Category Archives: Religion

He’s Not the Pastor of the United States, He’s the President of the United States

Can I get an Amen?

Fredrick D Haynes III certainly knows how to move a crowd. It is hopeful that a leader like him can talk sense and ask questions in what seems like ever shifting religious zeal in the evangelical Christian movement in this country. I have no idea what the specifics of Pastor Haynes theology, he didn’t address that aspect on this video.

This video is about a response and requests for collaboration about responses, to Obama’s statement on gay marriage. I don’t know if the pastor believe homosexuality is a choice relating to morality or not, he did a great job of framing and speaking about the difference between church and state laws, and makes it clear that they should have little directly to do with personal beliefs. He makes the distinction that the Bible is not the founding document of this country, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are. He made these comments as a leader in a protestant movement that is not known for its LGBT support, and in direct opposition to prominent Baptist leaders.

Who knows? Maybe I would find the actual theology of that church offensive. It doesn’t matter when we have the clear separation of church and state – we can all find our own niche. The Constitution demands that those niches be treated equally. Thanks Pastor Haynes for pointing this out in a way probably only you can.

The photo at the top is of Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. He is with his choir. They have nothing to do with Fredrick D Haynes III or really anything else about this post – other than the fact that he can get people excited and understand some basic American values and progressive principles.

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Voter ID: The Crisis that Never Was

“It’s not a situation where we have a crisis,” that’s from Dem NC State Rep. Larry Hall on the voter ID legislation (from the N&O). That pretty much sums up the issue. North Carolina has had one voter ID bill vetoed by the governor.

Go ahead and look for the piles of data that point to the rampant voter fraud problem today, you won’t find it. The Heritage Foundation – an organization advocating and pushing for the nationwide voter ID bills, explains the argument for Voter ID, citing exactly three cases which involved a grand total of 11 or 12 votes that were fraudulent (article here). You’d think if the problem was such a crisis that we’d be able to learn about thousands of cases, but there is no actual crisis.

Looking elsewhere, another case of so-called “voter fraud” is about falsifying names on a petition to get a candidate on the ballot – which is not a type of fraud that involves the actual voter, nor is it one that Voter ID legislation would prevent. Fox News was so happy to report on this case of four people getting a felony conviction that they needed to break into the broadcast of a presidential speech to bring their audience “breaking news” of these four being charged with petition tampering in 2008. Huh? That’s breaking news? That relates to voter ID? No to both.

It seems that this is another case, like birth control, like austerity, like DOMA – in which the Republican establishment says that they are all about American values of democracy, freedom, equality, and opportunity, then behaves as if they are anti-democracy, anti-equality, anti-poor people, and racist. They make moral arguments (the bible, tradition, economic prosperity, fairness), but their desired result is fixed: they don’t want women to have the final say on their own bodies, they want the government to shrink exponentially, they want the gay people to go away, and they don’t want Democrats casting a ballot. The voter purges and hubub about voter ID laws are grounded in the fact that Republicans would like to get a big chunk of voters that historically vote Democratic off of the eligible voter rolls.

Republicans have historically been against any measures that make more voter participation likely. For our international readers that are so confounded at how half of the country are against those admirable American values –  democracy, freedom, equality, opportunity, here is one man that might explain how such unAmerican values are seeded. I give you Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and the so called “Moral Majority”:
A contemporary of Ronald Reagan, he helped start the extreme right wing movement in politics and Christianity. He is blatantly anti-Democratic and religiously insulting considering that our country was founded by pilgrims looking to express their version of Christianity without persecution.
Just like the push through of “Stand your Ground ” gun laws, the voter ID legislation has been pushed through pretty recently and now eleven states have recently adopted new photo ID laws, and many are currently in legislative consideration. It is curious how all of these states spontaneously and simultaneously realized this “crisis” of needing new voter ID rules (and reminds me very much of ALEC – I did find a Koch bros connection to the funding of these new laws). While a photo ID may seem like no biggie for most of us, the Brennan Center for Justice points out the inconvenience of acquiring a photo ID (article here):
Studies show that as many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students. Many citizens find it hard to get government photo IDs, because the underlying documentation like birth certificates (the ID one needs to get ID) is often difficult or expensive to come by. At the same time, voter ID policies are far more costly to implement than many assume.
Disincluding any American citizen is an affront to American values, but I am especially offended at the attack on the voting rights of the elderly. Many, many elderly people were not born in hospitals, and/or have been through hell and high water since their original birthday. Jumping through the bureaucratic hoops to obtain a birth certificate involves phone trees, surfing the net, digging in boxes, calling family members, contacting court houses, etc. This cumbersome task can be quite daunting for those that have built, defended, and served their time in whatever capacity for our country. It is not patriotic or honoring tradition – values Republicans claim to espouse – to require them to go through this rigamarole or purge these folks from voting rolls.
The vote of the American public is in crisis, it’s just not about voter ID. It’s about trust, transparency, access, education, misinformation, campaigning, corruption, and corporate influence. It’s not about whether or not Miss Daisy is who she says she is. 
This story has many tentacles. Below I will copy some additional reading for more specific stories about what’s happening with voter ID.

National Conference of State Legislatures – a non-profit, bi-partisan organization with a great visual map of what states have passed which laws and when.

Official Behind Gov. Rick Scott’s Voter Purge Linked To Koch brothers campaign to defeat Obama – ’nuff said?

International Debate Education Association – a really cool site that does a fun point/counterpoint.

MySanAntonio – Texas could only find five out of 13 million votes to call voter fraud.

Ask the Heritage Foundation – their take.

Heritage Foundation ‘Expert’ Cannot Cite Any Examples Of Actual Voter Fraud– from Think Progress and MSNBC.

Brennan Center for Justice explains the reality of voter “fraud

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Does the Bible Justify Bullying Gay People?

This spring Dan Savage, a leading gay rights and sex positive advocate, spoke at a conference for high school journalism students. He addressed the issue of folks pointing to the Bible to justify the bullying of gays. He did a great job of making his case with two exceptions: he used the words “bullshit” and “pansy-ass”, which weakens the argument- even if he was describing written words and actions (not people). He could have omitted those phrases and his speech would nearly have been worthy of carving in stone; the nation is sick of hypocritical “logic”. Even though I am not a fan of the use of cursing to make a point, I will concede that when people are suffering and dying at the hand of those who supposedly follow God, there is reason to be upset. There is reason to curse and gnash your teeth and pull out your hair. Hate begets hate and last time I checked, Jesus did not advocated hating anyone. Continue reading

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Amendment One Passes

North Carolina just passed Amendment One. Unofficial results are that 2,135,740 voted, approx 61% voted “for” and 39% voted “against”. Here is the language of the amendment:

Sec. 6. Marriage.Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

I was reviewing the election results and my boys were looking over my shoulder. Here is the conversation:

Me: So, this is the one that is a bummer (pointing to the results).

Kid 1: Which one is it?

Me: It’s the one that says families with two moms or two dads will not be recognized by the state of North Carolina.

Kid 2: That is so wrong.

Kid 1: It’s not fair.

Me: I know.

Kid 1: Why didn’t you vote for this one?

Me: I did.

Kid 1: Why don’t you disguise yourself and vote for it again?

Me: Because that’s illegal. Everybody is supposed to have one vote.

Kid 1: Its not fair.

Kid 2:Why does it matter to them if somebody has two moms or two dads?

Me: Because some people feel like marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Kid 2: Not cool man.

Kid 2: If the mom gets sick, they already have a person to take care of them. Why do they send ’em to an orphanage?

Me: They won’t go to an orphanage, but if something bad happens to one mom, so that they can’t take care of the kids, we don’t know what will happen to the kids.

Kid 1: Why don’t people like the people who marry a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl?

Me: I guess a lot of them think God doesn’t like it, or maybe they just don’t like the idea.

Kid 1: That’s not nice.

Kid 2: God loves love, so why would he not like it if it was two boys or two girls?

Me: It doesn’t make sense to me either.

Kid 1: Why do they think God likes them better? ‘Cause they think their opinion is right and the other people’s opinion is wrong.

Kid 2: Well God should just, like, I think he’d be madder at the people that didn’t want the people to get married.

Kid 1: Two boys to get married and two girls.

Me: Did you know that it also is about two grown-ups that are boy and girl that might have kids or property that they share, but now, the state doesn’t recognize that they are together if they aren’t married.

Kid 1: yeah

Kid 2: What’s wrong with not getting married?

Me: I don’t know. I think people are scared to change the way things have been. They think all families should look a certain way and do certain things to be legitimate. But we know a lot of families that don’t have one dad and one mom married together.

Kid 2: yeah, I think I’m gonna go get myself some breakfast.

Kid 1: What’s legitimate? (yawn)

Me: It means that everyone recognizes that that is what’s right. It’s like everyone knows the same thing is right or wrong and they’re saying only marriage is right. How do you think you would feel if the state told you your family is wrong?

Kid 1: I would feel really bad and feel like my family was bad, but it really isn’t.

Me: yeah

 

 

 

 

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A 1%er’s Opinion

The 1% – are they really that much different than the rest of us? Income disparity is obviously a huge issue in this country but at least one 1%er feels proud, justified, and like everyone else – especially art history majors – are doing it wrong. Edward Conrad -a Bain Capital retiree – is not just a 1%er but an .1%er, his wealth is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions and he is ready to evangelize his theory of economics in his soon-to-be-published new book, ““Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong”. He sat down with Adam Davidson at the New York Times to explain. From the article:

In a competitive market, all that’s left are the truly hard puzzles. And they require extraordinary resources. While we often hear about the greatest successes — penicillin, the iPhone — we rarely hear about the countless failures and the people and companies who financed them.

A central problem with the U.S. economy, he told me, is finding a way to get more people to look for solutions despite these terrible odds of success. Conard’s solution is simple. Society benefits if the successful risk takers get a lot of money.

Conrad sees tons of solution to problems and not enough investors willing to take risks like he did and does:

“It’s not like the current payoff is motivating everybody to take risks,” he said. “We need twice as many people. When I look around, I see a world of unrealized opportunities for improvements, an abundance of talented people able to take the risks necessary to make improvements but a shortage of people and investors willing to take those risks. That doesn’t indicate to me that risk takers, as a whole, are overpaid. Quite the opposite.” The wealth concentrated at the top should be twice as large, he said. That way, the art-history majors would feel compelled to try to join them.

Conrad tries to give cover to 1%ers, claiming that they are benefactors for rest of us – measuring in dollars. He claims that for every $1 invested by a risk taker, the public reaps up to $20 in returns! He uses the example of the tapered in part of the soda can at the top and how it saves everyone so much money:

“It saves a fraction of a penny on every can,” he said. “There are a lot of soda cans in the world. That means the economy can produce more cans with the same amount of resources. It makes every American who buys a soda can a little bit richer because their paycheck buys more.”

It might be hard to get excited about milligrams of aluminum, but Conard says that we live longer, healthier and richer lives because of countless microimprovements like that one.

Conrad has a point that there are limitless potential “improvements” and investments, but he doesn’t measure anything except in terms of the market. He may be an admitted devotee to “The Market” as God/moral guidance as was described in Monday’s post, True Religion of the Free Market, his characterizations certainly fit into that pattern. He does not consider for a second that soda is not healthy and that consuming more creates more problems, or that creating more cans adds to the waste stream. In fact, these are the trickle down jobs he would likely point to in that scenario – more work for dentists! more work for nutritionists! more diet pills and programs can be sold! more psychologists will be hired to help people deal with obesity!, more XXL clothes to be made! more doctors will be needed for the host of issues that addiction to high fructose corn syrup can create.

Conrad acts self righteous about the fact that folks like he are willing to take risks that benefit society and society owes the 1%ers even more. He does not mention the costs to society for all of the industriousness of business. He doesn’t recognize that the rest of us have no choice but to assume the health, financial, environmental, and security risks that are created by industry.

Conrad even applied a market based formula to choosing his wife complete with evaluating demographic data, calculating probabilities in geography, calibrating the quality of women available, selecting and ending up with your best statistical probability.

The author notes that Conrad has a mean streak at times even during the interview. He disparages the table of twenty-something strangers that were socializing at a cafe at 2:30pm:

“What are they doing, sitting here, having a coffee at 2:30?” he asked. “I’m sure those guys are college-educated.” Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group “art-history majors,” his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life.

He is also irritated with Warren Buffet and sees his charitable contributions as arrogant and meddlesome in his view of proper economics:

During one conversation, he expressed anger over the praise that Warren Buffett has received for pledging billions of his fortune to charity. It was no sacrifice, Conard argued; Buffett still has plenty left over to lead his normal quality of life. By taking billions out of productive investment, he was depriving the middle class of the potential of its 20-to-1 benefits. If anyone was sacrificing, it was those people. “Quit taking a victory lap,” he said, referring to Buffett. “That money was for the middle class.”

Many more interesting tidbits like this sprinkle the article. It is assumed that he wants to help his former Bain Capital partner with his election campaign, but some of the statements are so outrageous that he may do just the opposite by affiliating himself. Take this gem:

“God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

What Conrad does not figure into any of his equations is humanity. He seems to have very little empathy and obviously puts making money as a top priority. He doesn’t seem to understand that people are not obligated to create wealth for others – those “art history majors” have every right to do what they enjoy, and building community with a group of friends not only has value in the warm fuzzy category, but it could even be argued that it builds security – financial or otherwise. When you’re down and out, who will lend you a hand, come help you with car troubles, or give you a ride to work. Conrad doesn’t recognize the value of community at all. Perhaps because his community – Bain Capital – endorses a community of like minds that are focused on money over time with friends, family, serenity, beauty, love, caring, discovery, health or peace. Like other financial “conservatives” (what does that even mean anymore?) Conrad is supremely obedient to the value of authority and his authority is “The Market”.

In my personal opinion, I feel a bit sad for Conrad. I wonder if he’s seen joy in a child’s eyes after discovering something, or if he can enjoy a simple walk in the woods? Does he ever go dancing with his friends, offer a shoulder to cry on, or have one offered to him if he needed it? Making and modifying widgets will eventually fill this planet with garbage (if they’re not biodegradable), production is not always the answer to prosperity and value is not inherent simply because large dollar figures are being exchanged.  I’ll close with this quote from Adam Davidson, Conrad’s interviewer after spending some time with him:

This constant calculation — even of the incalculable — can be both fascinating and absurd. The world Conard describes too often feels grim and soulless, one in which art and romance and the nonrenumerative satisfactions of a simpler life are invisible. And that, I realized, really is Conard’s world.

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