We are a corporate theocracy now: The Christian right seeks cultural and political domination

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/07/03/we_are_a_corporate_theocracy_now_the_christian_right_seeks_cultural_and_political_domination/

Christian right’s plan is simple: Dominate courts, state legislatures, and push their twisted morality on all of us

Thursday, Jul 3, 2014

“If fascism comes to America, it will not be identified with any “shirt” movement, nor with an “insignia,” but it will probably be “wrapped up in the flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution,” wrote in a 1936 issue of The Christian Century. Nobel Laureate recipient Sinclair Lewis put it even more succinctly when he warned, “It [fascism] would come wrapped in the flag and whistling the Star Spangled Banner.”

No one who has followed the rise of the Christian Right in national politics over the course of the past three decades should be surprised by Monday’s Supreme Court decision to grant corporations religious personhood. It was as predictable as Pat Robertson saying something stupid about gay sex. The hyper religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination.

Not only is the Christian Right the most politically agitated and reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party, but it is also emboldened like no other time in their warped history. With recent efforts to legalize discrimination against gay Americans defeated, the Hobby Lobby case against the Affordable Care Act has reenergized the theocratic wing of the GOP base — the wing that is now the party’s fuselage. Throw red meat to their holier than thou rationalizations and they won’t care what big business does to this great nation. They care for one thing – turning America into a theocratic regime. Don’t be fooled by the flag-waving and the obnoxious hyper-masculine jingoistic platitudes; the Christian Right does not love America unconditionally. They love America on the condition that representatives they help get elected are carrying out their political agenda.

There is no conspiracy theory here. Their strategy is evidently clear and unashamedly boasted. Their strategy is to control state and federal legislatures, and the courts – in  a way that says, “We don’t care what the American people want. We write the laws, and those laws will not reflect the wishes of the center majority, but instead will cater only for the theological cranks within our ranks.”

In state after state, the nation’s theocrats are fighting and defeating America’s secular sense of self. The Christian Right has not only moved from the fringes to become the main strain of the Republican Party; it is the Republican Party. “The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians and Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public square by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs,” observes Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years in Congress as a Republican.

These radicals continually surprise America for the fact that the mainstream media and casual political observers mistakenly believe these theocrats represent the minority fringe. You cannot sugarcoat the fact that it was a majority of Republicans in Arizona’s Senate who voted for the anti-gay bill. Likewise it was a majority of Republicans in Kansas’ House who voted for a similar bill. They voted for these religiously motivated discrimination bills because the Christian Right wish to discriminate against individuals they claim the Bible deems abhorrent.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/07/03/we_are_a_corporate_theocracy_now_the_christian_right_seeks_cultural_and_political_domination/

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There is no internet ‘outrage machine’ – just these outrageous rape apologists

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/25/internet-outrage-machine-rape-columnists

Hey, conservative columnists: don’t court controversy by whining about ‘privileged’ victims and then feign surprise at the backlash. Your time’s up

theguardian.com, Wednesday 25 June 2014

Feminists are used to being called hysterical over-reactors. So I wasn’t surprised to read The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argue on Monday that the controversy over George Will’s recent Washington Post column on “privileged” rape victims was part of the Internet “outrage machine”.

There’s no doubt that online arguments can be head-bangingly awful. (I’m on Twitter, I know!) But what Friedersdorf’s column ignores is that writers like Will – out-of-touch conservative white men fearful of the shifting culture – court and revel in such controversy, perhaps knowing it’s likely their last gasp of relevance.

Let’s call it the “backlash machine”: the old guard pumping out deliberately regressive ideas about women while they still can.

Will, for example, doubled down on his original argument by falsely asserting on C-Span that sexual assault has become defined so broadly that even “remarks become sexual assault”. And on Monday, law professor David Bernstein wrote at The Washington Post that “there is one type of relationship” involving explicit consent for sex – prostitution – and that the expectation of a verbal “yes” before sex will turn everyone – not just men – into rapists. Neither of these men could possibly have believed their comments would go uncontested.

In the midst of an incredibly important feminist moment in this country – with reproductive rights on the line, a likely female presidential candidate in the next election, the work-life balance on every magazine cover and survivors using #YesAllWomen to share their stories – to bemoan all the attention those darned rape victims keep getting is to engage in some bullshit with eyes very wide open.

So, conservative columnists, spare me the suggestions that you all are the victims of mass outrage (the women! they’re coming for us!) when it’s clear you’re hoping to generate exactly this attention for your dying ideology.

If, during a moment when rape victims are speaking out in force to detail the awful treatment they endure at the hands of school administrators, police and the criminal justice system, you’re using your time, energy and published words to argue that America’s rape problem is overblown … perhaps a little Twitter heat should be the last thing you’re worried about. Being on the wrong side of history should be the first.

And if, after hearing story after story of women abused by attackers and then the system meant to protect them, you spend your time opining that poor men have to go through the trouble of getting an explicit “yes” from their partners before engaging in sexual acts, maybe you need to spend less time writing and more time on a therapist’s couch. After all, who besides a rapist thinks that getting an enthusiastic “yes” to sex is an unreasonable standard?

Telling feminists that that they’re overreacting to rape is part of a long tradition of gaslighting women who have caught on to injustices. Somehow detractors think if they say it often enough and in powerful enough places, we’ll start to doubt ourselves.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/25/internet-outrage-machine-rape-columnists

Bible-Toting, Gun-Wielding Woman Gets Big Wet Kiss From Fox News

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This organic food company is refusing to pay for employees’ birth control

From Grist:  http://grist.org/politics/this-organic-food-company-is-refusing-to-pay-for-employees-birth-control/

2 Jul 2014

Just because a company is organic doesn’t mean it’s progressive. Exhibit A: Eden Foods.

Like Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods sued the Obama administration to try to get out of providing contraceptive coverage for its employees. Eden Foods is a Michigan-based business that bills itself as “the oldest natural and organic food company in North America.” It is solely owned by Michael Potter, a Catholic who refers to birth control pills as “lifestyle drugs” and likes to whine about “unconstitutional government overreach.” (More crazy quotes from him below.)

In Eden Foods Inc. v. Kathleen Sebelius, filed in federal court in March of 2013, the company claimed its religious freedom was being violated by the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employee health insurance cover birth control. The suit argued that “contraception or abortifacients … almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against Eden Foods, ruling that a for-profit company cannot exercise religion.

But then, on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that family-owned, “closely held” companies can use religion as an excuse to flout the birth control mandate. Eden Foods is one of a few dozen “closely held” for-profit companies that have filed suit over the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. On July 1, the Supreme Court ordered the 6th Circuit Court to reconsider its decision against Eden Foods and another plaintiff with a similar case.

On its website, Eden Foods talks up its commitment to organic and local farming, social responsibility, and even the LEED green-building standards. “One of our founding principles is sustainability,” says the company’s marketing director, Sue Becker. “It guides us today.” But it’s a sad, desiccated version of sustainability that would deny women the ability to decide how many children to have, or whether to have children at all.

In April of last year, Potter made a bizarrely inept attempt to explain the reasoning behind his company’s suit to Salon reporter Irin Carmon. From her article:

Complete article at:  http://grist.org/politics/this-organic-food-company-is-refusing-to-pay-for-employees-birth-control/

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This is not a democracy: How the Supreme Court allowed the 1 percent control

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/07/04/this_is_not_a_democracy_how_the_supreme_court_allowed_the_1_percent_control/

When the Supreme Court decided money is speech, it unleashed an equality-destroying monster

Friday, Jul 4, 2014

Paul Krugman, a 2008 nobel laureate in economics, characterizes the 160 years between the “Wealth of Nations” and the Great Depression as the time in which a new faith manifested: “[A]n extensive body of economic theory was developed whose central message was: Trust the market.” Krugman calls faith in the market the “basic presumption of ‘neoclassical’ economics.” The story of this faith is the story of many twists and turns—nothing less than the history of American capitalism.

The Great Depression and John Maynard Keynes’s calls for government intervention—including changes in fiscal policy and public works projects—diminished collective trust in the market. But shortly after the Keynesian revolution, Milton Friedman led a new push against government intervention under the guise of monetarism. Krugman describes the 1970s, Friedman’s moment, as a time when “[d]iscussion of investor irrationality, of bubbles, or destructive speculation had virtually disappeared from academic discourse,” replaced by “the ‘efficient-market hypothesis.’” That hypothesis “held that as more stocks, bonds, options, futures, and other financial instruments were created and traded, they would inevitably bring more rationality to economic activity.” There was an emerging consensus that prices in the market were a reflection of full information and that the market produced the right goods for the right people at the right prices— i.e., people could not beat the market and the market allocated resources without wasting them. The implication, as Justin Fox points out, is that “markets possessed a wisdom that individuals, companies, and governments did not.”

Although Friedman was a complex figure, it is fair to say that he was a leading proponent of the view that markets were “better, and far more accommodating of human liberty, than government.” He was, in his own words, “deeply concerned about the danger to freedom and prosperity from the growth of government.” Friedman understood his own work as a response to the “readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable” and noted that his contrary position had for long been associated with a “small beleaguered minority regarded as eccentrics.” He labeled as a “flash of genius” Adam Smith’s discovery that “the prices that emerged from voluntary transactions between buyers and sellers . . . could coordinate the activity of millions of people . . . in such a way as to make everyone better off.” “The price system,” concluded Friedman, “is the mechanism that fulfills this task without central direction.”

This faith in markets—-markets as wise, efficient, free, and in any case better than government—was bolstered in 1976 when Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize. That same year, the Supreme Court converted the ongoing celebration of market wisdom into judicial reasoning in what would become one of the most important constitutional law opinions of all time.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/07/04/this_is_not_a_democracy_how_the_supreme_court_allowed_the_1_percent_control/

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Conservatives Don’t Deny Climate Science Because They’re Ignorant. They Deny It Because of Who They Are.

From Mother Jones:  http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/06/dan-kahan-climate-change-ideology-scientific-illiteracy

A provocative new study claims that conservative climate skeptics actually know plenty of science.

Thu Jun. 26, 2014

For many years, the US National Science Foundation, more recently with the help of the General Social Survey, has asked the public the same true or false question about evolution:”Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” And for many years, the responses to this question have been dismal. In 2006, 2008, and 2010, for instance, less than half of the public correctly answered “true.”

In 2012, however, the NSF and GSS conducted an experiment to try to better understand why people fare so badly on this evolution question. For half of survey respondents, the words “according to the theory of evolution” were added to the beginning of the statement above. And while only 48 percent gave the correct answer to the unaltered question, an impressive 72 percent correctly answered the new, prefaced version.

So why such a huge gap? Perhaps the original question wasn’t tapping into scientific knowledge at all; rather, it was challenging the religious identity of creationists who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Presented with the new phrasing, however, even many creationists know what the theory of evolution states; they just deny that it is true. So are these people really “scientifically illiterate,” as many in the science world might claim, or are they instead…something else?

This is a vital question in the field of science communication, because at its core is the issue of whether we are dealing with mass public scientific illiteracy on the one hand (which presumably could be fixed by education), or with something much deeper and more intractable. What’s more, this problem isn’t confined to evolution. The issue of climate change may be very similar in this respect. Ask a polling question about climate change in one way, and you may cause conservatives to reassert their ideological identities, and reject the most important finding of climate science (that humans are causing global warming). But ask it in another way and, well, it may turn out that they know what the science says after all (even if they don’t personally believe it).

Such is the finding of a new paper by Yale law professor and communication researcher Dan Kahan, recently profiled in depth by Ezra Klein in a much read Vox article aptly titled “How politics makes us stupid.” Kahan is becoming widely known for his research showing that political ideology interferes with our most basic reasoning abilities; even our math skills, it seems, go right out the window when political passions come into play. In this new paper, though, Kahan isn’t showing how dumb we are. Rather, he’s doing the opposite: Showing that if you ask the questions the right way, Americans know a lot more about climate science than you might think. (Even conservatives.)

“Whether people ‘believe in’ climate change, like whether they ‘believe in’ evolution, expresses who they are,” writes Kahan.

To understand Kahan’s analysis, it helps to start where much of his prior research—extensively covered by Klein, myself, and others—left off. Kahan has defined a measure that he calls “ordinary science intelligence,” which assesses how good people are at mathematical and scientific reasoning and at questioning their own beliefs. Using this survey tool, he is able to present evidence showing that (1) as people get better at science, they are more likely in general to affirm that global warming is mostly due to human activities; but (2) as soon as you split people up in to liberals and conservatives, that conclusion goes out the window. Actually, liberals get way better in their answers as their science ability increases, and conservatives get considerably worse:

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/06/dan-kahan-climate-change-ideology-scientific-illiteracy

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5 Reasons the Rich Are Ruining the Economy by Hoarding Their Money

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/5-reasons-rich-are-ruining-economy-hoarding-their-money

Why supply-side economics just doesn’t work

By David Atkins
June 26, 2014

It has been nearly four decades since the Reagan revolution in supply-side economics came to power in the United States. Tax rates on the wealthiest Americans are at near record lows, asset values have been pumped up to record highs, and corporate America is sitting prettier than ever before. There can be no question but that the ideologues who promoted supply-side economics have succeeded in enforcing their vision policy on our lives. But their decades-long experiment has also proven to be structural failure at every possible level (except for padding the pockets of the top 1%.) Here are five things we know without doubt about supply-side economics today:

1. The money doesn’t trickle down.

Of all the failures of supply-side economics, this is the most damning. Conservatives often excuse poor wage growth and high unemployment as part of the global competitive marketplace, saying that everyone needs to tighten their belts. But not everyone is struggling–in fact, the rich are better off than ever. They  control half of all the wealth, and the top 10%  control almost 9/10ths of it. Corporate profits are  at or near record highs, disproving the myth that the middle class must suffer due to competitive pressures. The Dow Jones index is threatening to burst past 17,000. Meanwhile,  wages have stagnated since the Reagan era, even though  productivity continues to increase. Corporate executives, in other words, are forcing workers to toil longer, harder and smarter than ever, but all the proceeds are going into the hands of the very rich while the people actually creating the wealth are struggling harder than ever to get by. Republicans either wave away this phenomenon as insignificant, or desperately attempt to blame regulation and “crony capitalism.” Of course, the last time economic trends were so disproportionately imbalanced against workers was the era before the regulatory and tax increases of the New Deal, nor is there any significant sense (outside perhaps of military contractors favored by the GOP establishment) in which government contracts play a larger role in the economy. Instead, the truth is obvious: corporations don’t exist to create jobs but to rake in money, and most rich people didn’t get rich by being generous. When you give corporations and the rich more money, they simply hoard it and find ways to make themselves even more money–preferably by employing as few people as possible, at the lowest wages possible.

2. The rich aren’t investing almost half of their resources.

This one is almost comical. In concept, supply-side economics is supposed to work by the corporate rich taking money gleaned by tax breaks and subsidies, and plowing it back into investments that theoretically employ people. Now, we already know that the economic life doesn’t actually work that way: when wealthy individuals and companies invest, they tend to do it in financialized vehicles, mergers, acquisitions and interest-bearing accounts while employing the fewest people possible at awful wages.

But even if it did work as supply-siders theorize, the brutal reality is that the  rich aren’t investing almost half of their money (corporations aren’t doing much better, as their record profits  sit largely idle avoiding taxation). 40% of the assets of the wealthy are sitting in deposits: the rich person’s equivalent of stuffing money into a mattress. Money sitting in deposits in Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts is essentially wasted wealth. It does as little good for the world economy as gold hoarded by a dragon in Middle Earth. It essentially sits there uselessly as an economic security blanket for the very people who need it least. By contrast, putting more money into the hands of the poor and middle class pays off immediately for the economy, as most people living paycheck to paycheck spend the money immediately or at least create a small backstop against bankruptcy and delinquency–thus creating immediate economic and social benefits. So not only does giving the rich more money not pay off when they do invest, it doesn’t even have the opportunity to pay off at all since almost half of the money isn’t even being invested.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/5-reasons-rich-are-ruining-economy-hoarding-their-money

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