton and the Democrats  raised taxes to eliminate the deficit.

And had real anger over Obama's capitulations been directed at the DNC instead of backing off legitimate criticism of Obama for the worst reason in the world, race,  there might be better choices now for both the Democratic nominee for president and who the next president will be.

There is one other lesson to be learned: underhanded Republican and conservative strategies never work on a national scale unless those who oppose them roll over and let them happen.

What happened with  Susan G. Komen is what happens in a democracy when people unify and get mad, stand together, know that right is on their side, and let their anger be channelled in the right direction.  It works. It's what the Boston Tea Party was really all about, not taxes.  The question is have Democrats, progressives and liberals learned their lesson about how to put it to use? And will they?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Democrats stooping to tactics they used to complain about

The big headline on the Huffington Post screamed " Mitt Romney: I'm not concerned about the very poor".

The idea behind the headline seemed to be to make people think that Mitt Romney makes Uriah Heep and Ebeneezer Scrooge look like Little Sisters of the Poor. And it might have worked and been a valid criticism if  it had been true and accurately reflected what Romney said. It didn't.  But even former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan got into the act criticizing Romney's statement.  And so did the Weekly Standard who seemed to be criticizing Romney more for what they thought he meant and saying it out loud than meaning it. So it didn't take long for Democrats to take that snippet and make the kind of dishonest commercial they used to complain about ( and rightly so) when Republicans did it.

The problem is the media and Democrats know what Romney's entire sentence was,  but nevertheless decided to take it out of context to make political points with those who didnt hear the original statement.

Oh, I know Romney himself said he shouldn't have said it. But that's the expedient thing to do. Its faster and easier than pointing out the egregious misrepresentation. And as for the attack by the conservative Weekly Standard, that is more about conservatives worrying about winning and losing than worrying about the poor. So this isn't about Romney as much as it is about the kind of journalism and politics that poison the system. In this latest context, it doesn't matter what the candidate actually meant and what he said, this is about using the favorite political tool of choice known as the "na-na-na-na-na" tool.

In the DNC commercial Romney's statement about not being concerned about the very poor is cut so abruptly, Romney's next word is cut off in mid syllable lest anyone hear what came next.Or even knew that anything came next..

Cutting off Romney is mid-sentence is the kind of political TV commercial tactic that used to be the hallmark of Republicans and the kind of cheap political journalism that stoked the fires of Bill Clinton's impeachment (something Newt Gingrich had a singular hand in but brayed bitterly when he became the victim).

Distorted headlines and accusations bearing no resemblance to the truth or what someone is actually trying to say, a quote taken out of context or some tortured analogy having no relationship to reality and thinking they can fool people into believing it seems to be what current political strategists think will work.

What was particularly humorous about the media's distortion of Romney's remark was that CNN seemed unsure about exactly what to do with it. Instead they hedged their bets and instead of beating Romney up and accusing him of not caring about the poor, they called the remark a "potential gaffe".  So when does a potential gaffe actually fulfill its potential as a full blown gaffe? They didn't say. Or who it is that decides when a potential gaffe becomes a full fledged gaffe? That wasn't made clear either though usually its people like those at CNN who decide when a gaffe is a gaffe. But this time even they couldn't bring themselves to paint Romney as someone who said he didn't care about the poor. Though you can tell they thought about it.

The problem with the whole " I'm not concerned about the very poor" sentence is trying to make Romney sound like he was saying he didn't care about the poor which was very different from saying he wasn't "concerned". What he actually said for better or for worse, was that he wasn't concerned about the very poor because he believed there was already a safety net in place to help them and if there were problems with that he would fix it but he wanted to focus on the middle class who he felt had not been helped enough. Believe it or don't believe it,agree or take issue,  but that is what he actually said. But not what the Democrats and some in the media say he said.

Whether Romney does care about the poor ( and Republicans, especially rank and file voters have demonstrated at Republican debates that they don't) is something that could be debated and Romney forced to answer. But Democratic strategists seem to be so devoid of being able to think or come up with meaningful ideas or messages based on reality to win an argument or an election, that they are now resorting to the kind of trickery Republicans have used because they didnt have the facts on their side when over the long run, the Democrats do.

Of course Obama has undermined a lot of what the Democrats had going for them with his selling out of the Democrat and progressive agenda and his duplicity and dishonesty,not to mention a lack of any principle or conviction,  and it seems that Democratic strategists feel that they now have to stoop to Republican tactics to try and compensate to win an election. But it can also backfire on the Democrats best chance to re-take the House id people see through it because it will damage Democratic credibility.

Obama aside,  and as the 2010 election showed he will be a major albatross around the necks of congressional Democrats running for re-election), Democrats have had the upper hand on real ideas (even though Obama failed to implement them), and Republican failed ideology and policies proved to be catastrophic for the country since 2000. But, that seems not to be enough for those who cash a paycheck to come up with winning strategies for Democrats. So this election cycle could set a record for mud slinging.

But with Democrats having a pre-Obama track record of policies that actually worked, you would think they would try and make those political points especially to retake the House based on those merits.  But instead we are getting lies and distortions about Obama's opponents possibly in the hope of distracting people from Obama's failures. Again the danger is damaging the credibility of congressional Democrats running in the next election.

Unfortunately party officials seem not to  understand their dilemma, or are not taking it seriously, or don't know what to do about it so it's starting to come to this this -- the DNC and Democratic strategists  grasping at straws to try and give people a reason to vote against the Republican rather than for Obama even if the reason they are giving to vote against Obama's opponent happens to be untrue.

If Democrats want to challenge Romney's entire statement, they should do that. If they want to say that the programs in place for the poor are not adequate, that's fine too if they can show that. And if they want to try and prove that Romney has a track record that flies in the face of what he is saying, go to it if you can. But to take his sentence out of context and try and make it mean something other than what he was actually saying, is the kind of stupid "gotch'a" politics Ross Perot said was ruining the political system.

There was one other criticism of Romney that Democrats tried to make that's worth mentioning. It came from Romney saying,

"You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say, 'I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.'"

According to some Democrats and people in the news media this was a terrible thing to say and we saw headlines and talking points revolving around Romney saying, "I like to fire people".

Considering that Democrats in the House were fired by, not Republican but Democratic voters in 2010 for failing to provide the services they promised in the form of a public option, real financial reform and eliminating tax cuts for the upper 1% and given that journalists fail to provide the services people expect  from them every day, its no surprise that these two groups are having a hard time with the idea of people being fired for not providing the services people expect.

As a staunch liberal thinker, I also like to fire people who provide bad service and I do. I base most of my purchases of goods and services, especially electronics on how good the company who backs up these goods and services are with customer service. I have gotten rid of companies, services and products with bad customer service. And I have remained loyal to companies who have shown exemplary customer service. I have also gotten rid of people who were hired to do all kinds of jobs and provide all kinds of services that I didn't think were professional or up to snuff. And through it all  I still feel pretty liberal.

It's pretty sad that in trying and win a presidential election that Obama will likely lose precisely because he didn't provide what he promised even though he could have, there are Democratic strategists who think that a winning strategy is to defend people who aren't good at their jobs and don't deliver what they promise.I suppose if youre trying to defend Obama that's the only strategy you can use.

Some Democrats and some in the news media called Romney's remarks "regrettable". What's regrettable is that there are politicians and journalists in Washington who feel that in spite of not doing their jobs well  people should be able to keep those jobs anyway. Maybe it's because they identify.