Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: The Do-Over –

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Is This Really Just ‘Mainstream Christian Advocacy’?

From Huffington Post:


Following the deplorable shooting of a security guard at the anti-gay Family Research Council, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank called it “reckless” for the Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center to say the FRC is a “hate group.” He further suggested that calling the FRC “hateful” is an example of “inflammatory labels” and “hurling accusations that can stir up the crazies,” and he questioned why the SPLC considers the FRC a “hate group” alongside the likes of the KKK and Aryan Nations. Throughout the piece, Milbank describes the FRC as “a mainstream conservative think tank,” “a policy shop that advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions,” “a mainstream Christian advocacy group,” and “driven by deeply held religious beliefs.”

But Milbank’s appraisal of the FRC as something other than hateful is only possible because of his complete refusal to examine the actual substance of the organization’s infamous “conservative Christian positions.” For anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the group’s so-called “mainstream Christian advocacy,” the claim that they aren’t hateful is plainly ridiculous.

An accusation of hatefulness certainly isn’t something to be thrown around lightly; it has to be earned. And the FRC has been working overtime since its inception to do just that. They’ve made no effort to hide their extraordinary attacks on the LGBT community; for anyone who cares enough to look, all of this is a matter of public record.

The FRC is pervasively opposed to the recognition and acceptance of transgender people. In one edition of their “Washington Update,” they criticize the rules of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for providing undocumented transgender detainees with continued access to hormone therapy rather than forcibly de-transitioning them. As they see it, trans people as a group are not even entitled to receive their own prescribed medications. Contrary to the recommendations of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which recognize gender transition treatments as beneficial and medically necessary, the FRC considers this “exacerbating a mental health crisis like cross-dressing.”

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Todd Akin on Gay Rights: ‘No Civilization That Has Condoned Homosexual Marriage Has Survived’

From Huffington Post:


The Missouri GOP Senate candidate who’s become infamous for his “legitimate rape” comment not-so-shockingly has some pretty whackadoodle and frightening ideas about homosexuality, too. And, just as with his extreme position on abortion, though Rep.Todd Akin may have uttered words that got him in trouble, his actual positions are embraced by many in the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Akin voted for a federal marriage amendment twice, just like Paul Ryan and the vast majority of Republicans in the House, and just like Paul Ryan and the vast majority of GOPers, he voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (twice) and against a federal hate-crimes law to protect LGBT individuals (twice).

Last May, Akin, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed an amendment to include a “conscience clause” in U.S. military code to “protect” all of those in the military who don’t support gays serving openly in the military. “This is a legitimate conscience protection act,” Akin said, claiming that those who are antigay are being victimized. “There is a war on religious belief in the military. Chaplains and service members should not face recrimination or persecution in the military for standing strong on their religious beliefs in opposition to homosexuality.”

In 2006, Akin took to the House floor to warn that gay marriage would be the end of civilization, which is among the boilerplate paranoid delusions of far-right anti-gay ranters, from Bryan Fischer to Mike Huckabee to Kirk Cameron.

“From a practical point of view, to preserve our civilization and society, it’s important for us to preserve marriage,” Akin said. “Anybody who knows something about the history of the human race knows that there is no civilization which has condoned homosexual marriage widely and openly that has long survived.”

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A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn

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The Major Economic Ideas We Live By Are Shockingly Flimsy

From Alternet:

Economists’ insistence that their discipline is like physics sounds a little nervous. Did you ever hear a physicist boast to the world that physics is like economics?

By Johnathan Schlefer
August 19, 2012

The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Schlefer’s Assumptions That Economists Make (Harvard, 2012):
In his well-known textbook Economics, Paul Samuelson depicts our economic world as being like the universe of Newtonian physics. Though he concedes that deciding on policies may involve value judgments—eliminating rent control may hurt individuals, even though it benefits the economy—he promises to focus on the economic science of cause-and-effect. “Positive economics describes the facts and behavior in the economy,” he insists. The emphasis is his. Questions in this realm may be “easy or tough,” but they “can be resolved only by reference to facts.” In another popular text, Walter Nicholson similarly tells students: “‘Positive’ economists believe that one reason for the success of economics as a discipline is that it has been able to emulate successfully the positive approach taken by the physical sciences rather than becoming involved in the value-laden normative approach taken by some of the other social sciences.”
Economists’ insistence that their discipline is like physics sounds a little nervous. Did you ever hear a physicist boast to the world that that physics is like economics? More important, when they talk about economics this way, Samuelson, Nicholson, and other economists are misrepresenting what they do and what economics is. From Adam Smith to Karl Marx, from John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman, economists have sought to gain insight into economies by building models of them. They make simplified assumptions about the economic world we inhabit and construct imaginary economies—in other words, models—based on those assumptions. They use these imaginary economies to draw practical conclusions about the actual economies we inhabit.
Nearly everything economists do is based on some model. For example, the famous story that prices are determined by supply and demand is a model. Consider the price of oil. On the one hand, there is supposed to be an upward-sloping “supply curve”: the higher the price of oil rises, the more oil producers want to pump. This curve is an imaginary construct intended to describe the different amounts of oil that producers would pump at any given time, if oil prices were at different levels. On the other hand, there is supposed to be a downward-sloping “demand curve”: the lower the price of oil falls, the more businesses and consumers want to buy. This curve is likewise an imaginary construct intended to describe the different amounts of oil that consumers and businesses would buy at any given time prices were at different levels. The point where the imaginary curves intersect—where the price is such that the amount of oil producers would pump just equals the amount of oil businesses and consumers would buy—is supposed to determine the actual price of crude oil and the amount of oil that is pumped.
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Why Belong to a Party that Doesn’t Want You?

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Galt, Gold and God

From The New York Times:

Published: August 23, 2012

So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing.

In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For those who somehow missed it when growing up, “Atlas Shrugged” is a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader; even Friedrich Hayek admitted that he never made it through that part. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. Most boys eventually outgrow it. Some, however, remain devotees for life.

And Mr. Ryan is one of those devotees. True, in recent years, he has tried to downplay his Randism, calling it an “urban legend.” It’s not hard to see why: Rand’s fervent atheism — not to mention her declaration that “abortion is a moral right” — isn’t what the G.O.P. base wants to hear.

But Mr. Ryan is being disingenuous. In 2005, he told the Atlas Society, which is devoted to promoting Rand’s ideas, that she inspired his political career: “If I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He also declared that Rand’s work was required reading for his staff and interns.

And the Ryan fiscal program clearly reflects Randian notions. As I documented in my last column, Mr. Ryan’s reputation for being serious about the budget deficit is completely undeserved; his policies would actually increase the deficit. But he is deadly serious about cutting taxes on the rich and slashing aid to the poor, very much in line with Rand’s worship of the successful and contempt for “moochers.”

This last point is important. In pushing for draconian cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid the needy, Mr. Ryan isn’t just looking for ways to save money. He’s also, quite explicitly, trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March, explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, he declared, “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”

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Iran Universities Reportedly Ban Women

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 08/21/2012

Universities across Iran have announced that almost 80 subjects in both the liberal arts and sciences will be off limits to incoming female scholars.

Female students learned of the bans, which will affect 77 fields across 36 universities, in letters received throughout the past couple of weeks, according to the Telegraph.

Women in Iran are subject to many cultural restrictions. As the Atlantic explains, segregation in the public sector is commonplace and women have to adhere to strict clothing laws. But in the classroom, girls have had the upper hand.

According to the latest data from the U.N.’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 52 percent of all Iranian undergrads in 2009 were women. In the sciences, female contributions were even more pronounced, with women making up 68 percent of all graduates.

Some sociologists have credited the growing academic success of women to a supportive shift in the way religiously conservative families viewed their daughters’ need for education after the 1979 revolution, the Telegraph reports. But senior clerics, the story said, have become concerned that rising educational standards among women may be contributing to a decline in birth and marriage rates.

Given these academic achievements, and the worries of some influential religious leaders, some see the new ban as an attempt to weaken Iran’s fledgling feminism movement. Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi certainly thinks so.

In an open letter to the United Nations dated Aug. 17, the exiled 2003 Peace Prize winner wrote, “The gender segregation policy… suggest the imposition of a patriarchal culture that aims to strengthen the role of women at home and within the family unit in order to undermine their important function in society.”

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Akin for the Truth: How Are US Religious Fundamentalists Any Different Than Middle Eastern Ones?

From Truth Out

By Shirin Sadeghi
Saturday, 25 August 2012

In the American media, the news from Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere generally runs along the same themes: scary, violent and religious nutsos. But isn’t it time the US media and the American public agreed that America isn’t much different? America has just as many religious fundamentalists and nut jobs, and they are making public statements just as often – if not more often – than the religious fundies elsewhere.

Are we to believe that a fundamentalist in a suit is less scary than a fundamentalist in a beard, even if both are spouting hatred against women?

Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s recent comments about how women can’t become pregnant from what he called “legitimate rape” was just the latest in a long line of pronouncements from American leaders with strong religious backgrounds who believe they are an authority on women’s needs and health. Akin is no different than the numerous Iranian clerics who’ve said such ridiculous things as women who have extramarital sex “cause earthquakes,” or the Egyptian cleric who first said that a husband and wife cannot be completely naked while having sex. (This was then modified by scholars, and it was agreed that the most important thing is that no one look at the vagina at the scene of the sex act.) Or the fatwa after fatwa about men and women working together, schooling together and all the rest (sounds a lot like segregation, doesn’t it America?).

In the early days of the Taliban, before they began their habit of bombing girls’ schools, they too, started out with making ridiculous comments about women and sexuality. It’s only just escalated to the violence we’ve become familiar with.

The truth is, Akin and his fellow religious fundamentalist men the world over are very much the same when it comes to women: they know more about women than women do. In their minds, of course. Because none of them know what it’s like to have a period or to give birth or to suffer the tragic and deeply disturbing decision to abort a baby. (Many women don’t even know what it’s like to suffer through a decision about an unwanted baby.) Further, no man knows what it’s like to live in a world where women are second-class citizens – although that is a fact even in the most “civilized” and modern countries. None of them know what it’s like to work just as hard as a man and not get the job, or not get the promotion, or, certainly, not get the same amount of pay.

Sure, there are a lot of female fundamentalists, too. It is deeply troubling when women take views against women, but at least we cannot accuse them of speaking out of turn, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any woman – even the most conservative and devoutly religious – who shares all the views of a biased man when it comes to women’s rights, health care and needs. She would, after all, be speaking against herself.

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